HTC One X vs. iPhone 4S: Hardware

The HTC One X promises to be the hottest Android handset around until at least 10 days time, when Samsung unveils its next weapon in the war against iOS. Its stunning spec sheet boasts much, including a 4.7″ 1280 x 720 resolution, IPS S-LCD 2 display, 1.5Ghz Tegra 3 quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM. Although specs don’t mean nothing, they’re not the be all and end all. What matters most is how the user experiences it, and how well it performs. I took it for a whirl over the weekend and was surprised, pleasantly. (Full gallery at the end of the post.)

Form Factor/Design

Much of this is down to personal preference. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The iPhone’s boxy design is one which I’ve hated ever since the iPhone 4 launched back in 2010. But, I sacrificed my desire to have a good looking phone, for one which was clearly ahead of the pack in terms of performance and display quality. That being said, anyone who looks at it can appreciate the quality of the materials used and effort that’s gone in to making it small, thin and minimalist.

The iPhone’s front face is iconic. The single home key is a patented trademark and one which makes it instantly recognizable. A 3.5″ Retina display sits front and center underneath the minimal earpiece, front facing camera and proximity sensor. All the buttons around the outside are metal and give a really comforting click when pressed. All-in-all a real quality device.

The One X is easily HTC’s finest piece of design in the history of its phones. The unibody polycarbonate with its micro-machined holes over the loudspeaker and earpiece are fantastic. It looks great, and its soft grippy texture feels very good in hand. Despite being big, it’s very comfortable to hold and very light to boot. Nowhere near as slippery as its Apple competitions. That said, the buttons don’t have the same quality feel as the iPhone. I’ve noticed that it’s far too easy to accidentally press the volume rocker at inconvenient times.

On top, the One X has a lock key, a SIM tray and headset jack. All of which are neatly recessed in to the curves of the handset. On the back, the camera is the most apparent feature. It pokes out like a big grey pimple, but an attractive one (if that’s possible). HTC’s branding, Beats Audio logo and FCC markings are all minimal (unlike Apple’s showy chrome features.)

The HTC device’s front face is a real thing of beauty. The display dominates the front, and is neatly, ever-so-slightly rounded at the edges to blend in to the design. The only part I don’t like on the front is the row of capacitive buttons. They’re not terrible, I’d just rather they were software based like the Nexus. All-in-all I think both handsets have their advantages, but it’s hard to ignore the One X’s modern, sleek and comfortable design.

Display

Both displays are impressive when you consider the sharpness. The iPhone’s 960 x 640 (326ppi) screen is amazing, and has been ever since it was introduced in 2010. But, it’s sad to say, the HTC’s display is even more amazing-er. The sheer size coupled with its 312ppi pixel density makes it a sight that you really have to see. Not only that, but, the technology used makes it appear as though the icons and interface are all right under your fingertips. That closeness between touch panel, and display gives an incredible view from almost any angle.

The honest truth (in my opinion) is this: the iPhone needs a bigger display. And, until now, there’s been nothing that matches its sharpness. Sure, there’s are high resolution displays out there, but many use a version of AMOLED that’s based on PenTile technology which leaves text looking fuzzy compared to the iPhone. Brightness also suffers on its competition’s displays. (The Galaxy Nexus is an example of this.) HTC’s One X is the best display on the market that I’ve seen. It’s great for browsing, watching videos, reading text and everything in between.

Speed/Performance

Quad-core vs. Dual-core means no competition right? No, not really. iOS isn’t anywhere near as memory and processor intensive as Android’s ICS. Both phones are quick and perform tasks as well as each other. The GPU on the iPhone’s A5 processor is fantastic. It takes on high graphic detail in games like Infinity Blade II and Real Racing with ease. That said, the Tegra 3 is clearly no slouch and has equally impressive abilities when it comes to gaming. Neither phone shows any clear signs of being better than the other here.

Camera/Video Capture

Before I wrote up yesterday’s camera comparison, I was expecting a complete walkover. Sure, the One X has an 8MP snapper with LED flash, but, so do a lot of phones and they still produce crappy images. The iPhone 4S was launched with the aim to replace your point-and-shoot. To some extent it does. Its backlit sensor, extra lens and filters produce some really great images. The HD video quality is equally impressive.

The One X’s shots are little more washed out than the iPhone’s. Again, a surprise. This meant that the iPhone’s results were a lot more like what my eye saw, but, the One X’s extra customisations and settings can’t be ignored. You can adjust practically everything. It has filters, slow-mo, Macro mode, adjustable white balance, ISO control, and a whole host more. Stuff that you just can’t access on the iPhone’s default camera. It also performs admirably in lowlight conditions.

Personally, I still think the iPhone’s camera is a better piece of hardware. The image and video results are ever so slightly better than the One X’s. That being said, if I was an Android user, and wanted a smartphone with a great camera, the HTC would be my first choice, by a long way. Not much in this, but I still think the iPhone wins it, by a nose hair.

