Even after five years and at least as many price reductions, the iPhone’s sexy rounded edges, responsive touchscreen, clear Helvetica fonts, and sturdy minimalist body help maintain its position as the most coveted smartphone on the planet. That’s starting to change. Recent non-iOS phones such as the Nokia Lumia 900 (Windows Phone) and the Motorola RAZR (Android) are offering souped-up tech specs and looks that are distinctive enough to make even iPhone owners turn heads. The latest in the crop of super-iPhone-alternatives is the HTC One X ($199 with two-year contract, att.com), which is slimmer, faster, and lighter than any iPhone, and, at least in the white polycarbonate with piano-key finish incarnation we’ve been testing for the past month, sexier.
It runs on Android 4.0 (also known as “Ice Cream Sandwich”), the latest version of Android, which has an updated interface and convenience features like the ability to toggle between apps – not to mention shut them off – more easily. That it runs on Android at all would normally for us be a warning sign, since this often means the battery won’t even last a day, in our experience, but thanks to software tweaks and a built-in 1800 mAh lithium battery, the HTC One X lasted well over a day on a regular basis for us. And this included such energy-hogging-activities as Bluetooth streaming to a wireless speaker for two hours, as well as phone calls, e-mailing, and picture-taking and sharing on Facebook, Foursquare, and the like all afternoon at the recent Belmont Stakes. It still had about a third of its battery life left 24 hours later after sitting in our backpack overnight. This is par for the course with some iPhones and Windows Phones, but a rarity in Android handsets. It’s a huge Achilles heel for the platform that has simply ceased to be an issue with the HTC One X and is, for us, one of the handset’s biggest selling points.
But there’s more, including a stunning 4.7-inch 720p HD Super LCD touchscreen that displays sites and e-books with rich colors and fine-print-worthy clarity. It also features the best camera software we’ve seen on any smartphone, not only because it has dedicated onscreen buttons for still pictures and video, which makes toggling between the two (or shooting both simultaneously) a cinch, but also because it offers a phenomenal burst mode that lets you shoot up to 99 pictures in quick succession (super handy for shooting action scenes such as the aformentioned horse race, but you can easily sub in surfing or diving). This is a feature that previously you’d have to go to a prosumer digital SLR to get, but now is available in something that slips unobtrusively into your pocket.
And lastly, for the instant-gratification-prone, the HTC One X runs on AT&T’s blazingly fast 4G LTE network, which is 10 times faster than 3G, something you’ll notice the first time you download an app in less than 20 seconds.
Though this phone was announced back in May, a patent lawsuit by Apple – it’s hard to blame the folks in Cupertino given the specs on the One series – delayed its release in AT&T stores until now. There’s also a slightly thicker version for Sprint (the HTC Evo 4G LTE, $199 with a two-year contract) and the slightly smaller and lighter HTC One S for T-Mobile ($49, with two-year contract and rebate).