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HTC Desire S Review, more than just an upgrade

The HTC Desire S is the successor to HTC’s first highly successful Android phone, the HTC Desire, which also won our Phone of the Year for 2010. I’ve been using this phone for a few weeks now and I’ve learned how much improvement you can do over the HTC Desire to transform it into something that you would still want to look into even with dual-core phones with bigger screens already out in the market.

On paper, there’s not much has changed from the HTC Desire to the HTC Desire S but when you start to use it, you’ll feel you’re having a better smartphone experience with the Desire S.


Comparing it to the HTC Desire, the Desire S is a tad bit more compact. The bezel is thinner and it sports a slight chin that we first saw on the HTC Legend.

HTC Desire S HTC Desire S HTC Desire S

It still has the same 3.7-inch Gorilla Glass display but this phone now has a front-facing camera for voice chat or for the handy Mirror app. Beside the front-facing camera is the speaker and below it is a LED indicator for notifications. Gone are the physical buttons as well as the optical trackpoint in front but instead, they are replaced with dedicated touch panels for Home, Menu, Back and Search.

HTC Desire S HTC Desire S

Left side you will find the volume rocker and the microUSB port for data and charging. Top side is the 3.5mm audio jack beside the Power/Sleep button. Nothing on the right side so you will be taking photos using the onscreen shutter button.

HTC Desire S HTC Desire S HTC Desire S

The back panel is made up of a single piece of aluminum that seems to be impervious to your everyday scratch. I tried scratching a key into it and I just rubbed off the transfer it got from the key. There’s a 5 megapixel lens with flash located at the back beside a speaker slit. The top and lower portion at the back is made of a somewhat rubbery material making it hard to accidentally slide off a surface.

Overall, the design of the Desire S doesn’t deviate from the premium feel of all HTC phones. I find it to be the right size and heft for a smartphone especially for us Filipinos who have relatively small hands.

Display and UI

The 3.7-inch display of the Desire S has an SLCD screen with a 480×800 resolution. Same as the second batch of the HTC Desire. Comparing it to a Super AMOLED screen, SLCD displays are less brilliant and bright. However on its own, you would still love the crispiness and clarity of an SLCD display especially on a medium-sized screen with a high resolution.

HTC Desire S HTC Desire S

One of the best UI layer for Android is the HTC’s Sense UI. I can’t get enough of the weather app and its animations every time you unlock your phone. If you’re not happy with the stock UI, you can get more Scenes (themes), Wallpapers and Tones for free from the HTC Hub which is like a market for customizing your HTC phone.

HTC Desire S HTC Desire S HTC Desire S

The abundance of HTC widgets (78 as of this moment) are also great for customization. One of the new ones is the Friend Channel which is a variant of the Friend Stream. Friend Stream will show you all FB and Twitter updates. With Friend Channel, you can select which friend you only want to keep track of so you don’t have to do a lot of scrolling.

HTC Desire S HTC Desire S

Application view is listed alphabetically in pages that you need to scroll vertically. There’s also a tab for frequent and recently downloaded apps which makes it easy for you to look for your apps.


The HTC Desire S sports a newer but still 1GHz processor as that of the HTC Desire. It has a better Adreno 205 GPU which makes it natively support DviX movies without a hitch. The 1.1GB ROM and 768MB RAM along with the Android 2.3 OS (Gingerbread) will ensure that you’ll have a snappy and smooth experience using the phone whether it’s for games, browsing, videos or what have you.

Here’s the Quadrant benchmark results.

Desire S Quadrant

It’s clearly way better than the first HTC Desire. Overall, everything runs really smoothly. UI animations are not a problem and switching to different apps is very snappy. Despite not having the latest technology, this phone is already a testament of what a good user experience should be like.

Voice calls are clear as well. No call drops experienced at all in my few weeks of use. It even has a call block feature for each contact.


There’s a 5 megapixel lens on this camera that takes decent photos. There are also some built-in effects that you can apply before and after you take your photos.

HTC Desire S

Check out some samples.

[nggallery id=14]

The LED flash also serves as a powerful and adjustable flashlight (with the use of the built-in Flashlight app of course). The camera can also take 720p @ 30fps HD videos.

The front VGA camera is a nice addition if you’re into video chatting and also serves as a makeshift mirror if you need one. Yes, there’s a mirror app on this phone.


Nothing much to say here that I haven’t said above. Video plays really well including DivX files downloaded and transferred to the SD card. No stuttering or any problems whatsoever. Music files are automatically included in the Music app along with their tags, album art and playlist.

HTC Desire S HTC Desire S HTC Desire S

Games played well too. Zooming in and out of my beach resort in Paradise Island was smooth even while other apps are downloading and playing music in the background.

Speakers are located only on the left side in front and back. It’s not as loud as I want it to be but the sound is very clear and should be great for private listening. I didn’t have any problem understanding a whole movie from its speakers.


HTC Desire S

3.7″¬Ě display can still be a bit small for browsing but it’s definitely usable. Page loads pretty quick with Flash components being the last to load. Everything is rendered normally as it would when using a desktop browser. Even the song list widget on ThisSongIsSick.com works perfectly.

Battery life

Battery is at a respectable 1 day and a few hours with WiFi mostly on. You might get only a day’s worth from it or less if you keep your 3G connection live all the time.


Even when most people think that the HTC Desire S is just an upgraded HTC Desire, well it’s true. But experience-wise, it feels like a totally different phone. If it’s an upgrade from the Desire, it’s a much-needed upgrade.

HTC Desire S

I really can’t say anything bad about this phone. Now I understand why they released the Desire S. The original Desire is already lacking in today’s standards. Some might be turned off with the Desire HD’s big screen while the Desire Z has a niche of its own.

The premium design and materials are well worth the Php21,500 price that you can get this at. If you want a no-frills phone that gets the job done and might even surprise you with some useful features, the HTC Desire S comes highly recommended. This phone will be sorely missed after I return it back.

HTC Desire S Specs:
1GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon
Adreno 205 GPU
Android 2.3 Gingerbread
3.7-inch capacitive SLCD Gorilla Glass display (480 x 800)
HTC Sense UI
1.1 GB ROM, 768 MB RAM, microSD up to 32GB
HSDPA, 14.4 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
Bluetooth 2.1
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
5 MP autofocus camera with LED flash, VGA front cam
Video recording at 720p @ 30fps
115 x 59.8 x 11.6 mm
130 g
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  • Anonymous

    No budget this time, but i’ll buy the phone when the price went down to 16 or 15..

    • I wonder when will it be? I would die to have one at that price.