Driving with the HTC One X

, posted: 12-Jun-2012 12:53

Things have come a long way from just a few years ago, when stand-alone GPS systems were the norm.  Now it seems that phones and Google maps are taking over.  I managed to get the HTC One X into my car with a universal car holder for $10 from Trademe, as the cheapest official one I could find was roughly $80.



You put the HTC One X into Car mode  by selecting the aptly chosen “Car” icon.  This brings up several larger buttons, making it look similar to a standard car navigation unit.  It uses Google Navigator by default and it works very well, if you input the address via keyboard.  The voice - on the other hand - doesn’t work quite so well, especially with M­aori street names, meaning almost every time you’ll be forced to type it in by hand.



In testing, it managed to achieve 1.8m of accuracy, compared to over 6m for the Galaxy S2.  This meant that while driving, I was actually driving on the road almost all the time, compared to the Galaxy S2, according to which I would randomly  appear to be driving on roads a block over from where I actually was. The HTC One X has one of the most accurate tracking systems I’ve used on any phone.



Using the phone to call someone while I was driving was very simple, with a list of recent callers, followed by the contact list.  It also managed to connect, and be controlled by both my Parrot, and Aircast Bluetooth speakers.



Music was a breeze to play through the stereo, by using the Music button.  However, none of my playlists had their album art.  Tune-In is another great feature of the Car menu.  It means if your car radio runs out of reception, you can use internet radio to play your favourite station.  However, if you lose 3G also, then you are out of luck.





I’d definitely consider the HTC One X a replacement for an in-car GPS system.  As it’s faster to obtain a lock compared to conventional GPS, it’s updated faster than most other navigation systems, and it has more features than a conventional GPS. 

Very impressive.

About the author

I am Vincent Garcia: an ICT Specialist by day; technology geek and DIY handyman by night. I enjoy playing with gadgets, old and new.  Taking most of them through the paces, and to within an inch of their lives! I also enjoy tinkering with things; spending most of my weekends repairing my motorcycles, or renovating my house.  I live in the windy city of Wellington, with my lovely wife Nicola, and my cat Morange. When I was offered the opportunity to review the new HTC One X series, I jumped at the chance.  The short aeroplane trip to Auckland was all part of the fun!  If you want to ask any questions, please add a comment below, or email [email protected]



Drive time with the HTC One X

, posted: 8-Jun-2012 08:48

One of the more interesting applications bundled with the HTC One X is the HTC Car app. This essentially provides an alternative way to access some of the more common features you may need when in your car. It is designed to be operated with the HTC One X in landscape orientation, and offers larger user interface elements, making the phone easier to use when in a dash mount.

The Home screen for HTC Car has buttons for Phone, Google Maps Navigation, Music, and tunein Internet Radio features. These all surround a clock, with the current weather overview directly underneath. When running the Car app, pressing the Home button will take you back to this, rather than to the standard HTC One X Home screen, and the Task Switcher button is disabled completely. If you press the Back button from the HTC Car Home screen, you are asked whether you want to close the app, and selecting OK will take you back to the standard Home screen.


The HTC Car Home screen

In addition to pressing the four buttons, you can swipe left and right to switch between the core areas of functionality offered by HTC Car. You are given a different user interface view when either of these techniques, with the buttons appearing to be designed to start up the intended function at the same state it was the last time you used it. For example, pressing the Music button will resume playback of the last track you were listening to, whereas swiping to get to the Music screen will show a list of the last albums you were listening to, with playback not automatically resuming.




On the left are the screens shown when functions are accessed from the buttons on the Home screen, contrasted with screens shown when using swipe gestures


Not only is the HTC Car Home screen optimized for use in the car, but the same philosophy has extended to the functionality HTC Car offers. User interface elements are upsized to cater for the larger viewing distance, and screens have had their functionality trimmed to focus on core features with a less cluttered UI.


The phone user interface optimized by HTC Car for in-car use

There are also a range of accessories designed to take the in-car integration even further. This includes a cradle that will automatically start up HTC Car when the HTC One X is placed in it, and will close it once the phone is removed again. There is a bluetooth microphone and speaker which will give you hands free functionality, and an adapter that you can plug into a 3.5mm auxiliary port which will allow you to stream audio wirelessly through your car stereo.

With user interface optimizations designed to make some of the more common phone features easier to use at a distance, and with the specially designed accessories, the HTC One X looks like it will be a pretty good driving companion.

About the author
Hi I'm David, a self employed software developer on the wrong side of 40, residing in Auckland with my wife and two children. I am a passionate All Blacks and Blues fan, gadget junkie, mature aged gamer, and connoisseur of fine heavy metal (and music in general). I currently own an iPhone 4, but am very open to trying new technologies, and can't wait to see what the best of Android can bring to the smartphone table. I enjoy keeping up to date with the latest technological advances in general, and am encouraged to see that the smartphone market is no longer an iOneHorseRace. I’m very interested to see how the HTC One and Ice Cream Sandwich fares in this regard.



