HTC One X and Nexus 4.

Welcome to Round 2 of our "Should I upgrade?" series. We've already taken a look at the obvious -- the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

So let's move on to another of the flagship devices of the past year -- the HTC One X, and perhaps the new and improved HTC One X+ for good measure. (And you can basically apply all this to Sprint's EVO 4G LTE as well.) It's the pinnacle of the 2012 rebirth of HTC and packed quite the hardware punch, with HTC's usual design chops as well. 

So let's break it down: Should you upgrade to the Nexus 4 from the HTC One X?

External hardware

It's almost night and day here. The HTC One X is one big slab of polycarbonate. It's beautifully designed -- HTC's certainly no slouch in that department -- but over time I've grown weary of the plastic. Part of that has to do with my having a white One X. It just gets dirty. The gray version has no such problem, though it still shows some scuffing. (The new One X+ with its soft-touch coating is freakin' gorgeous, though.) The back of Nexus 4, while beautiful with its glossy cover and "Crystal Reflective Process" design, is prone to scratches, but it's just so much more visually appealing.

The HTC One X has probably the best display we've used all year, with its 4.7-inch Super LCD2 panel. Images are almost floating on top of it, and we challenge you to spot an individual pixel. The Nexus 4's IPS display comes close -- very close -- to the One X in terms of viewing quality, but there's something about the display (polarization, I think) that gives it a strange shimmering effect when you tilt it. That's not anywhere near a showstopper, but it is noticeable.

The HTC One X has capacitive navigation buttons, whereas the Nexus 4's are on the display themselves and can disappear if an application calls for it. Save for Motorola, other manufacturers have been slow to adopt the on-screen buttons, and it's caused inconsistencies with application design. I'm going to call that one a wash. Both designs have their merits, and both have their issues.

Edge: Nexus 4

Internal hardware

HTC One X and Nexus 4.This is where things get interesting. On one hand, you've got the original One X, with its original quad-core Tegra 3 processor running at 1.5 GHz, or a dual-core Snapdragon S4. (Depending on whether you've got an LTE radio in your phone). The newer HTC One X+ bumps things up to the AP37 version of the Tegra 3 system on a chip, still with 1GB of RAM. But storage is being offered at 64GB, which is great considering the phone doesn't have a microSD slot.

If you've got an original One X, the Nexus 4 will be a pretty decent bump up in the specs department, with its quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and 2 GB of RAM. If you've got the One X+, it's not going to be as big a leap.

Edge: Nexus 4, if you've currently got an original One X; a draw if you have the One X+.

Lifespan

Let's face it, a few previous HTC phones didn't cut the mustard (looking at you, ThunderBolt!). But the One X is solidly built. After 6 months of solid use, I don't have any major concerns about mechanical breakdowns, aside from the odd cosmetic blemish. And while we have to wait on empirical data, I still have some serious concerns about the longevity of the Nexus 4's glass-like back.

Edge: HTC One X

Software

A lot of people like to hate on HTC's custom user interface, called "Sense." And that's cool -- to each his own. But to dismiss it without tying Sense 4 or the newer Sense 4+ is to miss out on some great features, some great design -- and slower updates to the operating system itself because of it.

The original One X line is just starting to get upgraded to Jelly Bean. The One X+ ships with it. But neither looks to have Android 4.2 anytime soon, whereas the Nexus 4 is the first (for obvious reasons). I've got no idea how many of the front-facing Android 4.2 improvements HTC will implement. It's got its own version of wireless display sharing in MediaLink HD, so Miracast may be a moot point. HTC has shunned quick settings in recent versions, so there's no promising that it'll implement Google's new version of them

Edge: Nexus 4, until HTC finds a way to engineer updates more quickly.

Android HTC One X and Nexus 4.The camera

The HTC One X has a great camera, thanks to its sensor and ImageChip processor. It's got filters built in as well. The Nexus 4 camera doesn't appear to be quite as good, but it's still above average. (And we're still waiting on final retail software before passing final judgment.)

But the Nexus 4 has the cool new "Photo Sphere" 360-degree panoramas built in. That's not to say there aren't third-party apps that can do the same thing, but Photo Sphere is already on board, and it shares wonderfully to Google+.

Edge: If you have to have Photo Sphere, get the Nexus 4 (or hack it onto your One X). Otherwise, the One X has the edge, but just slightly.

The bottom line

Six months after its launch, the HTC One X remains a very viable Android smartphone, and the One X+ breathes new life into the line.

