HTC Incredible S

9th Mar 2011 | 09:30

HTC Incredible S

HTC's first UK four inch screen on a novel chassis shape

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

Another cracking phone from HTC, but one that doesn't add a lot more than a more rugged chassis and four inch screen

Like:

Slick UI; Excellent 8MP camera; High quality screen; Pleasant-feeling chassis; Low price;

Dislike:

Poor battery life; Screen poor in direct light; Bulbous rear; Locations service still buggy; Erratic video player

HTC Incredible S: Overview and Design

The HTC Incredible S is the latest Android phone from the Taiwanese brand, filling the 4-inch screen gap it has in the UK.

The brand has already launched a phone under the Incredible moniker in the US, making it slightly odd that it's chosen to bring that product line to the UK - but given the success of the Samsung Galaxy S and a slew of forthcoming handsets with a 4-inch screen (Such as the LG Optimus 2X) it's easy to see why it's gone down this route.

What's slightly odd is that the HTC Incredible S actually resembles something closer to the Motorola Defy, the ruggedised handset of the moment, rather than the slick stylings of the Galaxy S - the chassis is encased in matte plastic that feels closer to rubber.

You can check out TechRadar's HTC Incredible S video review:

But, at only £25 a month,it's not going to hurt your pocket compared to other high end handsets on the market at the moment.

HTC incredible s review

The first thing most will notice on the Incredible S is the rear - it's got a 'vacuum packed' feel to it, with the chassis adhering to the outline of the battery and innards in a fairly unique way.

It's a strange experience in the hand - the phone feels thin when you first look at it, but when actually holding it in the palm, the thickness becomes very apparent.

HTC incredible s review

However, the comparisons with Motorola's rugged rug rat don't mean the Incredible S is an unattractive device. The four inch screen is well worked into the black exterior, and the four Android keys we've come to expect from HTC (Home, Menu, Back and Search) and once again touch sensitive options.

HTC incredible s review

We still hanker for the physical keys of the original HTC Desire, but like a dedicated camera key, most brands seem keen to do away with anything that actually clicks.

HTC incredible s review

The keys are actually easy to press no matter where you palm is positioned, and respond with a very pleasant tactile buzz.

HTC incredible s review

A much cooler trick though - the symbols auto-rotate when you move the phone, despite being only cut-outs to let the light through. Having spent far, far too long trying to work out how this happens seems to show that the openings actually rotate on a little circle, which is pretty darn cool.

The rest of the phone is quite sparse when it comes to extra keys and buttons. HTC has placed the 3.5mm headphone jack back on the top of the Incredible S, after moving it to the bottom for the Desire HD - perhaps there's a feeling that any screen above 4.3 inches can't handle a headphone jack at the top.

HTC incredible s review

It's positioned nicely to the left-hand side though, and very rarely gets in the way for things like watching videos or browsing the web in portrait mode when listening to music.

The top edge of the Incredible S also sees the lock/power switch - great ergonomics here again, with a simple lift of the index finger (for the right-handed) easily locating it to turn off the phone screen.

The volume rocker key is on the left-hand side of the phone, along with the uncovered microUSB slot for data and charging. We're still not sure why companies leave this covered on some models and open on others, but it's snugly designed into the chassis here.

HTC incredible s review

As we mentioned, there's no physical camera key to speak of here, so the right-hand side of the phone is as sparse as an Elephant bar on Mouse night. Apparently they really are scared of mice, not just in the minds of Disney writers.

The back of the phone sees the rather large camera sensor in the top left, alongside a blindingly powerful dual LED flash offering. Next to that is the loudspeaker grill, which is really rather loud (more on that later).

HTC incredible s review

Removing the battery cover is relatively easy thanks to a slot at the bottom of the phone, and in doing so you'll see the microSD slot in the bottom left-hand corner. At least we don't have to remove the battery to swap media cards, but surely a covered slot would have been better on the Incredible S.

While we're not sure the HTC Incredible S will win any style awards this year, it has an oddly pleasant feel in the hand thanks to the smooth rubberised finish, and we're fans of the 4-inch screen size.

HTC incredible s review

And while HTC hasn't made much of it, it seems there's a dock connector here, with two small pin holes on the battery cover linking into the Incredible S' internals. HTC has told us that a dock is indeed coming, but there's no timescale as yet for that to land.

HTC Incredible S: Interface

HTC Incredible S review: Interface

HTC incredible s review

The HTC Incredible S is bringing a similar experience to the others in its top end Android line - namely, using the now familiar Sense UI to make the Google experience much better thanks to some creative widget-ry.

It's not a new experience, but the new line up of phones from the HTC Desire HD onwards has had an updated version of the platform, offering connection to the cloud to seamlessly integrate into the phone.

For the uninitiated, Sense UI is a skin that sits on top of the basic Android experience, offering new widgets and a greater number of home screens to play with.

http://www.techradar.com/reviews/phones/mobile-phones/htc-desire-hd-717295/review

If you want to access these quickly, simply pinch the screen in, and you'll see all the different pages showcased in an exploded view - really handy if you're at one end of the phone screens and want to look at something six screens away.

HTC incredible s review

One feature of HTC's Android handsets has always been a fluid experience under the finger, and once again that's on show here with the HTC Incredible S.

