HTC One, the new flagship launched, set to become the new top dog in the Android market


Normally my reviews have been hands on based on true usage of devices, but have launched a new series of articles featuring releases of key products in the mobile arena.

Sony recently launched the cool Xperia Z, which for the first time for Sony featured state of the art processors matched with a nice design and some cool features (water proof, dust proof), etc.  However Sony’s glory was short lived, as HTC launched its new flagship now renamed simply as HTC One.HTC-One_Silver_Left-580x490

HTC seems to working hard at getting back its lost glory to Samsung, and the HTC One maybe the phone.  Samsung seems to have ditched quality feel, but improved to the top dog status (in the Android space) on the hardware, software and multimedia in recent times.

HTC meanwhile has continued with its great looking Sense UI, but competition has caught up with it, and the UI seems to be going the way Samsung’s TouchWiz went becoming more and more heaving ruining the interface performance, something most Android fans owners have to bitterly accept is way behind iOS devices.  Whatever project Butter from Google with the Jelly Bean released brought seems to have been lost with the heavier customizations of these custom skins. While HTC kept up on the hardware side, and improved on its multimedia, it was outdone as Samsung took advantage of its ability to manufacture chips by improving on industry platforms by offering a more finely tuned Exynos unit that gave it the edge over competitors.

The HTC One offers many things that would have most phone buyers drooling over and definitely puts it as the phone to have for Android fans (and Apple fans wanting to switch),

  1. The already great LCD2 screen in the One X has been improved with the new LCD3 that was featured in the HTC Butterfly phone now featuring on the HTC OneHTC-ProductDetail-Overview-Container4-02-bg
  2. The screen size remains 4.7” (thankfully, as anything larger would be phablet territory), but the resolution is now full HD (1080p), the resulting PPI means an even sharper screen
  3. Cutting edge chipset and graphics featuring the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 chipset which has 4 Krait processors (at 1.7Ghz) coupled to Adreno 320 graphics, and 2GB RAM to top it.  This should provide great performance that should top the charts until the new range featuring the A15 architecture (led by the Galaxy S4) come along.
  4. An aluminium build a move away from the current classy polycarbonate and anodized constructions featured with the HTC One X and One S models but should bring an ooze of class that the Samsung phones lack. Whether this will hold good with the current HTC One X owners will be the trial.
  5. Stereo speakers to provide loud and quality audio and maintain HTC’s quality audio focus. The speakers are said to be 4 times more louder than normal phone speakers, and feature totally new construction as well as having chambers that are twice as large current rival phones for better acoustics. HTC-ProductDetail-Overview-Container3-01pre-bg
  6. A large battery 2300mAh, and that will surely be required when you have such a high resolution screen and powerful hardwareHTC-ProductDetail-Hero-slide-05
  7. An extreme risky but innovative camera that it is marketed as a 13MP equivalent, when in reality its a 1/3” 4MP sensor (which can take over 300% more light than current sensors) with what HTC calls Ultrapixels technology and said offer better picture quality and low light shots.  Current samples are not all positive, but that maybe an issue with beta software, the final build and updates to come may make things far more rosy for the Ultrapixel sensor. The camera features also a f 2.0 lens which HTC owners of the current gen would already be familiar with.  The phone also features a totally new ImageChip that handles camera DSP.
  8. Features a 2.1MP front camera with a 88 degree view for group video and
  9. 2-axis optical image stabilization in similar lines to the Nokia Lumia 920, a feature that digital camera owners know is far superior to digital image stabilization, that should definitely aid far smoother video, and possibly better pictures under trying conditions.
  10. This will all be wrapped with a new UI, the Sense 5.0 which will premier with the HTC One, question is will HTC provide this update for the older One X / X+ and Butterfly units, we do hope so since loyalty is important if HTC is to regain its position as a top player in the android space.
  11. Dual microphones which automatically switch the range so that the sensitivity is adjusted based on the external environment

Will this HTC hold out and win the battle against Samsung when they release the Galaxy IV? Will the HTC One camera live up to its hype or face the reality as did Nokia with their Lumia 920 camera that said a lot but still only performed a bit better than the rest.

Loads to think but the HTC One does look good, and with it geared this time for a massive launch in March, it may ask many Galaxy S3 owners is it time to switch to HTC one again?

