First Impression of the HTC One X and One V

This year is set to have more excitement with the advent of the Android 4.0 commonly known as Ice Cream Sandwich or ICS. If we think of first salvos, then Samsung do have the first one just early this month with the European upgrade of the much awaited operating system of their hugely popular Galaxy S II smartphone. In terms of mind-share, the Korean Chaebol has successfully ingrained the consumers’ mind of the phone’s popularity with its huge and bright AMOLED+ screen with its thin body and good looks.

2011 is generally Samsung’s year in the smartphone market fighting tooth and nail with the ubiquitous Applie iPhone, and much help was given with the legal wranglings between the Korean company and the American IT Icon. To add icing on the cake, Samsung was given the rights to build the Google Nexus ICS Phone, a tacit approval of Samsung’s smartphone strategy from Google’s point of view.

The One X. Big Screen & Fast Processor.

Fast forward to 2012 and the Ice Cream Sandwich presented phone makers another chance to gain a bigger market share and this is more so important for the Taiwanese phone maker HTC as they try to gain the market leader position. They pull no punches when it comes to the marketing effort of HTC, giving the general public glimpses of what the new phone would look like and hopefully the new phones with the new ICS Operating System would be the vehicle to reclaim their crown as the go to brand for smartphone purchases.

To that end HTC will be presenting two phones to the Singapore market tomorrow at Marina Bay Sands, the ONE X and ONE V.  I would be reviewing the ONE X  which will be the flagship phone for HTC.

On paper there is nothing to hate.1.5MHz Quad core for speedy operations; 1800mAh for longer batter life to support the quad core; Corning Gorilla Glass that do away the need for a screen protection film; The huge 4.7″ HD Ready 1280 by 720 pixel screen size and for the photo buffs out there an F2.0 light sensitive 8MP Back Side Illuminated sensor camera. The form factor is a tad more comfortable than the Samsung Galaxy S II (SG2) due to the curved back and it comes in all white with black bordered screen, being explicit in its intent to fight the Apple iPhone.

The thing is the feel of the phone is a bit plasticky to the point I would say it matches the SG2. It is not toyish but is more like there is no weight to the device that speaks of ‘high quality’.  Try buying a Rolex that has the weight of a Swatch.  The HTC One V however, is in the step towards the right direction as it has that metallic feel and weight that businessmen would love to have. Pity that it is not translated into the X. I would also say the small screen would be hampered by mobile online content if one is constantly online while on the go. That’s the reason why I traded-in my HTC Hero in the first place.

That One V. Reminds me of HTC Hero/Magic when I handled it. Yes, it has that chin.

Switching it on and using the HTC Sense to browse around the phone is pretty easy, coming from the fact that I already have ICS in my SG2 too. Speed wise the ICS itself is a much better implementation that the predecessor. And it is definitely helped by the Quad Core Processor quick speed matching the computing needs of the phone  and its huge 32GB internal memory. More on that later.

The screen colour is definitely match or may even exceed the AMOLED+ screen of SG2. So for those who watches video clips with their phones will be very happy with its bright and sharp screen.  For photographers looking for a way to show off their portfolio, the screen is a godsend. I can certainly imagine myself using this phone, watching a few anime clips in full HD glory before tucking in.

Did not shout 8MP and F2.0. I wonder why…single LED Lamp can be a bit limited for night shots.

Speaking of photographers, the HTC One X do spot some very nice camera centric features, chief of which is the F2.0 lens and the BSI 8MP Sensor. The ICS OS also made in-roads in terms of the camera software making it more user friendly and quick to shoot. The camera reaction time is now closer to a compact camera’s and using it for snap shots shouldn’t be any problem. Then again, when it comes to image quality, it is more comparable to the cheap cameras rather than the higher end point and shooters such as the Fujifilm x10 and Canon S100. So do lower down your expectation on this aspect.  That said, it is more than capable for shots meant for Facebook and Twitter and it would be a good camera when Instagram comes to Android.

