I have had 14 days now with the HTC One X. I think it is only fair of me to say that I never used this device consistently as my primary device, quite frankly because I couldn’t due to reason’s later revealed in this review. I did however, make it my primary device on my days off from work and over the weekends. I have set this device up completely in regards to settings and apps (90% of which I am happy to say are in the Google Play store. I did my best to put the phone through it’s paces testing out most if it’s features that I thought would be useful in how I use the device on a day to day basis. On the day’s I used the One X, I did not allow myself to pick up my iPhone if it was something that could be accomplished on the One X. Even if it meant taking longer to do the same task, I was very disciplined in this. This review will not be a typical review that you would see a thousand of on YouTube, but this will be a review from the standpoint of a hardcore iPhone user doing his best to be honest about my experiences with the best competition the iPhone has had to date. And make no mistake, I believe this device has come closer than any other in truly becoming an iPhone killer.
So let’s get on with the review.
First, there is the hardware. To date, both the iPhone 4 and 4S are the best built mass marketed smartphones to date without question. With the materials being glass and metal, it’s hard for anyone to disagree that the iPhone is the epitome of quality hardware. With that being said, the HTC One X is no slouch. The decsion to go with the enclosed battery and memory and to choose design and minimal size over removable memory and battery was the correct one. The HTC One X is a hot item because it is a gorgeous beast. It demands attention and it gets it. Even the most loyal of iPhone owners can appreciate the aesthetics of this hardware. The matte polycarbonite finish feels awesome. It’s almost as if there is a minimalistic protective case fused on that surrounds the sides and back of the phone. It gives a great grip and seems to be more scratch resistant than most exterior surfaces offered by competing hardware.
Now onto the size. If you are a fan of the currently trendy big screen, this is the best screen you can get for the money. It offers the closest pixel density to the iPhone as you can on an iPhone competitor but takes it a step further by giving you even more of that beautiful display to work with. 4. 7" is more than enough and some would argue a bit too much. But the crystal clear and vibrant 4.7-inch Super LCD2 capacitive touchscreen with Corning Gorilla Glass can easily persuade you to forgive HTC for that. After several hours of using the One X, I found it difficult to get excited about the Retina display when picking up my iPhone 4S as my eyes can’t see the difference in pixel density between the two devices to begin with. But having a bigger display is not without a price. The device is large no matter which way you hold it and you will want to think twice before putting a case on it as whatever pocketability remained will quickly dissappear. It’s saving grace is how thin this powerful superphone is. HTC did a fantastic job stuffing all these specs into such a small space.
How about battery life? Initially, I was impressed as I spent a day with the phone prior to adding any tweaks for installing any additional applications. I receieved my One X with a completely dead battery courtesty of AT&T. But after that intial charge, I was quite impressed with the duration I got from a day of casual use. Coming from an iPhone, I am used to making little compromises in regards to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and brightness settings and can easily getting through most of the day. However, when I took the same approach with the One X, the results were polar opposites. I dove into the settings menu to discover that it was the display that I’m so fond of that was eating 3/4 of my battery.
I could easily point the blame at widgets and live wallpapers and why not? But those eye candy-like features are one of many key ingredients used to differentiate the Android lineup from the nemesis iPhone. If I have to turn those off for the sake of battery, well that’s not good for the end user. My final thoughts on battery are this: The iPhone has spoiled me, but I will recognize that the HTC One X does battery life better than the Android phones I have used in the past. This leads me to believe that this is more of a platform issue than a device issue.
