After a very quiet winter, HTC India seems to have shifted into product launch overdrive as the sunshine has got stronger. There has been what one call a mini-deluge of launches of high-end handsets with large displays and specs that would make a nineties computer feel like ending it all in the local tech gutter. The latest of these high-specced worthies is the Incredible S, which manages to combine a sleek form factor with very good specs and Android 2.2 under the hood. Sounds formidable on paper, but just how good is it in product form?
When it comes to appearances, HTC’s handsets have developed a very distinct identity with their stress on black and grey, large displays and all-touchscreen interfaces with largely minimalistic, unobtrusive design. The Incredible S sticks to this smart staple, while throwing in a few spins of its own. The Incredible S is an all-plastic affair, in which the four inch touchscreen dominates the front. The real magic, however, comes from the four touch buttons beneath it (home, menu, back and search), which tilt when you move the phone from portrait to landscape towards the left – for some reason, it does not happen when you tilt the phone towards the right, but even so, this is very cool. The sides are bare, except for a colossal (and we mean colossal) volume rocker and a micro USB on the left. Incidentally, it is when you look at the sides that you realise just how thin the device is at the edges. The power and USB buttons are on the top, and no, there’s no dedicated camera button.
The back houses the speaker, a very larger 8.0-megapixel shooter with dual flashes, but again, there is a bit of a spin – a lot of the back sticks out in an odd-shaped bump, making the phone thicker in the middle than it is on the sides, a bit like the Motorola Defy. The reason for this is simple – the bump is caused by the battery directly below it. HTC could have of course, opted for a larger back cover, but that would have made the device look a lot fatter. Its decision to go for a bumpy back cover makes the Incredible S look a trifle odd initially, but by no means uncomfortable to hold. The build quality is solid, although taking the back cover off does result in a fair degree of creaking and cracking. All in all, the Incredible S whispers rather than screams “Style.” It will make heads turn, but discreetly.
It might look different from its Android brothers (and sisters), but the innards of the Incredible S are pretty much the staple that one sees in high-end handsets these days. 1 Ghz processor? Check. Storage expandable to 32 GB? Check. Lots of connectivity options such as 3G, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth(barring USB on the Go and HDMI)? Check. 8.0-megapixel camera on the back with capacity to record HD video? Check. A 1.3-megapixel camera on the front for video calls? Check. Where it does throw in some interesting twists is in the amount of RAM, which at 768 is higher than the normal 512 MB one sees in most high-end handsets, and the 1.1 GB onboard storage, which again is on the higher side for phones with expandable memory.It also comes with a 1450 mAh battery, which is a bump up from the rather insufficient 1230 mAh affair we saw on the larger screened Desire HD. All in all, most of the news on the hardware side is good, although some might bemoan the absence of a dual core processor – a subject on which we will comment only when we see a device that makes the most of one of its processing power (it is one thing to have a gig of processing power under the hood, quite another to use it efficiently).
We must confess our shoulders drooped a tiny bit when we heard that the Incredible S ran Android 2.2 or Froyo. It is not that we have anything against the software version of frozen yoghurt, just that Gingerbread (Android 2.3) is more the flavour of new handsets. Of course, you would be hard pressed to notice the version of Android running on the Incredible S, surmounted as it is by HTC’s Sense UI, complete with floating clouds, shining sun, and stacks of very good widgets and apps that cover everything from social networks to weather and news. We have seen our share of Android skins and honestly, we think that Sense is one of the best, even though it has a history of slowing down when burdened by too much (does it do so in the Incredible S? Aha, please skip to the performance section where all will be revealed). It certainly shines on the Incredible S, making the LCD display look superlative. Apart from the Android Market, you can also grab apps from the HTC hub and HTC Likes, making this a very ‘appy’ handset.
It looks good, it has the specs, the software (if albeit a slightly white-haired version of Android), but what really sets the Incredible S apart from most Android handsets, is not its mildly humpbacked shape, but its performance. We had remarked about the extra RAM the device has and it certainly comes to the fore, especially when using Sense – this is the first HTC device that we have seen that did not succumb to a weighed down Sense and kept working briskly. Browsing the Net, checking social networks and keeping up to speed with e-mail was a cinch, with no lags whatsoever at any stage. Sound quality, on calls and music, is above par and the 8.0-megapixel shooter provides a very pleasant surprise with some very decent shots, especially in daylight. No, it won’t put the Sony Ericsson Arc and the Nokia N8 to shame, but it is by far one of the best cameras we have on an HTC handset – which makes the absence of a dedicated camera button even more mystifying. Battery life remains a problem, especially if you let Sense loose in all its glory, but should see you through the better part of a day if you are careful enough.
We have to confess that the HTC Incredible S is right up there with the best Android handsets we have seen in the country. It looks smart, has most of the specs and features one could wish for in a high end handset and, we cannot stress this enough, is one of the smoothest performers we have seen for a while. Yes, there are handsets out there with better specs and newer versions of Android, but if what you are looking for is a high-end smartphone that performs very well indeed, we would advise you to shell out the Rs 27,000 that you would need to grab an Incredible S. Just remember to wrangle a memory expansion card out of your dealer while you are at it – HTC has bundled none with the handset, which we think is a tad petty.