ďSlimmer and sexier than the HTC Desire, but despite the exciting new look itís the same great phone underneathĒ
The aluminium casing feels lightweight yet sturdy
Landing on the moon, splitting the atom and unravelling DNA. These are all technological triumphs, but none of them are quite as captivating as what HTC achieved with a gazillion-selling smartphone in 2010. The HTC Desire caused a stir we thought only iPhones were capable of, whipping critics into a frenzy with its cutting-edge hardware and super-slick interface.
No doubt about it, the HTC Desire S faces a tremendous challenge in matching - or better yet exceeding - expectations in following up the Desire. Its task was to improve upon a phone at least half the world thought was perfect - where on Earth would you begin? An obvious starting point was to make it better looking - and thatís what they did.
This handset is strikingly slimmer and sexier than the original, but beneath the exciting new look, you can rest assured itís the same great phone underneath. It doesnít invent anything new of its own, though neither did Einstein and no one ever said a bad word about him. But lovely as it is, there seems little reason to ditch its beloved predecessor in light of minor upgrades.
Nowadays, weíre accustomed to phones that revolutionise. When somethingís as brilliant as the HTC Desire, though, you might wonder whether revolutionís really necessary. Perhaps evolution is a better proposal - keeping the bits we like and tweaking the bits we didnít. The Desire S goes a long way towards achieving this - but is it really enough to keep us happy?
The Desire S sits very comfortably in the hand
What the boffins at HTC created was a leaner, quicker Desire that looks the business and rests more comfortably in the hand. Itís quite a feat, considering the lightweight yet strong aluminium shell encases a 3.7in high-resolution display, superb five megapixel camera, 1.1GB of storage and a pacey 1GHz processor. Sadly, it doesnít quite make the jump to dual core.
As well as sheering a couple of millimetres off its length, the Desire S is also skinnier and weighs less than its forebear. Itís still unmistakably an HTC, but it exudes a more concentrated dose of quality and finesse. Gone are those clunky front buttons, in their place a responsive set of touch sensitive pads that sit flush amid a stylish new matte black finish. Itís a stunner, no two ways about it.
A decent sized touchscreen like this one wouldíve seemed enormous a year or so ago, but now the 4in-plus club is growing - see the Samsung Galaxy S II - and even HTC itself has gone bigger with the Desire HD. So while the display was pivotal to the original handsetís success, this time round itís less impressive, though still capable of delivering the same brilliance of detail.
The Desire S is powered by Android 2.3, or Gingerbread if you prefer, which together with the subtle skill of HTC Sense 2.1 - the phoneís user interface - makes it as user-friendly as it is sophisticated. It seamlessly integrates contacts and social media and the apps are as easy to access as ever. Of course it comes with a few extra widgets - including a ďmirrorĒ for the vain among us - but they barely warrant mention beside the vastness of what the Android Market offers.
Quite surprising is the fact that HTC chose not to boost the cameraís 5Mp resolution. It still gives the iPhone 4 a run for its money, though itís not unheard of for some smartphones to pack as much as 8Mp for taking photos now. Having said that, a power LED flash gives it an edge over the Samsung Galaxy S and the camcorder brings impressive results in 720p high-definition (HD) format. Thereís also a front-mounted camera for video calls and web chat.
Where the HTC Desire S really comes into its own, though, is surfing the net. With enhanced 3G technology onboard, pages load noticeably quicker than with the standard Desire. It promises peak download speeds of 14.4Mb, double those of its predecessor.
Gingerbread also allows you to create a Wi-Fi hotspot, tethering wirelessly to share its 3G connection with another device. The review model had a slight issue with weak Wi-Fi reception when held in the palm - it once almost dropped off completely when I was sat in one spot.
A lighter grasp, or perhaps a rubber sleeve, can help resolve the problem should it occur. There is also a useful yet well hidden option in the phoneís advanced settings menu - it goes by the name of Best Wi-Fi Performance - and this also gives the Wi-Fi strength a noticeable boost.
The vivid display is large enough - though those of the HTC Desire HD and HTC Incredible S are bigger - for even the ugliest of pages to shine. As you pinch to zoom, text size speedily adjusts and the whole affair is responsive, fast and infinitely enjoyable.
None of this would be possible, of course, were it not for the wonder of battery power. Sadly, this is where the HTC Desire fell down. With the first incarnation, an uninterrupted 12 hours of use appeared impossible. Luckily, the Desire S comes equipped with a 1450 milliampere-hour (mAh) battery, up from its predecessorís 1400. Its lifespan is very good for an HTC - it certainly whips the Desire HD in this area.
If youíre looking for a phone to see you through the day - with an hour or two of actual use - the HTC Desire S could be a safe bet. But the risk of an energy haemorrhage remains if youíre too heavy handed with Wi-Fi or satnav. The main battery gripe with the Desire S is that itís an absolute nightmare to remove - the casing and fastening clip beneath it feel frustratingly flimsy.
When the HTC Desire was born, the world stood to attention and hailed it the Android smartphone to beat. Since then, a wave of equally if not more impressive handsets have hit the market - try the Samsung Galaxy S II and iPhone 4S for starters.
The Desire S is better looking than its daddy, more reliable and provides an improved experience overall, but its main strengths are really what made the original so great in the first place - so if you werenít a fan before, the makeoverís unlikely to change your mind.
Thanks to Three.co.uk for the review model