HTC Desire S review: Droid cravings

GSMArena team, 18 April 2011.

Tags: HTC, Android, Touch UI

A phonebook with Sense

The Desire S has HTC’s all-knowing phonebook with deep social networking integration. It manages to keep things neatly in order, even though it’s juggling everything from SMS to Facebook photo albums.

Selecting a contact displays the basic details: name and photo, numbers, emails and such. That’s just the first tab – the other tabs hold further details and means of communication, including email and a call log.

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Viewing a contact

The second tab holds the text messages received from the contact – it would have been a lot more useful if it used conversation style view, but for that you’d have to go to the full-featured Messaging app.

The third tab holds a list of emails you've exchanged with the contact.

The next two tabs are what turns the Desire S into a powerful networking tool. The first holds Facebook contact updates, and the other called "Albums" pulls the albums that contacts have created on Flickr and Facebook.

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Facebook updates • Facebook and Flickr albums

The final tab shows the call history for the contact.

The entire People app (the phonebook) is tabbed too and with more tabs than the stock Android. You have all contacts, groups (including favorite contacts there), as well as a call log and "Online directories". The latter holds information for all your friends’ online profiles.

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Phonebook • groups • online directories

When editing a contact, you start off with just one of the essential fields but you can easily add more.

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Editing a contact • Linking Dexter with his Facebook account

If you’re switching from another phone don’t worry – you don’t even need a computer to pull your contacts, messages and calendar items from the old phone into your new Desire S. The Transfer Data app supports many phones from major manufacturers and moves the data over Bluetooth.

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The Transfer Data app will easily copy your contacts from your old phone

It’s an old trick (Symbian-powered Nokias have been doing this for ever) and most people would probably go with syncing the contacts over the cloud, but still it’s a handy tool to have.

Smart dial a boost to telephony

The on-screen dialer features a keypad, a shortcut to the call log and a list of contacts beneath (you can hide the keypad). The HTC Desire S has both Smart Dialing and Voice dialing.

The Desire S knows three accelerometer-based tricks – turning the phone over will mute the ringer of an incoming call or placing it down can activate the loudspeaker automatically when you are in the middle of a call. The other feature is Quiet ring on pickup – once you move the phone, the ringer will quiet down (but not cancel the call).

Yet another option is pocket mode – the ringer volume will increase if the phone is in your pocket (the proximity sensor takes care of detecting that).

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The dialer has smart dialing • calling Dexter

Another very handy feature is that when someone calls, their latest Tweet or Facebook update will show up – possibly reminding you what the caller has been up to.

Here's how the HTC Desire S fares in our traditional loudspeaker performance test. It scored a Good mark putting it somewhere in the middle among its competitors.

Speakerphone testVoice, dBPink noise/ Music, dBRinging phone, dBOverall score
Samsung I9000 Galaxy S66.6 65.966.6Below Average
LG Optimus 2X65.7 60.067.7Below Average
Motorola MILESTONE 266.563.674.9Average
LG Optimus 766.666.775.7Good
HTC Desire S66.764.676.8Good
HTC Incredible S66.566.176.7Good
HTC Desire HD69.766.678.3Good
Nokia N875.866.282.7Very Good
HTC Gratia73.273.683.5Excellent

Messaging has everything

Android and the HTC Desire S are capable of handling all sorts of text messaging – SMS, MMS, email. Social networking is covered by several apps and widgets, and there’s Gtalk, which can connect you to Google’s chat network and compatible networks too (like Ovi Chat).

The notification area will display a line of an incoming SMS or just the number of messages if there’s more than one. You can set the status LED to alert of unread messages too.

SMS and MMS messages are displayed in threads – you see a list of all conversations, each one is listed with the contact’s photo, name and the subject of the last message, as well as a part of the actual message. Tapping a conversation brings up the entire message history with that contact.

The whole thing looks almost the same as a chat client. When viewing a thread, the most recent message is placed at the bottom.

To add recipients, just start typing a name or number and choose from the contacts offered – the phone will find the contact you want even if you misspell it (e.g. “drx” matches Dexter).

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All threads • viewing a specific thread • Adding recipients works even if you misspell the contact’s name

The compose text box is bigger and covers nearly half of the screen in landscape mode. A tap-and-hold on the text box gives you access to functions such as cut, copy and paste. You are free to paste the copied text across applications like email, notes, chats, etc. and vice versa.

Gingerbread text selection is very user friendly. Upon a press and hold, a “magnifying glass” appears, enabling accurate cursor movements.

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Copy, cut and paste are very iPhone-like

The text input method that the Desire S offers is an on-screen QWERTY. While it’s still not as good as a hardware one, it’s the next best thing – the 3.7” screen has enough real estate for big, well-spaced keys, which are easy to hit. The HTC software keyboard is excellent too. Going landscape makes the keys and their spacing even larger.

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The on-screen QWERTY keyboard in portrait and landscape modes

Converting SMS into MMS is as simple as adding some multimedia content to the message. You can just add a photo or an audio file to go with the text, or you can get creative with several slides and photos.

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Attaching a multimedia file turns the SMS to MMS

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