While technically the HTC One replaces the HTC One X, i have compared the temporary fix HTC did with the One X+ which in some way tried out some changes that are now featured in the HTC One (E.g. Corning’s Gorilla Glass 2.0, a larger battery).

The HTC Butterfly was the phone that truly brought most of the features other than the camera to the market, but it was launched only in few markets, but i fear with the launch of the One, if the Butterfly will get sidelined and loose support from HTC (something HTC sadly has a bad habit of doing).  The Butterfly may not have the fancy camera but it features nearly the same hardware, screen and has the added advantage it has a microSD card for expansion and quick transfers that the upcoming flagship lacks.

  HTC One X+ HTC ONE HTC Butterfly
Screen Size 4.7″ 4.7″ 5″
Type Super LCD2 Super LCD3 Super LCD3
Resolution 720 x 1280 pixels 1080 x 1920 pixels 1080 x 1920 pixels
Protection Gorilla Glass 2 Gorilla Glass 2 Gorilla Glass 2
Chipset Nvidia Tegra 3.0 AP37 Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 Qualcomm Snapdragon 600
Processor Quad-Core Tegra 3 Quad-core Krait 300 Quad-core Krait
Processor Speed 1.7Ghz 1.7Ghz 1.5Ghz
Graphics Geforce 2 ULP Adreno 320 Adreno 320
Graphics cores 520Mhz    
memory 1GB Same 2GB
Onboard 32/64GB 32/64GB 16GB
MicroSD No No Yes
Camera 8MP Sensor 1/3″ 4MP UltraPixel sensor 8MP Sensor
Front Camera 1.6MP 720p 2.1MP 1080p 2.1MP 1080p
Speakers Mono Stereo Stereo
Battery 2100mAh 2300mAh 2020mAh
LTE support No Yes Yes
Sense Version 4+ 5.0 4+
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Sony Xperia S, a worthy flagship in design but lacking in hardware


The Xperia S heralded a new design that definitely caught the eye of many, as Sony Ericsson moved out and became Sony.

The NXT series of phones was led by the S as its flagship, and the phone’s design stood out of the crop, but faced a stiff challenge when the HTC One Series also came with an outstanding design.

I got hold of this phone recently as i wanted to try it out, after trying out its lesser known but in some way more advanced Xperia P twice.

HARDWARE

Sadly this is the very area Sony continues to get battered even today, though the Xperia Z promises to change this for the first time for Sony.  The Xperia S packed a dual-core Qualcom 1.5Ghz unit backed by the Adreno 220 GPU.  The processor and GPU are quite capable but this combination is what you saw in 2011 phones from HTC and Samsung, which had moved on to quad core units by 2012.

The one place the Xperia S had matched with times was the memory, with the Xperia S featuring 1GB of RAM, though that was also changing with Samsung releasing the US Galaxy S3 with 2GB, and now in 2013 we are seeing all new phones coming with 2GB.

Design

The Xperia S definitely can be proud of one definite thing, which is that design.  The phone still looks good, and feels good.  The design was fresh and different but the design also meant a large bezel at the bottom which many of the users did not like, and the new 2013 models have dropped this design, which mean they don’t look very much different from others phones on this end.

The Xperia S sadly did not have touch enabled buttons for the lighting grid, unlike its cheaper Xperia P sibling, something that can be irritating if you have used the Xperia P before the S (as was my case!).  If not i am sure you won’t be too bothered about this.

Display

The Xperia S was also Sony’s first phone with the 1280×720 display, and it featured a very sharp LCD screen that was boosted by the Bravia software optimization that boosted contrast for video playback.

I have come to realize that i am a person who appreciate sharpness of the screen, which was one reason why i did not like the pentile AMOLED screens on the Galaxy S3 and HTC One S, which lacked the sharpness.

The Xperia S has a very sharp and solid display that to me is only second to the HTC One X, which features a screen that is superior to my eye, but that maybe a personal choice.

Sony has opted for a more narrow display compared phones offered by HTC and Samsung with its NXT Series phones, and the Xperia S may offer better single handed operations but i find the narrow size a bit restrictive when it comes to typing on the keyboard.

Camera and Video

The Xperia S also featured one of highest megapixel cameras with a 12MP unit when all the competition were doing 8MP.  However based on the pictures i have taken and reviews read, my feeling is that Sony tried to win customers by marketing higher mega pixels than true better picture quality/video.

