The next major thing to talk about it HTC’s Sense 4. First off, all of the HTC Ones run Android 4.0.3 as of this writing, which was the first ICS build pushed to the android open source project. It isn’t 4.0.4, but that’s forgivable considering the timeframe involved. Anyhow, Sense is one of those things that traditionally has been a major point of contention for power users. The problem for an OEM crafting a theme or skin is to strike a balance between the native appearance and feel of the underlying base OS, and whatever unique customizations they’re adding.

 

For probably the first time, I can honestly say I think HTC has has nailed that balance with Sense 4. The platform still feels and looks ICSey, and I think that’s what made previous iterations of Sense somewhat awkward - you couldn’t adequately grasp the theme or feeling of the underlying OS. HTC has changed things like overscrolling behavior throughout the OS, as elements now spread apart like an accordion. Toggle switches and buttons also get a new theme, but it isn’t an altogether huge departure from ICS, and (as required) Holo is still lurking underneath for applications that leverage it.

 

Like previous iterations, Sense 4 includes a number of lock screen customizations, including the ability to launch applications or SMSes by dragging their shortcuts into the ring. Unlike the previous version, you don’t get the ability to change the lock screen shortcuts directly, instead they’re inherited from the bottom dock-like row of applications on the launcher. The launcher now includes ICS features like folders on the homescreen for organizing shortcuts, and a new widget, app, and shortcut management view.

 

The main launcher gives you a paginated 5x4 grid of application tiles. HTC has done similar things in the past with the bottom three tabs - all, frequent (sorted by number of launches), and new downloaded applications. There’s not much to say here other than it’s interesting how most stock launchers have returned to paginated structure instead of just a big scrollable list view. Both the launcher and main homescreens are very very smooth, thanks to the combination of ICS’s OpenGL ES 2.0 2D acceleration and MSM8960.

The other main Sense customizations include both messaging, keyboard, and the task switcher. HTC has opted to change the task switcher entirely; instead of ICS’s transparent column of recently launched applications, the HTC Sense 4 launcher is a row of full screen previews. Applications can be closed by swiping them up (hello WebOS cards…) or switched between by tapping on them.

 

Messaging has changed subtly since the previous version of Sense, and feels snappier. One of my complaints with Android in general has been how messaging seems to always slow down after a few weeks worth of SMSes accumulate, and so far I haven’t run into that wall. I still do think the compose box is too big and covers too much of the conversation, and the default font seems gigantic, but thankfully one can change that. The Sense 4 keyboard also feels improved, and I can type at full speed without issue. That said, I’ll never understand why OEMs continue to remove the stock keyboard entirely.

 

Another major design decision HTC has made is to go with the traditional USB disk drive mount option instead of MTP. I think we’ll see OEMs also go this route as the MTP connector on some platforms still leaves a lot to be desired. Sense 4 also leaves the notification shade virtually untouched - there aren’t any quick power settings or tabs, just the settings pane shortcut like stock ICS. All in all I feel like this is the new Sense 4 design language - minimalist and simple, not the self-justifying customization of every last window and view just for the sake of doing so.

Storage on the AT&T One X is 16 GB of integrated NAND. Like basically all Android phones, this is divided between an /sdcard mount point, and /data. Note that this architecture is basically required if you’re going to implement USB mass storage instead of using MTP.

shell@android:/ $ df
Filesystem             Size   Used   Free   Blksize
/dev                   335M   136K   335M   4096
/system               1007M   895M   112M   4096
/data                    2G   696M     1G   4096
/cache                 251M     4M   247M   4096
/devlog                 19M    16M     3M   4096
/mnt/asec              335M     0K   335M   4096
/mnt/obb               335M     0K   335M   4096
/firmware_radio        199M    33M   166M   4096
/firmware_q6           199M     5M   193M   4096
/firmware_wcnss          4M     1M     3M   2048
/data/secure/data      335M     0K   335M   4096
/data/DxDrm/fuse: Permission denied
/mnt/sdcard              9G     1G     8G   32768

So you get 9 GB of storage for media and photos, and 2 GB for applications, which is pretty much the normal storage split I see. Like we discussed in our initial ICS piece, you can either get unified storage with MTP, or the less cumbersome mass storage mount method.

