HTC Desire S Review

Jonathan Morris
May 10, 2011

The HTC Desire was the What Mobile Awards 2010 Mobile Phone of the Year, so there’s definitely no pressure on HTC to impress us with the Desire S, oh no!

Since the original Desire was released, there have been almost too many new high-end Android phones to count. Not only has the competition upped its game, but HTC has also come out with a heap of top-spec models, like the Desire HD and the Incredible S.

As a consequence, the Desire S is almost relegated to a mid-range position, with a risk of getting lost in a sea of similarly specified devices. Such is the state of the market in general, however, given how many Android phones are now flooding the market.

Side by side with the original Desire, the phone is smaller but there’s really not much else to tell them apart. The most noticeable change is the removal of any physical buttons (for touch-sensitive ones) and the optical navigation pad, while the less noticeable difference is a unibody design. From either the front or back, the Desire doesn’t look particularly special beside any of the HTC models released over the last 12 months.

From the first HTC smartphones with a rollerball, I noted that it was something you would usually forget you had. Although some existing Desire owners might argue differently, it seems to have been a valid point, as almost every Android phone on the market today goes without.

So, besides the exterior look, what are the other differences? Software wise, the original Desire has Android 2.2 and the Desire S has 2.3. However, HTC is supposedly going to offer an official update to 2.3 for the first model.

This could mean bagging the original Desire could be a better bet, although you would then find yourself at a loss in the performance stakes.

In what is almost an identical situation to the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 versus the newer Xperia arc, there has been a big upgrade in performance even if the phone is still only powered by the same 1GHz processor.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon has been enhanced and the Desire S has a newer Adreno 205 Graphics Processing Unit that is significantly faster, and identical to that of the Xperia arc. It really does speed up the visuals on the phone and makes you wonder whether you really do need all the power of a dual-core chip.

So, even if the original Desire gets the OS update, the Desire S will still run rings around it when you use the phone or play graphically intensive games.

The camera is the same as the Desire too, right down to having a single-LED flash. There’s still no camera button, so you can only access the camera via the menu (or an app shortcut on the home screen). HTC has never really seen imaging as a major feature on any of its smartphones, which is proven by the rather average quality photos from the camera. If you are after good pics, you’ll need to look at the Xperia arc (or the Xperia neo, if you wish to compare on a similar pricing level).

The screen

HTC switched the screen type during the production of the original Desire, swapping from AM-OLED to LCD.  The original screen had a good enough contrast ratio, but was hard to see in daylight and also used interpolation that introduced jaggies on text.

The switch to the Super-LCD display has addressed both issues, and is now the standard on the Desire S. Although not as sharp as the iPhone 4’s Retina Display, you’ll still find everything to be
very crisp. The HTC Sensation (which will cost
lots more) offers 540×960 pixels, but 480×800 is still ample.

HTC Sense is as familiar as ever, but it doesn’t have some of the very latest features introduced on the Sensation, like being able to unlock and run an app with a simple dragging of an icon to the base of the screen.

You can still change skins, wallpapers, colour schemes, back up and remotely wipe the device via the HTC Sense website, manage your social media and use the integrated navigation software with maps you can pre-install to save on data charges.

When it comes to enhancing the Android experience, HTC Sense is second to none.

For a phone with the latest version of Android OS, support for Flash 10.2, an acceptable camera that also does HD video, plus a processor that won’t disappoint even if it isn’t up there with the dual-core monsters now hitting the high-street.

There’s nothing really bad about the phone, but it does seem rather anonymous and has a design that HTC has been using for some time. It is starting to look dated, but if you’re not worried about that, this isn’t going to matter.


Just as the iPad 2 is more evolution than revolution, the same applies to the Desire S. The phone is a bit smaller than the Desire, but doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. In fact, besides the Snapdragon processor getting a performance boost (which does make a big difference) the only other real change is Android 2.3 and a newer version of HTC Sense with new features. Even the camera is unchanged. However, the Desire was an award-winning handset, so while this isn’t as ground-breaking, it does bring power and performance to a wider audience.

Ratings (out of 5)

Performance: 4

Features: 3

Usability: 4


Camera Photos

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