The unit features the same F2.4 type lens that all are familiar with the Sony Arc S launch, and for some the Arc S remains the better shooter.  The extra mega pixels have further highlighted the lower quality of Sony camera images, and this is an area Sony still has work to do.

What is crazy is that Sony has such a pedigree when it comes to compact cameras with small sensors, and that their camera units and processing is being thrashed by Samsung, HTC and Apple is something that Sony should be ashamed.

The video like HTC features constant auto focusing which is great for slow moving footage, but remember to disable this when doing fast moving footage if not you are going to feel sad.  The video is also capable of 1080p HD, and the quality is good enough and the camera performs decently even in poor light.

Video playback and sound

The stock video player is decent, but does have limitation on the formats supported and you need to download a third party app to ensure you can play all types of media formats.

One area Sony has always been good is the sound quality on the headset and loudspeaker, and the Xperia S continues that tradition.

However the bundled in-ear type headset is average in quality, and also does not fit well into your ears.  I preferred the HTC bundled units the one series which offer better sound quality and fit.

Storage

The phone features 32GB on-board which is very much the standard for flagship phones bar the rare Galaxy s3 with 64GB available in some markets.  However Sony omitted the microSD card which meant no expansion on the storage and also took away the users ability to load content quickly by switching SD cards.

Considering the bulk of the phone, and the easily removable back cover Sony missing the microSD is a sad omission.  However seems Sony has now understood this and the recently launched Xperia T has a very easily accessible MicroSD slot.

Battery

The Xperia S was also the series that got Sony into the IPhone like non-removable battery space, which effected its sales, as many power uses tend to carry spare batteries as full use of these phones means less than a day of use.

The Xperia S with its largish 4.3” screen and older chipset meant it lost out in battery life to the more powerful Samsung phones, but it still was able to provide over 1 day use which was decent.

I tend not to have mobile data enabled unless i want it, with such use i could manage around 1.5-2 days of use.  Though it use an LCD type display which is supposed to do well with white background render, the phone drains battery quite rapidly when browsing, which is also reflected in the gsmarena battery tests.

Software Updates

Sony’s other areas of weakness has been that it has always got caught on the wrong end when releasing its phones that it was always one version down from Samsung and HTC.  The Xperia S suffered as it was launched with Gingerbread when the hot topic was ICS.  Sony provided the ICS update quickly but the initially version proved to be rather buggy, but subsequent updates improved the performance and stability, with the Xperia S getting the updates ahead of all the other NXT range phones.

However with the release of the Xperia SL, identical phone with a higher clocked processor, and the Acro S, the Xperia S updates were pushed into second priority, and then the recent release of the Xperia T has further slowed the much awaited Jelly Bean update.  Sony has informed that this update would rollout in Mar/April 2013, while the Xperia T got it late Jan 2013.

The good news is that the Xperia S code was shared with Google, and this means you may see one more major update for this phone which makes it one of the few phones (the Galaxy S2 is the other) to have received 3 major updates since the release of the phone when most have only got 2 updates at most.  The updates have also not been just base versions, and also featured new features that were available with newer releases, which means value for money for users who brought the phone.

Issues noted

The phone i had had was already running the most latest 4.0.4 update which was quite stable, and i did not notice any irritating or annoying behavior.

However the white version (which i had) definitely showed a weakness in build quality with the external paint work peeling off in some areas on the edges quite easily though the phone only had been used for a few months.

The micro USB has a cover, and this is also an area that has paint peeling happening, and Sony seems to have sorted this out in the Xperia T by omitting the cover just like most others have done.

Performance

I have only included tests of Android 4.0.4 for other devices, to provided a more apple to apple comparison, though several of the phones were tested by myself with Jelly Bean which boosted performance (bar the S3!) specially on the web browsing area.  I am sure similar or better improvements can be seen when the Jelly Bean update for the Xperia S rolls out.

The Samsung E110S Galaxy S2 features identical hardware to the Xperia S, but features a lower resolution screen, which is why you see far better performance on Quadrant, Nenamark and Antutu, all which take the 2D or 3D performance as well into play.

