HTC Desire S
3.9Overall Score

Price (RRP): $629
Manufacturer: HTC

The follow up to last year’s HTC Desire brings some welcome changes, including a more solid design, less bulk and an updated operating system.

Features

The fourth phone from HTC to go by the “Desire” moniker, the Desire S is an update to the HTC Desire, the company’s first real foray into the world of Android in early 2010.

Gone are the physical buttons from the old Desire, with the staple Android Home, Menu, Back, and Search buttons now presented as touch-based icons beneath the touchscreen.

Gone too is the optical trackpad seen on the first Desire – and little wonder too.  With touchscreens now the preferred interface, this technology is fast becoming a relic technology for mobile devices.

Even the build quality has moved up a notch, with the plastic casing of the old Desire replaced by the aluminium unibody seen throughout much of HTC’s current range.

The aluminium Desire S (left) is built better than the plastic first-generation Desire (right).

Upgrading the Desire for 2011 isn’t just a cosmetic matter  – there are changes on the side too. HTC has increased internal memory from 576MB to 1.1GB; thrown in a front-facing VGA camera for video calling and DLNA wireless networking; increased the maximum download speed from 7.2Mbps to 14.4Mbps, and moved the operating system to the most recent version of Google Android – 2.3 “Gingerbread”.

The grunt underpinning operations has taken an upgrade too, with the Desire S retaining the 1GHz speed of the Desire but moving to the most recent version of Qualcomm’s Scorpio processor to keep the operation snappy. The graphic processor, too, has been upgraded to the newest Adreno.

The rear camera is the same as on the original Desire, with 5 megapixels, autofocus, and an LED flash still part of the package. Other strong features that made the original Desire such a good phone have been continued in the S, and include a 3.7 inch Super LCD screen, Gorilla Glass screen protection, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, WiFi, and GPS.

Performance

Pick up the Desire S and you’ll be struck by how nice it feels. HTC’s aluminium unibody doesn’t account for the entire device  – the top and bottom rear sections are encased in a rubber finish that allows easy grip, and makes the handset feel a little more robust than its predecessor too.

If you have smaller hands, you’ll appreciate the size; a smaller form-factor than what we’ve been seeing recently in the 4 inch and larger mobile devices.

The Desire S runs on Gingerbread, the most recent version of Google’s Android OS, and with it, a more current version of HTC’s Sense overlay to Android. The menu system is split into sections – Downloaded, Most Frequently Used, and All Apps – making it easy to find an app quickly.

There’s also only one button press to customise your screens, with the shortcut found on the bottom of each of the seven home screens. From here you can change the wallpaper, widgets, add folders, and even change the look of the HTC Sense overlay.

And much like previous HTC handsets, you can still pinch the homescreen and see all seven of your widgetised screens, as well as view animated weather if you use HTC’s weather widget.