The oddly rubbery beauty of the HTC Incredible S is counterbalanced by the fact it runs a relatively old version of Android. With some stunning dual-core phones also arriving at around the same time as the Incredible S, it doesn't do much to fend off its competitors, but it's still a perfectly pleasant handset.
You can find the Incredible S exclusively at Carphone Warehouse. It's free on a £25 per month, two-year contract, or for £450 on a pay as you go deal. You can also pick it up SIM-free for £500.
The Incredible S has a large, 4-inch touchscreen and a ridged back that sets it apart visually from the similarly rectangular competition. The rubbery, matte-black case seems to rise and fall over the internal components of the phone, giving the handset an attractive, industrial appearance.
We're not quite as keen on the front of the Incredible, though, due to the large bezel above the screen, where the speaker is located. It puts us in mind of the Toshiba TG01, which isn't a worthy smart-phone role model.
The four touch-sensitive buttons below the screen -- home, menu, back and search -- are the best part of the Incredible S' case. These backlit buttons fade out when the phone is sleeping, giving it a stealthy black look. Also, the symbols on the lit-up buttons rotate when you hold the phone in landscape mode. Apart from making the buttons easier to use, this is just plain cool. But beware -- this trick only works when the phone is turned anti-clockwise so that the buttons are to the right of the screen. You can look at apps in landscape orientation with the phone turned clockwise, but the symbols on the buttons won't rotate.
Very credible software
The Incredible S is the worldwide follow-up to the Incredible, which we hear was a big hit in the US. The Incredible S isn't quite as unbelievable as its forerunner, though -- it runs a slightly dated version of Android, 2.2 Froyo. Whereas the first Incredible was cutting-edge, the latest instalment is slightly behind the times. But that's not to say you'll miss much from the latest version of Android, 2.3 Gingerbread.
Gingerbread only adds a few
features to Android 2.2 Froyo, such as SIP calling and
NFC support, and those features don't exactly set our world on fire.
But you will miss out on the unsung heroes of the update -- bug fixes
and speed improvements. We didn't find the Incredible S slow or buggy,
but some problems only rear their heads in specific, rare situations.
If you get yourself into one, you may wish you had the latest version of Android.
The good news is that the Incredible S will get an update to Gingerbread. In the meantime, you'll still get most of the best features that Android has to offer.
Among those features is one of the best mobile
Web browsers money can
buy. It serves up pages that look as accurate as they would on a
computer. Combined with the Incredible S' roomy, 4-inch screen, this is one of our favourite phones for getting online.
Android 2.2 also supports Flash, which means Web pages won't suffer from
missing videos, photo slide shows and navigation elements. In our tests,
embedded videos like those on CNET UK worked a treat, although Flash-heavy sites that haven't been designed for the small screen can overwhelm the Incredible S.
The software also gives you access to the Android Market, which makes it easy to stock up your phone with games and programs. Even if you never download an app, though, the Incredible S has plenty of features to keep you busy.
HTC's customised user interface, Sense, means the phone is packed with slick-looking apps and widgets. Widgets are live icons that you can scatter over your home page. They serve your eyeballs with information without you having to open an app. HTC's widgets are some of the best around -- they're both good-looking and useful, unlike most of our co-workers. For example, the calendar widget will display your upcoming dates and appointments right on the home screen, and you have a choice of several glossy clock widgets.
There are a couple of less useful apps pre-installed too. They could feel like bloatware if they're not up your alley. For example, we've never been tempted to make use of HTC's map app, since we'd rather depend on Google Maps to find places and routes. Unfortunately, it's not possible to uninstall these pre-loaded apps if you don't want them. But, on the other hand, you might find these apps useful if you're not interested in spending loads of time tweaking your phone with downloads from the Android Market.
All these apps require plenty of power to keep them up and running quickly. The Incredible S has a single-core 1GHz processor, which puts it at a disadvantage in the speed race started by dual-core phones like the LG Optimus 2X and the Motorola Atrix. But, in our hands-on tests, we were still happy with the smoothness and responsiveness of the phone.
Blinding lights, camera, action
The Incredible S sports an 8-megapixel camera with a dual LED photo light. We're not big fans of LED photo lights, since they give off a harsh, unflattering light that's likely to blind your subject. But they're still handy if you absolutely must capture a shot in low light. The phone also has a torch app that can harness the LEDs for more mundane tasks, like finding your keys in your handbag.
Even without using the photo lights, the Incredible S' camera does a great job. Its shots are noticeably noisier than those of a compact camera, and its colours less accurate, but its images are still sharp and well exposed. We'd be perfectly satisfied using the Incredible S to capture day-to-day snapshots and videos.
In fact, that's what the HTC Incredible S should have been called -- the HTC Perfectly Satisfied. Besides its charmingly lumpy back and moving buttons, there's not much to set this phone apart from the rest of the touchscreen pack, including its HTC predecessors like the Desire. But, other than a slightly older version of Android, there's nothing wrong with the Incredible S, either. It's smooth, fun to use and packed with smart-phone features.
Edited by Charles Kloet