This past February/March, HTC took the stage at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain to announce their new One series (consisting of the X, S & V). The flagship phone of the new series is the HTC One X, and that is the phone that HTC is hoping will save them and bring them back into the market as a major player.
Today, we will be taking a look at the One X, and we will figure out if the device is good enough to pull HTC into the top spot in today’s very competitive mobile market.
Note: We tested the international version of the device, not the US AT&T version. However, the two devices are incredibly similar and while this review mainly reflects our thoughts on the international version, most of the specifications are the same & our opinions can be applied to the US version.
I would like to thank Vodafone UK for sending us the device to test out while the TRG team was reporting from the UK. However, this has not affected our opinions of the device in any way.
The HTC One X is by far the most important device out of the One series, and arguably the most important device that HTC has ever produced. The phone is the biggest & most powerful device in the series with a 4.7” super LCD 2 720p display & a 1.5GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor. Following in typical HTC fashion is a very high-resolution 8-megapixel rear-facing camera & a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. One of the other big features that HTC is touting with the One X is Beats Audio. Every member of the One series has this installed, but since the One X is the biggest member, it has the biggest sound. Beats Audio works with anything on the phone that produces sound, whether it be YouTube, music, apps, etc.
The HTC One X runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, flavored with HTC’s new Sense 4, and you can read more in-depth about the software in the “Software” section below.
Hands down, the HTC One X is by far one of the most eye catching devices on the market today. Just by looking at the phone, I would want to buy it. Everything about this phone screams “shiny” & “buy me.” The challenge that most phone manufacturers face when designing a phone the size of the One X is making it look nice. The bigger most phones get, the more awkward they look & the less likely consumers are to purchase it. However, HTC has learned from their mistakes in the past, and have made the One X the most aesthetically pleasing phones they have ever designed.
The device has a curved profile that is noticeable when looking at it from the side. You can see that both the top and bottom softly curve up, like it was meant to fit against your face. The device is also quite thin, with the international version clocking in at 8.9mm thin (the US/AT&T version is a little thicker, clocking in at 9.1mm). It is also very light, weighing only 130 grams with the battery in. Speaking of the battery, the battery is not accessible by the user, as HTC has permanently installed the battery inside the case, allowing for the beautiful, seamless look & feel.
On the top of the device, you will find the 3.5mm headset jack, the noise-canceling secondary microphone (the primary microphone is on the bottom of the device) & the sleep/wake/power button. On the right side, you will find the volume rocker, and then the micro-USB port is on the left side. On the back, you will find the 8MP camera with LED flash on the top & the Beats Audio speakers on the bottom.
The front of the device is where you will find the beautiful 4.7” Super LCD 2 720p screen. One thing that I really liked about the hardware of the phone was that the black glass from the screen faded seamlessly into the white back plastic (we did test the white version of the device, but the device is also available in grey). At the bottom of the screen, you will find the three permanently-etched Android 4.0 buttons (Home, Back, & Recent Apps). HTC chose not to include the on-screen buttons that are on newer-generation Android devices such as the Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Tabs, etc., so it may be difficult for users of those devices to adjust to using the permanent buttons, but people with older Android devices won’t find it much different. Also on the front, you will find the 1.3MP front-facing camera & the speaker grill for use when talking on the phone.
As I have previously mentioned, the HTC One X operates on Android 4.0 (currently operating up to 4.0.3) with HTC Sense 4.0 layered on top. Both systems are developed from their respective predecessors, however both Google & HTC have learned from their previous mistakes and made them better.
I’ll start with HTC Sense. In previous versions, Sense took complete control over the device letting little to no stock Android through. HTC made it very clear that with Sense 4.0 & the One series they were listening to the comments/criticism from users about Sense being overbearing and that they were going to be toning down Sense with 4.0 in the One devices. You can definitely tell that HTC has toned down Sense, and it is very much a step in the right direction. Have they gone far enough? No. There are still little things that bug me (the personalization settings in particular). However, I will get into the flaws a little later on. Let me start with the improvements that Sense has made.
Before 4.0, the Notification Bar was cluttered. It had recent apps, buttons, switches, etc. galore, leaving not much room for what users really wanted: notifications. Now with Sense 4.0, HTC has been able to get rid of all of the clutter. Now, the Notification Bar only has your notifications and one small shortcut to the Settings menu in the top right hand corner. Also, the Recent Apps/Task Switcher button that is one of the etched buttons on the bottom has helped eliminate the need for all of the clutter on the Notification Bar.
Another major improvement is the dock. Before now, getting different shortcuts onto your dock has been a hassle. Depending on what version of Android, you would have to physically root your device to get a customized dock. Now, all you have to do is drag out the button that you do not want, and drag in the new one. The phone comes standard with a shortcut for the phone, mail, messages, and the camera. Due to the ease of this, I immediately took out the mail icon and replaced it with Google Chrome for quick access to the internet.