The HTC range has been one of the only brands that's managed to keep up with the flawless speed of the iPhone 4, and thankfully that 'snappiness' has been replicated on the Incredible S, with no hint of slowdown.

You can drag the notifications bar down from almost any application, and even if the phone is updating in the background you won't notice any juddering - the menu list (which flicks up and down with ease) will sometimes lack a spot of fluidity, but if that's the worst thing to worry about, we're in a pretty good situation.

HTC incredible s review

The four inch screen is large enough to see all your widgets displayed with ease - as it's still got a WVGA (800 x 480) resolution display, there's no more space to chuck widgets, but it's very easy to see the information with a quick glance.

The Sense UI features a few cool tweaks to play with over the older versions, making the Android system so much more intuitive to use.

The first is the extra option at the bottom of the screen - rather than having to long press the display to edit it (although you still can) there's an icon of a palette to press, which achieves the same thing.

HTC incredible s review

The editing screen has been overhauled too, with a load more options. Here you can do little things like alter your ringtone (or even the whole sound set, so all notifications will sound like fairy bells or cucumber parties or something) or change all the icons and set up of your home screen using the new 'Scenes' offering, with custom options on offer too.

We're still not happy with the decision to only offer Android 2.2 on the Incredible S though - sure, it gets the phone to market quicker, but the likes of the HTC Desire S and Wildfire S are going to be outgunning it pretty quickly in terms of functionality, and we may have to wade through network upgrade schedules, meaning quite a wait for some to get the update.

But enough of the future - let's focus on the happiness on offer here. You can scroll through all the new scenes on offer, which are preloaded with different arrangements of widgets and wallpapers, or you can hit a button to quickly download more (although you do have to have a dedicated HTCSense.com account.

Not only is it testament to the power of the HTC Incredible S (Adreno 205 GPU, 1GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon) that this process of scrolling through thumbnails suffers no slowdown, but the ease of which you can go online is as cool as it was on the Desire HD - if you've got data signal, this will be a breeze.

Other things you can edit include skins (to change the way the phone's notification bars and menus are shaped and coloured) and wallpaper too, making it very easy and cool to personalise your Incredible S.

We're a little peeved you can't do timed screen changeovers - making it so your phone can suddenly alter into work mode or leisure time at certain points (or even when you enter pre-defined locations) is a popular trick on a number of phones, and something we'd have expected from HTC.

HTC incredible s review

Another option is the Edit button - usually with Google's OS when you long-press on an icon or widget, the Android interface would pop up with a 'remove' option that you could drop your selection into.

Now you also get an edit option (if applicable to the widget) which allows you to change certain elements - very cool and one of the things that show off the overall slick nature of the Incredible S.

The menu layout is the same as ever - a scrollable list of icons you can mess around with and re-arrange as you see fit through long-pressing and dragging, or pop into folders to make it easier to use.

The Incredible S features the same notifications bar as the Desire HD, which you open by dragging your finger down from the top of the screen from nearly any point in the phone.

HTC incredible s review

Here you'll see your most recently-used icons, making it mega easy to swipe along and see what you've been up to - and opening up oft-love options too.

The interface on the HTC Incredible S is simply phenomenal - you can sync up loads of accounts and have a fair few background processes and yet things still tick along wonderfully in the foreground.

And another thing – the fast booting process is still present and pretty good. It only works if you've turned the phone off and not pulled out the battery (as you might do on the plane) but turning it back on yielded a start screen that we could play with in less than 8 seconds, which is amazing and we had to check it three times to believe it.

However, one major problem, and one that has plagued HTC handsets for a while (with some notable omissions): the screen is still just terrible in direct light.

Take the Incredible S outside with the screen set to the lowest brightness, and it's simply invisible. Even turning it up to maximum makes it only averagely legible, and that's a real battery sucker.

HTC incredible s review

It's not a huge problem, but when you've left your screen on lower brightness to conserve power and you have to hide it in your jacket just to SEE the screen, it's a long way from a positive.

HTC Incredible S: Calling and contacts

HTC Incredible S review: Calling and contacts

HTC incredible s review

Mercy be - the HTC Incredible S is actually a rather good phone when it comes to making calls. We know, we couldn't believe it either, but you might actually be able to use a smartphone as an actual telephone.

Contacts

The contacts menu has always been one of HTC's strengths on nearly any phone it's created, and that's once again present on the HTC Incredible S.

HTC incredible s review

The way you can synchronise up Twitter, Facebook, Exchange, Google and more is sublime, and the options to interact once you're in there simply put it streets ahead of the competition - it's like HTC actually thought about a way to make this easy to use.

Once you've turned on the phone, it will encourage you to connect to Facebook, Twitter, Google, Exchange, Flickr and whatever else you fancy, and if you choose you can download contacts from there as well.

These then appear on the phone's contact menu, and you can cycle through and link them together.

HTC incredible s review

It could be a pretty laborious process (it is on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S, for instance), but HTC seems to have nailed telepathy on its Android phones by nearly always guessing the contact you're looking to sync up each time.

And if a suggestion for each person individually was too much for you, the Incredible also sports automatic linking.

Instead of having to go into each person and see if there's a link for them, the phone now will present a list of people to link up which you can easily scroll down.

We managed to knock around 50 people from our 150-strong contacts book this way, and it's a real help.

But linking doesn't just give you the status updates – it allows you to see so much more of your dealings with them as well.