If photos are your main concern, you can't go wrong with either one, but I think HTC's got the edge here. On the other hand, Photo Sphere is pretty damn cool on the Nexus 4. (Oh, and if you're into the audio thing, don't forget that the HTC One X has Beats built in.)

Pricing is another thing to take into consideration, though. If you're looking to buy SIM-free, the Nexus 4 costs nearly half as much. That's hard to argue with. If you're looking to upgrade and sell your HOX, chances are you can recoup a good bit of the $299 or $349 cost. 

For my money, if I had an HTC One X in hand, I might hold off on upgrading just yet. It's still a fine, powerful smartphone. The glass back on the Nexus 4 is untested in mass quantities, both phones are pretty equal in the camera department, and  the HOX should serve you well for more months to come.

 
There are 46 comments

coffmad says:

was thinking exactly this today while listening to your last podcast, im pretty sure i will, want to see one first though

edditnyc says:

I've had the AT&T HTC One X since June and nothing is going to keep me from jumping ship in the near term. Bottom line is we have LTE, a gorgeous display, root and an unlocked bootloader so some of us are already enjoying things like some of the fruits of Jelly Bean 4.2... despite our lazy @$$ carriers. Gmail w/ swipe to archive, AOSP keyboard with trace to type, Google Now, Photosphere, to name a few. Also if you're in an area that has LTE, this phone will have you blazing along at 50Mbps+.

Thanks to the cyanogenmod team we've all over Jelly Bean and on the cusp of unlocking Project Butter. The Nexus 4 looks nice but if you're already a One X owner you're not really missing out if you root.

The One X isn't perfect though. A note for all these flagships, we need more than 16GB onboard! Whether it's more storage options or expandable storage, we need a bump in this department. Tough call to choose One X over the GSIII but I stand by that call today. Outstanding phone.

a22matic says:

That's why I'm glad they added the SD Slot on the EVO LTE. The physical camera button is also a plus.

chubb says:

That's one thing I miss from my old HTC's, the camara button. It sounds like a non issue, but actually works better trying to touch the screen during a quick important shot.

dancing-bass says:

I've got the Gnex, so this one doesn't really apply to me, but you touched on the N4's glass back a few times. That is one thing that would really make me hesitate. Like you said, I'm going to wait and see once it's in public hands for a bit. Only then will I decided if I want to hold on or pay full price for the N4

bobaka says:

just put some clear screen protector film on the back

robzon says:

Thanks for the helpful comparison! I'm really close to switching from One X to Nexus 4. One X+ is also on the table, but I heard the battery is not that much better than in the original One X.

Can you compare battery life too? I think it's quite important to a lot of people (including me :)) Thanks again!

javierlp says:

Phil,

You should mix things up.

How 'bout a "Should I get a N4 if I have a iPhone 4/4S/5??"

:-)

gazspro says:

Thanks for this article it's the exact quandary I'm currently in. Think I'm going with the One X as it's a gorgeous piece of hardware.

Jaywrayson says:

If you want to upgrade your HTC One X , and you kept it in great condition, throw it on EBay and you'll get pretty close to the $349 cost of a new Nexus 4.

Wurzel#AC says:

In terms of internal hardware I would give the clear edge to the Nexus 4 even over the One X+.
Even if bumped to 1.7Ghz the Tegra 3 is just an outdated SoC, it's not very power efficient due to still being manufactured in 40nm, and the GPU was never great, the Adreno 320 GPU of the S4 pro is about 2-3 times faster and there might still be room for further improvement with driver updates.
Another area were the Nexus 4 has an clear edge is RAM, if you want to multi task 1GB just isn't enough anymore, multitasking with 1GB of ram on Gingerbread was great, but since ICS was introduced RAM usage has significantly increased making it hard to keep more then 3-4 applications open without them closing in the background.

Very much disagree with you on the design to be honest, I'll take my white One X over the N4 any day and personally I've had no problems with it scuffing or getting dirty marks.
Maybe I just treat my phones better :)

Also I prefer to have Sense rather than vanilla so a nexus phones no good for me really.

Perfectly valid opinion! :)

Why thank you, I try my best :)

S_C_B says:

Phil isn't known for treating his phones with kid gloves.

abtxpress says:

I'm not a stationary person. Service with Verizon is best for me so Google shafted me. I don't care about the updates being delayed. I bought my nexus for the hack ability. Not the updates from Google. I like cyanogenmod. It just works better on a nexus than a rooted htc device. So Google said screw you to me. Nice.

eldaino says:

google said screw you to verizon. dont take it so personal.

