HTC 8S is a budget WP8 smartphone. With a reasonable price tag, a good battery, decent camera, screen resolution and a well made OS it has all the frills and whistles of WP8. This review however takes a look at what a budget smartphone is like to use on a long term basis.
HTC 8S Review
Form Factor and UI
The HTC 8S sports a 4 inch multi-touch screen with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels. The screen is made of corning gorilla glass and is flush with the sides. There is no front camera and the 3 touch keys at the bottom are on a coloured panel of the phone. Flipping the phone over, there is a 5 MP camera at the back and towards the bottom, there is faint marking that shows where the Micro SD card and Micro-Sim slots can be accessed. Removing the panel is not easy and its fine finish shows how seamlessly the body has been built by HTC. The back has a smooth and slightly curved matte finish which makes it a pleasure to hold and use with one hand.
The UI is standard for WP 8. There are dedicated touch buttons for Bing Search, Windows Home and a back key. There are also dedicated keys for camera, volume and power/sleep. For a review on the UI, take a look at our WP8 review.
Processor, RAM and Internal Memory: It has the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 1 GHz dual core processor with 512 MB RAM. It would be tough to guess the RAM since the OS delivers the same smooth interface and seamless switching between apps as it does on the HTC 8X (with 1 GB RAM). Its failing point however would be the Internal Memory. At 4GB, the usable memory left after the space taken by OS and pre-installed software by Microsoft and HTC is just above 990 MB. A lot of space is taken by the system and ‘other’ which seems to be a holding area for in app downloads.
I downloaded an offline map (approx 230 MB) and it increased the space occupied by ‘other’ and decreased the overall space available by another 230 Mb leaving me with under 760 MB of space. By the time I had finished installed other important apps (about 5-8), my available space was only 600 MB. In light of future updates and some insights into OS behavior, this is unacceptable for anyone who will want to download a basic game or two and keep their apps updated.
The expandable memory can currently only be used for Documents, Music, videos and photos. A choice that you can easily make from the settings menu. There is no option to install and run applications from the SD card slot. If WP 8 supports such a feature in future then this would be a very good purchase.
Sound: The built in Beats Audio is only available for wired earphones/headphones. They will probably not work with bluetooth headsets. The sound from speakers is quite good with an above average loudness not found on iPhone 4 and 4S.
Camera: The 5 MP camera is quite good and take reasonably good shots for a phone. In my book it is comparable with iPhone 4 camera. The camera has a built in auto-focus and an LED flash for photos in low light. It takes HD videos at 720p. There is no front camera as noted earlier in the review so no 2 way video calling with Skype.
HTC has its own set of basic apps that come with the device. These include the Photo Enhancer app for editing photos on the device, a converter, a connection wizardm a make more space app – used to give you an idea of where you stand with storage space and letting you sort some of it – HTC app etc. The HTC app is simply a hub of news, weather and stocks. These are not exactly ground breaking or must haves however they give you a start. There are many apps already on Windows Phone store so you only need to tap the store icon and start installing. Do remember though that your space will always be limited so go easy on the app installs.
The battery is a non user replaceable Li-On 1700 mAh that can easily keep the phone alive for a full day with moderate use of Wi-Fi and talk time. During the time we had it, there was hardly a lengthy conversation, though a few hours usage of data and Wi-Fi. The phone survived Christmas day and half of boxing day before being returned. WP 8 has a battery saving mode that switches on when the battery becomes low (below 20%) giving it a few extra hours of standby and talk time.
The HTC 8S is currently the only budget smartphone running Windows Phone 8 available for under £250. Currently, retailing for £229.95 as SIM free (unlocked) in UK, this smartphone packs a lot of smart features however its poor internal memory (4GB – only 1 GB usable) will keep many smart users away.