You can see threaded messages (both text and email) as well as social networking updates from Twitter and Facebook.

HTC incredible s review

What really impressed us was the way the Incredible S managed to find Twitter accounts for contacts we didn't know were on the service - all it took was a quick tap to follow them.

(One word of warning – when you sign into the official Twitter and Facebook applications also included on the phone, don't ask to sync contacts, as you'll just end up with a million duplicates if you've done it when you first started up the phone).

You can also see galleries from the likes of Flickr and Facebook too – it's awesome being able to nose through a friend's photos just like they're stored in an album on your device.

HTC incredible s review

One thing we do like about the way HTC implements its contacts system is the level of customisation you get.

You can choose any picture you like from any source, and have a different name as well if they're called multiple things on all the places you've linked them from.

It's a far cry from the bodge job we had to perform on the Windows Phone 7 devices, where only deleting certain accounts would perform that task.

The favourites widget for the home screen is really nice too, as it allows you to see all your favourite people with pictures and status updates, and offers easy access to call or message them too.

Calling

Calling on the HTC Incredible S is pretty great, as we mentioned before - not only is the speaker grille at the top well placed so you can always hit it to your ear, but the speech volume is very impressive too.

If anything, it's too loud - we had to turn it down from time to time to make sure it didn't hurt our ears, which is a real boon to have when you head out near a busy road.

The loudspeaker is also jolly good too - clear, precise and very good for a group conversation. It does mean that if you leave your ringer on too high it will scare the bejesus out of you, but also means that you can conference call with the best of them.

HTC incredible s review

The Incredible S features some nifty trick - if you need to silence a phone call, flip the phone onto its screen and the handset will go quiet, and if it recognises it's in a pocket or bag, it will ring louder and then quieten down when you pick it up.

Another plus - there seems to be dual-microphones for noise cancelling on board - we managed to make some audible calls in loud places, meaning we're pretty sure this phone has the edge on its predecessors.

The calling options are nice too – you can use smart dialling, where pressing the numbers will call up phone records using predictive text, and each person that calls you will have any recent social network updates and profile pictures at the centre of the call screen.

And Here's The Good News You've All Been Waiting For: it features video calling. Yes, we know it's en vogue at the moment, thanks to Apple and the 'magical' FaceTime, but we still don't care a jot about video calling, no matter how enchanting Jobs says it is.

HTC incredible s review

The only useful thing about the camera is being able to see yourself to use it like a mirror, and even then you have an oddly distorted view.

HTC Incredible S: Messaging

HTC Incredible S review: Messaging

HTC incredible s review

Messaging is integral to the performance of the HTC Incredible S, and once again HTC has come up trumps with the range of things you can do with it.

We're talking email (both POP/IMAP and Exchange) SMS, MMS, IM, Twitter and Facebook – very easy to set up (with some clever auto completing email addresses if they look like the main Googlemail one) and quick to load.

If you didn't know, you will need a Google account to use this phone - but then again, with the range of things it gets you (Maps, Mail, search history etc) it's worth it, and easy to set up.

HTC incredible s review

In fact it only takes around two minutes to set up all the above accounts, even Exchange – that only takes a user name and password and in 90% of the cases you'll be receiving work emails in a trice. If not, then manual set up is just a click away, although you'll need to badger your IT department for the info.

The keyboard on the HTC Incredible S is once again fantastic – it's highly responsive, works out which words you're after most of the time and defaults to them, and also has cursor keys at the bottom to move around the text when you only want to change a single letter.

HTC incredible s review

Perhaps we've been a little bit spoiled, but we didn't notice any massive improvements from the original Desire in the new Incredible S - however it was slick, responsive and mostly correct, and it's still one of the best out there in terms of touchscreen keyboards.

HTC incredible s review

The Sense UI version of the Email inbox is still present, offering more swipe-able options at the bottom of the screen to make navigating through the multitude of messages.

For instance, you can swipe along to only see messages from your favourite contacts, meaning you can quickly get to the important stuff from the cool people easier.

You can specify who this group is – the lists can be altered using the 'View' category in the menu if you don't just want to see your favourites.

HTC incredible s review

In terms of social networking, there are three clients included in the box – although Twitter is doubled up, so it's technically four.

Both the official Android Twitter client and HTC's Peep are included out of the box, which is odd – especially when HTC's Peep is the one that serves the notifications that you have mentions and messages automatically, and you'll need to make the switch if you begin using the official application.

Both are easy to use though – Peep is a little less functional but perfectly usable Twitter offers more in terms of wider searching – although there are other (in our opinion, better) options available on the Android Market, like UberCurrent.

Facebook is handy, as it's been overhauled to offer up new elements like a photo stream under the icons grid (and FINALLY includes Facebook Chat), and of course Google Talk is included too for instant messaging.

HTC incredible s review

You get chat notifications as well as the ability to have multiple chats at once –it's not earth shattering, especially if you've never used it, but if you're one for a spot of Google Talking then this is a pretty good way to keep it happening on the go.

However, one note of caution - while the text messaging section is great, with threaded messages and the ability to see history between you and chums in their contact profile, the pictures don't seem to pull through to the inbox, so you can't see their face when texting.

Oddly, this is because the messaging interface draws contacts from the SIM card instead of the phone - if you delete all your contacts off the SIM and then reattach them, this fixes things, but it's a hassle you shouldn't have to go through.

