Hands on: HTC Desire 626s

Don’t break the bank: HTC’s Desire 626S is a great deal for $170

Who said budget has to mean boring? HTC’s Desire 626S packs a 720p screen into a gorgeous, colorful plastic body for just $170

It’s hard to find a respectable budget phone that performs well and doesn’t look like a cheap slab of plastic that could crack at any moment. HTC is intent on changing that with its Desire budget phones. The Desire 626S is the cream of the crop with its 720p screen and attractive plastic unibody that comes in fun colors.

We took a peek at the T-Mobile and MetroPCS version to see just how much bang you’ll get for your buck with the Desire 626S.

It’s the best-looking budget phone around

Many budget phones are incredibly ugly, rectangular things that come in a dull color and don’t have one iota of style to them. HTC makes some of the most stylish devices in the world, and it simply can’t stomach putting out an ugly phone – even if it’s going to be a budget device. The Desire 626S has a thoughtful, fun design that’s sure to attract attention. Based on looks alone, you’d never know the Desire 626S cost less than $200.

With the Desire 626S, you’re getting the same software you would get with the One M9.

It has a sleek polycarbonate plastic unibody that comes in a variety of fun color combinations, depending on which carrier you’re with. We took a look at the T-Mobile and MetroPCS version, which comes in a funky purple taupe and tangerine color combination. The front and rear speaker grills are what HTC calls “purple taupe,” while the edges of the device, the HTC logo on the back, and a few other accents are bright tangerine in color. The main camera and its flash are both ringed with tangerine for added flair.

The back looks more purply in person than it does in press photos, but it’s not so purple that guys will turn from it in horror. The tangerine accent color has a warm hue that’s more on the red or pink side of the color spectrum than yellow. The overall result is one sharp-looking, fun phone.  It feels pleasant in the hand, too – solid and sturdy just like the very premium Desire Eye, which went to AT&T with a considerably higher price tag not too long ago.

The only quibble we have with the design is T-Mobile asked for a glossy finish on the taupe purple parts of the phone, and boy does it attract fingerprints. Still, it’s better than the white on white color choices other carriers made.

Solid specs for a sub-$200 phone

All too often budget phones come with huge tradeoffs in the spec department, and while the Desire 626S certainly doesn’t have the sharpest screen or fastest processor onboard, it does better than most. It sports a 5-inch, HD screen with a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution, and even though that isn’t incredibly high-resolution compared to more expensive phones, it still looks bright and sharp. Only the truly eagle-eyed display fanatic will note the difference. Remember, this is a budget phone, so 720p is considered the big leagues, here. You should be able to watch videos on it without any problems, and most other everyday tasks really don’t require a screen sharper than 720p.

HTC Desire 626s

Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends

A Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 quad-core processor powers the 626S along with 1GB of RAM. The device seemed responsive and fast in our brief tests, though the latest games and other processor-intensive tasks might hurt it a bit. We’ll have to test it more to give you a better idea of how well it works under pressure. Regardless, that’s pretty normal for a budget phone.

Based on looks alone, you’d never know the Desire 626S cost less than $200.

Although it comes with just 8GB of storage, that amount is expandable via a MicroSD card slot, which is great news for those who like to take pictures or store music on their phones. Even if you don’t get a MicroSD card, 8GB is more than you’ll get on most budget phones. However, it must be noted that the AT&T and Verizon versions of the phone, the Desire 626 (no S), comes with 16GB of storage. That model also comes with 1.5GB of RAM, so general performance could be better on it, though probably not by much.

Rounding out the main specs is an 8-megapixel back camera with auto-focus and 720p video recording, and a 2-megapixel shooter on the front (the AT&T and Verizon version has a 5-megapixel front-facing camera). We didn’t test the cameras yet, so we’ll have to update you on how they perform when we review the device in full.

Same software as HTC’s One M9: Lollipop and Sense UI

One very welcome thing about the Desire 626S is that it runs Android 5.1 Lollipop with HTC’s Sense UI on top.  Essentially, if you have an the Desire 626S, you’re getting the same user experience, at least software wise, as you would get with the flagship HTC One M9, which is nearly triple the price. You can choose your favorite theme or design your own, read news on BlinkFeed, and take advantage of HTC’s other software tweaks that it places over the top of Android.

Good-sized battery for a 720p phone

The lower the screen size and resolution, the better the battery life. The 2000mAh battery inside the Desire 626S should keep the phone running for a considerable amount of time — especially with the 720p screen, which is far less power-hungry than a 1080p or 1440p display. Again, true battery life will be exposed when we have the phone on long-term test, but the early signs are good for the Desire 626S.

