preview Australia hasn’t had that long to get acquainted with HTC’s One X and XL models, but the Taiwanese manufacturer has already announced an upgrade. With more powerful specifications (including the possibility of 4G speeds) and the addition of the Jelly Bean version of Android, will the One X+ rock Australians’ world? Read on to find out.
Note: This article represents an advanced look at the design, features and likely performance of this product, but we haven’t tested it yet. A follow-up full review will be published when we have.
From a design perspective, HTC’s new One X+ handset appears almost identical to the company’s previous One X and One XL (the version supporting 4G speeds) handset. See our review of the One XL here. And to our mind, that’s a wonderful thing, because the One X and XL are two of the best-designed smartphones available in 2012. In fact, your writer liked the XL so much that he dumped his Apple iPhone 4 for one for personal use. You can read why here.
As with the previous models, the centrepiece of the One X+’s design is its large 4.7″ touchscreen. The major Android manufacturers — Samsung and HTC — have shifted much of their top-range line-up to a 4.7″ or 4.8″ screen size, and we prefer this size against the 4″ size found on Apple’s iPhone 5. 4.7″ or 4.8″ just feels like a nice size for a smartphone screen, given that many of primarily use our smartphones for Internet access and multimedia consumption these days rather than placing calls.
The phone’s thin design — it’s 8.9mm thick — and its light weight at 135 grams means that the One X+ is likely, as with previous models, to sit easily in the user’s hand. The touchscreen extends almost to the edge of the smartphone’s casing, meaning there is very little excess real estate on the ever so slightly curved front of the phone.
The materials of the One X/XL are stellar, and we expect the same of the One X+. The back and surrounding case of the handsets in this line are composed of very dark grey matte plastic, which feels wonderful on the hands in prior models. The word ‘graphite’ comes to mind when we think of the material. It’s just lovely to fondle, and anyone we handed previous models to remarked on how much they loved the material.
The rest of the One X+’s design is largely as you would expect. There are volume buttons on the right hand side, a micro-USB port for charging and PC synching on the left, and a power button and 3.5mm headphone jack on the top. There are quite small but lovely looking speaker grills on the top front and bottom back, labelled with HTC’s Beats Audio partnership and the camera and flash are also on the back. There’s also a small and surreptitious front-facing camera. All of this has become quite standard for HTC over the past several years, and if you’ve used a HTC Android phone before you’ll feel 100 percent at home here.
There are several design differences between the One X+ and the previous X and XL models. For starters, the X+ has a red theme in its front-facing buttons and in the camera and Beats Audio logo on its back, differentiating it slightly from previous models. In addition, although the X+ is the same thickness as the X and XL on paper (8.9mm), the publicity shots of the model make it look ever so lightly thicker — perhaps because of its larger battery? We won’t be able to tell until we get it in our hands.
There are several major upgrades which the One X+ features compared with previous models the One X and XL. See the full specifications of the One X+ here.
The most important, to our mind, is the X+’s significantly larger battery compared with previous models — it’s a 2100mAh model, compared to the 1800mAh model found on the X and XL. Battery life has particularly been an issue for the XL (perhaps because it supports access to higher speed 4G networks), so we’re extremely glad to see HTC addressing this in its latest update to the series. Secondly, the X+ will come with Android 4.1 (‘Jelly Bean’) pre-installed. The importance of this update can’t be overstated. In our review of Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, the first device to ship with Jelly Bean on it, we wrote:
“To say that this is a landmark version of Android is no understatement. To our mind, this is the first version of Android which truly matches the slickness and maturity of Apple’s iOS platform. With Jelly Bean, Android has truly arrived, and it’s a wonder to behold. While there are quite a few new features in Jelly Bean, including the new personal assistant/information prediction option Google Now, and things like widget management and notifications have also been improved, the real standout feature here which you’ll notice is the implementation of Project Butter.
Using the Nexus 7, with its powerful Tegra 3 CPU and Project Butter, is a revelation. Apps load instantly, with a lovely smooth animation. Screens flip around just as smoothly. Navigation is slick as all hell and sexy enough to make us want to just dance our fingers around the touchscreen to see it move. From lock screen animations to notifications to application/window management … it’s just all so smooth and lovely to use.”
We’re not quite sure how Jelly Bean will interact with HTC’s Sense interface, but odds are this update will represent a dramatic improvement compared with the previous X/XL models. Jelly Bean will eventually come to the X and XL as well, but HTC and its carrier partners haven’t yet given a firm date for that upgrade to Australians.
There are also quite a few other tweaks to the One X+. A faster processor (it’s a 1.7GHz Tegra 3 model), a better front-facing camera at 1.6 megapixels, slightly improved sound quality and 64GB of storage compared with 32GB are some of the more notable minor upgrades.
There is one aspect of the One X+’s featureset which we’re not sure about. In the US, the One X+ will ship with support for 4G speeds, but according to The Verge, 4G support in the UK and the rest of Europe won’t be included, and EE’s new 4G network in the UK specifically won’t work with the One X+. This is troubling for Australian users, as the EE 4G network uses the same 1800Mhz frequency as the 4G networks of Telstra and Optus in Australia, suggesting the One X+ may not support 4G in Australia. If not, this will significantly decrease its appeal to Australian buyers, given that the One XL, the iPhone 5 and Samsung’s Galaxy S III (4G model) already support 4G speeds in Australia.
Other important specs which the One X+ shares with the One X/XL include a very solid eight megapixel camera, a NFC chip, 1080p video recording, and a screen resolution of 1280×720.
Because so many of the One X+’s specifications are the same or similar to the X/XL, there are certain aspects of the phone which we can reasonably expect to perform in a quite similar manner, despite the fact that we haven’t tested this model yet. We can expect the camera, for example, to be extremely solid and close to the top of the market, and the same with the user interface, especially given the faster CPU on the One X+ and its implementation of Jelly Bean. We can expect battery life to be improved (but probably not world-beating).
The big question for the One X+ is whether it will support 4G speeds in Australia. If it does, then this model will clearly become HTC’s flagship smartphone in Australia. If it doesn’t, then local buyers will probably want to look more at the One XL, iPhone 5, the 4G Galaxy S III or even Nokia’s upcoming Lumia 920, as all these handsets are very solid and support 4G speeds. This is the one aspect of the One X+’s performance which we really want to know more about.
All in all, HTC’s One X+ is looking like a very strong upgrade to its One X and XL models, and a worthy contender for the title of Australia’s best smartphone, although we suspect that Apple’s iPhone 5 and Samsung’s 4G Galaxy S III will pip it at the post. However, there’s a big fat question mark hanging over the model right now, as HTC has not disclosed whether it will support 4G speeds in Australia. If it doesn’t, we will find it hard to recommend the model, but if it does, it will be close to the top of our list. Readers are advised not to get too excited about this model until 4G support is confirmed.
Image credit: HTC