HTC Incredible S: Internet

HTC Incredible S review: Internet

HTC incredible s review

The 4-inch screen of the HTC Incredible S is pretty darn good for browsing the web, one of the best out there in fact, thanks to some clever HTC optimisation.

The WVGA resolution (800x480) screen means you can get nice and close to the text, and for added benefits there's also support for HTML5 and more importantly for some people: Flash 10.1 (with Flash 10.2, with better battery optimisation and smoothness, coming soon).

HTC incredible s review

If you're unaccustomed to the different variations in the Flash family, 10.1 integration not only means that you can watch videos from places like the BBC and Sky without needing a separate application, but they will run within the webpage, without having to jump to a dedicated media player.

HTC incredible s review

And the even better news than before: Flash ACTUALLY works on the Incredible S. Not a bit choppy, not 'goes a bit weird in fullscreen mode', but say hello to using the iPlayer without problem and load up non-mobile videos with ease.

Sure, the 3G connection can get a bit choppy here, but finally it's coming up trumps on a mobile device. You can also choose to not have the Flash player automatically load, to save time with page updating - if you choose this option, simply press the little green arrow and it starts. Neat.

HTC incredible s review

You can also use the dedicated mobile YouTube site, which uses HTML5 to work quickly and simply, but a number of videos in your favourite playlists won't play in this format it seems, so jumping to the Flash version makes more sense.

HTC incredible s review

There are a number of other positives to the internet experience on the HTC Incredible S - multiple windows with thumbnail scrolling through them mean various websites can be open at once.

HTC incredible s review

However, you can only have four windows open at once, which is irritating - although for the most part you'll never go over that number anyway, and it helps keep the power consumption down.

One think that Android (and HTC's Google portfolio especially) does well is text-wrapping; namely, zoom into whichever size you want on a column of text and the words will jumble around the screen and reformat to fill the display.

Sure, you can double tap to get closer to the text in the same vein as other smartphones, but the text wrapping puts you in control of the size... and you can go mightily close with HTC's range. It's by far the best in the business, and makes reading articles a joy.

HTC incredible s review

Another winning feature from Android is the ability to share web pages to a variety of sources without having to break stride: if you're on a page that you think your buddies online will like then you can head into the 'Share Page' option and lob the link out via Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, SMS, Bluetooth - it's all supported, so finally that picture of a kitten doing something so interesting that the world may LITERALLY EXPLODE if it doesn't know about it can get the credit it deserves.

HTC incredible s review

We've always been fans of the bookmarks, as when you enter this section you can either look at the ones you've saved (via thumbnail, nice) or see your most visited or history of pages you've been to - enabling you to choose bookmarks that you need without realising it.

With the new Sense UI, users of the HTC Incredible S can also subscribe to an RSS feed (if present on the page) by hitting the icon in the top left hand corner of the screen - it makes keeping up to date with the sites you love very easy.

HTC incredible s review

Another plus we've always loved on the HTC Android range: the implementation of copy and paste. It's a little Apple-esque, as you long press on text and see a little magnification pane pop up.

From there you can drag two little pins to select the text you want - these have been switched from green to blue; you know, to add a little variation to the line up.

Where the difference between this and other OS versions of copy and paste lies is in the pop up menu that appears after: you can copy the text, share it via the same options mentioned earlier or use it to search.

But not just search on Google, oh no. You can look for the phrase on Wikipedia, YouTube, Google Dictionary or even Google Translate - and that's a fantastic array of options above the standard Android experience.

The internet experience on Android phones has always been a plus, and the sheer speed, functionality and slickness of the offering on the HTC Incredible S is up there with the best of them.

HTC Incredible S: Camera

HTC Incredible S review: Camera

HTC incredible s review

The HTC Incredible S has an 8MP camera, which we think is perfectly adequate for a device like this. It's matched by the HTC Desire HD and the HTC 7 Mozart, with the former having the same dual LED configuration.

HTC incredible s review

While the modes on offer for picture manipulation are simplistic, there is a little bit of range on the camera shots you can take. Using simple sliding dials, you can alter the contrast, sharpness and exposure, and these go a long way to altering the quality of the shot you get.

HTC incredible s review

The shutter speed is pretty good though - while you can't manage quick fire shooting, if you turn off autofocus you can manage around three shots in six seconds... add in a couple of seconds each time for making sure the shot is in focus.

Another feature of the HTC Incredible S is tap to autofocus - simply touch a point on the screen and camera will make that the focal point of the photo.

This not only means focusing, but altering the colour and exposure balance too - very handy and it works pretty well, albeit a trifle slowly.

HTC incredible s review

The standard camera mode offers sumptuous colours and clear lines

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HTC incredible s review

With saturation and contrast turned up, the picture loses clarity in bright light

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HTC incredible s review

And turned down it adds an almost sad, nostalgic feeling when bright colours are present

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HTC incredible s review

Close ups are no problem for the Incredible S

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HTC incredible s review

This is the auto macro mode; as you can see, it's highly effective

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HTC incredible s review

The touch to focus feature: with the background selected

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HTC incredible s review

And with the foreground selected - the difference is marked

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HTC incredible s review

Strong shapes dominate this photo, also the foreground is slightly blurred

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HTC incredible s review

Digital zoom is average - it's not terrible, but doesn't blow us away

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HTC incredible s review

Night shooting is pointless - even with the exposure turned up, this scene (highly visible to the naked eye) was almost completely blacked out

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HTC incredible s

The flash is reasonably good at capturing objects close up, even without time to focus

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HTC incredible s

The night mode is poor, but with the exposure turned up white objects can be seen quite well

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HTC Incredible S review: Video

HTC incredible s review

The video player on the HTC Incredible S is on a par with most other high end phones, namely the quality is OK in full HD mode, but nothing really super-special in terms of quality.