For the head bangers, the BEATS system (that means headphones, earphones and the sound engine in the device) will provide adequate music juice for the pop, rap and music lovers. Generally that would be the teenagers and young adults market that HTC is trying to reach. The ONE is definitely better than the SE and XE as it do provide the option to tweak the music to one’s content via a music equalizer which the earlier BEATS phones lack. A plus in my books.

Paying A Lot for the BeatsAudio brand. It touches the youngsters but does it matter to the rest of us?

I do have misgivings and make that TWO huge misgivings: there are be micro-SD card slot and the battery is built-in. The two key pet peeves I have with the iPhone is now on an Android phone. For those who are not privy to my thoughts of the lack of these two features, I do not mind saying it again. In my years of using the mobile phone, I am glad that I am able to change the battery by taking it out of the phone and replacing it with a fresh one.

Yes there are external battery packs and yes they are easily available and can be used on other gadgets that happens to be in your work bag. But really, did you see the size of those batteries with all the wires that needed to be brought with it? Replacement is also made much simpler. I do not need to be waiting at the service centre so that I can replace the spoiled battery. And judging from the feedback I have with regards to HTC Singapore’s service centre standards, the lesser I have to deal with the centre, the better.

And the thing about not having memory cards. I certainly would like to have some memory extension. For the past 1 year with the SG2, I have upgraded my card twice. The 4G was from the old phone, then comes the 8GB which was quickly filled with music and photos and I go the 16GB because the price was just right. Moreover, I do not want to spend time transferring the files in the SD card to the new phone too.

These are hassles that a manufacturer shouldn’t have placed upon a user, especially one that is new to the brand and want a seamless transaction from the old phone to the new. The Android phones are not exactly like iPhone where all the music and video and data are being controlled by iTunes which to Android users a shackle we are glad not to have but we do want ways to transfer our data quickly and one way is the SD card slot.

Generally why we would buy Andriod phones in the first place is the fact that we do not want to use iTunes and we would want our data to be shifted easily without the need of a software, especially one that is not working great in Windows environment. The presence of the SD card slot is like an insurance. We can transfer files without the need of a computer and wires. Yes these are things geeks would do when we have no other means to do so. I can say that my skin was saved because of this feature.

So to have the flagship Android phone not having these two things that is key differentiators to the iPhone (and I must emphasize, the ones that actually made us buy Android) is to tell us that Apple implementation is better. I beg to differ, that’s why I got the Android HERO phone in the first place and did not look back since.

Now what should someone do when faced with this phone? The nearest competitor would be the Google ICS Nexus and with that Sony, Motorola and Samsung will be hot on the heels launching phones that has ICS OS.  I would say the Samsung with the newer iteration of its AMOLED screen should be something a consumer should look at before making a decision.  Size wise, the Samsung Note hits the right zone when it comes to video viewing but for someone who has used SG2 for video viewing in the past few months, nothing is missed and the ONE should provide ample viewing pleasure in this area too.

The writer is basically a consumer geek. I love to tweak my stuff but not to the point of rooting it and hence I am not really into the Nexus phone. What I would like is to have some customisation done that actually do help with the user experience.  To that end the HTC Sense is the best out there.

But like other geeks, I do want some flexibility in how I use my phone, including the SD card slot and battery. I am someone who do want some insurance and the lack of these two critical features did dampen my enthusiasm for the phone.

Then there’s another factor that all manufacturers should look into. Personally I do not have an issue with my old HTC Hero or Dopod U1000 phones but over the last 2 years, I have encounter friends who have personal grievances against HTC’s lack luster customer repair services.  The reputation is that bad that some of my associates are calling HTC phones as Hard To Call Phones.

A smartphone is becoming a lifeline for a lot of people. Having a phone that don’t work as designed is not giving confidence in a brand. More so when now the battery is built in and that will force people to go to service centers if there are problems with the battery.  So potential buyers should check the users’ experiences of HTC phone users too before considering them.

Product Shots taken with 2 LED Panels and the Samsung Galaxy S II Camera.

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