HTC One X+ Review: A Phone to Beat (If People Would Buy It)

If you're an Android phone maker today, you need to answer a fundamental question: Why should someone buy this instead of Samsung's Galaxy S III?

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Jared Newman / TIME.com

Let’s kick off this HTC One X+ review by dealing with the elephant in the room.

If you’re an Android phone maker today, you need to answer a fundamental question: Why should someone buy this instead of Samsung‘s Galaxy S III? (Yes, I’m riffing on a similar question once posed by my colleague, Harry McCracken.) Because the reality is that Samsung’s savvy marketing–plus the fact that it makes great phones–have allowed the Galaxy S III to become widely available across all wireless carriers, and therefore wildly popular. It’s simply the standard for anyone who’s not buying an iPhone, and other phone makers need to wrestle with that.

For the last week or so, I’ve been using an HTC One X+ on AT&T, which sells for $200 on-contract. It’s an update to the earlier One X in a few key areas: It has a faster processor, a bigger battery, more storage and a newer version of Android. You know what? Those are exactly the same advantages the One X+ holds over the Galaxy S III, except for the equally-sized battery. The question is whether those differences, and others, are enough to help the One X+ stand out.

(MORE: Compared: HTC’s One X, One S and Evo 4G LTE)

It’s a nicely-designed phone, covered in grippy, soft-touch plastic with comfortable, rounded corners. The edges of the One X+ are angled slightly inward, helping to frame the hand while making the 4.7-inch, 1280-by-720 S-LCD display appear to thrust toward the user. It’s a gorgeous screen too; while it doesn’t have the pop of an AMOLED display, you couldn’t see a pixel on it if you tried.

Like HTC’s other recent Android phones, the One X+ has three capacitive buttons on the bottom: one for back, one for home, and one for a list of recent apps. You can switch that last one to a menu button, so it’s more like the Galaxy S III. If you don’t, some apps will clog up screen real estate with a big black bar dedicated only to the menu, so I think switching the hardware button’s functionality is the way to go.

htconexplus2

Jared Newman / TIME.com

My only gripes with the design are that the power button is on top, rather than the side, where it’d be easier to hit, and that the volume rocker is so flush with the side of the device that it always takes an effort to find and press. I also never got used to the placement of the microUSB charger on the upper-left edge of the phone, but that’s really a minor complaint.

But what about those specs, the ones that help the One X+ stand above its rival, at least on paper?

The truth is that most of them don’t make a huge difference. The One X+ is no slouch at basic tasks, but I did notice some minor stutters while flipping through the home screen, and some choppiness while playing Dead Trigger, a game that’s supposed to be optimized for this phone’s Tegra 3 processor. It has half the RAM of the Galaxy S III’s U.S. version, at 1 GB, but that never became a problem for me while switching between apps.

(MORE: New HTC Android Phones Tweaked to Evade Apple Patents)

As for battery life, I found that the One X+ got through most days of moderate use without a problem, but on travel days where I was regularly fiddling with it, placing calls and listening to streaming music, the phone ran out of juice just before bedtime. It’s not a phone you can use constantly without worry, and keep in mind that the battery is non-replaceable.

In the camera department, HTC and Samsung are basically equals–unrivaled ones, at that–with instant shutter speeds that produce excellent 8-megapixel photos. The camera app provides quick access to key features like flash and filter effects, and you can easily snap several photos in a row by holding the shutter button down. I particularly like the feature that lets you snap photos from a video you’ve already recorded; it works really well, even in fast-motion situations.

htconexplus

Jared Newman / TIME.com

The rest of HTC’s Sense interface is hit-or-miss. The lock screen, which lets you quickly jump into a few favorite apps, is still one of HTC’s most clever software features, and the software in general is a lot smoother and less obnoxious than it used to be. The software keyboard on the One X+ is fast and accurate, and it has Swype-like gesture typing built-in. On the downside, HTC’s use of pea-green accents throughout its software is an undesirable remnant of Android’s earlier days, and as a whole I wish the visual style of the interface hewed closer to stock Android’s futuristic vibes. Also, the lack of quick settings access via the notification area is a drawback, but at least HTC provides a decent amount of toggle widgets that you can add to the home screen.

