HTC One X: Is this HTC’s best phone so far?

I spent a few weeks with HTC’s One X handset recently. Just 20 minutes with the phone was enough for me to begin to appreciate why many geeks I know were salivating at the sheer concept of owning the device.

Granted, at MWC, I was able to take a quick look and play around with a few of the features, however I always find it far better to actually live with a device for a few days in order to form an opinion.

A lot of my peer group — especially those I work with — were actually marking the HTC One X launch date (via Vodafone) in their calendars. They treated the purchase, unboxing and activation as a nigh-on religious experience.

I can see why.

It’s a big phone. Very big. The screen is fantastic. It’s not too heavy — enough to indicate the quality, yet it sits nicely in your jacket pocket without doing a Nokia N90 (i.e. weighing down one side like a brick).

The camera is very nice indeed — I particularly liked being able to take photos during recording video. I’m a bit partial to the iPhone 4S camera — however I found the X camera quality as good (if not a tad better).

I think the graphics performance is probably one of the most striking elements. I was delighted with the way the unlock screen worked by dragging the little metallic circle up the screen. That could have been an abominable experience but it was super-smooth and utterly pleasing. I really could see the benefits of quad-core in that respect.

The integration with all the basic services I use from DropBox to SkyDrive to Gmail to Facebook and Twitter was brilliant. I was up and running with my ‘life’ in about 5 minutes. Indeed I need to be careful to separate the device from the platform. I still have a few concerns over Android and it’s suitability for new users, however you can’t argue with what it lets you achieve — and so efficiently.

The X felt nice in the hand. I quite like the ridge around the camera on the back of the phone. I liked handling the polycarbonate chassis. What’s more, I felt proud using it.

It is big though. Very big. That’s the way things seem to be going with these top-end phones nowadays for a whole set of reasons. So it did take a bit of adjustment. Like many others in it’s class, the HTC One X isn’t really meant for single handed operation. You ideally hold the phone in one hand and operate with the other. I did like using it for phone calls (once I got over the ‘HEY, I’M ON THE PHONE’ feeling that all big phones engender) in part because of it’s size. I like to speak INTO the phone, not into thin air.

What else? Well apps worked very nicely. Google Play runs beautifully on the X. I was searching and locating my favourites in seconds and they were installing with speed. Indeed it was highly satisfying to just tap-tap into my Google Play account and bring down all my standard apps. I’m still accustomed to Android devices taking a wee bit of time to download and then install — not so with the X.

I was particularly impressed at what HTC’s done with the “Watch” functionality. HTC Watch is the company’s answer to the iTunes Video store. I was pretty impressed with the choice of available movies and I was even more impressed at the keen pricing. Some decent films were only £0.05 to rent. This is the kind of thing HTC needs to be doing. I felt that service added a lot of value to ‘owning’ the device.

The default on-screen keyboard worked very well indeed. I was tempted to see if I could get the likes of Swype installed but in the end, I stayed with the default.

I did enjoy the camera experience, especially since I’m using Picasa for all the family photos — so the ability to stick them straight up from the device was very welcome.

As for battery life, I didn’t set my expectations high at all. However I’m pleased to say that I managed to get ‘a day’ out of the battery with significant use. Much like any other top-end smartphone though, when I hammered the phone with data intensive usage and then loads of video viewing, I was facing a red battery indicator within a few hours. Don’t expect miracles. I’m pleased to say I had to raise my expectations though.

I think it’s a very smart device.

If you’re giving it serious consideration, pop into the shops and check it out. Get hands on. Check out the keyboard. Check out the gorgeous screen. See what you make of the super little on-screen widgets. Make sure it’s the device for you before ‘spending’ your 24-months worth of contract on it.

Perhaps one of the best deals I’ve seen on the One X recently is from Three who’ll put one in your hand for just £29 up front and then £29 a month — for 24-months. That’ll give you 500 minutes, 5000 texts and all-you-can-eat data. Or pick one up for £439 sim-free from Amazon.

Nice work HTC.

I’m giving serious thought to swapping to one.

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