JonJJon says:

I assume the next and possibly final "Should I upgrade?" article will be Samsung GS3 to Nexus 4. I was thinking of holding off for the Nexus but from all the leaks and the design of the phone etc I decided to not wait the extra week and jump on a good deal of the Samsung GS3, and I'm glad I did, it is one beaut of a phone, absolutely love it. I figured, I have a Nexus 7, I enjoy stock Android on that, and Touch Wiz Nature UI is actually very nice and has a lot of added benefit over the stock Android in my own opinion. It's nice to have the best of both worlds for once :D

I to agree with you 100% I have the best of both worlds sense 4- (lol sense 4 with a few 4+ goodies) and stock jellybean on my infinity tab and while an extra gig of ram would be nice, I'm extremely happy with my Evo and its camera & dedicated button, 2100 battery, SD slot, and I love the sense look of multitasking, display and the added features of sense oh yea and my kickass kickstand

USCTrojan4JC says:

I would like to see a Samsung Galaxy S III vs. LG Nexus 4 "Should I upgrade?" article as well. I am pretty much set on getting a GS3 on Black Friday. The Nexus 4 seems to have a lot of things going for it, but has a few dealbreakers for me (limited storage w/o microSD, no LTE).

ECantona says:

Why would anyone want to upgrade his phone just 6 months after? Of course unless he is unhappy with it...

crxssi says:

>"(And you can basically apply all this to Sprint's EVO 4G LTE as well.)"

Basically, but not exactly. Because if you had:

Case (External hardware) Edge: Evo LTE (solid aluminum case, black + kickstand too)
Internal storage Edge: Evo LTE (SD card support)

It wouldn't win in raw CPU/GPU over the Nexus 4, though. And only has half the RAM :( Still, fantastic battery life, plenty fast, great camera, and super-wow screen.

Plus, if you want Sprint or Verizon, there is and will be no Nexus 4. So the Evo LTE, DNA, and Galaxy S III are all winners!

dtreo says:

Agree.

EVO LTE with a Sedio Surface case, so I have almost forgotten what it looks like naked. Love this case, so durable and still thin, no screen issues even without a protector film.
Kickstand on occasion is handy.
Battery has been stellar and is plenty fast. Very happy with the camera too.
I don't see what I would leave this for at this point.
Nice to have options, but EVO LTE continues to impress after many months of heavy use. And several people asked me about it just in the past few days.

subhani says:

I just sold my One X white international yesterday. The design, the camera and the DISPLAY are the main things I'm gonna miss.

I'm looking forward to the N4 eagerly because multitasking on the HOX was terrible.

The price of the N4 with pure google is also irresistible.

The upgrades on the HOX took forever. Couldn't wait for JB any longer so rocked CM10 based rom and knew immediately that I wanted a nexus device.

And then there's battery life on the HOX plus weak wifi reception. It could have been better.

I am sorely missing my One X. BTW, I played NFS MW on both the Gnex and HOX and the HOX tegra 3 simply made it near unplayable. It was v choppy compared to last years nexus.

Lochtide says:

Can you do one, should I upgrade if I have a iphone 4s plz?

TenshiNo says:

Everyone here knows the answer to *that* one already ;)

J/K. It's not a bad idea, Phil.

Dan29466 says:

These "versus" stories are great. The hand-on info that you guys provide is invaluable.

jian9007 says:

Well, it's easy for me. I'm not on AT&T so I obviously do not have a One X. Thanks HTC, you @*%!*#. I wanted the One X when it came out but it was yet another "exclusive" from HTC, just like the Droid DNA will be. Me, bitter? It's possible, but since I'm on T-Mobile, the easy choice will be Nexus 4.

EvanKr says:

The One X doesn't support T-Mobile's AWS 1700 network, which is why it never came to the carrier. Very few non-North American carriers use the AWS network type, so it's not usually worth putting AWS into most phones.

campy614 says:

I mean, T-Mobile has the HTC One S... which, to be honest, I don't think is much different than the One X.

Each of the HTC One X's selling points can be made to the HTC One S: great lifespan, and amazing camera. The internals are still the same for USA carriers (dual core S4 snapdragon, 1GB Ram). Aside from the qHD display, which still isn't all that bad, the external hardware is still great.

And the phone is free on contract! Not too shabby at all!

bangnbounce says:

I have a One X and I am upgrading, my reasons are: It fell out of my pocket (about a half foot) and the screen cracked, fixing the screen cost about as much as the Nexus 4. Also I have a Nexus 7 and while Sense isn't bad, vanilla android is awesome.

definiteform says:

I got my WiFi fixed here locally (Bangkok) and, during the course of the repair, they noticed I had a crack which was separating the glass. Replaced without even asking me.

