This may be one of those rare instances in which we know too much. For those of us who live and breathe smartphones all day long (and that includes many of you out there), it's tough to look at an HTC One phone without seeing the entire line in context. With regards for pecking order, there's the One V. The One S. The One S. (There's also the new One SV in Europe and Asia, and in the U.S. on Cricket.) And now, on AT&T, we have the HTC One VX.
Where the hell does this phone fit in?
To answer that question, you need to take it out of context a little bit. Instead of looking at where it sits in the HTC family, think about where the One VX sits in the AT&T lineup. Things start to make a little more sense in that respect, especially considering that as of this writing, the One VX is exclusive to the U.S. carrier.
As its name might imply (again, to those of us who live and breathe this stuff), and as the spec sheet spells out, the One VX picks and chooses from some of the best features of the other phones in the HTC One line. You can't help but compare it to its older siblings. But it's also important to remember where it stands for AT&T. This phone serves a purpose for AT&T -- filling a hole in its lineup -- more than it does for HTC. And that's OK. Because what we end up with is a really good entry-level phone.
So, with all that said, on to our HTC One VX review.
The HTC One VX video walkthrough
Think of the One VX like this: It's got the white polycarbonte back like the original One X on AT&T. (That's since been supplanted by the One X+.) It's got the relative shape and stylings of the One S, just not quite as svelte. The internals are somewhere between the One V and One S, and the camera's the same as the One V. So, yeah. It's somewhere in the lower end of the middle of the line. (See why we stopped worrying about it?)
Let's start on the back of the phone. The One VX has a removable cover. It's done up in the same white plastic as the original One X (and least it looks and feels like it), and so it leaves us wondering if it'll be subject to the same marring we've seen on that phone. That's not a huge deal, just a slight cosmetic blemish -- and maybe it won't be an issue on the One VX. Remove the cover and you can get to the SIM card and microSD card slot. There's no removable battery on the One VX. (Same as on the other HTC One phones.) You can pry up that black tape if you want, but we'll save you the trouble: There's nothing there for you.
There's an obvious seam where the rear cover meets the silver body, which happens when you're not dealing with a unibody design. But as often is the case with HTC phones, even the seam seems to have been done with design in mind. We're getting a little bit of creaking, specifically toward the top of the cover near the camera cut-outs, but that's a pretty small nit to pick.
Also out back: the 5-megapixel camera and flash (almost flush with the body), 72 decorative pinholes that let the rear speaker do its thing, and the HTC and Beats Audio logos.
The front of the phone, while being relatively benign in its design (display, with lighted back-home-task switcher buttons below), is probably the most exciting feature of the One VX. The display is 4.5 inches in diagonal, which is a little bigger than the One S. And it's switched from Super AMOLED to Super LCD2 -- and it's a noticeable difference. In fact, we didn't even have to put it side-by-side with the One S to declare the One VX the victor. And what's more, we're not bothered in the slightest by the qHD (540x960) display resolution. It's three steps down on the resolution evolutionary latter (behind the 1080p display of the Droid DNA and 720p of the One X), but you might not know it unless we told you.
The bottom line on the One VX hardware is that it's not nearly as powerful or sophisticated in design as the One S or the One X. But for an entry-level phone, it's darn good.
What's under the hood
By today's spec standards, the HTC One VX is somewhere a little south of middle. There's nothing here that really concerns us, given that the phone's not targeting the high-end market. It's powered by a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 (MSM 8930) clocked at 1.2 GHz, with 1GB of RAM. On paper, the One VX has 8GB on on-board storage. In actuatlity, it's got around 4.5GB of space for you to install apps and save pictures and music. For most first-timers, that might be enough. If it's not, remember that you can pop up to a 32GB microSD card into the back of the phone.
Battery life has been decent. It's not going to blow anyone out of the water with its 1810 mAh cells, and if you're sucking down LTE data all day you'll run out of juice sooner than not. But we didn't see anything in casual use to cause concern, and standby time was excellent, meaning if you forget to plug it in overnight you should still have a charge in the morning.
There's not much new for us on the software side of the One VX. It's running Android 4.0.4 out of the box, and we'd expect a Jelly Bean update at some point in the phone's lifetime. The phone's got HTC's custom user interface, called Sense, and the One VX has Sense 4.1 in particular. You've got just three home screens on which to place apps shortcuts and widgets, but chance are that's all most casual users will need.
AT&T's got quite a few of its own apps preloaded onto the One VX, including its own QR code scanner, Family Map, Locker, Navigator and Ready2Go (which is a quick set-up app and worth a look). Plus there's myAT&T for handling your account, and YPmobile for Yellow Pages lookup. The usual suite of Google apps are on board, and you've also got Amazon Kindle, Facebook, SoundHound and Twitter preloaded. There's an FM radio as well, which we're always happy to see. Adobe Flash is preloaded as well, which is a bit of a head-scratcher because as it's not supported in Android 4.1. So if the One VX does get an update to Jelly Bean (as we hope it does), that could cause some confusion on down the road.
The HTC One VX is one of the latest phones to benefit from HTC's relatively newfound love of photography. It's got a 5-megapixel shooter out back with an f/2.0 lens. There's a VGA shooter out front. Both use HTC's new image processing software and excellent camera app. See for yourself:
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The rear camera
The front camera
Other odds and ends
- No worries with data on the One VX. Wifi works as it should, and AT&T's LTE is fast, Fast, FAST.
- Oh, and this thing's a phone, too. Phone calls were fine.
- Bluetooth, GPS and NFC -- no worries.
- The rear speaker is surprisingly loud, though tinny.
- The microUSB port is on the bottom of the phone, instead of the side, like most of the HTC One phones.
- There's a hidden notification light in the black area above the display to the far left of the logo.
- For some reason you can't change the function of the recent apps button to a menu button, which was a nice option in other HTC phones.
It's easy to dismiss the HTC One VX as just another mid- to low-end phone, but don't. It's a surprisingly good one, created specifically to fill a void in AT&T's lineup. It's currently listed at $49 with a two year contract, or $399 outright., which, frankly, isn't horrible for the type of phone this is. HTC's and AT&T's customizations help make things easier on first-time owners.
And the One VX continues to say something about HTC as a smartphone manufacturer. When your most lowly phones are this well done, you're doing things right.