So I have decided not to break down Ice Cream Sandwich in this review. HTC Sense 4.0 is what this phone is made of and I want to cover what I like about this skin. My favorite feature is the personalization. That is the customization options. This is something missing badly on iOS (The iTheme Store can’t arrive soon enough). I really made the most of the options available here with the skins, wallpapers, panels, widgets and most importantly “Scenes”. A Scene is basically a profile of sorts where you can set your phone up anyway you like with shortcuts to your favorite apps, different widgets on different panels, and different wallpapers. You can save a setup or “scene” if you will. Then proceed to create an entirely new setup for another purpose entirely. To further elaborate, I created 3 different Scenes for the purpose of this review. I created one Scene for business use, one for more personal use and a very minimal “do not disturb” one for when I really don’t want to bothered. In a way, these are considered profiles, but only to a visual extent. They are limited in that changes to system level settings when changing Scenes is not possible. Below are some screenshots of my 3 scenes along with my panel setup:
Multitasking on the One X is a mixed bag for me. You would think with this device running the Ice Cream Sandwich operating system that true multi-tasking would be a given, but I witnessed on several occasions of apps closing themselves and having to fully reload, even though it appeared they were in the background waiting for me to resume activity. What I do like though is that with the multitasking button, you get the same kind of task switching that you see in iOS only with full app screen shots to swipe through rather than just the icon itself. Closing and removing an app from your recent app list is as easy as swiping up. WebOS was the first to implement this and this was a natural gesture for me. I would very much like to see a page from this book brought to iOS 6.0 next month at WWDC.
To round the review out there are a few other things I would like to quickly go over. I have not been able to get used to the on-screen keyboard. That has already been replaced by another 3rd party variant. I am not a fan of the micro USB connection being on the side of the device. And to continue my rant, I am not a fan of the lack of hardware buttons. Too often I find myself wondering if I actually hit one of the 3 buttons at the bottom of the display. The haptic feedback is weak at best and sometimes I don’t feel it at all. Often I am waiting for a couple of seconds for the phone to react to a button I thought I pressed. I understand the Galaxy Nexus doing without them as the buttons were designed to hide within the display. But that’s not the case with this device as they are always visible just under the display. I can honestly say that I miss actual buttons. Maybe I’m alone in this. The LED light that warns you of missed text messages, emails, calls or voicemails is limited to just 2 colors. This saddens me as one of the features I really enjoyed on my Galaxy Nexus was the multicolored LED. In this case, green and red is what you get. There’s not a whole lot I can do with that. Beats Audio is a win. Even with my crappy Apple headphones, I got a better sound out of the HTC One X than I did out of my iPhone. This is one area where Apple could step it up. Finally, there is the camera. I have taken several photos with both devices but the side by side comparison I want to show you is the one that counts. I took the same photo from both my iPhone 4S and the HTC One X with the standard system defaults set. I honestly find the vibrant color that comes out in the HTC One X to be the better of the two. The bad news? It does not do as well with actions shots. Taking photos of my 6 month old daughter was a challenge as she does not like to stay still. The HTC One X could not capture a shot without blur in it. The iPhone got the job done on the first take. What the photo below shows is that this camera on the HTC One X can take a good photo, but it takes some work if you are looking for that perfect shot. In the last 14 days, I haven’t had the time to play around more with the camera settings. That will be something I do in more detail in a later post. But the camera on the One X does the device justice and the additonal settings found lacking in the iPhone make it a strong competitor.
iPhone 4S (Top) HTC One X (Below)
Last but not least is call quality. I have yet to have a clear conversation with someone without an echo. Bluetooth reception is hit and miss also. I have no problem with my iPhone in regard to calls or Bluetooth connectivity and AT&T coverage is exceptional in my area. I have to say I get a little aggravated when I am asked to repeat myself when using the One X to make calls. All that being said, I never dropped a call and due to the exceptionally loud and clear external speaker, I also never missed a call.
I love having a secondary device and this device is without a doubt worth every penny of the $199 “new contract” price point. If you are in the market for a new phone and are just not happy with the walled garden that is iOS, this is your phone. If battery life was better, and the Android interface guidelines were just a bit tougher to meet, Android would be an appealing alternative for me. HTC works hard at both the hardware and software to make up for what the Android OS lacks and that’s a little thing called “polish”. The HTC One X is the company’s best efforts in one tightly integrated and amazingly designed package.