The Decision: HTC One X or iPhone 4?

, posted: 8-Jun-2012 08:42

After spending six weeks using the HTC One X as my primary phone, its decision time. The blog posts have been written, so do I go back to my beloved iPhone 4, or will I be making the permanent switch to HTC’s flagship Android handset? I’ve been a fan of iOS based devices ever since my 2nd Generation iPod Touch, and my iPhone has been a loyal servant.

The HTC One X made an excellent first impression by offering 32GB of onboard storage. I knew this would give it a sporting chance to be a replacement portable music player, a role that has been previously handled ably by my iPhone, and the iPod Touch that it superseded. And as I discovered, the HTC One X also has the software and sound quality to play the part.

Then there is that glorious 4.7” 312ppi display. Photos really cannot do it justice. It is by far the best display I’ve ever seen on a mobile device. Apple may technically have the edge on the spec sheet with their Retina display, but after having lived with them both, my eyes certainly can’t discern the difference. Having to use a mere 3.5” screen now really seems like a backwards step.

I also love the customization freedom that Android offers. Being able to adorn the phone desktop with widgets is great, and a feature that is sorely lacking in iOS. Android also makes it easy to override pretty much all aspects of the phone. Don’t like the stock launcher? Download another one from Google Play and use that instead. Need a new web browser? Download one that meets your needs, and set it as the default for all browser related activities. Keyboard not to your liking? Once again this can be replaced.

Speaking of the keyboard, and as I discussed in a previous post, I’ve really come to rely on the Trace keyboard feature provided by HTC Sense. I had briefly used Swype before on another Android device, so I knew the potential for using a trace based keyboard was there. After using this method for the past six weeks, I find it quite a bit quicker to input text this way than with the more traditional onscreen keyboards. And iOS being the way it currently is, theres nothing I can do to change this on my iPhone.

I was a little concerned about the quality and depth of software available in the Android Play store, as I had not heard good things in this regard. As it turns out these concerns have so far proved to be groundless. The applications I leaned on heavily on my iPhone, such as Evernote, Dropbox, Internet banking, and various social media clients, all have equivalent Android versions. It even looks like it will be a more than capable portable gaming device.

It's not all roses though. One area where the iPhone still has the edge is in terms of quality.  To be more specific, the software isn’t as reliable as I’m used to on the iPhone. I’ve had a quite a few instances where the HTC Sense launcher has restarted, a few spontaneous reboots, and third party software crashes seem more frequent than what I’m used to on iOS devices. The phone does tend to lag after a while sometimes too. The Home and Task Switcher buttons have become unresponsive at times, with a reboot occasionally required to remedy this.

I’ve heard that stability of the core OS and HTC Sense has improved somewhat after the latest updates, but I’ve not had a chance to test this yet. This brings me to the other negative of the Android platform. Unlike iOS, you can’t simply have the latest version of the operating system as soon as its ready. First you have to wait for the hardware vendor to roll in their customizations. Then you’re dependent on the mobile carrier to verify and release the update. I understand the reason for the extra delays, but nevertheless its still a barrier that iPhone users don’t have to contend with.

So whats it going to be? iPhone or HTC One X? At the start of this experience, I was expecting to come out of it wiser in the ways of Android, but thought I’d be shelving the HTC One X, and retreating back to the comfort of my iPhone. Well, I was wrong. With the HTC One X, I have found an Android phone that rivals the iPhone in terms of hardware build quality, and I really love the flexibility that the OS offers. Widgets are great, and the HTC Sense UI really does seem to add something to the Android experience, rather than get in the way unnecessarily.

While I have found the OS and software quality to not always be up to the same level I’m used to with my iPhone, the innovative features and extra flexibility are more than enough to offset this. In comparison, iOS is starting to look quite dated and restrictive to me. With the exception of a few minor tweaks here and there, iOS really hasn’t advanced all that much in terms of functionality since the debut of the original iPhone back in 2007. Finally, lets not forget that awesome 4.7” display. I really feel quite constrained now when using the comparatively minuscule 3.5” screen of the iPhone.

I guess this means I’m an Android guy now.

About the author
Hi I'm David, a self employed software developer on the wrong side of 40, residing in Auckland with my wife and two children. I am a passionate All Blacks and Blues fan, gadget junkie, mature aged gamer, and connoisseur of fine heavy metal (and music in general). I currently own an iPhone 4, but am very open to trying new technologies, and can't wait to see what the best of Android can bring to the smartphone table. I enjoy keeping up to date with the latest technological advances in general, and am encouraged to see that the smartphone market is no longer an iOneHorseRace. I’m very interested to see how the HTC One and Ice Cream Sandwich fares in this regard.



