The next in the ‘Desire’ series of Android powered devices to make it out of the HTC house is the Desire S. The update to the original HTC Desire model, the one that got the ball rolling so to speak, the Desire S version is set to thrill customers with a sleeker look and all the goodies that come with Android’s Gingerbread version. Here’s a closer look.

Form Factor
The Desire S has just a few design variations from the original model. For one it’s 4mm smaller in height but still retains the 3.7-inch multi-touch display (800 x 480 pixels, S-LCD panel). It’s 5 grams lighter at 130g and it’s just 0.3mm thinner. Not that the last part makes much of a difference. The optical track ball and physical keys have also been replaced by touch-sensitive keys which, unlike the Incredible S’, don’t change orientation with the display. The ever so slight ‘chin’ at the bottom, slick black aluminum casing and a few chromed highlights (around the speaker, camera and buttons) make the Desire S look uber funky. 

Great dimensions for comfort of use

Great dimensions for comfort of use

What I did not like one bit was the rear panel. Only the bottom part opens up to a little panel that needs to be pulled up to reveal a section that holds the battery, SIM and microSD card (not hot swap obviously). The power/screen lock button is on the top next to the 3.5mm handsfree socket and volume/zoom keys are located on the left side of the handset above the micro USB port for charging and PC interfacing.

Although the Desire S is fitted with a Gorilla Glass, as fate would have it, the handset had a couple of nasty spills and left the display, with quite a few nicks. I can’t say they were enough to distract me or hamper my viewing but they were visible enough to notice if the screen was off and if you looked hard enough. The rear panel also popped out way too often. The slightest jolt seemed to jar it from its locks. The display, as brilliantly as it rendered colors and black levels, was not the easiest to view in bright sunlight. It tends to get very reflective and you’ll have to strain a bit depending on what’s on the screen and what background it’s on.

Quite the looker

Quite the looker

But as looks and overall design go, the Desire S is… desirable, for want of a better term.

Features and Performance
Interface
HTC’s Sense UI with Sense.com added on runs seamlessly on Android 2.3.3 aka Gingerbread that the Desire S comes loaded up with. The Processor is the same as its predecessors’ i.e. 1 GHz Scorpion processor, Adreno 205 GPU. Where it proves to be a bit more versatile is in the ROM section – the Desire S comes with 1.1GB while the Desire was equipped with 512MB. With this much space it’s a comfortable setting to load up on apps. HTC’s Transfer app allows you to transfer personal data from most handsets to the Desire S via Bluetooth, very similar to Nokia’s Bluetooth Sync function. It doesn’t however work with all mobile makes and models. A list is provided.

Gingerbread sweetness

Gingerbread sweetness

Overall functionality from touch sensitivity to ease of use with the keypad in both landscape and portrait was smooth. I’ve always liked the HTC keypad that allows you to access special characters by simply pressing and holding assigned keys designated with the symbols and characters. The way Sense UI works with Android is what makes HTC such a popular brand. Social networking integration is almost an automated process for syncing your Google, FB and Twitter accounts. The system automatically locates similar contacts for paring and will keep at if you’re on auto-sync just to make sure. It also stores your log IDs and automatically adds email address suffixes like gmail.com, the moment you get an email filed and start typing or reach the ‘@’ option respectively. Like I said before, it’s what being a smartphone is all about.

Media
I have but one small complaint with regards to the Desire S’ media capabilities. Sure it has a superb audio player which is perfectly paired up with the equally well designed, comfortable to use, high-end handsfree kit, EQ presets and an SRS enhancement option, YouTube video location for tracks, an FM radio with decent reception but the lack of TV Out really burns me!  SRS audio enhancemnet for that littel extra thump

SRS audio enhancemnet for that littel extra thump

The video player’s audio levels were also a little too low, which is odd considering the music player was just fine. This was the case with videos that sounded just fine on the Motorola MILESTONE and LG Optimus 2X. The SRS sound enhancement helped a bit, but not enough to satisfy me. On the plus side it plays most DivX and XviD coded videos even in 720p without a hitch. Darn that Video Out! For the files it doesn’t read (which are few) a free player like RockPlayer is the way to go. SoundHound for music recognition is also on board. A Voice Recorder and Google’s Voice search are also thrown in.