The last note is Beats Audio. HTC includes the Beats branding almost everywhere - it’s on the box, on the back of the device, on the boot splash images, and inside the OS. There’s no longer any Beats earbuds in the box, but a corresponding change in the way Beats works. The new change is that Beats now works for any headphones that you attach, instead of just Beats branded ones like previously. At some point I’m going to investigate Beats Audio integration in newer HTC devices more thoroughly, for now just know that new HTC devices give you the Beats DSP on any attached headphones. I will note that it sounds to me just like the Beats audio from the HP TouchPad, which is to say boosted bass and some dynamic range compression. I honestly prefer it off, but overall sound quality with it off is subjectively good - no background hiss or whine audible.

The rest of Sense is hardware related and involves another important consolidation - camera, which we’ll get into in the respective section.

The HTC One X - Hardware and Impressions Battery Life
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  • Stormkroe - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    The confusion comes from the fact that doubling power to a speaker gains you roughly 3 dB, so a speaker at 600 watts is only around 3 dB louder than the same speaker at 300 watts. Those darned sine waves :) Reply
  • ssddaydream - Saturday, May 05, 2012 - link

    True, but the brain tends to perceive 10dB as twice as loud, even though it is 10X the power.
    I agree that any graphs should be on the dB scale, so that it is easier to judge differences.
    Reply
  • EarthsDM - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    Hi Brian, thanks for the review. What pages do you use for the mobile battery life test? Are they mobile formatted? Do they have Flash? Reply
  • Peanutsrevenge - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    If it wasn't for the lack of removable battery/storage, I would be all over this like a fanboy to Apple, but I would much prefer even a 5mm thicker phone to have those options.

    I need to change batteries roughly once a week around 2-3pm and I'm not sure the added battery life over my Sensation would always see me through.

    The removable storage... I just prefer to have it even though I only occasionally use it.

    Nice review as always though chappies!
    Reply
  • dcollins - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    I want this phone so badly. Would an unlocked version work on Verizon's network? Reply
  • Impulses - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    Absolutely not. Reply
  • ssddaydream - Saturday, May 05, 2012 - link

    ?
    It should be possible with proper hacking. The Rezound can essentially be modified into a world phone, since it has GSM hardware.
    The One X does have the required basebands. It will likely not work at all on T-mobile though.
    Never say never, it is technically possible. I suspect the probability isn't too high, but where would we be today if everybody thought everything was impossible?
    Reply
  • icrf - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    "high-end smartphones (I refuse to call them superphones)"

    thank you
    Reply
  • georgekn3mp - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    Im still loving my HTC Rezound 6 months later...and wondering why they backpedaled in some ways.
    Rezound has 16GB internal and 16 GB secondary SD and can expand to 80GB with a 64GB card...

    Rezound has true LCD 1280x720, vs. One X SAMOLED...guess that one could be a toss-up to user preferences as both screens are rated top in reviews...especially compared to Pentiles. So it didnt oversaturate colors..thats a good thing.

    Rezound has removable battery and can be upgraded to 2750 extended battery or higher.

    Of course I'd love to know why Anand never published a Rezound review when I know they had said they had one!

    The camera on One X "may" be better but Rezound has an awesome lens too, even if it had issues with white-balance on default settings sometimes. Replacement camera apps seem to resolve that.

    I cant wait to see what ICS does on a OTA upgrade from Verizon...even if it's only Sense 3.5 for Rezound vs Sense 4 on One X it should still have better performance on Rezound on ICS over Rezound on Gingerbread. Alternate ROMS have shown that power...

    On Gingerbread with extended battery I easily get 24 hours battery life, I can only hope ICS isn't worse.

    PLUS HTC has boot unlocker now...
    Reply
  • dagamer34 - Thursday, May 03, 2012 - link

    The One X has a Super LCD 2 display. The One S has the PenTile screen. Also, I don't think you can get the same structural integrity with a removable battery because that means the back needs to come completely off. The device cannot be made from one piece and needs latches to hold the battery cover. Reply

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