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HTC Incredible S Usability Review

The HTC Incredible S was launched in Malaysia just few months ago, about the same time as the Nexus S. Priced just slightly below the RM2000 mark, the Incredible S looks rather attractive considering it looks like a smaller sibling to its larger Desire HD.

Apart from the screen size which differentiates the Desire HD’s 4.3″ from the Incredible S’s 4.0″, the difference lies with the internals. First up, the Incredible S has a larger 1450mAh battery compared to the Desire HD’s 1230mAh which on paper should provide longer battery life. The screen on the Incredible S is a better S-LCD variant and it is also said to be using toughen Gorilla Glass. There’s also a front facing 1.3MP camera but video calls are not supported on the Incredible S.

The rest of the hardware features are rather similar as it also runs on 1GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 single core processor and a generous 768MB of RAM. Internally, the Incredible S has 1.1GB of storage which is 400MB less than the Desire HD. At time of review, the Incredible S runs on Android 2.2 Froyo but its upcoming Android 2.3 Gingerbread update should be available by now.

Hardware Design

Design wise, the Incredible S looks pretty sleek with a full glass dominating the front of the device. There are no physical buttons visible on the front and even the 4 Android shortcut capacitive keys are hidden when the screen is inactive, giving it a clean look. At the top right corner, there’s a front facing camera and an indicator LED which is hidden behind the speaker mesh. At the back, the Incredible S utilises its sibling Droid Incredible design which has a rubberized feel and an industrial-like pattern. Towards the top, you’ll find a 8MP camera, dual LED flash and a speakerphone outlet. The back plate also doubles as an antenna with its gold connectors on it making contact to its main circuit board of the device.

Although this gives an impression that it’s designed to handle day to day abuses, the placement of the camera isn’t. We noticed that the camera is actually protruding out at the back which it makes contact when placed on a flat surface. When we lay it down on a table, it rocks between bottom left corner and the camera. Although this doesn’t really scratch the camera, the camera could have been placed better perhaps a few mm gap away from the surface for better protection. Moving on, the mini micro USB port is located at the left hand side together with its speaker volume rocker. The physical buttons for the Incredible S such as the power/screen wake and volumes are designed to be flush but they are still easy to be pressed.

Screen and Orientation sensitive buttons

As you would have noticed, HTC has moved away from AMOLED screens from the past and has been actively using alternative screens such as LCD and SLCD. When we switched on the Incredible S for the first time, we are astonished by the screen clarity on the Incredible S. We seriously couldn’t tell the difference compared say to a Super AMOLED screen on a Samsung Galaxy S. The colours are vibrant yet the details of the icons are remarkably sharp and detailed. This goes to show that HTC is able to depart from AMOLED screens without compromising on display quality.

As shown on the previous hands-on, the capacitive buttons of the Incredible S are able to rotate according to your screen rotation. When in portrait mode, it illuminates in an upright position but the moment you switch to landscape in camera, gallery, games and web browsing, it actually switches to landscape orientation. This is the first time we are seeing this on an Android device. Admittedly this isn’t really a groundbreaking feature but it is a nice touch for the Incredible S.

Sense UI

The new HTC Sense UI is just as good as what we are used to in previous HTC Android devices. Its social integration and communication apps are seamlessly integrated which gets you started instantly. We also noticed that they have improved its text selection and copy and paste interface which makes on screen selection a breeze. HTC’s standard keyboard which is one of our favourites had some minor improvements with addition of cursor keys as a substitute for missing trackpad/trackball. As always, we installed Swype instead as our default keyboard.

When using Swype, this is where we noticed some incompatibility with HTC Sense UI. On the new HTC Sense, they tried to make things better by displaying text options the moment you select them. While this is good, it actually interferes with basic swype operations such as choosing the right text as shown above. It gets pretty annoying when you get into word mismatch situations on swype. We tried to find a way to disable such auto pop-up from HTC Sense but couldn’t manage to do so. Hopefully this will be fixed in the next Android 2.3 update for the Incredible S.

For Maps, HTC has included off-line navigation powered by Route66 maps. For starters, they are offering 30 days trial which after that you would need to purchase the license. This feature is well integrated with HTC’s Car Panel mode which is designed for driving use with bigger buttons and direct shortcuts to phone calls. With Car Panel mode running, this will be your home screen when you press the button key on the device. The maps are quite easy to use and like any GPS software, you would need to download the required maps first before you start a journey. During our test, the navigation worked pretty well and it is a good alternative considering Google Maps navigation is not officially available in Malaysia yet.


The Incredible S has a 8MP camera which performs better than expected. It was quick to focus onto objects and the resulting photos turn out well above average with impressive clarity. The camera UI is great and we like the responsiveness of the shutter button. There are couple of preset filters at your disposable together with your usual crop and rotate functions.

When it comes to video, the Incredible S is capable of shooting HD videos in 720p. If you’re expecting this to replace your compact camera for HD video shooting, you will be greatly disappointed. In our sample shots, the focus seems to be on the softer side and it gets blurry when we try to pan around. The colours however turned out to be pretty good but that isn’t enough to compensate for its lack of sharpness.


Performance wise, the Incredible S performs pretty well. Switching between apps was snappy and we don’t find any major lag or performance issues to report. The web browser is smooth and we appreciate how web text rendering turns out to be sharp and clear thanks to its screen. It scores nearly half of what the dual-core LG Optimus 2X performed in Quadrant score but the software integration by HTC makes the Incredible S a much refined smart phone to use.


For RM1999, the HTC Incredible S is a decently priced phone which proves new single core processors are still relevant for today’s smart phone usage. The larger 768MB RAM and its HTC Sense integration makes this a pretty good contender for Android. Battery life wise, the Incredible S managed to push an enduring 16-18 hours of mixed usage before requiring a charge. The screen is one of the best we’ve seen despite not being an AMOLED variant. If we had to pick between the Incredible S and its RM100 cheaper dual-core LG Optimus 2X, we would have picked the Incredible S for its all rounded performance including its software out of the box. The only complain we had is the HD video which is a big let down for a 8MP camera. If video and photography is a main priority, the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc would be a better choice at RM2099, which is a RM100 extra.

Today, the Incredible S faces a close rival from its own camp. The HTC Sensation offers a higher qHD resolution screen and a faster 1.2GHz dual core processor at RM2299. For the hardcore smart phone user that wants the best, the extra RM300 upgrade would be a small price to pay. Of course the HTC Sensation with its 4.3” screen is slightly wider, taller and heavier than the Incredible S, which makes it less appealing to some. However it is noted that the Sensation is thinner by 0.4mm. So, which HTC Android is a better choice? It all depends on your budget, if RM300 is a worthy upgrade.