Big-screen One X puts HTC near top of Android smartphone pack


Chris Keall

HTC One X: giant screen great for web, video - but hard to wrangle with one hand



HOT: Sealed, sleek unibody case; gorgeous giant screen; fast performance; great audio; Android 4 (aka ice cream sandwich) clever photo and video options, Beats Audio headphones, two-year 25GB Dropbox subscription

NOT:  So-so battery life and video quality; Google's music and movie download services not available for NZ

TECH SPECS: 720 x 1280 pixels, 4.7-inch Gorilla Glass touchscreen, HSDPA+ (up to 21Mbit/s down); HSUPA (up to 5.76Mbit/s down), 1.5GHz quad-core processor, 32GB onboard memory, 8mP rear camera, 1.3mP front camera, assisted GPS, FM radio, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Micro-SIM, 134.4 x 69.9 x 8.9mm, 130g. Note: no MicroSD slot.

PRICE: $999 

CARRIERS: Telecom, Vodafone, 2degrees

With its huge 4.7-inch screen, quad core processor, Ice Cream Sandwich and sleek unibody design, the One X puts HTC near the top of the Android field.

I would say the top of the field, ahead of the Samsung Galaxy S2, if it were not for the One X’s so-so battery life.

That jumbo screen and beefy processor suck a lot of juice.

If you're a power user (and why buy such a phone if you're not) you'll be pushing it to make it through a full day.

I found intensive use - streaming on-demand video from TV3's website - used up the battery in about two and half hours.

That's by no means dire.

No top-of-the-line smartphone does a great job with battery life, but with the One X, you have to be constantly vigilant in following the ABC of modern mobile life (Always Be Charging).

Some of the One X’s feature advantages are fleeting.

Look for a slew of new models with quad core processors and/orsimilar screen size from competitors over the next few months (including the much-anticipated Galaxy S3; Samsung NZ is previewing the new model on May 4. Huawei has promised its Quad D will see NZ release).

And all-comers are now releasing, or gearing up, models that run Android 4.0 (a.k.a Ice Cream Sandwich), or making the software available as an upgrade for recent high-end handsets. It's a slick upgrade. Android 4.0 easier to navigate, and it's easier to customise

Telecom got some buzz from being the first to say it would carry the phone, and release pricing

But when NBR ONLINE inquired, Vodafone and 2degrees said they would sell it, too. All should have it in stock by the end of this month (April).

Telecom and 2degrees are promising $0 up-front for those who sign on to higher-end two-year contracts.

Like most in the Android camp, HTC adds its own overlay to Android, from a weather app to a smart calling feature.

Some reviewers have said the One X is bloated by such additions. But so far I've found most of them reasonably efficient and useful.

Regardless, most can be switiched off if you prefer an unadorned Android interface.

HTC is also bundling a two-year 25GB Dropbox account account with each One X (including for NZ buyers), which is a nice touch (Google has just introduced a competing online storage service called Drive with 5GB of free online storage, and paid options above that.

For me - it went live today on my Google Apps account, giving me another storage option for my X One, and of course elsewhere).

iPhone-style flourishes: a sealed case, and a Micro-SIM tray. Also pictured: the One X's more individual bug-eye camera lens.

I've been using a One X for a couple of days, supplied by HTC with a Telecom Micro-SIM.

Here are some first impressions.

First, my HTC life so far. I had an HTC Sensation, which I found a little on the flaky side.

I next got a Sensation XL, which I found an excellent smartphone (it’s a dual core model, sold through Vodafone).

Sensation XL owners will find the new One X familiar in overall design.

The One X (left) next to the iPhone 4S.

The key differences are that the One X is a little slimmer (it's still a shade thicker than the iPhone) and – more notably – that it has a unibody design with a sealed in battery (a la the iPhone) and a pop-out tray for a Micro-SIM (which is – cough – more or less identical to that on Apple’s handset).

Another iPhone like touch: there’s no SD Card slot. With 32GB of onboard memory (and that 25GB online via HTC's Dropbox deal), that doesn’t worry me.

Although the ability to swap memory cards is billed as a boosting Android’s flexibility (and up-sell options for retailers), in practice it’s something few people do.

How big is too big?
The screen is the same roomy size as the HTC Sensation XL, but a black bezel around the edge gives the illusion of even more display real estate.

The display itself is beautiful, and at least the equal of anything on the market - and at 4.7-inches it's also bigger than most (bar Samsung's smartphone-tablet hybrid the Galaxy Note, which sports a 5.3-inch screen).

And the quad core processor keeps things running smoothly, and performance is snappy all around, including screen auto-reorientation - although it's still a beat slow than the iPhone 4S in that department.

The One X is certainly not too big to be practical. It's slim form factor means it easily slips into any pocket, and it's easily held by your (as is the Note - though at that point you're starting to look a little noveau shoephone).

However, personally I can't reach all areas of the touchscreen without holding the One X in two hands (or awkwardly juggling it in one). The iPhone 4S display may look tiny next to of the new generation of giant Androids, but at least it can be easily thumbed in one-hand.

Apple is rumoured to be bumping up screen size with its next iPhone. At least those in the Android camp get to choose from a wide range of display options now.

One the other hand, the One X's huge display is brilliant for web browsing, gaming, viewing documents or watching video.

Photo smarts
Most reviews have judged the One X does not take as good photos or HD video as contenders like the iPhone 4S and Galaxy SII.

I agree. But criticism elsewhere is overblown; it's a close run thing.

Plus, the One X still has a box of tricks that appeal. It has a quick shutter speed, and a continuous shooting mode.

You can also take still photos as you shoot continuous video, and there’s a slow motion mode. Nice touches.

Beats Audio
Like other high-end HTC models, the One X comes with Beats Audio technology to boost audio within various apps, and its bundled with trendy Beats Audio earbuds.

The Beats Audio buds feel statisfyingly heavy, and deliver sound that's very much on the front foot.

Sonically, I like them (and I've taken to using them with my iPhone too) but I was also surprised to find they slipped out of my ears at times - and I've got freakishly small ear canals. They're not something you could take jogging.

Messy content strategy
Content-wise - like all Android handsets - it's a bit of a messy situation. Google has so far not bothered to make the Movies or Music sections of its Play service (formerly Android Market) available for New Zealand.

There is some content availabe through a portal run by HTC, and if you're on Telecom or Vodafone you can tap their respective music stores (or a third party).

But with HTC, Sony, Samsung and others all pushing their own portals on the side, and Google apathetic about New Zealand, it's all a bit all-over-the-show compared to the slick iPhone/iTunes setup.

As someone in the Google Apps camp, I found I could set up Gmail literally inside a minute, along with other Google services.

(Things don't seem so happy in terms of integration with other platforms Geekzone's Maurcio Freitas tweeted, Not impressed with how bad [Microsoft] Exchange sync is on HTC One X). 

A place at the top table
The One X's name is a reflection of the fact it was designed by One & Co - and industrial design outfit recently bought by HTC.

Many smartphone buyers will have little feel for where HTC fits in the market. With 50+ models, it's all over the map.

But with the One X, HTC should grab a little attention at the high-end of the Android market.

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2 Comments & Questions

Commenter icon key: Subscriber Verified

Gee, those hands are pretty- who do they belong to?

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At first glance, I thought it was a pig's trotter

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