Hands-on with the HTC One X and One S international models (review and gallery)

Summary:The HTC One X and One S are fantastic new smartphones and I can't wait to see the US models released over the next couple of months.

HTC is trying to focus more than they have in the past and to kick that off they announced the HTC One series at Mobile World Congress. I was sent the One X and One S, international models, to test out for a few weeks and have to say that as soon as the HTC One S comes to T-Mobile I will be buying it. Rumors actually have it arriving before the end of April. You can see several photos of the HTC One X and One S in my image gallery.


Image Gallery: Check out photos of the HTC One X and One S international models.
Image Gallery: HTC One S and One X
Image Gallery: Back of the HTC One S

Specifications

Specifications for the HTC One X international model include the following:
  • 1.5 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor
  • GSM phone with HSPA+ support
  • Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS with HTC Sense 4
  • 4.7 inch HD Super LCD display
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 8 megapixel camera with new HTC ImageChip
  • Front facing 1.3 megapixel camera
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi
  • NFC support, including Android Beam
  • Beats Audio available universally in the device
  • 32GB integrated storage with no expansion capability
  • Integrated 1800 mAh battery that is non-removable

This device will be coming to the US with the Qualcomm dual-core Snapdragon processor due to the LTE support of the Qualcomm chip. You will also see the internal memory chopped in half to 16GB on the AT&T model. We do not yet know the price or availability from AT&T.

The HTC One S specs include:

  • Qualcomm 1.5 GHz Snapdragon dual-core processor
  • T-Mobile HSPA+ (42 Mbps network) data support
  • Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS with HTC Sense 4
  • 4.3 inch qHD (540x960) Super AMOLED display
  • 8 megapixel camera with new HTC ImageChip
  • Front facing VGA camera
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi
  • Beats Audio available universally in the device
  • 16GB integrated storage with no expansion capability
  • Integrated 1650 mAh battery that is non-removable

I am disappointed to see the HTC One S has a lower resolution front facing camera and no NFC support. I use NFC on my Samsung Galaxy Nexus with Google Wallet and also to track my Orca card (local Puget Sound transit card) so that is one missing feature holding me back a bit.

Walk around the hardware

HTC One X

We see lots of black slabs out there today, but HTC actually made some effort to create devices that stand out a bit from the boring slabs. You will find Gorilla Glass 2 displays with sleek finishing of the edges on the two sides. There is minimal bezel space around the display, including the top and bottom, so that display size is maximized while overall size is minimized.

I was sent the white HTC One X and like the feel of the matte finish, but find it seems to smudge and collect dirt a bit more than a glossy finish. The camera has a round silver ring that protrudes out the back quite a bit and I already see scratches on the ring around the lens, but nothing on the lens, and I have been extremely careful with this device.

You need to use a pin or small tool to activate the microSIM release and pull out the tray from the top. The 3.5mm headset jack is up top, which is where I prefer to see it.

The 4.7 inch display is GORGEOUS and being that it is Super LCD you can actually see it outside too. The viewing angles are crazy and you can easily use this phone sitting on a table and reaching out to it at just about any angle.

HTC One S

As awesome as the HTC One X is, I can't help but keep gravitating towards the HTC One S. I have a Galaxy Note so really do not need a larger display Android device. I have a tough time believing there is a 4.3 inch display on the HTC One S since the device seems way too compact. I like a phone like this that feels a bit narrow and long as it gives me a sense it is more a phone than anything else.

The Super AMOLED looks great and the colors are quite vibrant. I think the One X is better and crisper, but the One S display is still better than many other devices out there.

The back of the HTC One S is very attractive with the gradient gray color in the aluminum case. However, the one with the black back is constructed with a micro arc oxidation process that reportedly makes it 5x stronger than regular aluminum. I hope to see one with this back soon.

The top of the back pops off to reveal the microSIM card slot, but there is no microSD or removable battery on either of these devices. The speakers in both are decent and I spent an hour or so playing basketball outside with the One X playing Spotify music.

HTC enhances ICS with Sense 4

Both of these devices run Android Ice Cream Sandwich and I was pleased to see that HTC enhances that experience with Sense 4. I was a bit worried that custom UIs like Sense and TouchWIZ would ruin ICS, especially after using my Galaxy Nexus for a few months. I have always like the Sense UI, primarily due to the widgets and outstanding Exchange user experience. HTC widgets and a great Exchange experience are still present and made even better with Sense 4 where HTC gives you more personalization options for Exchange.

The home screen lock ring is present and it is easy to customize the four lock shortcuts that can even include folders. I like the ICS folders on Sense 4 better since it clearly shows you four apps in the folder in small squares on the folder where ICS stacks them and shows just parts of the ones behind the main one.

I also like HTC's use of color and different icons in the Settings area where ICS is simply Tron-like with white and blue coloring. Multi-tasking is made better with a slick UI for switching between apps where swiping off still works to minimize apps.

Adding widgets and app shortcuts to the home screen panels is also enhanced with Sense 4. When you tap and hold on a home screen panel a selector appears over about 3/4 of the display and then thumbnails of each panel appear above so you can scroll to the one you want to add something to and then tap on that widget or shortcut to add it.

Thoughts on using the devices daily

I was able to put my T-Mobile SIM into the HTC One S and use it with an EDGE data connection, but for some reason I could never get data to work on the One X. These devices do not support the T-Mobile USA 3G or HSPA+ data networks, but are GSM phones. Both of them FLY and I never saw any lag or force closes while using them. I didn't notice much difference between the Snapdragon and Tegra 3, but understand this is mainly apparent during heavy gaming or video viewing sessions.

Both devices feel fantastic in your hand and I have to say they both may be the best pieces of hardware I have ever seen come out from HTC. I love the glass display design and back of both devices.

The rear cameras are both the same and work quite well, there are a couple samples in my image gallery, but I have to take more photos before I can decide if they can compete with the Apple iPhone 4S. Beat Audio definitely increases the bass in music, but I was just testing with some fairly basic sub-$100 earbuds.

We don't know for sure when these devices are coming to the US, although it sounds like the One S is coming this month to T-Mobile and the One X to AT&T in May. I am thinking of the One S on T-Mobile, but the Sprint version of the One X (aka the EVO 4G LTE) may be just what I need to satisfy my ICS champion device desire.

Reviews of the HTC One X and One S

HTC One X reviews

HTC One S reviews

Related ZDNet content

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, HTC, Mobile OS, Security, Smartphones

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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