It's been a long time since it first debuted at Mobile World Congress in February, but HTC's flagship Android phone is finally here. The $199.99 HTC One X may not feature quad-core power, though with a feature-packed camera, connection to AT&T's smokin' LTE 4G network, and fleet-footed performance running Android Ice Cream Sandwich, you likely won't care. Not only does it surpass its Tegra 3-toting European variant, but also it bests its little brother, the HTC One S on T-Mobile. It goes on sale on May 6, less than a week from the time of this review.
Looking at the One X, it's clear that HTC strayed a bit from tried-and-true design playbook. Instead of the aluminum unibody construction the company's handsets typically sport, the One X is crafted from a single piece of polycarbonate plastic. Believe it or not, that's a good thing, since the plastic material HTC selected feels high-grade, not the cheap stuff I've seen in other phones. As a result the One X's chassis has a pleasingly premium quality similar to the Nokia Lumia 900, another handset that opts for pricey Lexans over metal.
A flat slab that has smoothly rounded edges and a gently curved back, the HTC One X definitely flaunts an ultramodern aesthetic, especially the chic white-hued version I reviewed (HTC also makes a soberer black model). You'll want to be careful how you tote the One X since its white surface attracts smudges easily. Measuring 5.3 inches tall by 2.75 inches wide by 0.36 inch thick, the One X certainly is a handful. Still, its 4.6-ounce weight lends the plastic phone some solidity.
Gracing the front of the device is a massive 4.7-inch (1,280x720-pixel) super LCD screen. It gets very bright, brighter in fact than the HTC One S' qHD AMOLED screen, and has viewing angles that are nice and wide. Of course the One S' high-contrast display produces more vibrant colors and darker blacks, which I prefer.
Above the screen sits a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video chats and vanity shots. Below the display are three capacitive buttons for back, home, and recent apps. On the phone's right side are controls for volume, and a Micro-USB port sits on the left. Up top are a tiny power button, a micro-SIM card compartment, and a 3.5mm headphone jack, while around back are the 8-megapixel camera and LED flash. Two big drawbacks, though, are the phone's lack of an SD card slot for extra memory expansion and its nonremovable battery.
In addition to the phone's cutting-edge components, much of the HTC One X's real power lies in its robust software. Not only does this smartphone run the latest version of Google's Android OS, version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but also HTC has gingerly grafted its revamped Sense user interface on top. HTC says that Sense 4 meshes seamlessly with ICS' new abilities and strives to stay out of the way. Indeed, much of Sense 3's fancier eye candy, such as the endlessly spinning 3D carousel of home screens and over-the-top weather graphics, is absent.
There are two ways to unlock the phone; you can either flick a virtual ring from the bottom of the screen to the center, or slide icons into the ring to quick-launch major phone functions. For instance, dragging the camera symbol into the ring fires up the One X's main imaging sensor to snap pictures and video in a flash. Other standard lock-screen shortcuts bring up the Web browser, text messaging, and phone dialer.
Just like on T-Mobile's HTC One S, you can choose from seven screens that you can populate with application shortcuts and animated widgets. By default, HTC places its iconic weather clock front and center on the main home screen. Tapping the widget's digital readout launches a world clock complete with a slick 3D globe visual, and hitting the weather portion of the clock pulls up a detailed forecast. Another boon to weather nerds like me is the engaging graphics displayed on the lock screen that correspond to current atmospheric conditions. I was even able to choose them as my live wallpaper.
At the foot of each home screen is a tab containing the same four quick-launch icons shown on the lock screen. I particularly liked being able to swap these icons for others or even create and add folders holding multiple app icons. Any changes here are reflected on the lock screen and placing application shortcuts on top of one another creates a folder.
Sense adds some neat tricks to the browser, such as a Pure Content Reader view that removes all ads and displays just the basic text of a selected Web page. You can also choose pages and video to bookmark for later perusal offline.
As you'd expect on a modern Android device, the One X comes with the usual Google services onboard, including Gmail, Google+, and Navigation, along with the Play Store, from which you can download apps from a catalog of over 500,000 titles. Play also provides digital books, movies, games, and music to purchase. If that's still not enough entertainment, HTC's Watch app hawks TV shows and movies for rental or purchase. For example, I could rent "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" for $3.99 or buy it permanently for $14.99.
Other compelling third-party software that's preloaded on the One X includes the Kindle eBook reader, the MOG music subscription service, and TuneIn Internet radio (a personal favorite). AT&T sprinkles the device with its own selection of apps, such as U-verse Live TV, which serves up both live programming and full TV episodes and movies (for an extra $9.99 per month, and you can't use it over Wi-Fi), a bar code scanner, and FamilyMap for locating family members ($9.99 per month for two family members, $14.99 for up to five).