We also see how much faster the S4 Snapdragon featured in the One S, which was the chipset everybody hoped that Sony would have used or at least opted to use the Adreno 225 graphics, and we only see it appear now in 2013 with the Xperia T.

Also noticeable is that the Xperia S with an weaker CPU and GPU still holds well against the Galaxy S2, considered one of the best phones to be released in 2011 and its true competitor as all others were launched a year later.

  Chipset GPU Android Antutu 3.0.x Quadrant Nenamark Vellamo 2.x GeekBench 2.0
Sony Xperia S 1.5Ghz Dual Snapdragon S3 Adreno 220 4.0.4 8219 3306 37.9 1393 996
HTC One S 1.5Ghz Dual Snapdragon S4 Adreno 225 4.0.3 10558 4707 61.0 1535 NA
Samsung S2 E110S 1.5Ghz Dual Snapdragon S3 Adreno 220 4.0.4 8689 3531 53.8   716
HTC One X 1.5Ghz Quad Tegra-3 Nvidia Tegra 3 4.0.4   5700 54.1 1519 1369
Samsung Galaxy SII 1.2Ghz Dual Exynos Mali400MP, Dualcore 4.0.4 10279 3093 48.0 1133 727
Samsung Galaxy S III 1.4Ghz Quad Exynos 4412 Mali400MP Quadcore 4.0.4 14300 5343 58.9 1569 1824

Conclusion

The Xperia S design today stills remains fresh and cool, and the display great to look.  The processing may be lacking but for most this might still be more than good enough when budget and mid tier phones are still featuring single core units.  Packing 1GB memory this phone can still be a good buy for many, and with a decent camera to back it makes a good buy just like the S2, with the added benefit that you get a higher resolution screen that the S2 lacks.

Samsung Galaxy S3 Jelly Bean update is slower than ICS


I recently got hold of an Samsung Galaxy S3 which was running the 4.0.4 ICS firmware.  I then update the phone with the recently released Jelly Bean update (4.1.2) expecting a further boost in performance in addition to to improved tweaks courtesy Samsung with their Nature UX skin.

Sadly when i updated it i noticed that the phone seems to be very laggy than the ICS build.  This was quite surprising when the recent update to an Galaxy S2 had not shown any dramatic lag.  With the phones nearly identical on memory (mine was the 1GB international version), the additional power of the quad-core should have made things far from laggy.

Key areas that i could feel the lag to a point of irritation were,

1. Very slow loading of contacts option

2. Very slow rendering of the phone dialer

3. Laggy switch between applications

I ran a few tests and the outcome seconded the laggy feel in using the phone.  And yes Power Saving was disabled.

Sorry for the rather numeric type of review, but though i will share this for those who might be interested.

Android Version Antutu 3.1.1 Quadrant Geekbench 2.0 Vellamo HTML5 Vellamo Metal
4.0.4 14300 5343 1824 1569 559
4.1.2 11596 5195 1170 1684 551
           

Antutu analysis

The drop in Antutu is huge, the current 4.1.2 performance is now closer to a Galaxy S2 performance! The SD card performance was identical and the DB IO performance was actually in favor of the Jelly Bean update.

The significant drop can be seen across the board for most test that involve processing and memory.

  Score RAM CPU Integer CPU float 2D 3D DB IO
4.0.4 14300 1962 3465 3166 1290 3692 395
4.1.2 11596 1827 1165 3070 1266 3482 455

Quadrant analysis

Here the outcome contradicts Antutu, and the main slow down is the IO aspect while all other test are actually higher.

  Score CPU Mem IO 2D 3D
4.0.4 5343 12826 4609 6212 1000 2069
4.1.2 5195 13385 4646 4789 1032 2124

GeekBench 2.0 analysis

Geekbench confirms similar outcomes to Antutu, massive drop in performance on the processing and memory perspective.

  Score Integer Float Memory Stream
4.0.4 1824 1471 2784 1378 596
4.1.2 1170 1266 1525 765 403

Vellamo 2.0 analysis

Jelly Bean definitely has a new JavaScript engine, and almost all phones have shown great improvement in the HTML 5 test. The S3 confirms this that even with the supposed slow down on all aspects the HTML5 performance has improved.

Conclusion

While there are several improvements in the phone features, the lag in performance is a heavy penalty and it would be best that Galaxy S3 users wait for a firmware that fixes the performance issue than update to this version right now.  The ICS 4.0.4 build was pretty fast and it would be shame to get irritated with the phone that is far more capable than what the current 4.1.2 Jelly Bean update makes it feel.

