While T-Mobile's One S and its global sibling both showcase HTC's much improved Sense 4 skin running on top of Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.3 to be exact), the carrier's made a few minor changes. Fortunately, these don't adversely impact the user experience. The most jarring departure from HTC's slick One brand and design vision is Magenta's gaudy startup / shutdown animations and accompanying jingles. In addition, the network status indicator's been reprogrammed to show 4G (aka "faux-G") for HSPA+ (instead of H), and 2G (instead of E) for EDGE.
The handset comes preloaded with a dozen apps beyond HTC and Google's own -- many of them operator-specific. Sadly but predictably, most of them cannot be uninstalled. T-Mobile certainly isn't the only carrier that's guilty of this, but we'd really like to see an end to this practice. Magenta's bloatware includes 411 & More, Game Base, Mobile Hotspot, Music Hub, My T-Mobile, T-Mobile Mall, T-Mobile Name ID, T-Mobile TV and Visual Voicemail. Amazon, Dropbox, Lookout, Polaris Office, Slacker Radio, Where's My Water and Zinio round up the list of bundled apps.
WiFi calling's another (welcome) T-Mobile addition and it's conveniently baked into the settings. Interestingly, no tethering plan's required to activate the hotspot functionality, but connected devices are redirected to a landing page until the feature is added to your account. Keep this in mind if you're planning to unlock T-Mobile's One S and use it on another network -- you'll likely have to root the phone to remove this hotspot restriction.
Don't mess with a good thing -- that's clearly, wisely and rightfully the approach T-Mobile chose to follow when minting its own version of HTC's One S. There's no doubt this handset is the carrier's new flagship, a crown previously held by Magenta's Galaxy S II. If you can't afford the HSPA+ version of the Galaxy Nexus, $199 subsidized (after rebate) buys you a state-of-the-art Android smartphone that combines strong branding, refined design and a top-notch user experience. Now, can we have a One S with an HD or non-PenTile display, please?