HTC boasts the One S' integrated Beats Audio technology, which is essentially aggressive audio processing that boosts bass to complement low-end heavy music styles such as rap, dance, and electronic. Beats will also automatically detect when you connect Beats-branded headphones and equalize the EQ settings to match the particular model. It's a nice theory, but when CNET's headphones editor Justin Yu gave the HTC One S paired with a compatible headset a listen, he found the results unimpressive. Sure, bass and treble were high, but the midrange was too overpowered for his audiophile tastes.
HTC has added what it calls ImageSense technology to its new One line of smartphones, and the One S is no exception. Equipped with dedicated image processor, I can vouch for this phone's impressive 8-megapixel camera. Not only is it extremely fast, with an autofocus that locks on in a fraction of a second and nearly instantaneous shot-to-shot speeds, it boasts a wealth of extras. Besides the typical scene modes such as panorama, face detection, and macro, the One S has a continuous capture mode that snaps shots in machine-gun-like bursts. The handset's camera also features a backlit sensor with HDR mode. Both images and 1080p video I shot were clear with crisp details and accurate color as well.
Many Android fanatics will likely bemoan the HTC One S' lack of a quad-core CPU. In my experience, though, the handset felt very quick and responsive. Menus, apps, and images opened with pep, and animations that give many other Android handsets trouble were buttery smooth.
Another potential sore spot is the One S's HSPA+ data connection. While I've typically found that T-Mobile's 4G is more akin to 3.5G in terms of throughput speed, my experience with the HTC One S was satisfying. Out in Queens NY I clocked average download throughput at 8.9 Mbps with uploads coming in at 2.5 Mbps. In an optimal T-Mobile 4G area in Manhattan, results were much more inconsistent. Downloads peaked at a high 12.45 Mbps but dropped below 3Mbps a few times.
While HTC hasn't yet provided a rated battery life for the handset, my anecdotal tests with the HTC One S pointed to promising longevity, especially for a phone this svelte. I managed to run a test video for just over 9 hours continuously before the device called it quits.
HTC One S call quality sample
Call quality was in line with other T-Mobile phones I've used, with the One S delivering decent if not terribly loud audio though its small earpiece. Callers could also definitely tell I was calling from a cellular phone.
In many ways the HTC One S is the Android smartphone loyal T-Mobile subscribers deserve. It's slim, fast, and runs up-to-date software. At $199 the HTC One S may not be the most affordable handset in T-Mobile's roster. Still, as the freshest phone to hit the carrier's lineup in recent memory, it makes a very compelling choice indeed as the best it offers at the moment.