In the end, the HTC One X+ isn’t a major leap over the Galaxy S III, but I came away thinking it’s a slightly better phone for a few other reasons: It has loads more storage, at a whopping 64 GB, and I shamefully admit liking the phone’s Beats Audio integration for listening to music through headphones, even though I know the excessive bass is drowning out all kinds of nuance. The fact that the One X+ comes pre-loaded with Android 4.1, including the increasingly useful Google Now, is a nice bonus, and in principle I appreciate that HTC doesn’t get in your face with gimmicky software features like Samsung does with the pointless S-Voice virtual assistant.

I’m not sure whether all of that provides a crystal-clear answer to the fundamental question at the top of this review. But if you’ve been thinking about picking up a Galaxy S III, the One X+ does raise another question of its own: Why wouldn’t you at least consider something a little better?

27 comments
SarahKropac
SarahKropac

the phone is garbage. it overheats and dies. it loops for a full day and still doesnt work. I got a replacement and it still doesnt work.  It is a pos. Please do not get it.

WilsonKendra
WilsonKendra

My mother just bought the HTC One and it is just awesome. Got her a case from Amazon and couldn't believe the discounts they have. I'm sharing this with everyone, here's a list of the cases with the biggest discounts and best reviews: http://amzn.to/1ayqnnq.  Very Happy.

StephanMckenzie
StephanMckenzie

GARBAGE ALL OF THEM>... if they want to turn DROID into IPHONE they might as well Plan on loosing FUTURE Business! .... I need mount as a drive without it their phones ARE  Useless -- as apps and scripts i work with cannot work on our Hardware EMC/NETAPP/IBM/Hitachi... as mounted drives... I do not buy a phone to be a Piece of shit Iphone ..... What I need is portable storage which can work without some monkey manager CRAPPY off shoot software like KIES shit mover or HTC monkey drivers only for MAC and windows... if all these MFG want is some village idiot users depending on Verizon ATT and Tmobile to buy piles of devices only idiots get every 2 years then best to them else they better get with the program and realize the Tech folk want FUNCTIONALITY AND OPEN SYSTEMS STILL!  NOT Socialist STYLE SYSTEMS

tigg
tigg

can not replace the batteries and the battery life is only 4 to 8 hours long. Garbage.

tigg
tigg

  every time the words come out diff. It is a a pc of shit and garbage

arslan.arsal10
arslan.arsal10

Samsung Galaxy SIII is the best, at the moment no phone can beat galaxy S III

Luscus
Luscus

After reading all the broken promises from, manufactures and providers to upgrade an Android OS, my question is why even bother getting anything but a Nexux?

 the price is about 1/2 of any other phone and with the exception of the crappy volume, they are terrific phones. I would not get any phone that does not come with a guarantee that if they do not upgrade to a new OS they give you a new phone which does have it. 


Yes I know if you are happy with what it actually has on it why worry in the future what other phones can do? If that were true people would hang on to their phones a lot longer.

Denesius
Denesius

Whoa- the battery is non-replaceable? What happens when it inevitably locks up (and the only way out is to pop out the battery)? And what about after a year or so (or sooner, if you frequently run your battery to empty) when the battery starts dying earlier & earlier? Time for a new phone? You gotta be kidding!

coffeebeat
coffeebeat

"It has a faster processor, a bigger battery, more storage and a newer
version of Android. You know what? Those are exactly the same advantages
the One X+ holds over the Galaxy S III, except for the equally-sized
battery."

huh? the tegra 3 is slower and more power hungry, the battery is the same size (but the samsung cpu is more efficient), and you can stuff a 64gb microsd card in the S3 giving it 80gb of storage using its lowest storage size (16gb+64gb). Oh and samsung just released an offical 3000mAH extended battery for the S3. ALSO, samsung finished updating the S3 to JB before htc even released the one x+.

Very irresponsible "journalism"

eagle11772
eagle11772

I have a Samsung Intercept phone I love.  I use it primarily for voice, texting, and gps location services (finding a restaurant, shoe store, etc).  I pay a flat $25 a month for 300 minutes of voice and unlimited texting and everything else thru Virgin Mobile.  I can't find a better rate with any other carrier.  So why should I switch ?  Who else here pays only $25 each month for their smartphone service ?

JohnKolak
JohnKolak

You can use the unlocked version on T-Mobile too.

merrifield
merrifield

If it was for something other than AT&T I would get it