The HTC Butterfly S packs better specifications compared with the HTC One, but it doesn’t have the great industrial build. If you’re the type who prefers the fastest hardware, then the Butterfly S is the one for you. Otherwise, stick to the better-looking flagship One.
Announced in Taipei and targeted at the Asian market, the updated 5-inch smartphone features a faster 1.9GHz quad-core processor, the Ultrapixel camera found on the HTC One, and a much larger 3,200mAh battery. While it looks somewhat similar to its predecessor, the original HTC Butterfly, HTC has breathed new life into this handset with front-facing speakers and a fresh helping of Android Jelly Bean and the Sense UI.
That seems like a winning combo to us and, even with the One Max just around the corner, we don’t see why HTC isn’t planning to offer it on as many markets as possible. The target audiences of the Butterfly S and the One Max are quite different really, so it’s unlikely that one will eat into the sales of the other.
Anyway, we are not gathered here to guess whether HTC strategists know what they are doing. We are more interested in how the engineers have done with the Butterfly S. But before we dive in, here’s the best and the worst about the smartphone.
- Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support; 3G with HSPA; LTE
- 5″ 16M-color 1080p Super LCD3 capacitive touchscreen with 441ppi pixel density
- Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection
- Android OS v4.2.2 Jelly Bean with Sense UI 5.0
- Quad-core 1.9 GHz Krait 300 CPU, 2 GB RAM, Adreno 320 GPU; Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 chipset
- 4 MP autofocus “UltraPixel” camera with 1/3″ sensor size, 2µm pixel size; LED flash
- 1080p video recording @ 30fps with HDR mode, continuous autofocus and stereo sound
- HTC Zoe
- 2.1 MP front-facing camera, 1080p video recording
- Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA; Wireless TV out
- GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS
- 16GB of built-in storage, microSD card slot
- MHL-enabled microUSB port
- Bluetooth v4.0
- Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
- Accelerometer and proximity sensor
- Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
- Front-mounted stereo speakers with BoomSound tech
- Class-leading audio output
- Ample 3,200 mAh battery
- 4MP camera has disappointing performance in good lighting conditions
- No optical image stabilization
- Awkwardly-placed and uncomfortable power button
- Non user-replaceable battery
- Poor video and audio codec support out of box
- Questionable build quality – paint chips off easily
When you turn to productivity, however, the HTC Butterfly S is certainly the best smartphone HTC has produced so far. We already know how good the 5″ 1080p screen is and with a Snapdragon 600 chipset under the hood, it’s a package that can do wonders. Add a huge battery, which is closer in capacity to the HTC Flyer tablet than the HTC One, and the expandable storage, and you get a multimedia monster and business tool combo that’s hard to match.
The HTC Butterfly S doesn’t deviate much from the original Butterfly handset. The design of the Butterfly S remains pretty much unchanged, except for the additional front-facing BoomSound speakers like on the HTC One. This is a good design effort by HTC, as it makes sense for the audio to be directed straight toward the user rather than from the rear or the sides where it can sound muffled.Growing a second front-facing speaker has only resulted in 1.5mm taller body for the HTC Butterfly S compared to the regular Butterfly (144.5 vs 143mm). However the much ampler battery has had much more pronounced effect on the smartphone’s waistline – at 10.6mm the S version is notably thicker than the regular Butterfly. The difference in thickness is much easier to spot when talking 5″ smartphones and while the Butterfly S isn’t unwieldy, it’s not the most pocketable 5-incher either. The weight has been increased by full 20g as well – 160g vs 140g for the original Butterfly.
Unfortunately things are hardly so evenly matched as far as practicality is concerned. The glossy plastic picks up fingerprints and smudges at an amazing rate, meaning it requires quite a lot of cleaning. The new finish is also very slippery, which combined with the thicker and heavier phone could lead to an accidental drop or two.Finally, the new finish seems to be rather poorly applied – the paint over the slot caps got chipped and we had only opened it a couple of times, while the back started picking up scratches quite quickly too. Hardly ideal for a smartphone that costs as much.
We now come to the star of the show. The 5″ 1080p screen is probably the main reason you are looking at the HTC Butterfly S and the third generation Super LCD won’t let you down. The 441 ppi pixel density means you won’t be able to discern individual pixels even if you press the screen against your nose, but that’s by far not all the display has going for it.
The HTC Butterfly S LCD also offers great contrast and nicely saturated colors, to go with its extremely wide viewing angles. The viewing angles, together with the high resolution make everything appear as if painted on the screen – an effect we really appreciate.
Overall, the Butterfly S screen is almost identical to that of its predecessor, but that’s certainly not a bad thing – those are two of the best screens in business and have really done HTC proud.
Instead of the 8-megapixel camera found on the Butterfly, the S gets the 4-megapixel Ultrapixel camera with a f2.0 aperture and BSI sensor. It’s the same shooter that the One has, and you’ll find that performance is similar. You’ll get better low-light shots, but the aggressive noise compression algorithm tends to smear details. You’ll also be losing out on details that you can get on images taken with a higher-megapixel sensor in bright conditions. The HTC Butterfly S has HDR support for both its still image and videos. In stills, HDR mode gives shadows a good boost, but it tends to wash out the highlights. Overall images captured in that mode are very poor on the Butterfly S and we suggest you keep away from it.We also tried out the panorama mode. The Butterfly S did the job well with almost no stitching artifacts (assuming there are no moving objects). Keep in mind that if the panorama includes dark shadows and bright highlights, they tend to end up under and over exposed, respectively.
There’s no doubt that the HTC Butterfly S is a great phone. While the design isn’t new or interesting, it does sport better hardware specs compared with the flagship HTC One, though at a slightly higher price.
However, I still feel that the design needs to play an important part in smartphones — with pretty much the same UI, these handsets need to distinguish themselves with the use of premium materials such as aluminum and glass.
The problem comes when you consider the Butterfly S next to what’s currently on the table from HTC. With the ink barely dry on HTC One retail boxes, it feels like HTC are playing another trump card before the hand is even over. By releasing two flagships in such close succession, HTC could find itself with no response to a strong smartphone offering from a competitor come the holiday season.
But maybe the smartphone race, like many others, is really a game of inches where every little improvement counts. Maybe the extra 0.3″ in screen estate, 200MHz in clock speed, 900 mAh in battery capacity, and expandable storage are what it takes to get ahead. But let’s not forget that you’re going to be paying a premium for those extras, and you’ll be sacrificing superior build quality including a significantly more compact frame, as well as the optical image stabilization, which is the 4MP UltraPixel camera’s saving grace.
If it’s the 5-inch 1080p display what counts, then the Butterfly S’s predecessor offers that, alongside a slimmer design and a gentler price tag. You won’t be getting the same performance, and will forego extras like the IR-blaster, ultrapixel camera, and larger battery, but the quad-core 1.5GHz Krait CPU can still hold its own, and the Android 4.2.2 build with Sense 5 has also been released for the Butterfly.
The Butterfly S certainly falls within that category – then it’s impossible not to mention the Samsung Galaxy S4. While it falls short of the Butterfly S’s huge battery capacity, the Galaxy S4 delivers the same 5-inch 1080p display with a lighter and thinner profile, and a more capable camera.
For those of you who fancy the water resistive droids can go for Sony Xperia Z which is quite a capable handset and can be found at a considerably low price than that of the butterfly S.
With HTC it seems like the problem is never with making quality devices, but with when (and how, and where) to release them. The Butterfly S is a puzzling flagship offering hard on the heels of the previous one, and not unlike some other HTC handsets, hard to find in many markets.