Purchasing music on the HTC One X

, posted: 29-May-2012 16:37

One thing I love about my iPhone is how easy it is to purchase music for it, and the vast library of content there is to choose from. In this blog post, I’ll explore the music store that comes bundled with the HTC One X, which is offered by 7digital.


The store is accessed from the Music hub, and allows you to browse singles and album charts, new releases, and via genre. It also provides a search function which matches your search term against artists, albums, and tracks. The search doesn’t seem to be overly smart, and tends to perform a match on any of the terms entered. Even using the old standby of surrounding the search term in quotes doesn’t seem to help there.



The 7digital website claims that they have over 18 million tracks available, but a quick search for one of my favourite bands, Dream Theater, revealed only one album from a possible catalogue of 11 studio releases, 5 live albums, a greatest hits compilation, and numerous other singles and EPs. And to add insult to injury, the available album is their 1989 debut album, with no sign of their latest offering, which was released last year. Further browsing of the store found that a lot of the music I’m interested in isn’t overly well represented in the store.

Buying music from 7digital is pretty straightforward. If you don’t already have a 7digital account, you can create one during the purchasing process. You are only prompted for an email and password at this time, with no further personal information required. You then enter your credit card details for payment, which unfortunately are stored with your account, with no option to opt out of this. In order to remove your credit card, you have to login to their website and delete it from there. Even after doing so, my credit card details were still coming up automatically for subsequent purchases in the 7digital app, until I logged out and then back in again.



Once this process is complete, your purchased tracks are queued for download, and are downloaded one file at a time. The download process can be paused and resumed, and you can opt to clear all or downloaded tracks from your list of downloads. The songs can also be played back from this list, with playback handled by the 7digital app, rather than the stock music player.



Purchased tracks can also be accessed on other computers by logging into the 7digital website and clicking the ‘Your Music’ link, where you can download all your purchased music, although you are restricted to downloading your purchases a total of 5 times.

The album that I purchased consisted of 320kbps DRM free mp3 files, so sound quality is definitely acceptable. 7digital do offer tracks in other formats, such as WMA and FLAC, but I’m not sure whether these are available via the app on the HTC One X, or need to be purchased via their website.

In summary, thanks to the 7digital integration it is just as easy to purchase music for the HTC One X as it is on my iPhone, with the caveat being the selection is not as vast. Prices seem similar, with most new release albums $18.99, and individual tracks under $2.50.

About the author
Hi I'm David, a self employed software developer on the wrong side of 40, residing in Auckland with my wife and two children. I am a passionate All Blacks and Blues fan, gadget junkie, mature aged gamer, and connoisseur of fine heavy metal (and music in general). I currently own an iPhone 4, but am very open to trying new technologies, and can't wait to see what the best of Android can bring to the smartphone table. I enjoy keeping up to date with the latest technological advances in general, and am encouraged to see that the smartphone market is no longer an iOneHorseRace. I’m very interested to see how the HTC One and Ice Cream Sandwich fares in this regard.



The Pepsi Challenge

, posted: 24-May-2012 11:45

When I went to the HTC One X launch event, I mentioned that my iPhone doubles as my portable music player, and that its probably more accurate to say that I treat it as an MP3 player with communication capabilities. Upon hearing this, the HTC reps said “We’d like you to take the ‘Pepsi Challenge’ with this phone”. This is the blog post where I detail whether I can see myself switching to the HTC One X, or will be sticking with my iPhone for my portable music playing needs.The HTC One X made a strong first impression by having a 32GB capacity. I like to carry the majority of my music collection with me (there are some exceptions; namely albums I’m too embarrassed to have in my collection these days), and this means approximately 20GB of music.

Being a Mac owner and iPhone user, my music is stored in iTunes. HTC has its HTC Sync software that allows you to synchronize directly from your iTunes collection to the HTC One X, but at this stage only a Windows version of this is available. I initially copied my songs over to the phone manually, but have since started using DoubleTwist, which offers iTunes synchronization to Android phones. It also offers wireless sync via its paid version, but I’ve not yet explored that option. Once the music has been copied over to the phone, it isn’t automatically available to the music player app, but instead takes a few minutes to show up. I suspect this is due to background indexing of the music library, as there was an animated synchronizing icon showing during this time. It would’ve been good if this process was shown in the Android Notification area, including a notification once the process had finished.