There were no games preloaded other than Teeter. But the App Market is loaded with free stuff so you can satisfy your mobile gaming urges from there.

Connectivity
Like any and all handsets priced in this bracket, the Desire S also comes fully loaded with connectivity capabilities lacking only just a little. From 3G to EDGE/GPRS, Wi-Fi with DLNA compliance for wireless streaming and the ability to use the device for tethering and as a Hotspot, Bluetooth with A2DP +EDR and USB 2.0, you’re quite covered. The native Android browser (Adobe Flash 10.3 supported) and email functionality is quick and easy to use. Preloaded social networking apps included Facebook for HTC Sense and Twitter. HTC’s Fried Stream Widget allows you to integrate both of those networks into a single screen for easy viewing. Speedy browsing

Speedy browsing

Connectivity Contd.
The HTC Hub ties into your Sense.com account to back up your data and also allows you to remotely locate your handset if need be. It’s also a space that allows you to download apps and add-ons to enhance your HTC Sense UI experience with additional Scenes, Skins, tones, Wallpapers and widgets. HTC Likes is a somewhat of an Android Market enhanced for HTC users with a funky interface. Other Social Networking apps include Peep for Twitter and Plurk.

Well set up for travel

Well set up for travel

For GPS functions HTC’s Footprints app and corresponding widget has been integrated into an app called Locations that’s extremely well designed and offers details on all things in your area from banks to hospitals, local attractions, parking etc. Footprints allows you to geotag images and store their locations into different sections. A History tab in the same app also saves previously saved locations. The best part about the Desire S’ GPS prowess is the Route 66 mapping application that’s preloaded. It’s a very intuitive app that integrates Footprints, 3D mapping and all of it into what’s called a Car Panel that’s designed to be easy to use while driving, though I don’t recommend it either way. A built-in compass that can be used with Google Maps is also provided and can be quite handy for the outdoorsy kind.

Misc. Features
The Desire S is loaded up with quite a few handy applications like a Flash light (uses camera’s LED) with adjustable brightness levels, a Mirror app that simply activates the front facing camera (great for the vain) and a very well designed Ebook reader. The basic features like the Calendar (syncs with FB and Google), Alarm, separate weather and news updates as well as a joint app, a Stock Market app, QuickOffice with reading, creating and editing features and a Quick Look Up app that ties in to Wikipedia, Google Search, YouTube, Google Translate and an on Google Dictionary are also provided.

Customise the UI to your preference

Customise the UI to your preference

Camera
Like the previous model, the Desire S is also equipped with a 5 megapixel autofocus/touch focus camera with an LED flash. It features quite a few settings that include a large variety of fun to use styles, White Balance, ISO adjustment ranging up to 800, Geotagging, face detection and HD video recording up to 720p with touch focus.

Looks good t ill you get up right into the details

Looks good t ill you get up right into the details

I have to say that although pictures look superb on the small S-LCD display in native resolution, when extracted, the sharpness was not to my liking.

Great with macro and touch focus works just fine

Great with macro and touch focus works just fine

Color reproduction was quite good though and the touch focus worked like a charm. Macro shots came out quite well, but long range images did take a little bit of a beating when scrutinized up close. Then again for those who simply like posting pics on Facebook or twitter and blogs, all of which scale images down a bit, you’ll have no complaints.

Battery
The battery life overall was unimpressive but not something I’m complaining about. It clocked in about 4 hours 20 minutes and change of talk time on an average and lasted me for about a day with regular usage. Usage consisted of a few calls, messages, social networking to an extent and music. I expect a bit more to be honest as this was quite average as high end handsets go these days.

720p Video recording

720p Video recording

The Bottom Line
With a price tag of Rs. 25,490 (MRP), the Desire S actually comes out as a good deal for the money. It’s well equipped with plenty of features to make you feel like you’ve got your money’s worth and it’s designed to appeal to your sense of style as well. It is however, far from perfect as a few minor issues like the viewing angle of the display in sunlight and low audio output from the movie player do tend to be quite ‘visible’ when it comes to buying time, but let me put it another way, you’ll really not complain too much when you’ve taken this baby out of the box and used it for a while. It's every bit as good as the last model with a few tweaks thrown in to keep up with the times.

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