Overview, Design & Features
*Updated as of 10th July 2013 - Originally published as a preliminary review on 9th July, we've since completed all our tests and updated the article to a full review, complete with ratings. For those who've read our article previously, you can jump direct to our Performance and Conclusion page.
The first Butterfly established itself as a very competent Android smartphone with its stunning 5-inch display, good build quality and great handling. It was only let down by the lack of 4G LTE connectivity. The international market shared the same sentiments - the Butterfly became so popular that the first wave of shipments had fallen short of demand.
News of a second generation Butterfly model surfaced in March after HTC's Chief Marketing Officer Ben Ho told Focus Taiwan that the company "will launch a successor to the device under the same Butterfly brand name" although he did not reveal the availability of the device. Following that in the next quarter, HTC officially announced the next generation Butterfly model, also known as Butterfly S, at a launch event in Taiwan on 20th June.
This is barely half a year after it unveiled its flagship model, the One in London. So where does the Butterfly S stand in the company's portfolio? Are its specs better than the HTC One? Can the Butterfly S hold the fort for HTC? Well, let's find out in this review. But first, let's have a quick look at its specs and how it compares:-
Key highlights of the HTC Butterfly S
HTC kept everything we liked and disliked about the original Butterfly on its latest S iteration. It still has the plastic construction, which is a step down from the anodized aluminum body of the HTC One. While we miss the premium build quality of its hero counterpart, the Butterfly S still feels solid enough on its own.
When it comes to ergonomic design, nobody comes as close as HTC. The tapered back and smooth plastic provide a very comfortable feel in the hands, something that only the HTC One can match. However, the Butterfly S is not without its shortfalls.
The Butterfly S boasts a bigger battery capacity, but this also means that it is bulkier than its siblings; it is the heaviest (160g) and thickest (10.6mm) 5-inch phone that we've reviewed so far. The differences are apparent in both numbers and feel; check out how it compares with other phones of its class (phone thickness, followed by weight):
- ASUS PadFone Infinity - 6.3 ~ 8.9mm, 145g
- HTC Butterfly - 9.08mm, 140g
- HTC One - 9.3mm, 143g
- Samsung Galaxy S4 - 7.9mm, 130g
- Sony Xperia Z - 7.9mm , 146g
The Butterfly S also retains the perforated metal strips on the sides of the device, which serve no functional purpose other than enhancing the overall aesthetics. The micro-SIM and microSD card slots are still located at the top side of the device beside the Power button (which also doubles as an IR control) and the 3.5mm audio output jack. As noted in the review of its predecessor, you need a pin to eject the SIM card tray and before you even do that, some effort has to be spared to remove the cover.
It is noteworthy to mention that the Butterfly S, unlike the IPX-5 rated Butterfly, is not water resistant. Its micro-USB port is not covered too. Hence, if you are looking for a water-resistant/proof phone, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active and Sony Xperia Z are the best alternatives.
Next up, the first generation Butterfly has two notification LEDs - one at the front and one at the back to the left of the camera lens. It is a truly novel implementation that is surprisingly missing on the Butterfly S. Users now have to rely only on the front notification LED located at the far right of the speaker grille.
Other than retaining the design language of the first Butterfly, HTC also draws inspiration from the likes of the One and Sensation XE with Beats Audio. The signature dual front-facing stereo speakers and the speakers rimmed with red grilles are integrated into the design of the Butterfly S.
It's not far-fetched to assert that the Butterfly S embodies the best hardware innovations from HTC at this moment, which we hope the Taiwanese phone maker will continue doing in the future as this is what differentiates its devices from the competition - especially Samsung, whose design template looks increasingly stale.
The Butterfly S runs on Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean and HTC Sense 5.0. A local HTC spokesperson told us that the Android 4.2.2 update will be available for HTC One users sometime this week. According to a screenshot, the OTA update will bring the following features to the HTC One which are already present on the Butterfly S:
- Launcher bar enhancement
- Widget panel rearrangement
- New lock screen style and widget
- Enhanced behavior of the home button
- Options added to make navigation menu bar removable
- Show battery level in status bar
- Quick Settings panel where there are 12 default settings
- AE / AF lock feature: Lock Exposure / Focus on viewfinder screen
We will explore some of the new features below:
New Lock Screen Style and Widget
Lock screen widgets is a dominant feature of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean where you can place one widget on each lock screen panel, and up to a maximum of five lock screen panels.
The implementation is different on the Butterfly S; HTC only allows you to add one widget to one lock screen panel. In addition, you are limited to adding Google stock widgets such as Gmail and Google Now. On the other hand, Nexus devices running Android 4.2.2 can add third-party lock screen widgets such as RunKeeper and Dictionary.com.
To enable lock screen widget on the Butterfly S, you have to go to Settings > Personalize > Lock Screen Style > Widget. To choose what widget to place on the lock screen, you have to click on Settings on the same page. This process is different on Nexus devices; you only need to swipe right on the lock screen to add the widget.
Battery Level in Status Bar
HTC finally adds a minor yet long overdue feature to the status bar - the battery level indicator. Samsung has implemented a similar option on most of its mobile devices for some time already, and it's nice to see HTC catching up. Previously, users have to download third-party apps such as Power Toggles to have a battery level indicator.
Quick Settings Panel
By default, the Butterfly S has twelve quick settings to toggle with. It can be accessed either with a two-finger swipe down on any home screen (including the lock screen) or a swipe down followed by a tap on the Quick Settings icon on the top right corner of the screen.
Several toggles such as brightness control, power saver mode and Wi-Fi hotspot allow you to access a deeper level of settings, which can be identified via the three dots on the bottom right corner of each icon.
BlinkFeed, a key feature of HTC Sense 5, now allows you to integrate the feed from your Instagram and WeChat onto the home screen of the Butterfly S. If you are unfamilar with how BlinkFeed works, do check out our detailed write-up over here.
A screen saver-like feature, DayDream allows you to display colors on the HTC Butterfly S. By default, you only have one choice - Colors. We wanted to see if the Butterfly S supports other options, hence we went to download Google Currents and Flipboard. Fortunately, Currents and Flipboard also appeared as options after we downloaded and installed the apps.
Customization of Recent Apps Button
The touch screen menu button, first seen on the HTC One X, reappeared on the HTC One due to the two-button layout. The problem with the touch screen menu button is that it takes up a portion of the screen real estate and looks out of place at the bottom of the screen. HTC addressed this issue with the OTA update by allowing you to customize the function of the Recent Apps button.