The interface is the same as the camera option, with fewer modes to tweak. It's good that you can still alter exposure, contrast, sharpness and saturation in the video mode, but tap to focus is an odd experience.

HTC incredible s review

It works, but if you're trying to get the camera to focus on a darker point on the screen it will change the exposure settings then instantly revert to the original ones – which makes a very poor video and one that can be very dark/light.

HTC incredible s

The HD quality in these videos is OK at capturing fast motion, and quickly adapts to changing light conditions.

However, as you can see, tapping to change the focus area results in a quick exposure shift, before jumping back to the original levels instantly.

HTC Incredible S: Media

HTC Incredible S review: Media

HTC incredible s review

The HTC Incredible S comes with a number of different modes for media playback, be it video, audio or DLNA streaming. It's adept at most, but has trouble with some basic playback in certain areas.

Music

The music player on the HTC Incredible S is still only slightly above average - and the internal supply of 1.1GB of storage is paltry when you consider you have to have applications installed to that as well.

HTC incredible s review

However, it comes with an 8GB microSD card as standard from The Carphone Warehouse, meaning you've got a lot more freedom to chuck as much content on there as you like.

The audio output is boosted by the addition of Dolby Mobile and SRS virtual surround sound, adding to the equaliser, although only the middle option really makes a difference sonically in a positive fashion - the rest seem to get too high-end heavy to our ears.

HTC incredible s review

It's not a terrible experience sonically, but only the bass booster option in the equaliser offered the best all round sound.

The media interface is the same as it ever has been on the HTC Android brigade - namely, swipe-able album art that takes you from song to song, and a separate menu to slide along to get to artists, albums and playlists.

Having played with a roughly similar interface on the Windows Phone 7 offerings, we prefer Microsoft's offering here if we're honest - the option to swipe through albums to change songs is so much slicker, where on the HTC Incredible S it's not instant.

A couple of nice touches: after the artist, album, genre etc there's now 'Connected Media' that searches for DLNA-enabled devices.

HTC incredible s review

This means if you've got a Windows 7-enabled PC or a Playstation 3 turned on you can see all the media contained on that and stream it straight across... and it really works well.

The other new feature is the addition of an Amazon MP3 store link - hit that to search for new music to buy and download. It doesn't add a lot in terms of media functionality, but it's an easy (and sometimes quite cheap) way to get that song you've been thinking of.

Another point - if you've got a pair of iPhone ready headphones, we found they will work without adaptor on the Incredible S, although the volume controls won't be active.

Video

Video on the HTC Incredible S isn't bad - the lighter screen might be a draw on the battery, but this leads to some pin sharp video quality.

Video processing is quick and we saw very little evidence of judder in nearly all the file types we threw at it.

HTC incredible s review

The Incredible S doesn't seem to have the range of file playback we've come to expect from today's high end smartphone - no DivX support, for instance.

MP4 and M4V files played back with no problem, as did WMV and 3gp, as you'd expect. DivX isn't supported, so unsurprisingly didn't play back.

HTC incredible s review

HTC claims that AVI files are supported, but we chucked a number on the Incredible S and only one played back - they were all encoded in the same batch, so we've no idea why it was being picky.

However, the non-working files also ground the phone to a halt - not what we'd hoped for.

Sometimes even finding the video you want can be a challenge, as whether you survey your video list via the Videos app or through the gallery (the former is just a shortcut for the latter) you're presented with a bunch of grey tiles which should be thumbnails of your videos.

HTC incredible s review

With no labels in sight, you have to wait an extraordinarily long time to find the vid you want, where on the old Desire this was presented in a swipe-able horizontal list, and the thumbnails appeared in seconds.

It seems the AVI files were to blame here, but there was no caching of the thumbnails, so over and over again we had to wait for the loading to see which video was wihich.

A simple trip to the App Market sorts this out, as something like mVideo Player irons out all the issues, but we maintain you should never have to install third party software to do basic things.

Another issue that's still present from the Desire HD: files that would previously play in whichever screen size we wanted would only play in heavy zoom or 4:3, even though they were encoded in widescreen.

We tried the same ones on the original Desire and the Samsung Galaxy S and they played fine. At least the Incredible S brings the option to zoom in, but third party software can stretch the video with no problem, so why can't the native player?

However, the addition of Dolby Mobile here (as well as SRS virtual surround sound) is a real boon and benefit, really making your movies come to life providing you've got a decent pair of headphones. - it's really worth upgrading as the in-box buds might feature an inline controller, but are poor sonically compared to a decent pair.

Connected Media

Another new trick for the HTC Incredible S - DLNA streaming to a big-screen TV. The penchant for manufacturers these days is to actually pop an HDMI port on the phone itself (think LG Optimus 2X) and have that mirror the phone content.

It's overly complicated compared to just being able to easily send the content across, and that's what the Incredible S does with the Connected Media system.

