HTC’s 8S is а beautiful handset, and is one of the best looking of all Windows Phone 8 devices right now. As much as the 8X was а new design approach for the company’s line of Windows Phones, HTC has replicated а similar look here with the HTC 8S. HTC’s Windows Phones used to be uninspired versions of its Android designs, but the new approach focuses on а colorful look and feel.
The HTC 8S is similar to the 8X with its tapered back, vibrant colors, and button / camera arrangement, but yet it feels distinctly different. At about four ounces (113 grams) it’s super lightweight, but not in а way that feels plastic or cheap. At 10.3mm thick it’s imperceptibly chunkier than the 8X, but the weight makes it feel smaller anyway. The poly-carbonate body provides а soft touch without the typical creaking you’d experience with а fully plastic device.
The front of the device features the usual Windows Phone capacities hardware buttons, but HTC has decided to color the HTC 8S in а way that it looks like the bottom part of the device has been dipped into а paint pot. It’s an interesting effect that provides two tons of colors and it certainly makes the handset stand out, especially since HTC offers the HTC 8S in Domino, Fiesta Red, Atlantic Blue, and High-Rise gray color arrangements. The speaker grill at the front of the device also includes the dipped color to match perfectly.
Button arrangements are fairly standard here. There’s а power button up top alongside the 3.5mm headphone jack, with volume and camera buttons on the right-hand side. The left-hand side is bare, making it easy for right-handed users to thumb most of the buttons required. Having used HTC’s 8X, I’m happy to report that the power button on the 8S feels а lot better: there’s noticeable feedback when it’s pressed down despite its being virtually flush with the handset’s edge. At the rear of the device there’s а 5-megapixel camera and LED flash and а speaker at the bottom.
HTC has opted to support the Micro USB standard, adding the port at the bottom of the 8S. Entry points to the Micro SIM and micro SD slots are also available at the bottom, underneath the collared cover. At first glance you’d assume the cover just snaps off, but it’s not as simple as that. І spent five minutes trying to work out how to remove the bottom cover before realizing you had to pry it off using а fingernail from the front. It’s а little tricky at first, but it’s not something you`ll need to do regularly unless you swap your micro SD card round. Unfortunately, even though you can remove the cover there’s no removable battery here.
Compared to the Lumia 820, the HTC 8S feels extremely lightweight. There`s not а huge difference in thickness, but the 4-inch display makes it easier to handle on а daily basis. І prefer the look and feel over the Lumia 820, but it’s harder to compare to the 8X. HTC’s 8X includes а bigger display and higher resolution and two cameras that are vastly superior. It’s hard to recommend the 8S over the 8X, unless you`re looking for а light phone with а great design.
While HTC’s 8X has а 4.3-inch 720p Super LCD2 display, the company opted to give the HTC 8S а 4-inch Super LCD with 480 х 800 resolution. Like Nokia with the Lumia 820, its а price consideration, and given the larger gap in this case it’s more understandable here. А ridge at the sides of the display makes it slightly uncomfortable to swipe in from the right and left, but it’s not noticeable enough to be а daily issue.
Since Windows Phone 8 supports 720p resolutions, HTC’s choice to opt for the WVGA one is а little disappointing, but І found viewing angles are very good and the brightness is adequate even in direct sunlight. Unlike the Lumia 820, the 8S won’t work with gloves, and on occasion І found that the 8S doesn`t always register normal touch inputs either. At first І discounted this as my own mistake, but after а few days of use it was clear there are some issues here. Most of the problems in this area appeared to surface themselves during navigation when you’re swiping around the UI, rather than direct taps on the screen to launch apps etc. It’s not frequent, but you do notice it and it can be frustrating if you’re trying to navigate quickly.
The display doesn’t seem abnormally attracted to fingerprints, but І did find that dust tends to gather in the separation point between the poly-carbonate body and the display. Unlike my 8X, the 8S didn’t pick up any scratches during the first few days of testing. Overall it feels like а display that will take the usual wear and tear without creaking or flexing. It’s not curved, but it fits in with the overall look well.
The choice of а WVGA resolution here means that Windows Phone 7 apps run full screen on the HTC 8S. This is different from the 8X, running at 720p, which adds а black band to the top of unoptimized apps in Windows Phone 8. This isn’t а major pain point either way, but it’s worth noting if you’re interested in using Windows Phone’s existing app selection.
HTC’s camera offering on the HTC 8S is fairly weak. Although Microsoft has provided а way for developers and OEMs to extend the camera functionally through Lenses apps, HTC hasn’t opted to bundle any with the 8S. Nokia’s support in this area is far superior, but when you start to look at the camera hardware on the 8S you understand why HTC didn’t invest much time here. There’s no front-facing camera on the 8S, which immediately rules out Skype video calling and any type of self-photo capture. This disappointed me as its а feature which is almost standard on smartphones these days, and HTC’s wide-angle lens on the 8X forward facing camera is excellent.
HTC’s 8S includes а non-removable 1,700 mAh battery. This is fairly average on а device of this size, and І found the battery life was on par with what you’d expect from а Windows Phone. During my own testing the 8S lasted around а day with а mix of surfing, calling, and texting around London. Unlike other Windows Phone 8 handsets, the 8S does not include wireless charging, so you’ll be hanging on to а Micro USB charger for а while yet. The port at the bottom isn’t tricky to use at all either and І found that, unlike the 8X, no light bleeds out from the screen through the Micro USB port.
Call quality was fairly good on the HTC 8S. І never experienced а dropped call during my testing and recipients of calls could hear me clearly. The output from the earpiece is more than enough too and the loudspeaker is good for calls. І had some issues connecting to my home Wi-Fi network without а SIM in the 8S, as it simply wouldn’t find the access point, but connecting to other access points worked fine and tethering to other devices worked too.
HTC has done а great job with the 8S aesthetically. I`ve tested а variety of Windows Phone 8 devices recently and this is easily the best looking of the bunch. The lightweight frame makes this especially appealing, and а 4-inch display is а sweet spot for one handed use on this device as well as making it generally comfortable to use. The two-tone colour scheme is а unique and welcomed twist to this particular device and it’s somenthing I’d like to see on other HTC devices in the future. HTC has now proved it can make some great looking Windows Phone 8 devices.