Loudspeaker/Call Quality/Sound Quality

Android devices I’ve used in the past have failed badly in the area of call quality and loudspeaker performance. The Galaxy Nexus was really quiet and tinny, calls were distorted and flat. The iPhone on the other hand gives great call performance. Saying it’s crystal clear is going to far, but, it’s as good as anything I’ve used. The onboard loudspeaker is pretty decent too. Considering its size, it hits a remarkable range of low frequencies.

Similarly, the call quality on the One X is great. I don’t notice anywhere near as much distortion or flatness as I’ve experienced in the past. Thanks to the Beats Audio influence in its circuitry, bass notes are apparent when using the loudspeaker, and perform just as well as the 4S. This one’s a tie.

Battery

The iPhone’s battery will easily get you through a day on medium to heavy use. Thanks to its low maintenance operating system, it shouldn’t die half way through the day like many of the top Android phones do. And, if I’m honest, I was expecting the same from the HTC’s 1800mAh battery. But, it’s not what I got. Having charged it to around 85%, I switched it on this morning at around 10am, and it’s still on 63% twelve hours later. And that’S with 3G switched on, emails and reminders all on, notifications buzzing all day and a couple of phone calls. I’m mightily impressed. When the AT&T version is released you’ll notice a big difference, but, on the global 3G model, the battery is killer. Shame it takes so long to charge.

Overall Ratings

There’s no doubting that the One X is an incredible piece of kit. It sets the bar for overall quality in the hardware department, and is quite frankly the best phone on the market today. Although I’m not a massive Android fan, (hence why I won’t be doing a software comparison) I can appreciate when an awesome device is released. This is awesome in every sense of the word. If you’re in the market for a new phone and you overlook this one, you’ve missed out on one of the very best smartphones every manufactured by anyone, ever. The next iPhone better be good, or I’ll be finding a way to get iOS running on the One X.

Gallery

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  • GMMatteo

    Why get iOS running on the One X? Just finally realize that iOS is now trailing where Android is leading… Jump to Android and never look back at what was (iOS), just look into the future at what IS (Android & ICS). Android>iOS 

  • RaduTanasescu

     @GMMatteo Haters gonna hate :)) Dude, that’s your opinion, and it’s heavily influenced. IOS is a stable, fast, reliable OS with grate usability. Android needs a quad core CPU just to not lag most of the times and people have a hard time ever using their Android devices to full capacity, simply because it’s not as inviting as IOS.
     
    Rest assured. IOS is still gaining market share, Apple is not aiming to be the leader, just to have a significant part of the market. And they do.
     
    Plus, the One X is a new device, finally and Android phone on par with the iPhone 4S. Nice but it won’t be long before the next iPhone comes out, and we’ll see who will want a One X then.

  • LucySaxon

     @RaduTanasescu iOS isn’t that stable, and in my personal experience the battery life is nowhere what I’d hoped given all the hype. I’m lucky enough to have both an iPhone 4S and an original HTC Sensation, which runs ICS beautifully without the need for a quad core CPU, so please don’t make statements about things you clearly don’t understand.
     
    Also, if you think Apple isn’t aiming to be the leader then you’re sadly mistaken.
     
    And yes, I’m sure the iPhone 5 will be better than the One X, but rest assured that it’ll be a very short time before the iPhone 5′s specs are completely destroyed by yet another Android device. That’s not Apple’s fault and quite unfair, but it’s the reality of it.

  • GMMatteo

     @RaduTanasescu Actually, it’s funny how you call it an opinion, when the facts says it all. Android is the #1 Mobile OS in the world, and by a significant lead, so its not MY opinion that Android>iOS, it’s a fact. Do the research, or are you still drink the iSheep Koolaid?
     
    But to your point of it not being as inviting, it depends on who is invited to use the devices? For your 3 year old child or your 85 year old parent, iOS is perfect, simple, anyone without even having a thought could use it. I agree with you there 100%. I have and will continue to suggest the iPhone to those types of users. But for those who know how to maneuver through most technology Android is actually much easier and makes a lot more sense. And once you understand it, you would see that. 
     
    But than again, you’re so far up the iOS smoke to see anything differently.
     
    (And I highly doubt that Apple ISNT aiming to be the leader, if they weren’t they would stop caring about other companies taking their market share. You made that comment realizing that Apple has lost any chance of being the most dominantly used mobile OS, so you came up with a lame argument, nice try :) 
     
    Also you should see that the One X is just the beginning, by the time the iPhone 5 is released, the phones on the market would have surpassed anything Apple would have placed in their outdated phone…

  • GMMatteo

     @LucySaxon  @RaduTanasescu I should mention, I have a Galaxy Nexus (with a dual core CPU) and that doesn’t lag as well. 
     
    Good point about it not being Apple’s fault. They are stuck by the one phone a year standard and unfortunately because of that, their device doesn’t really compare as well to the premier smartphone’s after a couple of months.