Total cost: $0

I guess Americans have to pay for insurance? HTC gives insurance for a year here.

bangnbounce says:

Yeah, pretty much. And Amazon didn't give me insurance. Took it to a local repair shop said it is between 280-300$. I was like damn, that sucks.

bangnbounce says:

Oh and I looked how to do it myself, it is pretty complicated and I would probably make it worse, and still the parts cost 180$. Sucks cause she does have a awesome screen.

Jonny Pham says:

Lucky you! You don't have a problem with your HTC One X that doesn't mean it doesn't happen to people that including me.My broke down big, i meant BIG, the screen so bad after few months, sent it back to repair and deal with hassle North American Service and finally sold it online for 220 buck and make my self a commitment: NO HTC for EVER!!!

Brian me says:

Im stickin with my Gnex, it fullfills all my needs and its very fast and reliable, why fix it if its not broken

SamTime says:

AC readers make no sense. The guys with a GNex vote against upgrading. The One X people vote to upgrade. Am I missing something??? Did the One X just become a slouch of a phone and the GNex paint stop wearing off? This seems extremely contradictory to me. The One X blows the doors off the GNex.

wmurch3 says:

This is android central. Any phone with a skin loses automatically.

TenshiNo says:

LOL. That made my laugh, but you're right. Let's be honest: most of us are here because we're gadget nerds. Personally, I (mostly) like Sense, and it has gotten *much* better in the last few revisions, but there is an argument to be made (as a gadget nerd) for not having to see all the cool, new features on the latest version of Android and *wish* that you were going to get to play with some of it in less than 6 months. It is what it is. Personally, I bought a Note 2 friday and (TouchWiz aside -- I'm running Nova Launcher, anyway) I *love* what Samsung has done with this phone.

At this point, these devices are getting so *ridiculously* powerful that I really wonder what kind of specs we'll be looking at in another 2 years.

PaperMate3rd says:

While I agree with most of the things here some stuff I just can't see. Number one like an above poster stated the Sprint EVO LTE is a different beast. It's always annoyed me how it get's lumped in on the end of any HOX mention when it's clearly a better version. It's also a better version than the HOX+ (Removable storage is always better regardless if you need it or not it's the option to choose how much you need, how much your willing to pay for it, "SD Cards" and easily moving that storage from one device to another which makes this option invaluable. I do prefer the unibody design of the HOX(+) but my kickstand removable storage and physical camera button are more than adequate trade offs given the EVO LTE is a nice design in it's own right IMHO. Furthermore I think "Phil" having access to so many different devices at a time can be a gift and a curse. It seems as you get use to a device it looses it's wow factor aspects as it does with all of us accept it tends to seem accelerated with you at times. No offense of course. Case and point while photosphere looks damn amazing, to say that the HOX camera with image sense "SLIGHTLY" edges out the N4's camera I just can't agree with. I love stock android and I'm ok with sense 4...I run CM10 on my EVO LTE and it's great. BUT the sense camera nags at my brain EVERY SINGLE DAY. I literally have to fight flashing back just for that damn camera app. It's that good as is the image quality. The iPhone 5 wasn't even able to universally hands down trump the HOX camera. Only the Lumia 920 has a shot at being just flat out better even if not by much. Unless your just seriously understating how GOOD the N4 camera is, (it is a sony sensor) it being "not the best but definitely better than the GN camera" is not nearly enough to say that HOX camera edges it out "SLIGHTLY". I think you've had your OneX to long Phil. Don't forget the first time you heard that rapid fire sound of the burst mode or the amazing shots you took, from the video you took, DURING and afterwards in the PLAYBACK. I know I haven't #Justsayin Honestly no jabs intended man JMHO AC FTW! PS I voted eventually to get the N4 because I'm holding out for a 32gig version. I'd get the unlocked 32gig and leave sprint for T-Mobile pre-paid even if sprint releases an 32gig N4 w/LTE. I'd rather be off contract. HSPA+ is baus in North Hollywood my girls OneS flies and battery life on it is great.