HTC incredible s review

If you've got a DLNA-enabled TV (or are willing to buy the overly-expensive HTC dongle to turn it into one) then it really is - it's a feature that really will impress friends.

All you need to do is open up the application or click Share in the long-press menu of the media you want to pump to a big screen, and if there's a relevant display in proximity it will instantly begin playing on it - if there are multiple options the phone will present you with a list.

Simply select it and in seconds the TV will start connecting and play the media you've chosen. HD files take a little longer to get going, but the effect is the same - you can play a movie you've captured or got on your phone with no problems.

We should say if you're showing off an HD movie you've downloaded from elsewhere from the HTC Incredible S, it's not the equal of the wired-up Nokia N8, which can also support 5.1 surround sound, but for 99% of the tasks you'll want to do the HTC wireless method just looks so cool when you're sitting on the sofa just chillin'.

HTC incredible s review

However, HTC could still have done better here in our opinion: free downloads like Eyecon or Skifta can do the same thing as the Connected Media program, but also stream in data from a DLNA PC or games console - it's way cooler and something we think should have been on here by default.

We'd advise you don't try and show off a photo album using this method - it takes AGES to scroll through each one, so best to stick to music and video. You know, for parties and whatever else posh people with DLNA TVs do.

Just make sure you select the right file when you're showing off the trick to family at Easter - that Spank Inferno video from your mate down the pub isn't going to go down well with the chocolate bunnies.

FM radio

The final media cog of the HTC Incredible S machine is the FM radio, something that people sometimes forget about functionality-wise.

It's the same old story: you need headphones to make the radio work, there's no RDS for station names unless they're in ultra-strong signal areas (clue: there are none anywhere in the world, ever, when it comes to a mobile phone) and there's no FM transmitter in sight.

HTC incredible s review

The signal is pretty poor too, making it hard to get a station even when you know a standalone device can pick up a clear signal without an issue.

But the automatic station searching is cool, and while it doesn't work all the time at least the home screen widget is easy to use.

HTC Incredible S: Battery life

HTC Incredible S review: Battery life

HTC incredible s review

This is the part of the review we hate with any HTC phone, as inevitably we've praised the slick operation and fast UI, only to have to give you the bad news that the battery isn't up to much.

We wish it was different here - but sorry, it's not really. If there's a positive spin we could take on the news, we'd say that it's definitely better than the HTC Desire HD (which was awful) but isn't much better than the original HTC Desire.

HTC incredible s review

The fear is that this will dwindle over time in the same way anecdotally HTC Desires appear to be doing.

If you start using the HTC Incredible S heavily, for video, music, camera or streaming media, then that battery life drops too, so you might need to recharge. Background syncing also sucks the life out of the battery - you can see a marked difference on the battery graph when it's switched on and off.

While HTC seems to have nailed more efficient operation, the battery life seems to be being sucked by the display on the HTC Incredible S (in the same way as the Desire HD) and that's never a good thing, apparently always taking at least 50% of the drain.

HTC incredible s review

You can see when installing battery readers that the phone can hold charge quite easily in normal use – even when it's got push email on and is quietly syncing in the background, the life isn't dying quickly, and as the signal doesn't drop too often it's not searching for another one.

HTC incredible s review

The question is whether you're prepared to make compromises; can you live with slightly lower syncing cycles, lower brightness and fewer voice calls? If not, and you still decide to go ahead and buy the phone, you might want to carry a charger with you so you don't run into HTC Incredible S battery problems.

HTC Incredible S: HTCSense.com and connectivity

HTC Incredible S review: HTC Sense.com

HTC incredible s review

The HTC Incredible S allows connection to HTCSense.com, a portal that allows you to control your phone from afar.

Initially, it looks like the main reason for this portal is to deal with the issue of leaving your phone at home or even worse: losing it.

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You can perform basic tasks like forwarding all your calls to another number and messages too - it works nicely and makes the hassle of people not being able to get hold of you a distant memory.

Another neat feature for the lonely and friendless among us is the ability to ring the phone as loud as possible - it overrides silent mode as well, so even if you've turned the ringer off you can still hear where you've left your precious device.

But there's a lot more to this portal than just that - being able to send a message to your phone or lock it remotely means that if you think you're going to get it back you can protect it or entice someone to return it.

You can also see roughly where your phone is - handy if you think you might have left it at that restaurant across town but don't want to go over there on a wild goose chase.

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A word of warning with that last element: our phone is continually stuck off the coast of Madagascar, according to the map - we've definitely been spotted on Google Maps in our home town, so we've no idea what's going on here.

And of course there's the remote wipe option, allowing you to protect any data that might fall into the wrong hands.

The service has picked up from its early days, with the connection to the phone always stable and strong, and the backup storage bringing comfort should you find your handset hits that dreaded terminal error.

We like another feature from HTC with the new Sense account - you can add friends also on the service and recommend things to each other, or see what they're downloading.

HTCSense.com is a great addition to the party - we doubt most people picking up an HTC phone will use it, but should you decide to get to grips with the system, it certainly provides a cost effective way to get peace of mind (especially if you live off the coast of Africa).

Connectivity

There are a number of connectivity options on the HTC Incredible S, and mostly they work better than other smartphone contenders on the market at the moment.

For instance, Wi-Fi, which was a slight issue with some Android phones, seems to be a nice and strong on the Incredible S than other top end phones - it's as good as Apple's iPhone offerings, which we think has the most stable connection.