Conclusion

Overall, HTC’s Desire 626S looks to be one of the best budget phones you can get for less than $200. It’s coming to almost every carrier, including several of the smaller pre-paid carriers, so almost no matter your preference, it should be yours for an highly competitive price.

T-Mobile offers it for $170 or $0 down and $7.09 for 23 months, with the 24th month costing just $6.92. At MetroPCS, the Desire 626S costs a mere $80 at launch with an instant rebate. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and others have yet to announce prices, but they will soon, and they’re expected to be similar. It’s hard to argue with these kinds of prices, especially considering how the Desire 626 looks and feels in comparison to other cheap phones.

We’ll have a full review of the Desire 626S shortly, so stay tuned for more.

Highs

  • Excellent value for the $170 price
  • 720p HD screen looks sharp
  • Stylish look and quality build
  • Wide carrier support

Lows

  • Not the fastest processor
  • Desire 626 version has better camera, storage, and RAM
Mobile

The Honor 10 Lite is proof a cheap phone isn’t the compromise it once was

The Honor 10 Lite, the sequel to the already great Honor 9 Lite, advances the concept of cheap phones competing with more expensive devices even further. We spent some time with it to find out what it's like.
Mobile

On a budget? We found the best affordable smartphones you can buy

Here are the best cheap phones for anyone working with a tight budget, whether you're a fan of stock Android or marathon battery life. Find out what you can get for under $500 or far, far less as we round up the best budget smartphones.
Mobile

We tried all the latest and greatest smartphones to find the best of 2019

Smartphones are perhaps the most important and personal piece of tech on the planet. That’s why it’s important to pick the best phone for your individual needs. Here are the best smartphones you can buy.
Photography

Starting your very own vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability. When it comes to putting your life on YouTube, here are the best cameras for the job.
Mobile

The Motorola Razr may return as a foldable phone — for $1,500

The Motorola Razr V3 is one of the world's most iconic phones, and it could be making a stylistic return in the form of a foldable Motorola smartphone -- but it may cost around $1,500. Is the nostalgia worth it?
Mobile

Join the Apple club with our complete guide to switching from Android to iOS

If Android simply isn’t cutting it for you anymore, then you might be considering Apple’s warm embrace. Here’s how to make the switch from Android to iOS without losing your contacts, sleep, or hair!
Mobile

Want more power, but faster? This new charging tech claims it can deliver

Chunky power bricks and slow charging could be a thing of the past with GaNFast technology from Navitas Semiconductors. By using an alternative to silicon, GaNFast reduces power consumption and boosts output.
Mobile

It’s back! Here’s how to switch to Twitter’s reverse chronological feed

Twitter has finally brought back the reverse chronological feed, allowing you to see your feed based on the newest tweets, rather than using Twitter's algorithm that shows what it thinks you want to see. It's easy to switch.
Mobile

Huawei in for a rough year as feds investigate alleged trade secrets theft

Huawei is also facing issues in the U.S., but it doesn't seem like that will end any time soon. According to a new report, the company is facing a federal investigation in the U.S. for allegedly stealing trade secrets.
Mobile

Android Q: Everything we know so far about Google’s next mobile OS

Android Pie recently rolled out, but it's already time to look ahead to Android Q, the next version of Google's mobile OS. We've seen a number of rumors and leaks come out about the operating system -- here's everything we know so far.
Mobile

Turn to these apps to help you in your next hunt for a job

Looking for a job can be a stressful experience, but these days, a simple mobile app can help you to find and apply for jobs all over the country -- here are some of the best job search apps for iOS and Android.
Mobile

Sony is showing something off at MWC -- will it be the Xperia XZ4?

Sony may have released the Xperia XZ3 in the past few months, but already it's preparing to release a follow-up, the Xperia XZ4. We're learning plenty about the phone now some details have started to leak out, and it's getting exciting.
Mobile

Is this the first image of a Galaxy S10 being used in real life?

It won't be long now; With 2019 underway, the Samsung Galaxy S10 is almost here. Before it arrives, here's absolutely everything you need to know about all three of Samsung's next flagships.
Mobile

Do these Geekbench results accurately represent the Moto G7?

The Moto G6 range is still relatively new to the market, but rumors have already started about the Moto G7, which is expected some time in 2019. Apparently, a G7 Power version will be joining the G7, G7 Play, and G7 Plus.