The HTC 8S, or Windows Phone 8S by HTC to give it its ridiculous full title, sits several steps down from HTC's flagship 8X Windows Phone. Whereas the 8X goes head to head with , the 8S doesn't really match up with , as it's a fair bit cheaper.
It slots into a space between low-end and mid-range smart phones. It's certainly the most affordable route in if you want to taste Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 operating system as you can get it for free on a £17 per month two-year contract or buy it outright for around £230 SIM-free.
Should I buy the Windows Phone 8S by HTC?
If you fancy a phone that stands out from the crowd in terms of looks then the fun and youthful looking 8S certainly fits the bit. It's light and comfortable to use, and despite not being a power house in terms of processor speed, it still feels fairly zippy when you're powering through menus and apps.
The screen and camera don't really stand out from the crowd, as they're fairly run of the mill for a phone in this price bracket. However, the handset's slick and modern-looking Windows Phone 8 OS offers something different to those bored or indifferent about iOS and Android.
However, going the Windows route does mean that you'll have fewer good quality apps to choose from, so if you're the type that likes to download new apps to your phone on a weekly basis, it's probably not the device for you. All in all, though, this is a very likeable phone being offered at a sensible price.
In an age where smart phones seem to be getting ever larger and ever more similar in terms of design, the 8S standards out from the crowd. It's small and light standing just 120mm tall and weighting in at a feather light 113g, but more importantly it looks quite different to most other smart phones on the market thanks to the bold range of colours it's available in.
I had the red version, but you can also get it in green, navy and black. All the colours are two tone, so the red one has an orange base, for example, while the navy version has a blue base. They all look very distinctive and while they might not be to everyone's taste, they're certainly a refreshing break from the norm. The plastic used on the rear and sides of the phone has a slightly rubberised feel and the slimness of the chassis, plus the rounded corners, help it feel very slight and comfortable.
The headphone jack is positioned at the top of the phone, so the headphone lead doesn't snag as you take in and out of your pocket. Also, along with the usual power button at the top and volume rocker switch on the right hand side, there's a dedicated camera button. Holding this down launches the camera, even when the phone is in standby. This is a great feature that's common to all Windows Phone handsets, but it's still a brilliant idea as it means you're more likely to capture those impromptu one-off moments with the phone's snapper.
The base of the phone has a microUSB port for charging and syncing it with your computer and although the battery is fixed, a panel on the base of the phone slides off to give you access to the micro Sim and microSD card slots. The latter is still not all that common on Windows Phone handsets, so it's good to see HTC including one here.
OS and apps
The 8S runs on Windows Phone 8, the latest version of Microsoft's mobile operating system. Windows Phone has a very fun and modern feel, as it's centred around a single, scrolling homescreen that you place live titles onto for apps, contacts and shortcuts. These tiles are now resizable, with two or three different iterations to choose from depending on the type of app that they're associated with. You can also scroll left to view an entire list of all the apps stored on your phone and then pin them to the homescreen by pressing and holding their icon.
There are lots of nice graphical effects dotted throughout the OS, including a 3D tear away effect that's used to transition from the homescreen to the opening page of an app as you launch it.
One of the best features of the OS is its People Hub. This is a central place where you can view your contacts and social networking feeds from mates and colleagues. This works across a range of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
You can read more about Windows Phone 8's features in our HTC 8X review.
On Nokia's Windows Phone handsets you get quite a few extra apps, including Nokia Drive for voice guided navigation and the Nokia Music free streaming service. HTC doesn't offer anything comparable on the 8S. Instead you get a fairly boring HTC app that just shows weather information and news and stock updates.
There are also some simple HTC-only apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace, including a Flashlight app that uses the camera's LED flash as a torch -- hardly ground breaking stuff. You'll also find a Beats Audio option in the settings menu, but this a pretty basic bass and treble enhancer and not as good as the RSR effects available on the old.
The lack of a navigation app is a bigger issue, as although you can get turn by turn instructions in Bing Maps, you don't get voice guidance, so it can't act as a sat-nav.