The term old is gold seems an suitable quote when it comes to Samsung’s first Jelly Bean update for its current flagship.  What is surprising is how the 2011 flagship the S2 Jelly Bean update performs better, makes you wonder if Samsung did not test this firmware properly.

HTC One S, the sidekick who outguns the flagship


The HTC One series, has brought HTC back into the market after a series of bad runs for HTC with the past models mainly with the fact that the designs were not new, and that the rival Samsung phones were featuring far more powerful hardware.

The One series was launched in 3 forms the X, S and the V.  All featured very cool designs, with high quality build that made it a more classy and better proposition than the highly popular Samsung Galaxy series phones.

The One S was a bit of a wild card, as it featured the next generation Krait processors, albeit a dual-core unit paired to a Adreno 225 graphics.  With the One S also having a slightly less pixels than the flagship One X, the benchmarks showed an unusual situation that the One S practically demolishing the One X in most benchmarks, and it did even better that it left the so called powerhouse the Samsung Galaxy S3 also behind!

I am not sure if pressure from Nvidia caused HTC to go and tweak the One X heavily and the newer One X firmware restored the flagship as a “superior” device.  The firmware updates to the One S has been slower, and seemingly not as optimized possibly to keep the the newer HTC One X+ from looking silly!

HARDWARE

The HTC One S featured the difficult the Krait range of processors, also known as the S4 Snapdragon.  These were hard to come buy for all Android phone manufacturers since Apple had locked most of the suppliers to supply them for the Apple IPhone 5.

The Krait range offered a huge bump in performance, coupled with the newer Adreno 225 GPU the One S blew the rest of the Android phones running older dual-core units, and even flew past the Tegra 3 competition, and the power house quad-core Exynos developed by Samsung as well.

The One S also featured 1GB RAM giving it sufficient juice to run ICS as well as Jelly Bean without any lags.

The result of this was that even ICS responses were super fast, even more than the HTC One X.  The browsing performance was superb, and so was the gaming capability.

Design

The HTC One S featured similar design and construction material, however the black and the silver versions were made using different materials (one a ceramic finish, the other anodized aluminum) and hence were quite different to hold and feel!  The One S design had a removable flap at the top, which housed the SIM, and would have been also ideal if it had housed an microSD expansion, which HTC sadly had opted against.  This was more favorable than the IPhone like SIM tray design the HTC One X had, but it did mean that a bit of squeaks was possible, compared to the HTC One X.

The One S was slimmer and lighter, and the 4.3” meant it was ideal for one handed operation, and the Granite Black version felt awesome to hold.  The phone begs to be used without a case, as it feels great to hold, and the amazing thinness makes it far nicer to hold than even an IPhone 5 🙂

The black version comes with the camera lens having a red background which looks cool and classy and adds to the total design of the phone.

Display

The HTC One S also surprisingly opts out from using the the Super IPS LCD2 screen, and gone Samsung style with an Super AMOLED Pentile display.  Not surprisingly switching to an AMOLED means excellent contrast and brightness and wow type of color, but you loose out on that HTC sharpness that one sees on the One X screen.  Use of a pentile AMOLED as Samsung did with their S3 meant the sharpness of the display is not the best.

The One S comes in a 4.3” screen, and for some reason (maybe not to match the flagship again!) it comes with a 540×960 display as opposed to the One X 720×1280.  HTC should have opted for the higher resolution as it would have made the One S absolutely great, since the 4.3” screen size to me is near perfect for a smart phone.

The screen also comes with Corning’s Gorilla glass for added protection.

On the whole the screen is super bright, and gives the phone with its excellent design a super boost, shame that it could not have come with a 720 display, and avoided using a Pentile AMOLED screen.

Camera and Video

The HTC One S does not compromise on this department, and features a F2.0 lens just like the One X, and the dedicated image processing chip.  This means you get the burst photo feature of the One X, and identical photo quality and video capability.

The camera has the cool interface i saw and liked with the One X, and offers good picture quality even under low light conditions for a smart phone.

However HTC like Sony, has the problem that the pictures don’t have the sharpness as you see on a Samsung phone, but the colors are superb.

