Here it is then, HTC’s new quad-core monster, the 4.7″ flagship for 2012 that introduces the Tegra 3 processor to mobile phones, updates HTC’s range to Android 4.0 and brings us the supposedly streamlined version 4.0 of HTC’s Sense user interface.
You also get a fantastic 8megapixel camera that we’ve previously examined in great detail, plus the One X is encased in a sealed, unibody chassis, giving it something of a new look for HTC.
But it’s still a recognisable HTC slab, only this one’s lighter and thinner than last year’s huge HTC Sensation XL, thanks to ditching the metallic look for a new, weird, space-age unibody chassis. We want to say it’s plastic, but it’s nicer than plastic. It’s a sort of posh plastic, like rich people have their kitchen work tops made out of.
As well as a lovely new case, the HTC One X has a great screen. As with the Galaxy Nexus display, this one curves into the side slightly, adding a rounded, light-catching, softer edge to the screen that gives it a high-grade feel.
And those are the all-new “Ice Cream Sandwich” buttons, which HTC has incorporated below the screen in a capacitive section. You get Back, Home and the new Recent Apps multitasking option. There is no “Menu” any more, that’s left up to apps to present within their interfaces.
It’s all gone a bit alien around the back. The new camera’s sensor sticks out by three or four millimetres, with a strange scoured metallic surround.
And that’s where you stick the Micro-SIM – behind an Apple-inspired tray that requires poking out of the chassis with a pin. What you won’t find is an SD Card slot. There’s no expansion here, plus the battery’s sealed within the case.
The body of the phone is polished around the sides, then a rougher matte dark grey makes up the back. Some have been criticising the build quality, but we like the new lightness and sealed body. It feels like much more of an evolution and step forward in design and construction than last year’s bulky, heavy HTC Sensation.
And to the left is this year’s big software change in HTC Sense, which now comes with a similar lower dock array as you see in the many other Android models. Sad to see the iconic HTC curved dock go, but this new option is clearly more… useful.
And those four dock icons translate to the One X’s lock screen (left), where they can be quickly accessed by dragging them into the unlocking circle. It’s different to the system found in last year’s HTC Sensation and other recent Sense phones, as you’re no longer allowed to customise the lock screen shortcuts. You just get what’s on the dock.
You find the same collection of lock screen background options as before – wallpapers, images from your gallery, share prices, the weather and more. It’s a pretty little system, plus Android 4.0 also lets you pull down the Notifications pane on the lock screen too, for even easier access to new messages and features.
Also on the style front is a new way of scrolling lists. Items sort of break apart from each other, stretching when you reach the bottom of a menu page. It’s hard to get across well in still images, but it does give the menu screens a nice bouncy effect that’s fun to play with.
Folder support has been improved again. As well as creating folders by dragging icons on top of each other, the folder header has a “+” icon, which lets you add multiple apps to a folder through the big app listing. Which is handy, if you’re the organised type.
And that’s HTC’s take on the Ice Cream Sandwich app, widget and shortcut installation menu. A long press on a Home screen brings up this view, which lets you switch between app shortcuts and links, or visual previews of widgets, then ping them to the Home screen of your choice. It’s a great, visual way of managing your phone.
And the new multitasking/recent apps tab (left). HTC’s flipped this one, making it a full-screen, 3D horizontal list, rather than the vertical way it appears in the unmodified Android 4.0 as seen in the Galaxy Nexus (right). HTC’s way works better, as we find it easier to see and scroll through. 1-0 to HTC.
Lots of clocks. HTC’s always been good at clocks.
A selection of widgets. We’ve moaned before about a lack of uniformity across HTC’s vast collection of Sense widgets, but things seem to be moving in the right direction nowadays. Could live with most of those.
Some more widgets and the clock/weather page.
Yet more widgets. A lovely full-screen, flickable photo gallery display (left) plus what you see when using HTC’s FriendStream social network aggregator app these days. The latter of which looks much better in its Ice Cream Sandwich makeover form.
Sometimes you end up with two menu buttons (the black software overlay at the bottom there), which is a little odd, due to the way HTC has implemented the Android 4.0 menu system.
The notifications bar (left) is also very different here. HTC’s removed the older, feature-packed version it used to put in its phones, replacing it with a simpler new option. It works in keeping with the new Android 4.0 ethic – individual items can be slid away, leaving the important ones in place as reminders.
HTC’s customisation options are largely unchanged. You get the same skins and scenes options, plus more to download through HTC Hub, which also contains app recommendations and sound sets to modify your ring tones.
This is HTC’s Notes widget, a standard take on the multimedia aggregating super note app. It combines drawings with photos and audio clips, much like we’ve seen many of the other manufacturers doing.
The HTC keyboard’s the usual excellent and advanced option, with plenty of long-press numbers and characters to make typing less of a hassle. HTC’s Trace line-drawing Swype clone isn’t enabled by default, but is there as an option if you’ve been using Swype on a rival model.
Text selection and copying is handled by a tweaked version of the Android tool, which pops up moveable start and end tags and a little options window.
