Living with the…HTC One X.

The mobile phone industry is the ultimate in ‘shiny things’ thinking.

No sooner have you bought a device, usually via an expensive ongoing contract, and learned to master the complexities of the modern smartphone with its many splendours, then your contract is heading towards renewal. Your provider then entices you with another, sleeker, lighter, whizzbangier model to replace your now brick-like technological equivalent to a rusty lawnmower. Giddy with excitement at the impending device nirvana you sign a new contract and begin the whole sorry tale once more. Thus it ever was and ever thus shall be.

Your mobile phone the day after your contract runs out.
Your mobile phone the day after your contract runs out.

Or is it?

Last year I took the rather unusual step of not signing up for a contract when my old one matured. Instead I decided to buy a second hand phone, secure a cheap monthly contract which didn’t subsidise the costly device, and see how it would work out. The results have been, well, cool.

Rather than run the gauntlet of eBay I opted to pay the premium of an established S/H online store (replete with short warranty) in my search for a new handset. The iPhone 4S had recently become last year’s model so the 16GB version was available for £380. Now this is a hefty sum of course, but by avoiding the expensive monthly contract I worked out that over two years I could save around £300  – not too shabby – and of course that saving would then pay for the next phone. Suddenly I had become a financial genius. Next I plan to dabble in futures, derivatives, and no doubt impoverish my family.

In the year or so since then I’ve enjoyed my iPhone and am very glad that I took this route. So much so that I’m doubtful I’ll ever go back to a subsidised plan again. This then opens up intriguing possibilities. As we all know smartphones have advanced so much in recent years that almost any decent model will do everything we need on a day to day basis without issue. So starting to shop in the S/H markets means you can get some very good units for a lot less than your contract would demand, and if you avoid the Apple models (with their premium price tag) you can even bag a real bargain.

A quick perusal on http://www.smartfonestore.com (the site where I bought my iPhone) shows that you can pick up some terrific devices for great prices. One that I was particularly interested in was the HTC One X, which had run the iPhone close last year and which could be bought now in mint condition for just over £200. Thankfully HTC where willing to lend me one for a few weeks, thus saving me having to wipe out my savings in the interest of journalistic endeavour. So, the question was how does the One X fare a year and bit on from it’s release?

The rather splendid HTC One X
The rather splendid HTC One X

Those used to the diminutive charms of the iPhone will notice straight away that the One X is a big phone, mainly due to the 4.7 inch screen. Now I’ve been rather skeptical of the current trend of devices that can double up as surf boards, and in many ways the One X did little to persuade me otherwise, but in some instances I can really see the appeal. Over the last year or so I’ve noticed that I don’t really watch Youtube videos on my iPhone. The reason for this is that the 3.5 inch screen just feels a bit too small for this activity. On the One X it suddenly made sense. HD videos looked superb and the impressive viewing angles meant sharing the experience with friends was far more likely than with my Apple alternative.

The screen itself is gorgeous. Colourful, bright, and capacious, it made interacting with the handset a very pleasant experience. Typing is dramatically improved since my days on the HTC Desire, again probably aided by the generous acreage of space. But this expansive ocean of gorilla glass also meant that I had to adjust the positioning of the phone in my hand more than I ever do with the iPhone, and the usual habit of typing one handed while walking down the street was a much harder feat to achieve successfully.

The Android operating system, which has been upgraded to 4.1.1 Jelly Bean, is smart, efficient, but still has the occasional lag, although much improved from previous incarnations. Android has come on leaps and bounds in the past couple of years, with plenty of the top apps such as Instagram, Kindle, Facebook, Twitter, Temple Run, and the ever gorgeous Google+ being present. Actually Google’s suite of apps (Maps, Youtube, Now, Voice Search, etc…) all look great and work brilliantly on the One X, meaning that most important tasks are now easily covered. There is still the delay in top apps reaching the platform though, so if you always want the latest and greatest then the iPhone still remains the place to be.

I’d read on several forums that the battery life on the One X was a bit of a let down, but during the weeks of testing this was never an issue. With an average day including sending and receiving several emails, posting and checking social media sites, listening to an hour or two of podcasts, and even – heaven forbid! – the occasional phone call, the battery always had a bit left in the tank by the end of the day (which is often about 1am in my discipline void existence).

If there was one area where the One X lost a few points it was the camera. Now for many things it’s perfectly fine, but when compared to the iPhone (which does pretty much always have one of the best cameras available) it lacked a bit of sharpness and focus at times. That said it would be totally acceptable for everyday use and you’d only notice the difference if you had an Apple device on hand to compare it to.

That screen really is a bit special.
That screen really is a bit special.

So there it is. As the One X has now been superseded by the One X + you can expect the prices to continue to drop, which is great is you’re looking for a superb handset that offers cracking performance and will not cost you a small fortune. It might be getting long in the tooth when measured by the insane upgrade cycles that we now find ourselves terrorised with, but it’s still a terrific phone with plenty to offer.

Let the eBay treasure hunt begin!

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