One feature i absolutely liked on the HTC is the HDR photo option. when faced with daylight photos with testing exposures (very bright background, and dark foreground), using the HDR feature gives me instant opportunity to get a decent photo rather having to take two photos with different exposure values and having to merge it on a desktop.

The One S also features a front camera, which is VGA as opposed to the 1.3MP of the One X, but both are not that great, and since one is unlikely to be taking photos using the front camera the extra mega pixels will not make difference.

Video playback and sound

The stock video player accessible as part of the Gallery feature, does a decent job with all multimedia file formats i tested it against.  Based on other reviews the codec support is good, and HTC seems to have learnt from Samsung to include more codecs unlike Sony who skimps on this area!

The sound quality on the headset and loudspeaker is good and music in particular does well with the Beats Audio enhancement.

HTC had shipped it with their own headset, and i loved the design and simplicity.  The headset is not the in-ear type, and i love this as the heavier head makes sure it does not get dislodged easily and the sound quality is very good for a bundled headset.

Storage

The One S comes with 16GB on-board, which maybe half of what the One X comes with but should be sufficient for most. Like the One X the One S does not feature a microSD slot, which is a shame when the competing phones from Samsung all have this feature to expand storage and also switch content easily by switching the microSD card.

The top cover removal means HTC could have easily designed one as opposed to the One X unibody design, so shame on HTC on missing this.

Battery

The One s has been brought down by supposed poor battery but it is based on the type of usage.  If you are a heavy web browser on the phone, the AMOLED and small battery will suck the juice since AMOLED screens hate white backgrounds that the web pages have.

However take this out, the phone does well and you can easily do 1-1.5 days on a full charge which is pretty standard for most smart phones, and considering the power the One S packs this is definitely great.

Issues noted

The phone i had ran the infamous 4.0.3 firmware, which had a few annoying bugs. Sadly my phone was an unlocked Orange phone hence the Jelly Bean rollout did not happen during the time i had the phone with me.  Surprisingly the HTC One X i had which had this same version did not show these problems.

  1. Pressing the home soft button caused the screen to go haywire as it kept shifting between the 5 desktop view and the desktop, for a random period before the phone got back to normal.  This problem is now called the HTC helicopter effect, and the fact that HTC did not respond to users quickly made a lot loose faith on this phone.  When such happens and you were on a call at that time you have no option but to ignore the screen behavior until it sorts itself out.  Supposedly the 4.0.4 update never fixed this ,and the Jelly Bean update has sorted this out is what i have noticed on several forums. The problem according to many online is attributed to when the network signal is low, the phone tries to boost the signal and this causes this behavior.
  2. Sometimes the phone would loose network connectivity for a moment and regain it, again this is a reported problem and been fixed in 4.0.4 onwards
  3. Using the stock browser for over 10 mins locks up the phone (freezes), and you have to do a hard restart (hold the power button for over 5 secs).  Using an alternative browser such as Chrome does not show this problem
  4. Data stops even though you have data enabled, and you have to switch data off and on to get it working.

Performance

The tests using the older 4.0.3 software shows how much more potent it was against its big brother, and also how competitive it was against the Samsung S2 and S3.

Nenamark shows how good the Adreno 225 graphics are, though it must be told that One S and S2 have less pixels for the graphic card to push compared to the S3 and One X.

However Antutu and Quadrant show that the dual-core Krait is more than capable of keeping up with the Tegra 3 and Samsung Exynos quad-core, so the quad-core Krait units that are due on phones (starting with the LG Optimus G) are sure to set things into another scale.

  Android Vn Antutu 2.8.x Antutu 3.0.x Quadrant Nenamark Vellamo 2.x
HTC One S 4.0.3   10558 4707 61.0 1535
HTC One X 4.0.3 10518   4126 54.1 1519
Samsung Galaxy SII 4.0.4 5375 10279 3093 48.0 1133
Samsung Galaxy S III 4.1.2   11596 5195 58.9 1684

Conclusion

The phone definitely caused quite a wave not to the competitors but for HTC as well, when the industry benchmarks showed it outdoing its bigger brother the One X in most of the benchmarks.  The lighter and cooler design also made this phone a hot favorite, but limited availability, and poor marketing and slow times to provide fixes to problems resulted in the One S popularity not achieving what it should have.

