HTC Incredible S review: Smart and curvy

GSMArena team, 22 March 2011.

Tags: HTC, Android, Touch UI

Pretty decent retail package

Just like every other HTC smartphone out there, the Incredible S comes in a compact, but well-stuffed box. You get the wall-socket plug, which you can couple with the provided microUSB data cable to charge your smartphone without a computer.

Thereís a one-piece headset with music controls (play/pause/skip). The supplied headphones aren't your only option, since the Incredible S has a 3.5mm audio jack, but you will lose the remote functionality if you go that way.

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The box is small, but well geared

Finally, thereís an 8GB microSD card that lets you boost the available storage straight out of the box. It makes up for the lack of a larger in-built storage, which most of the competition has.

HTC Incredible S 360-degree spin

The HTC Incredible S stands at 120 x 64 x 11.7 mm, which is pretty reasonable for a device with a 4Ē screen. Its surface is a bit smaller than that of the I9000 Galaxy S, for example, but it comes with a slightly thicker waistline. Itís also just about the size of the Apple iPhone 4, which is commendable, as itís got a noticeably bigger screen.

Still 11.7mm is pretty slim and you will be able to slip the Incredible S in most pockets easily even though itís not the slimmest smartphone around.

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The Incredible S sized up against the Samsung Galaxy S and the LG Optimus 2X

We find the weight of 135.5 g to be a pretty good balance between solid feel and lightness. The HTC Incredible S is not going to let you forget that itís in your pocket, but it wonít be terribly uncomfortable either.

Design and construction

Weíre glad HTC finally moved on with the design theme. The edgy back of the Incredible S might or might not be your cup of tea, but it certainly wonít go unnoticed.

Opinions in the GSMArena team are divided too, but the fact remains that HTC had the courage to experiment this time, which is why we believe the Incredible S design deserves to get the benefit of doubt here.

The HTC Incredible S display was probably the nicest surprise that the device had in store for us. We havenít been particularly impressed with the HTC screens recently because of their uninspiring image quality and sub-par viewing angles, but this one is just great.

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We were really impressed by the Incredible S display

With good brightness levels, accurate colors and great contrast (by LCD standards) the 4Ē WVGA screen makes images pop. And the most impressive part is that thereís very minimal to non-existent loss of contrast and color distortion even when looked at from extreme angles.

Those viewing angles are, for all purposes practical, as good as the ones on the Retina and Super AMOLED screens.

Now the only issue of the screen that HTC hasnít tackled just yet is reflectivity and in-turn sunlight legibility. The Incredible S screen loses a huge portion of its charm when thereís bright ambient lighting and, while itís not unusable in bright sun, itís not a nice experience either.

On the other hand, the sensitivity of the capacitive touchscreen is just great.

Starting with the HTC Incredible S we are introducing a new test to our regular reviewing routine. We will be publishing the measured contrast of the display for each device we review, along with its measured black and white levels.

The test is repeated twice for each of the handsets Ė once with itís the display brightness set to 100% and once with the brightness reduced to 50%. Different units have different behavior when you reduce their brightness Ė some get an increase in contrast, while others do worse than they would at full brightness.

Weíll be adding a tutorial for those of you, who have no idea what the test is all about shortly. Now here's how the Incredible S measured against some of the other handsets we have tested so far.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
HTC Incredible S 0.18 162 908 0.31 275 880
iPhone 4 0.14 189 1341 0.39 483 1242
iPhone 3GS 0.84 134 160 2.51 504 201
Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo 0.05 68 1324 0.10 134 1295
Samsung Galaxy Ace 0.23 160 701 0.34 234 683

Above the display you will only find the earpiece, the secondary camera and two hidden sensors (proximity and ambient light).

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The two sensors and the video-chat camera are between the display and the earpiece

It gets much more interesting when you look below the display where the four hardware keys sit. Those are capacitive touch buttons, rather than regular keys, which makes the transition between them and the display seamless. If you do prefer the tactile feedback of normal keys you are in no luck with this one.

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The Incredible S touch-sensitive keys

The keys are (from left to right) home, menu, back and search. They also have the usual functionality on long press Ė the home key triggers the task switcher, the menu key brings up the software keyboard, while the search key triggers voice search.

The backlit icons make those keys special. They rotate to match the orientation of the phone. We investigated those and found out that the backlit icons are composed of tiny LEDs.

Thereís a second group of LEDs that composes the alternative image for each icon. Learn more about those keys in our blog.

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The rotating keys might not matter much to usability but certainly look cool

The HTC Incredible Sís left side features a long and thin volume rocker as well as the unprotected microUSB port. No cap makes that easier to use, but itís got no protection against dirt and grime.

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The microUSB slot and the volume rocker are on the left

The right side is perfectly bare, which makes the Incredible S yet another HTC device without a dedicated camera key.

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Once again thereís no dedicated camera key

At the top we find the uncovered 3.5mm audio jack and the Screen Lock/Power key.

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The 3.5mm audio jack and the power key are on top

As usual, at the bottom of the phone, you will see the mouthpiece.

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Thereís not much to see at the bottom

The HTC Incredible S rear features the 8 megapixel camera lens and the tiny loudspeaker grill. There is a dual LED flash in-between to boost the camera's low-light performance.

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The 8 megapixel camera lens, the dual LED flash and the speakerphone grill

We really dig the material used on the back cover. The soft-touch might not be as premium as metal, but provides a nice grip and it looks pretty durable. Itís also not quite easy to get all messed up with fingerprints and smudges as the glossy plastic weíve seen on some of the Incredible S competitors. On the downside itís also a bit too harder to clean if you do manage to get it dirty.

Under the battery cover, you'll find both the microSD and the SIM card slots as well as the 1450 mAh battery.

The battery is said to last for 290 hours of stand-by or 9 hours and 40 minutes of talk time on 2G networks and up to 370 hours of stand-by or 6 hours and 20 minutes of talk time on 3G.

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The microSD card slot is under the cover

Despite being under the cover, the microSD card slot is hot-swappable. It had no trouble handling a 16GB microSD card.

The general build quality of the HTC Incredible S seems good. Weíve had somewhat of a bad streak with the HTC high-end smartphones weíve reviewed recently, but we are glad this one brings the things back to the right track Ė a novel design, good build quality and a superb display that is a match for the best in business.

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The HTC Incredible S held in hand

Starting on the next page, we're in the user interface territory.

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