The dock is fully accessible from the lock screen, only requiring you to take the icon and drag it into the ring to go directly to that app. If you just want to go to your home screen, just drag the ring up and it unlocks the phone. A very small detail, but I like that HTC has subtle instructions that pop up to tell you how to unlock the phone. One thing I found when testing older versions of Android & also on other companies’ skins (including Samsung’s TouchWiz) is that they don’t tell you how to actually unlock the device, so you spend several minutes just trying to get into your device.
There are some areas; however, that Sense 4.0 did not hit the highest marks. Before I proceed, I want to make it very clear that Sense 4.0 does not have any overarching problems, just several missteps that add up. Going into a couple of the small flaws, I feel like the personalization options annoyed me more than anything else. In previous versions of Android, you were able to press and hold on the home screen to do simple things like change the wallpaper, add shortcuts, add widgets, etc. Now when you tap and hold on the home screen, it brings up this huge menu with widgets, & shortcuts. First of all, this menu is way too large and hard on the eyes. Second, there is no easy way to change your wallpaper. To do that, you have to go into Settings, then click on Personalize, and then find the “Change Wallpaper” option from the menu, and then go through the hundreds of options for wallpapers. If you are like me, I’m in a different mood every day, and I usually choose a wallpaper that reflects that mood & I like to look at. When using the One X, I didn’t change the wallpaper once because it was too much of a hassle.
There are other small things like the way that HTC just redesigns certain apps for no apparent reason. The app that comes to mind when I think of that is the Messages app. HTC has completely redesigned it, and while it may be appealing to the eye, it isn’t as functional as stock Android’s Messages app is. For example, if you are trying to refer to a previous message when composing a new one, if you scroll up, the box where you are typing goes away. I found slightly obnoxious, because I would have to go & look at the previous message, remember what it said, and then scroll back down to finish typing my message.
Another annoyance that comes to mind is the keyboard. The keyboard takes up half of the screen because HTC decided to add a row of directional keys at the bottom. I never once touched those keys, and I feel like HTC wasted screen space with those keys. Other than that, the keyboard is really nice & easy to type on.
One very cool thing that the One X has to offer spawns from HTC’s partnership with Dropbox. With the One X, you are eligible to receive 25GB of Dropbox storage, free of charge. HTC does say that Dropbox is integrated throughout Sense, but I would disagree with that statement. The integration is hardly there, and the Dropbox app isn’t even preinstalled. However, the free 25GB of extra space is very nice. Personally, I am an avid Dropbox user so being able to get the extra space and be able to use it in conjunction with my phone is a great feature from HTC.
This phone is a speed demon, and there are no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. The phone is blazing fast, and it has that quad-core Tegra 3 processor to let it do that.
Overall, Android 4.0 & Sense 4.0 work very well together to create a nice user experience. As I have previously mentioned, there are no glaring deficiencies with the software of the phone, just several small missteps. Overall, however, the software is the most perfected software that HTC & Google have ever produced.
The HTC One X features an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera & a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. Below, you can find test shots from the One X’s camera.
One of the biggest features that HTC has been touting with the HTC One X is the inclusion of Beats Audio. Ever since HTC bought 51% of Beats, they have been including Beats Audio in as many smartphones as they possibly can. Many users believe that Beats Audio is just a gimmick, and I feel they are partially correct. I feel that the exterior speakers are definitely gimmicky, but it’s the headset jack where I feel the Beats Audio really shines.
When you plug in your headphones into the jack, you can hear that the sound being produced is clear & noise-free. You can every thump of the bass & every bit of vocals a song has to offer. Obviously, the quality of the sound depends on what headphones are used and of course it is optimized for Beats headphones, but it also sounds great with any noise-cancelling headphones.
One major improvement that HTC has included with Beats Audio in Sense 4.0 is the ability for it to utilize any app that makes sound. Before now, Beats Audio could only function with HTC’s built-in apps. By HTC making Beats Audio open to all apps, that opens millions of doors for developers, and enhances the user’s experience.
The version we tested was the international version of the device running on Vodafone UK’s network. Network speeds are very fast on this phone. On Vodafone, the One X is free on pay monthly plans from £41 (including 900 minutes, unlimited texts, and 1GB of mobile data).
The device is available in the US on AT&T’s network, and it will run you $199 on a new 2-year contract or with an eligible upgrade.
Overall, HTC has done an incredible job of designing a phone that is a decent size, pretty, & most importantly, functional. The One X is definitely one of the “prettiest” phones we have ever reviewed, and possibly one of the best looking mobile devices on the market today. The sleek & stylish design makes you want to pick up the phone and start using it. The camera is fantastic (like any HTC device), Beats Audio adds a unique feature to the phone, and two microphones working together to achieve complete noise cancellation is very advanced technology that makes placing a phone call a little more enjoyable for both ends of the call.
While I do not think that Sense 4.0 is 100% complete, it is definitely a step in the right direction. Although Sense has its quirks the way that it currently is, when it works together with Android 4.0 it makes a pretty seamless user experience.
Display Quality- 9
Audio Quality- 8
Battery Life- 8
(Overall scores are automatically rounded to the nearest .5. However, TRG reserves the right to change the overall scores to match our opinions of the product if we feel that the mathematical average is not an accurate representation of our feelings towards the product.)