To me this was one of the best phones in design and handhold, with the HTC One X the next best on my usage in recent times. However HTC opting to use a Pentile type AMOLED and not rolling out the updates in the same frequency and speed HTC One X is letting down its client, as it showed the Krait based One X sold in markets requiring LTE were far more capable than the Tegra 3 versions, and the One S could have been the seller for HTC if it had given the same amount of marketing and focus as it did to the Tegra powered One X.

Limitations in using Korean carrier smart phones outside Korea


I decided to give a shot at taking on the challenge of buying a Korean carrier smart phone and seeing what would be the limitations and challenges faced when trying to use these phones as everyday phones outside Korea, and if there are any real solutions to overcome these.

The phone i got hold was Samsung SHV-E110S, the LTE variant of the Samsung Galaxy S2 with the Qualcom dual-core processor, and featuring a larger screen than the standard S2.  In addition a colleague of mine has been using the SHV-M250K, this phone is identical to the Galaxy S2 bar the existence of the digital TV antenna.

  1. Phone firmware has to tendency to switch to EDGE more than you can like, as there is no option as you find on the international phones of being able to set if to use GSM only, or WCDMA preferred or WCDMA only.  However for this you can find a solution by using tools such as AnyCut or even Notification toggle and selecting the 4G option, which pops an Android internal setting page that allows you to set this setting.
  2. No combined SMS messages when sending, and limited to 80 characters per SMS.  If you are lucky you will be able to send SMS messages but only limited to 80 characters since the phone has been set to support extended characters for the Korean language, hence 80 characters effectively is equivalent of 160 characters.  However you also don’t have what you take for granted of sending large messages over 80 characters as a combined message, the very moment you type a message over 80 characters it converts the message into a MMS message.   However some custom ROMs have solutions for this limitation.
  3. Unable to send SMS message at all.  For some phones you may not be even able to send any SMS messages, the phone firmware will not take the override SMS gateway given.  Even using Go SMS Pro does not sort this out.
  4. No conference call capability (aka Merge calls).  This was a problem my colleague found, and after reading many a forum it was apparent that you cannot do this on these phones! Though the “Add Call” option exists, once you make the second call the option to merge calls has been replaced by the feature “Record Call”.  In addition on a normal phone selecting “Add Call” allows you to go to the Contact menu, with the Korean phones you only have the list of recent callers to select from.
  5. Lack of Gorilla glass on most of these phones means the glass has a tendency to be easily cracked. Finding replacement glasses for these phones can be extremely difficult and costly on eBay since these phones tend to have a different external case design to accommodate a larger screen area that the international variants.
  6. Not possible to replace the firmware with international phone firmware in most cases, attempting to do so may result in bricking your phone, or having a phone with lots of stability issues.
  7. OTA (Over the Air) updates of firmware is not possible, and you will have to resort to manual update using ODIN or using Custom ROMs. Custom ROMs are not as easy to find or matured as international ROMs since the volume of phones are much less, hence there is less community drive on these particular phones.
  8. Just like the US carrier phones, the Korean phones also do not have no FM radio tuner, a feature that the Asian market users tend to use.
  9. Some phones may not support all the WCDMA and HSPA bands that work in other Asian countries and feature a different technology that is particularly focused for Korea, making these phones perform very poorly in data support outside Korea
  10. Features that we take for granted such as call diverting, etc is omitted on these custom firmwares
  11. The LTE band is not compatible with Sri Lanka telcos.  Dialog, Mobitel use band 3 (LTE 1800) while these phones ate usually LTE 2600, 700.

Based on these using these phones on other markets such as what i tried in Sri Lanka was not convenient for everyday use as the limitation were on very practical and daily applications such as network signals, sending SMSs, making business calls, etc.

However if you want a phone for making calls (without wanting the conference feature), you want to browse, listen to music and watch videos, these phones are excellent as they have the following advantages

  1. Tend to have larger than screen sizes than the global variants
  2. The battery has a larger capacity and you also get a spare battery and external charger, a common bundle when phones are sold in Korea
  3. You get the LTE antenna on these phones, which telco’s in Asia are now starting to trial out these faster networks, making these phones more future ready for blinding fast internet though these phones have an LTE modem and antenna, these most operate in LTE 800 or 2600 which is not compatible with most region.