With a new simplified range of devices, HTC is looking to steal back some marketshare from its rivals, especially after a pretty lackluster fourth quarter that ended a two-year growth streak. The One X is the flagship of the three new Android smartphones HTC has introduced at MWC, and and while it is pretty impressive on its own, how does it stack up against the Galaxy Nexus?
Both devices are roughly the same size and weight (which is to say, very light), and come with huge 4.7in HD displays. The One X features a faster Tegra 3 quad-core processor clocked at 1.5 GHz, compared to the 1.2 GHz dual-core on the Galaxy Nexus.
While both displays seem to be pretty much identical, in terms of size and resolution, there's actually a huge difference between them. The Galaxy Nexus comes with an AMOLED, which has very saturated colors and, most importantly, pretty much perfect blacks. However, and especially so in direct comparison to the more traditional SLCD (which is really just a fancy marketing term for IPS panels) found on the One X, the PenTile matrix is noticeably less sharp, and colors often tend to look odd. Furthermore, if you decrease the brightness, you'll notice graininess on the Galaxy Nexus.
Another significant difference lies in the actually available screen estate – while both phones have a 1280x720 resolution, the Galaxy Nexus uses some of that space to emulate the back, home and taskswitcher buttons on the display, while the HTC One X sticks to more traditional capacitive buttons.
In terms of hardware design, the two devices couldn't be further apart: the Galaxy Nexus is extremely thin and sleek, while the One X combines HTC's signature style with some elements found on the Nokia Lumia 800/900 devices: the body is made of a single piece of machined polycarbonate, and the screen is slightly curved outward and goes flush into the polycarbonate, which makes it much more comfortable to swipe horizontally, for example to switch between homescreens. To that effect, the polycarbonate body is matte on the back, but glossy on the side – to further aid your finger gliding from side to side. It may sound trivial and not much to think about, but in practical use, we found it to be an extremely nice touch, giving it even another advantage over the Galaxy Nexus.
Let's look at the software.
Love or hate Sense, it has been cleaned up considerably in version 4.0, while still adding useful features that you won't found on standard Ie Cream Sandwich builds. For instance, pinch to zoom out on any homescreen and you'll get a helicopter view of all screens, from which you can easily rearrange, add and delete them – which isn't possible on the Galaxy Nexus either, where you're stuck with five homescreens.
Also, adding widgets is slightly more streamlined with HTC Sense, since you'll get a nice zoomed out view of your homescreens which makes switching between them a bit faster.
Even in Ice Cream Sandwich, Android still does not have a quick-dial feature that lets you quickly search through contacts and recently called numbers using the keypad.
The task switcher in Sense 4.0 is also very different, and features an interface similar to Cover Flow. Sure, it's largely a matter of personal taste on which implementation you prefer, but the Sense implementation has at least one thing going for it: it's smooth.
While the shift to a hardware accelerated UI began in Android 3.0, there's still a fair amount of lag even on the Galaxy Nexus. Disregarding third-party apps, swiping between homescreens and scrolling through the task list simply isn't as smooth as on the HTC One X, although that's only noticeable in direct comparison. Much more noticeable is the lag in the picture gallery, where zooming and panning around pictures feels super slow. HTC seems to have done a much better job overall optimizing the performance of its interface, and in contrast to previous versions Sense is now actually faster than stock Android.
Last but not least, there's the camera. The camera app in stock Ice Cream Sandwich has definitely improved compared to earlier iterations, but it's still far behind custom versions from HTC, Samsung and the like in terms of looks, usability and features. HTC's camera app uses screen estate much more efficiently, and comes with fancy features such as photo capture while recording a video. Also, even without a full review, we can safely assume that the camera on the HTC One X is most probably better than the rather lackluster one found on the Galaxy Nexus, which has been critized as a step backwards from Samsung's Galaxy S II.
So, to answer the initial question (sort of), from our initial hands-on impressions we'd say that the HTC One X is, in many ways, clearly superior to the Galaxy Nexus. With a better display, more thoughtful hardware design, faster processor (though I doubt anyone would notice the difference between dual and quad core processors, except for battery life), and overall better software, HTC has created a fantastic flagship device that rivals if not surpasses the current Nexus device.
In fact, considering how fast the Android ecosystem moves forward, that is actually not surprising at all – for those that absolutely want direct updates from Google, or cannot stand any customized Android versions, the Galaxy Nexus is still a great, albeit the only, choice. However, the HTC One X and, later, Samsung Galaxy S III are probably going to leave it behind, just as the Galaxy S II quickly stole the show from the Nexus S last year.