HTC incredible s review

Bluetooth music connection has FINALLY been fixed too - no more crappy and choppy music for use when we're trying to do the Electric Boogaloo on the morning commute sans wires.

Bluetooth was fine in other instances too, making it easy to transfer and connect between devices, so it's nice to see HTC has finally fixed this little niggle.

Calendar

We're big fans of the calendars on HTC phones in general, as they offer up integrated functionality as you'd hope it would work - seamlessly taking information from your Google or Exchange account with no issues at all, and using colour coded labels to let you know which account the meetings are from.

And a superb touch - telling you the weather in the region you're going to be in on that day. It's not pivotal but it's another one of those cool moments that makes you realise how hard HTC is thinking about the user.

HTC incredible s review

Wi-Fi hotspot

The use of Android 2.2 on the HTC Incredible S means it also comes with a few built-in bells and whistles, and one of those is the Wi-Fi hotspot.

All you need to do is turn this on and fire up your internet device - the phone will be pumping out a name of your choosing, and you simply input a password that again you can choose.

HTC incredible s review

It works nicely, eats as much data as you choose and as you can imagine, vaporises your battery in a heartbeat - it might be a good idea to have a charger handy with this one.

HTC Incredible S: Applications

HTC Incredible S review: Applications

HTC incredible s review

The HTC Incredible S comes chock-full of applications and services to get your teeth into, and many of these make it a delight to use the phone.

For all the wonder of today's respective application portals, there's nothing like having some cool options available on your phone from the moment you turn it on, and that's another thing HTC has taken care of with the Incredible S.

We'll go into the separate applications in a moment, but there are a couple of elements in the Sense UI that you should really check out, as they add an element of functionality and customisation to your phone we think many will like.

The HTC Hub is a place to get elements that totally overhaul your handset - from widgets to new messaging sounds; it's all here and free.

HTC incredible s review

You need an HTC Sense account to get involved, but after that you're treated to all manner of things, and most are presented in cool, swipe-able thumbnails that show off the power of the inbuilt GPU.

Downloads are swift and easily used and viewed - if you get one of these phone do it soon to try it out, and you'll feel like the link between cloud data and your phone has been closer.

The other new offering is the HTC Likes, basically a collection of applications that HTC is promoting from the App Market - but there are descriptions, comments and likes/dislikes to let you know how popular the app is in real time.

You have to sign in through HTC Sense again here, so you can interact with your friends' choices, but it's nice to see what your buddies are downloading too.

Onto the pre-loaded applications: there are a number we're 'into', so we'll give you a quick rundown.

Flashlight - this is exactly how is sounds, and we only wish there was a home screen widget for it. Offering three levels of brightness, it uses the dual LED flash on the rear of the phone to create a light so bright it will melt your eyes.

News and Weather - this little widget shows you the local weather in your region (although the HTC Weather widget is also excellent and does the job a little better) as well as local news.

With an easy swipe system and various categories to choose from, this is a really good place to keep up with what's going on in the world of politics or what Cheryl said/did/looked at on X Factor this week.

Reader - not to be confused with Google Reader (which is called News on the HTC Incredible S, which is not to be confused with News and Weather... we know) this is the e-book option for readers all around the world.

HTC incredible s review

Offering a tasty selection of books from the outset (Dracula, The Art of War etc) it also lets you choose words to research, easily hop between chapters and bookmark pages with little fuss. It's a nice effort, and as full-featured of an e-book reader as you could want on your phone.

SoundHound - This is a Shazam-style application, but one that goes one step further - you can hum and sing and lalalalala a song into the phone and it will try and identify it.

Utterly pointless for 90% of songs you can't remember (you very rarely can remember the name even if you read it) and it can be a little inaccurate - but it's a fun way to ridicule your mates down the pub.

However, you only get 10 free tries per month, so don't go overboard too soon.

HTC Incredible S: Maps and Locations

HTC Incredible S review: Maps

HTC incredible s reviewThe HTC Incredible S comes complete with a couple of mapping options – considering how long the Taiwanese firm has bet big on Google Maps, offering its own option seems a little counter-intuitive.

We'll start with Google Maps that comes loaded on the Incredible S automatically - in our eyes it's a complete package anyway.

You get the easy to read interface we've all come to expect, where you can search the maps for whatever you like - businesses, landmarks and addresses.

HTC incredible s review

You can also add in other layers, like Transit Lines (the Tube, for instance) Traffic and Wikipedia entries for things nearby.

Weather has been added to Live Wallpapers, so you can not only see where you are at all times, but also work out the weather too. We couldn't make this work in the UK when we played with it, but then again looking out the window achieved the same thing anyway...

The GPS lock was pretty quick, taking around 7-8 seconds from cold to work out where we were. It's not the fastest, but crucially held our connection when using the phone as a sat nav, and that's where we really wanted it to be a winner.

HTC incredible s review

Google Maps comes complete with integrated and free sat nav, and on this massive screen it's tip-top - you can easily see where you're going and it's very easy to poke the screen when you need to get a little more information.

Navigation actually gets its own little icon on the home screen, and will get you wherever you want to go - and tell you the traffic conditions too. It still relies on data streaming, which is a bit of a downside, but it's great for a free offering.

