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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  • mbzastava - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    oh and i forgot data caps. enjoy running into those more often with LTE and having everything in the cloud. Reply
  • wdb1966 - Friday, May 04, 2012 - link

    Exactly!!!

    On a device specifically targeted to multimedia users, its crazy to NOT have a microSD slot for expansion.

    I hope an engineer somewhere lost their job.

    I would not use this phone even if it were given to me for FREE!
    Reply
  • RussianSensation - Tuesday, May 01, 2012 - link

    Samsung S3 is going to launch this week. It's premature to recommend a next generation smartphone without testing the S3, at the very least. Reply
  • dagamer34 - Tuesday, May 01, 2012 - link

    I'll bet you good money that the US version of the Galaxy S III is basically an HTC One XL with a microSD card slot, Super AMOLED+ HD screen, and and 12 MP camera. Reply
  • lowlymarine - Tuesday, May 01, 2012 - link

    Hasn't it more or less been confirmed that the GS3 is going to be using a quad-core A9 of Samsung's own design? Or did you not mean to imply it would use the same Snapdragon S4 SoC? Reply
  • jwcalla - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    I think I read somewhere that the international version would be the quad-core Samsung A9, but the US version will be a Snapdragon S4. Something about LTE network compatibility. Reply
  • RussianSensation - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    Well at the very least considering it's launching this week, wouldn't you wait for a test against the S3?

    For starters, the quality of construction already looks better than the HTC One and the screen will be larger.
    http://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_galaxy_s_3_should_...

    Also, if you happen to listen to music on nice headphones the HTC One also falls short:
    http://www.gsmarena.com/htc_one_x-review-747p5.php

    All these things already would alone make me want to wait to see how competing new generation Android phones would do.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    You do realize that review is for the Tegra 3 version no? The audio stack and hardware could be completely different on it, the AT&T One X probably shares more in common with the One S since they both run S4... Reply
  • RussianSensation - Thursday, May 03, 2012 - link

    Ya, I know that. There are other issues with HTC One, lack of Micro SD card, smaller screen than S3, worse quality construction most likelyl. Also, the video camera and still camera are not great either, and early benchmarks are showing that the Mali-400 and Exynos 4 Quad chip in S3 will easily beat the HTC One X:

    http://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_galaxy_s_iii_pops_...
    Reply
  • Chloiber - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    It won't launch this week. It will be presented this week. Small difference. Reply

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