HTC Watch has made the cut, giving users a way to rent or go INSANE and actually buy a digital copy of a Hollywood product. Somewhere out there someone might one day buy a film on their telephone, we suppose. Could happen.
Media playback is great. The One X handled a bundle of AVIs and even managed a 720p MKV file, which immediately makes it one of the top-level phones out there for mobile media consumers. Plus its video app is stylish, and quite an improvement on the usual Android option.
The music player’s also been completely redesigned. It now comes with its own mini app tray (right), where HTC has pre-loaded some third-party music tools – and you can even drop in app shortcuts of your own choice (we put Maps in there to test).
You may or may not like to see 7digital installed as HTC’s music-buying option. We’re glad to see it. The last thing we need is something like “HTC Music” as there are already quite enough music shops out there already.
SoundHound has been integrated well, giving you a way to search for stacks more details about artists you’re listening to. Shame about the sex chat adverts, though. That kind of devalues the new-phone experience a little.
The excellent TuneIn Radio app is also included, which is a fantastic internet radio tool. Again, the developers must be over the moon that HTC’s letting them serve adverts to all their new buyers. Still, we’d use it. Nice app.
We’ve already put some photo and video samples together. The One X has a bloody brilliant camera. We’ll move on.
There’s a video editing tool on the One X, although it’s not particularly advanced. It trims and combines clips, offering some ludicrous pre-loaded theming options. But you can at least pull in your own music to add as a soundtrack to your new edit, from your SD card MP3 collection.
The memory. 2GB available for apps, 1GB of RAM.
Battery life. We were disappointed by the HTC One X’s battery performance. It was very hard nursing it through a day of serious use. HTC issued a software update while we were reviewing the phone that some reviewers claimed fixed the issue, but we didn’t notice much, if any, improvement.
As we always say, battery life is a personal thing and you may find it works better with your use patterns, but for us, the One X had the poorest performing battery of any of the big-screened Android phones we’ve used recently.
Web use. Fantastic. The quad-core processor does a great job of throwing pages around, even when Flash ads and videos are all over the shop. HTC’s rejigged its browser interface, too, putting in the standard Android 4.0 menu and plenty of options.
Text is sharp on the 4.7″ display and zooms in for easy reading with a double-tap. The tabbing system (right) is nice, but remains hidden behind the Menu button, so it’s still not particularly easy to use.
A video, on a web site, playing very well on a mobile telephone, through the wireless network, while the viewer sits in bed. Isn’t the modern world quite amazing?
Flash content works well, although the iPlayer web site was rendering a bit strangely. Great browser all told, though.
The email app. Simple and modern. Nice Android 4.0 design cues. Amply customisable. No complaints.
The gallery. Plenty of effects can be added in the image editing menu, plus there’s all the usual Android sharing options.
Oh yes, and it’s also able to be used as a telephone. That favourite contacts widget pulls out any people you’ve starred in the contacts section, plus you’re able to select a default action – text, phone, open contact page – for each one as well. Everything’s been redesigned to feature the Android 4.0 menu system, looking very smart as a result.
The dialer has all of the numbers, from zero all the way up to nine *pauses for audience laughter* plus it’s very editable, supports speed dial ling, lets you block people and do all the usual advanced Android stuff.
You get loads of free Dropbox space for registering, plus the Dropbox app will automatically upload everything for you via wi-fi. And it does NFC, so you can confuse the old lady behind the till in SPAR.
And we are just about done.
So. The HTC One X. It is fast. The quad-core power keeps everything running smoothly, it’s always responsive, never crunches, and didn’t struggle in the slightest with any web sites or apps we threw at it. It really is Android 4.0 made bulletproof.
The 4.7″ display is very, very bright and sharp. It’s up there alongside the Xperia S in the screen stakes, plus the slightly curved edges of the display and the phone’s seamless case make the One X appear a little more stylish than previous bulky HTC models.
In fact, unless you really, really want the unskinned Android 4.0 experience as found on the Galaxy Nexus and not much else, the One X is the phone to get in 2012.
The HTC One X is a great return to form for HTC after the bulky and bloated models of 2011. Samsung’s going to have to perform some amazing magic tricks to beat this one.
HTC’s new unibody case is thinner and lighter than its phones of old, finally daring to stray from the boring old HTC designs of recent years. It’s interesting to pick up and look at, the screen’s smooth and slightly curved, the camera an absolute pleasure to use. There are no flaws, as long as you don’t mind the non-removable battery and lack of SD card support. We don’t.
Still some slightly odd design decisions going on with HTC’s widgets, and there’s nothing like the same level of image editing and customisation and automation options we’ve seen in the Motorola RAZR and others, but it’s fast, smooth, glitch free and HTC Sense is looking more stylish than ever.
Lightning fast throughout, with apps, web sites and games all performing brilliantly. The screen’s sensitive, the camera simply astonishingly quick. Battery life’s the only issue. It’s at the low end of what we’ve been seeing from recent rival big-screened mobiles.
We’re just going to have to go mad and give it the full 10. The One X is big, powerful and fast, with a camera that’s the quickest and best around today by a long way. HTC’s tweaks to Android 4.0 and its updated Sense interface are pretty much all good, giving us a phone that feels light and completely refreshed.