MrSherms says:

Thanks for this comparison, Phil! I value your opinion on the topic as you have mentioned before that the HOX is/was one of your go-to phones. The One X(L) has been my first venture into the Android world, and it has definitely treated me well. I am, however, planning on snatching up the Nexus 4 as soon as possible to get my first vanilla Android experience. Plus, as mentioned above, I will be able to sell my HOX and recoup almost the entire N4 cost!

xiaobu says:

i think one x is already good, not necessarily upgrate

bend32 says:

I have the HTC ONE X, and I have to say giving up LTE, a Better Camera, great hardware design, a better screen display for the Nexus 4 doesn't make sense for me. Not to mention I am running Nocturnal'd Dirty 4.2 Elements Rom that gives me photosphere, the new camera, new Gmail, as well as other 4.2 upgrades, and that is before the Nexus 4 is even in the hands of the masses. The One X with this new life breathed into it is fast, responsive, and gets good enough battery life to last me through a days use. There is something compelling about having the latest and greatest, but not when it doesn't really beat the latter. I commend Google for actually putting more thought into this Nexus, but I don't want an easily breakable front and back. To each his own, just thankful we have Android as an option.

marvelspires says:

I just got out of HOX and went to Note2. the HOX is a nice phone but it has four serious problems:

One. Battery could be better
2nd. The Tegra 3 is very well spoken but is lentro to run several games, Most Wanted and see Gameloft games.
3rd. The updates are very slow, HTC has been better at it.
4th. 32 Gigas is good, but not SD card slot is complicated.

Which is great.

1) Screen
2) Beats, wonderful. And that's just a little talk that equalization easily be reproduced. I've tried much roms on CM10 and could not.

Nexus 4.

16 gigas, this is too little, do not understand how launch the phone with this problem.

Just received my Nexus 4 a week ago and I am comparing it to my HTC One XL

Nexus 4 - Pros
Pure speed Pure vanilla. You really notice a kick out of the gate with the quad core processor and extra Ram. No re-loading makes a BIG difference.
More ergonomic in the hand. The Nexus 4 looks nicer, not that the white OneX looks bad but it feels more classy. It feels real good in the hand and I am not stretching as much to reach the top of the screen. The phone is simply more balanced. It feels a bit heavier (due to the glass) but it has a good weight to it.
Great Nexus Software - Nexus unskinned makes life and work more productive
Great New Keyboard built in stock. Sliding is great haven't even had to load SwiftKey
PhotoSphere is pretty damn cool
Price!
Unlocked and works with all my sim cards
Works with LTE Band 4

HTC One XL
Screen Screen Screen - The screen is brighter and livelier. It has the X-Factor (Pun intended)
Larger Screen more real estate since the One X has the capacitative buttons, this makes the phone longer and a little more awkward but heck its a big juicy screen.
Lighter - Sometimes weight is a good thing as the One X is so light you feel like you might drop it by accident.
Camera - Still like the camera better here
BATTERY LIFE - Sense 4+ makes battery life fantastic. I get double the battery life on here than on the Nexus 4. Still breaking in the Nexus 4 but I feel confident that my HOXL will last me a full and complete day. The Nexus tends to throttle a bit and drains battery fast
LTE - No special codes the LTE is plain and simple easy to turn on and off
Sense Sense Sense - It makes sense and then it doesn't. The re-loads I don't miss them. The skin has its perks here and there like on the Dialer when you want to quickly pull up a number by starting to type the name.
As my daily driver over the last 9 months or so I have stockpiled all my accessories, cases etc. When I use my HOX it just feels like home. Good luck finding any accessories for the Nexus

Areas where both phones SUCK
Voice Dialing - SUCK SUCK SUCKS - Cyberon Stinks. The native Nexus Dialer doesn't fare any better. Huge area for improvement here
Wifi - While HTC OneX wifi isn't fantastic don't think the LG Nexus 4 will do any better on Wi-Fi
HTC Protruding Lens - Nexus No protruding Lens but you will be paranoid about scratching this thing
No other major complaints about these two fantastic creatures.

So its a toss up. HOX tried tested true. Nexus 4 brand spanking new and a hardware speed demon. There are just some things you love about vanilla android and then again you are glad to see some features that only a skinned OS can provide - minus the multi-tasking issue *err non-issue* ;)

Just buy a damn Nexus 4 and find out for your self. It will be a tough and epic battle between your Android conscious.

Saddy86 says:

Hi all I just want to add that I started off last year with my one x and was happy from the get go, I got a 8gb nexus 4 the day it was available here in the UK, to start with I broke the back 2 weeks in the phone has a mad ability to slide off any flat surface that isn't level, also the screen just isn't calibrated the blues are all over the show and it just looks odd and the last bad point I noticed was how hot the nexus gets you could cook on the back of the thing I have gone back to my rooted one x and not looked back.