HTC's new flagship is here: the HTC One X is in the vanguard of not just the new "One" lineup, but of HTC's mini-revival for 2012. Based on our brief time with it, we think the phone will manage to pull off both of those heavy tasks, though whether it will be enough to fend off Samsung's rumored Galaxy S III is sadly going to be an open question until later this year. For now, the HTC One X impresses on its own terms and specs, and what great specs they are.
The first and most important thing about the One X is its screen: a 4.7-inch 720p "Super LCD 2" panel that is simply better than anything we've seen on the market. It's bright and crisp, of course, but as we turned and twisted the phone we were literally unable to come up with a viewing angle that contained any distortion or discoloration.
4.7 inches is most definitely on the high-end of what we'd consider acceptable for a phone's size, but HTC has managed to craft a device that doesn't feel completely unwieldy in the hand. Part of that is due to the 9.7mm thickness, but most of it comes from the polycarbonate shell that's both grippable and attractive. We'd say that the plastic on the HTC One X is second only to the Lumia 800 (and 900) in terms of material quality, appearance, and overall feel. The rear of the phone is necessarily a wide expanse of the plastic, interrupted mainly by the 8-megapixel lens that juts out just a bit.
HTC chose to keep permanent, capacitive buttons in lieu of the on-screen button of the Galaxy Nexus. In practice it's not problematic, but it is a curious design choice given Google's push to remove the need for physical buttons in ICS. One thing that could be grating to those with small (or even normal) hands is that the power button it located on the top of the device, requiring quite a long reach if you are using the phone with one hand.
The camera takes pictures as quickly as HTC's claimed 0.7-seconds in our testing so far, thanks no doubt to the "HTC Image Chip" that handles much of the image processing work. The f/2.0 aperture makes macro shots easy and better than most anything we've used barring the iPhone 4S. HTC also included a large set of Instagram-like effects that can be applied in real-time as you're composing your shot, but unfortunately it did not include a dedicated physical camera button. HTC also chose to go with a single LED flash instead of two, but told us that it is backed by significantly smarter software that will only light it up as brightly as the situation requires instead of just flashing a blinding ray every time.
HTC's One X also leads the company's Android 4.0 and Sense 4.0 charge, and on both fronts we're pleased with the implementation. Sense in particular is a different beast compared to the previous generations, it's lighter and more sensible than previous efforts and on the whole it's frankly less intrusive. When Sense first debuted on Android, it was common to call it the best of the Android skins and with 4.0 HTC has a chance to take that dubious crown again: there are no more pesters to merge contacts, the dock is customizable and no longer permanently set to annoying defaults, and it matches stock Android's horizontal scrolling on the app launcher.
Multitasking, however, is not quite the stock Ice Cream Sandwich experience. Instead of presenting a vertical list of swipe-able apps, Send 4.0 takes you to an entirely new screen that shows your most recently used apps in a horizontal list that's reminiscent of Windows Phone 7. Each app is angled at around 45 degrees and can be swiped up to quit. Sense 4.0 also uses Dropbox as your cloud-storage solution, which help alleviate the fact that it only contains 16 gigs of onboard storage (32GB in non-US version), but even in today's well-connected world that could be a problem for some. Maybe our favorite feature in the new sense is an upgraded Car experience that pretty much does everything you'd want a car app to do: you can quickly swipe between contacts, Google navigation, and music in a "fat-finger" interface that's simple and intuitive.
Most importantly for the skin and the overall feel of the phone, the Tegra 3 processor has no problems whatsoever driving the phone. Whereas before Sense constantly gave you the feeling that the phone was struggling to keep up with your taps and swipes, with the One X we found little to complain about in terms of lag. We'll have to see if the AT&T LTE variant with it dual-core Qualcomm S4 chip presents the same experience, but early benchmarks for the S4 lead us to be hopeful. The One X has 1GB of RAM and in our brief time with the phone it handled multiple apps without issue.
The One X will be available in white and black and should arrive in the next couple of months in both Europe and the US.