  • LucySaxon

     @GMMatteo  @RaduTanasescu I happen to find Android very inviting, and thanks to the unlimited customisation (and I’m not even talking about the uber geeky stuff) there’s such a personal feel to it. Hell, my girlfriend is incredibly NOT tech savvy (she’s the kind of person the iPhone was supposedly made for) and she absolutely has no problems with her Android at all. She loves it.
     
    I had Android first, and as much as I do like my iPhone, the Android destroys it in so many ways it’s unbelievable.

  • Lavi

     @RaduTanasescu Raducu tata, watch these facts:
    Fact 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMiY1kSTHZw
    Fact 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ayx4XsBaJBI
    Fact 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsGQ_xts_Gw
    Fact 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlPKVWv1WxU
     
    It seems you never used an Android phone before. You just heard something…
    Use an Android for a week and you’ll see these facts.

  • elizarock1311

    Apple>Android. Why? dont get me started. 1) never had a “force close” on an Apple device EVER. 2) Apple gave google something to copy. 3) faster, better graphics and RELIABLE. 4)battery. i dont know what tech reviewers are doing but the REAL people i speak with all know that android phones’ battery sucks. 5)apps. no matter how many devices apple releases they always have more apps and BETTER apps but yet there’s like a million android phones and they never have more apps. 
     
    Finally i would just like to point out that it is telling that every phone is compared to the iphone because there is a million Android devices and you know you have to suck if a company like apple that only makes one phone a year, if that, is still COMPETITION and still surpasses sales of ANY android device.  And yeah you can argue that people are just brainwashed by apple but at least some know a quality device. Apple has a STYLE. a way about them. They know how to market their product. Theres a reason that in every bestbuy there is a beautiful white display for the apple section and the android devices are scattered about or put next to an apple device so that people will notice is there. QUALITY IS QUALITY PEOPLE and even retailers recognize this.
     

  • cdszoke

    Cam honestly I have to give you props for comparing two devices based on hardware and not software. This being an iphone based blog I was expecting another ios is better than android bashing. I have a new respect for this site and you as a tech blogger.
     
    Personally I believe a good device is a good device. I love the Ipad and the iphone for what it does. That’s why I bought these devices for my girl. They are stable, high tech, and extremely easy to use. Plus they make real tough tasks like “photoshopping” easy for anyone. But, I also love my Epic touch. The Epic touch is good for me because I love too tinker with it. Plus it has a larger screen which is Amoled but not pentile. It has a lower resolution (480-800) but for me the color contrast with the deep blacks makes up for it. But, that’s all beside the point.
     
    I just want to say I really appreciate this review and the other article I read criticizing IOS users bashing Instagram for releasing an Android version. When it all comes down to it, it really is just personal preference. If you like IOS than that’s good that OS fulfill your needs. Why would it matter to you if someone else prefers something different like Android for example. Does it really disrupt your life. Same thing for Android users. It doesn’t matter.
     
    One last time I want to thank you for this honest hardware review. Keep up the good work and you guys have gained a new fan. I love IOS and I love Android so I thank you guys for not being too biased.

  • RaduTanasescu

     @LucySaxon Did you own an iPhone? I have an iPhone 4, it has no lag and battery lasts a day and a half at moderate to heavy use, two email accounts on push, weather, find my iphone service, find my friends (uses gps) and everything I need. Not that stable? Skype froze my iPhone twice so far in almost a year, Two freezez in one year and the phone recovered from the freeze on it’s own after about 30 seconds.Android? Not the same story, I owned a HTC Hero wich was a crap phone, lagged incredibly and crashed all the time. But I’m not judging Android by that, I’m judging it after playing with a few more recent devices like the galaxy nexus or the galaxy s 2, which crash from simply viewing the contacts list sometimes and still lag a bit. You might not notice the lag because you’re used to it, but zooming in and out on a web page you get a bit of skidding. That’s lag, and it doesn’t happen on the single core 800 mhz (underclocked 1ghz) cpu of the iPhone 4.
     
    And I understand Android. IOS sets the CPU priority dynamically, giving it where it’s needed, if you open an app the app gets it, if not it goes to the interface. It’s true that background apps run slower this way but you don’t notice that. Android isn’t built like this, that’s why it lags unless you have a quad core CPU. All the apps on Android equally fight for CPU priority.I think you’re the one with a limited understanding of Android. 

  • Lavi

    Subjective comparision… 
    On camera comparision looks like HTC picture colors are more natural (more closed to reallity). This should count for something. Pictures taken in low light condition are much better on HTC than the iPhone pictures. So….
    Did you also forgot to mention the following feature: video + picture capture in the same time.
    Has iPhone still the better hardware? Hmm. 

  • JackHardman

    hmm yes ok but the sound on the one x has beats audio, think the one x must be better and my iPhone sounds shite:L?