The One X+. You have to reach for the Shift key just to type it out, but as names go it's neither unexpected nor inaccurate. In fact, it paints just the right picture, because this is still the same global (i.e. non-US) One X we've come to know and respect, but its matte black shell also contains important additions that secure its rightful place at the top of HTC's Android range. In fact, it's even better news than that earlier XDA leak suggested.
On the hardware front, the One X+ has a faster Tegra 3 variant that clocks in at max of 1.7GHz (versus 1.5GHz on the original), an enlarged 2,100mAh to keep the engine turning over, a capacity boost to 64GB (versus 32GB on the global One X and just 16GB on AT&T's handset), and -- self-portrait artists rejoice -- an upgraded front-facing camera that promises 1.6 megapixels and better image processing. Most other specs stay the same, including the 8-megapixel rear camera, 1GB of RAM and the lovely 4.7-inch 1280 x 720 Super LCD 2 display. The UK handset we played with was also stuck on 3G, leaving it unable to party on the emerging British LTE scene, but there's an LTE global variant too that could potentially touch down on these shores in the future (although HTC wouldn't confirm that outright).
In terms of software, HTC's skin (now called Sense 4+) has been modified to work on top of Jelly Bean and brings a host of subtle improvements from both Google and the manufacturer. All in all, we reckon this new contender works hard enough to become desirable rather than merely incremental, and if you check out the video and hands-on impressions after the break then you might just agree.
HTC One X+ (UK) hands-on
Just like the Sensation XE before it, the One X+ makes a bold first impression with its red accents bouncing off a perfectly uniform black polycarbonate unibody (and yes, that's the only color option here). The glossy stripe from the original white or grey One X has gone, and -- if it's possible -- the plastic feels slightly softer and classier. Luckily, the rear camera on this variant is surrounded by a metallic rather than plastic casing, which was one of the few advantages the original global One X had over the AT&T version.
As mentioned, the rear camera module itself hasn't changed, but during our brief hands-on we did feel that it was benefiting from the extra speed of the processor. We took 20 shots in just 3.2 seconds, compared to five seconds on a One X, and it also felt like the One X+ focused faster during 1080p video recording, although it was hard to get scientific about it. As for the front-facer, we're told that in addition to its higher resolution it's also able to make smarter auto-adjustments to white balance and other settings, and it comes with a countdown timer so you can give display just the right amount of pout.
Another less-than-obvious hardware change is the addition of a feedback amplifier -- possibly something like this chip from NXP -- to the phone's loudspeaker. This is meant to improve sound quality and maximum volume, while optimising power efficiency and protecting the driver. It's slightly perplexing that HTC couldn't find room for one of these on the headphone jack -- a feature found on the Windows Phone 8X -- and also that the manufacturer isn't trying to gather such audio improvements under its Beats banner, which is still in need of a shot of credibility.
The UI was good n' snappy, and if you're wondering whether Project Butter will actually make a difference than you can probably relax. It's not obvious, but it is there -- especially on the notifications pull-down, which is smooth as a whistle as it moves across the main screen, whereas it flickers ever so slightly on the Android 4.0 One X. Another JB addition is Google Now, which tailors search information based on things it learns about you over time and which HTC has made readily accessible through a long press on the home button (just as Google intended, right?). All this Android 4.1 stuff will also reach current HTC One devices by the end of the year, but the One X+ will have the distinction of delivering it first, since the new handset is due arrive in the UK within the next couple of weeks.
HTC's own software enhancements mainly revolve around better aggregation of content. For example, the gallery app can now be used to access both locally and remotely stored content and the music player app claims to do the same. It remains to be seen how useful this will be -- at the time of our hands-on we weren't able to establish, for example, whether the new music player allows you to add tunes from different platforms to the same playlist. Anyway, there'll be plenty of scope to weigh that up review time, alongside other untried and untested improvements like the One X+ becoming PlayStation Certified.
Ultimately, the success or failure of this handset will depend heavily on its price tag, and at this point we have no clue as to whether it'll come in at a premium over the One X (which will continue to be made and sold), or whether it'll be more competitive and nudge the One X and One S further down pay scale. Stay tuned, however, as UK carriers are expecting to announce their pricing any minute now.