HTC has had a pretty mixed history of late. Its handset portfolio has ranged from terrible to world beating, and everything in between. I’m probably not the only one who thinks that since the days of the Desire and Nexus 1 (made in conjunction with Google) it’s been mostly downhill. Handsets by the Taiwanese company took on virtually indistinguishable form factors, in various sizes. Sensation XL Whopper with Cheese anyone? When the company announced that it would be focussing on fewer handsets and making sure they were quality ones, no one was more excited than me. Especially when the One series was officially unveiled back in February. “Finally, they get it!”
The One X was unveiled as the champion flagship model, and quite rightly too, it boasts an impressive spec sheet. The first thing you’ll notice is the 4.7-inches of Super LCD awesomeness, packed with 312 pixels in every inch and a resolution of 720 x 1280. The IPS panel means that you can see almost everything on screen from an angle as near as makes no difference to 180 degrees. And the slightly curved edges of the glass blend in really well with the curvature of the phone’s bezel. The handsets user interface and new version of Sense really takes advantage of the high pixel density with its slim typeface and well designed icons.
The body of the device itself is a wonderful piece of craftsmanship. The like we haven’t seen since the glory days of the original Nexus One. Taking skills used by Nokia in its Lumia lineup, it’s carved out of one piece of Polycarbonate, with individually micro-machined holes instead of the usual bland mesh grills over the earpiece and loudspeaker. It looks purposeful, and adds a real quality feel to the handset. The Polycarbonate has a nice soft touch, grippy texture that feels fantastic in hand. Surprisingly, for a phone of such size, it is comfortable. Sure, there are “stretchy thumb” times, but not often enough, or uncomfortable enough to put you off in any way.
Only negatives for some might be the sealed body with no expandable storage. Meaning, no memory cards and no swappable batteries. It’s not a big deal for me. I always have chargers nearby, and media is easily placed in the cloud these days if I run out of storage. That in itself is unlikely, with a generous 32GB capacity (25GB of which is usable). Simply put, it’s the best looking and the best feeling HTC phone for a long time.
Camera specs read well. The 8MP (3264 x 2448) camera has an impressive shutter speed, taking still images almost instantly. It can also record video at full 1080p HD resolution as well as taking photos at the same time, thanks to its dual-shutter technology. Images are sharp, have a surprising depth of field and a vast array of customizable settings including Macro, white balance, filters, and tons more. There’s almost nothing you can’t make some changes to while snapping away. Colors may be a little washed out at times, but again, you can edit your images to improve saturation if needs be.
I’m using the global version of the One X which packs in the much-hyped quad-core Tegra 3 processor. The 1.5Ghz chip handles virtually everything you can throw at it with relative ease. The touch screen is very responsive, and the days of HTC’s Sense bogging down the software are long gone. It’s very quick. Even with apps running in the background and taking up the majority of the phone’s 1GB RAM, it still doesn’t sweat or show any signs of tiredness. Web pages load up quickly, if you use the downloadable Chrome Beta browser from Google’s Play Store. In short: I can’t see any reason why you would complain of lag, or freezing. The only issue I’ve had is on the software side, which, I will get to in a later section.
Battery life is great, for a high-powered smartphone. It gets me from 8am until 10pm before showing needing to be refuelled. A big drawback is the charge time. It takes at least two-three hours to fill up this 1800mAh beast. A faster solution is needed, especially as phones are getting more and more powerful.
Dr. Dre’s beats audio is a world famous brand, thanks to the ever popular headphones, but I fail to see any benefit of the logo on the back of HTC’s One X. The loudspeaker itself performs as well as you could expect. It’s loud enough that you won’t miss any calls, without becoming tinny or flat. One big issue I’ve had with the Galaxy Nexus is that I’m constantly missing calls due to the low volume level of the loudspeaker. No such issues with HTC’s newest phone.
One issue that always bugs me about smartphones is that they seem to forget that they are still phones. No one pays attention to call quality anymore. Seemingly placing the cheapest earpiece available inside the phone. Thankfully, HTC’s paid attention this time. Calls are clear, and there’s very little distortion. Same can be said if you use a headset.
Listening to music isn’t a bad experience either. I wouldn’t go as far as using the loudspeaker for that, but, I have no major complaints over using the standard earphones supplied. Even when streaming to my speaker system, music quality was generally okay. I would never say that it was breathtaking, because it isn’t. Even after going through the equalizer settings and changing it around, it still lacked a little depth. Beats Audio just pumps the bass louder and seemingly covers any trace of clarity with mud. Sometimes I feel the pair-up with Beats was just a branding gimmick. The sad thing is that with a phone this good, it wasn’t needed. At all.
A little on the software side
We’re all familiar with Android, so I won’t bore you with details about Ice Cream Sandwich. There are some nice little features included in the flagship One series device. As with many handsets, the One X has the personal hotspot feature, allowing you to connect various devices via WiFi and using your phone’s internet connection to get others online. The One X has a dedicated app to help set this up, instead of it being buried in the settings menu. Big plus for HTC, especially if the company is going after the general consumer market, instead of the know-it-all nerds, who live for hard-to-find features.
There’s an interesting Transfer app, that allows you to copy information from an old phone, with a step-by-step guide leading you through. Again, another nice touch aimed at the inexperienced. I like that when you go in to the Music app, you get the option to access your phone’s music files, or use an online radio service, SoundHound or 7digital. Unlike another popular and restrictive OS, there’s a lot more freedom with how you go about day-to-day tasks. There are others, but these are all just little pluses for me. Not make-or-break features.
On the downside, there’s HTC Watch and FriendStream. If I’m going to have a media service, I’ll use one which I can keep on using if I switch devices. (For me, that’s a regular thing.) I’m not going to sign up to HTC’s video store, then move to a Samsung and use a different one. I’ll use one which I know I can access from any device. Don’t try and be Apple, using a platform that’s set itself up to be open, free and easy. Also, I like accessing my Facebook and Twitter feeds separately, and through bespoke native apps. Not having it all fed to me through a Friend Stream app that ties it all together in one big messy thread.
Overall, I’m quite happy to say this is the best Android phone on the market. For all round performance, hardware quality, design and features, there’s nothing that can surpass it. I guess now we’ll have to wait and see what Samsung unveils next Thursday in London. If I were to give it a mark out of ten, the One X would get an 8.5. Which is as high as I’ll ever mark anything, since there’s no such thing as a perfect phone.