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HTC Incredible S review

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HTC is without a doubt one of the leading lights that has made Android a success. The trouble with being in front, though, is that everybody is out to get you. You have to keep one eye on the competition, and one eye on making sure what you do constantly raises the stakes. It’s a tricky business.

HTC’s Incredible S, which is exclusively available from The Carphone Warehouse, doesn’t really do much to make the competition quake in its boots.

Oh, the Incredible S is not a turkey. And it does have a couple of neat features. But in essence it feels like a stopgap smartphone, while we wait for the delights of dual core processors (and see if they really add anything) and near field communications to wow us as 2011 proceeds.

The rubberised finish to the back and sides is welcome as it stops the Incredible S slipping about in your hand. The backplate shaping we are not so sure about. It is raised in the middle endowing the Incredible S with a very distinctive look and creating a remarkably thin appearance to the edges. But it does not do a lot to diminish the overall in-hand size. At 135g and 120x64x1.7mm the HTC Incredible S is quite a chunk of phone.

That is inevitable given the 4 inch screen, though, and the screen is one of the main selling points of the HTC Incredible S. Sharp and bright it is great for rendering web pages and watching video. The size is a good compromise between the multimedia unfriendly smaller sizes and the bigger screens which can make smartphones difficult to pocket.

Internally the 1GHz processor is capable and competent, though the mere 1.1GB of internal storage is a bit measly and a potential chink in the HTC Incredible S’s armour. Our review sample, which came from the Carphone Warehouse, was supplied with an 8GB microSD card. That’s welcome as it means there is space for a fair few tunes to play through the pretty good loudspeaker or through headphones.

There’s a wow factor component to the HTC Incredible S in that the touch icons beneath the screen which give access to the Android Home, Menu, Back and Search functions rotate. As you swivel the smartphone in your hand to get to wide screen mode, the icons turn too so that they are the right way up.

It is not rocket science, it doesn’t make any difference to usability, but it does look good and we wonder why nobody has thought of it before. There is one thing we’re prepared to stick our necks out on. It is such an obviously good idea that it will be copied.

Those that do copy this idea would do well to get it completely right, though. HTC has only implemented rotation if you turn the handset to the left (anti-clockwise). Turn it to the right (clockwise) and the buttons don’t rotate. Why HTC forgot to implement rotation in both directions is a mystery.

A front facing camera ideal for video calling and an 8-megapixel main camera with dual LED flash are high end features that we aren’t going to complain about. And there is a Flashlight app that lets you us the LEDs as a torch which is a nice extra. The camera might not be enough on its own to sell the HTC Incredible S, but it is a very nice feature to have.

HTC Sense rocks away doing its usual good thing and providing access to seven home screens, oodles of widgets, and lots of neat tweaks to vanilla Android. Sense really is the thing that makes HTC’s smartphones stand out from the crowd, and it is easy to be complacent about just how much value it adds to Android.

HTC continues to tweak Sense and add new features, while remaining loyal to the original look and feel, which helps make the upgrade path smooth.

The Incredible S has the added bonus of being compatible with www.htcsense.com giving you access to features like remote ring and remote wipe – the sort of stuff that used to be the preserve of corporate handsets.

We’d like to encourage HTC to continue development on these fronts and forget about its proprietary navigation solution. We can’t see ourselves paying for it when Google Maps is on hand, and integrating it into the satnav style Car Panel while not allowing links to Google from there smacks of control-freakery that is anathema to the Android ethos. Rant over.

The HTC Incredible S is equipped with a 1450mAh battery rather than a 1500mAh option and this might give you some cause for concern. But in fact, battery performance is on a par with other higher end smartphones. If you don’t thrash features like the GPS, 3G data or camera flash too much you ought to manage a day between charges.

Overall there’s nothing inherently wrong with the HTC Incredible S which offers a large screen, the great HTC Sense overlay, oodles of widgets, good battery life and a smart chassis design.

But the smartphone world is cut-throat, and even taking into account that 8-megapixel camera we aren’t sure HTC has innovated enough here to produce a handset which will have the long shelf life that, say, the ground breaking and still very popular HTC Desire has enjoyed.

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