Not only that, but we're also going to get free traffic re-routing in the future too for current and historical traffic hotspots - it's getting to the point where a dedicated TomTom is pointless.

Voice search is offered on the HTC Incredible S, after a mysterious absence on the Desire, and it works well here too. Ask the phone to 'Navigate to that place with the Rosetta Stone' and you'll be taken to the British Museum (if that's where it is).

It's not a necessary touch, but it's pretty accurate providing you have an even dialect and speak clearly.

Locations

So after the wonder of Google Maps, we're unsure as to why HTC has decided to put its own locations platform on the HTC Incredible S as well.

In association with TomTom, the theory seems pretty clear - making money, as while the maps are free to download, you have to purchase premium navigation, traffic and speed cameras.

Admittedly you can't get the latter with Google Maps (apart from the forthcoming traffic), but that has the advantage of being free - we assume HTC is all about choice here, although it can be a little confusing.

You can tag pictures with location data and use them as bookmarks to navigate to, and see them on the map as icons when scooting around in the future.

HTC incredible s review

Simply firing up the application will open up a number of categories, from shopping to eateries to banks, and show them all in a list or on a cool map with 3D buildings.

However, the locations of the premises are a little erratic at times, and some are quite out of date - not a lot, but we found one or two pubs that have been shut for a few years, so HTC's data (or TomTom's) might need updating there.

Also, while the banks are a cool addition to helping you find cash, the ATMs section is very sparse compared to real life - if we were lost and trying to find money, we'd be annoyed to find out we wandered very close to a hole in the wall that wasn't listed.

HTC incredible s review

There's a car panel mode here as well, which gives the opportunity to have even larger icons. We prefer Google Maps in the car, but the larger buttons on offer here are a nice touch when trying to prod something without having to fiddle about too much (obviously, with the car stationary and the engine turned off... be safe, kids).

More annoyingly, our widget for the home screen, which should give loads of cool information on what's nearby, was broken, constantly asking up to update the maps as it couldn't see the info, despite having clearly downloaded the multi-megabytes of data needed.

Like we said: cool that you can download the whole of the UK to the phone to save data (although it takes up nearly 500MB of space, which may be a problem for some people with smaller memory cards or using a lot of media) and elements like helicopter view, which shows your route ahead and being able to take calls when navigating aren't enough to convince us that this is any better than Google Maps.

We'd wager it's not going to be too long until Google comes out with a caching option as well - we assume it's currently some sort of licensing deal at the moment, but it seems like a sensible thing to do in the future.

HTC Incredible S: Hands-on gallery

HTC Incredible S review: Hands-on gallery

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HTC Incredible S: Official gallery

HTC Incredible S review: Official gallery

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HTC Incredible S: Verdict

HTC incredible s review

HTC Incredible S review: Verdict

Now comes the tricky bit when it comes to reviewing a phone - trying to sum it all up in a few words at the end. It's especially tricky with phones like the HTC Incredible S (pretentious name aside) as the sheer range of gadgetry on offer make us coo like we're in the presence of a five star handset, which is why we rated the HTC Desire so highly.

But while back then we were prepared to forego a few little niggles, lower battery life and poor screen performance in direct sunlight, things have moved on and a year later it's irritating to see that those things that irritated us then still haven't died.

We liked

Don't get us wrong though - the HTC Incredible is a market-leading smartphone, and a phone that's going to delight many users. We're impressed with the snaps we managed to bag with the 8MP camera for instance, and the slick interface that pervades across all the applications shows that HTC really has done its homework when trying to find out what users want.

The Sense UI is as good as ever on the Incredible S, and the likes of the HTC Hub and the inbuilt e-book reader are real bonuses in our eyes. The chassis is also sleek and feels very nice in the hand, if a little cheap feeling thanks to the lightness.

The sheer speed at which the internet works, the phone opens up applications and general day to day use impressed us - the Incredible S is one nippy phone and one that we'd be proud to call our own.

We disliked

But like the middle child, we don't love it as much as our other phones, namely because it doesn't really move things far enough forward in terms of functionality and use.

Landing on Android 2.2 is an irritation, given we've had the Google Nexus S to play with for a while now, and the battery life issue, while not day-wrecking, is a worry - if the battery power retention starts to slide over time, we're really worried for the future of the phone.

The screen's invisibility in direct sunlight is something that will irritate a few, and the odd vacuum packed styling of the rear also isn't going to be to everyone's cup of tea.

The HD video recording is pretty good, but the auto-focus isn't too good, as it messes up the exposure.

Verdict

We know why you've come here: you want to know if we think that the HTC Incredible S is the phone you should be going for. Well, if you're thinking that the HTC Desire HD was a great handset, but the screen was a little too large and the battery life was a real worry, then you're in for a treat - this is the phone for you.

You'll enjoy the compact stylings, and if you've never used the Sense UI, you'll bloomin' love it - in our opinion it's the best version of Android out there (although we know some people will be wishing that there was an option to remove it.

However, the problems it has will really come to the fore in the next month or so, when the HTC Desire S launches, as this will be the real test: Android 2.3 in the chassis that won so many awards last year. Sure, it only has that 3.7-inch screen, and a 5MP camera, so you'll need to make up your mind whether to snap up the Incredible S or wait and compare with the sequel to an award winner.

Thanks to Carphone Warehouse for supplying our handset.

Android 2.2 HTC Incredible S Smartphone budget phone
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