The stock music app itself is pretty easy to use, and provides all the important functionality I’m used to from the iPhone music player, which I’ve always considered to be the yardstick when measuring music apps. Clicking on the Music icon takes you to a launch pad which gives you access to the songs stored locally on your phone, the SoundHound music identification service, TuneIn Radio, and the 7digital online music store. You can customize this by adding your own app shortcuts, to ensure all your usual music needs can be met from the same location. In addition to these app shortcuts, it also presents a list of the most recently played tracks and albums.



The “My phone” icon is the starting point for exploring and playing the music stored on the HTC One X. Music can be browsed by artist, album, song, playlist or genre. You can also perform an incremental search across your music collection, which will narrow down the search results as you type, matching on artists, albums, and song names.



One of the things that originally attracted me to the music player on the iPod Touch and iPhone was its “Cover Flow” view. I thought it would be a great way to browse through the albums in my music collection for those times I didn’t have a particular album in mind. In reality I find I don’t use that view too much, as it takes too long to scroll through my collection. The HTC One X uses a grid view to display all albums, and I’ve come to appreciate this approach a lot more. Because you can see multiple albums at once, it makes this a much more practical way to chose an album to listen to. At the bottom of the grid view, the song currently being played is displayed, with a button allowing you to pause or resume playback.



Selecting an album in the grid will show all songs you have from that album, and clicking any song title in that list will begin playback of that song. There is also an ellipsis button to the right of each song which will expose functionality allowing such things as playing the song, or adding it to the queue to be played later, or setting it as your phones ringtone.



There is a similar ellipsis button at the top right which allows you to add the album to a playlist, add it to the queue, or share the album information via social media platforms, email, bluetooth or Dropbox. Selecting one of the social media sharing options will initiate a post to the selected platform with the text ‘I like “” by “”. Selecting the Dropbox sharing option allows you to upload the entire album to a location in your Dropbox, and selecting the bluetooth option allows you to share the album to a connected bluetooth device.

Quite often I’ll be listening to an album when I get the desire to hear another album or song in my collection, but don’t want to interrupt what I’m currently listening to. So I really appreciate the ability to queue songs, albums, or even playlists, to listen to later. This is a feature that I used to use all the time when using Winamp many years ago, and is a feature that I’ve always wished the iPhone music app had.

The queuing feature isn’t without its flaws though. While it is possible to queue up a song or album when browsing through your collection, there is no option to add a song from the search results. Seeing the list of queued songs isn’t as easy as it could be either. The only place you can see this list is by selecting the menu when the “Now playing” screen is shown. Also be warned that if you have queued up a bunch of songs and then select one to play directly from elsewhere within the music app, the queue will be overridden based on that context. For example, if you were browsing by album and launched a song from a selected album, the queue will be replaced with the contents of that album.

One thing I really appreciate about the HTC One X are the many different ways you can control music playback from elsewhere on the device. The lock screen can show the currently playing track along with playback controls, and similar controls are available via widgets of various sizes. You are also shown the currently playing track in the Notification centre, along with a button allowing you to pause and resume playback. There is also a button on the supplied headphones that offers the same pause & resume functionality.



All this functionality would be pretty pointless though if the sound quality was rubbish. Thankfully this isn’t the case. And while you could certainly benefit from a headphone upgrade, the bundled ones perform well enough to ensure that this isn’t a mandatory requirement to effectively use the HTC One X as your full time music player. In fact, in terms of sound quality I prefer them to the standard ones that came bundled with my iPhone. Where the iPhone headphones have the edge however, is with their remote control functionality. In addition to pausing and resuming playback, you can skip tracks (both backwards and forwards), and change the volume. You can also invoke Voice Control, but thats a feature I rarely used.

HTC are putting a lot of emphasis on their Beats Audio feature. I was told that Beats Audio is designed to replace the bits that are lost during the audio compression process. Call me a cynic, but replacing information thrown away during compression algorithms seems optimistic at best, and you’d never be able to 100% accurately recreate the original source material. That being said, having Beats Audio on did tend to have a positive impact on the sound, as it made the music sound fuller, and with more emphasis on bass. I’d consider it more of an equalizer preset than a magic wand capable of restoring songs back to their pre-compression glory.

There is one problem I encountered with Beats Audio enabled. Every few minutes of continued playback, songs would stutter, with playback halting for approximately half a second. During a two hour session I had this glitch happen ten times. I have never experienced this with Beats Audio off, and because of this I tend to listen to music with Beats Audio disabled. I find the music still sounds acceptable enough without this feature, but its a shame that it does suffer from this problem, as I’d probably use it otherwise.

In addition to Beats Audio, there are a few other preset effects that can be applied to music playback. These “Sound enhancer” effects, as HTC have labelled them, are similar to ones found in other music apps I’ve used, and provide options to enhance things like bass, treble, or vocals.



Unfortunately my experience with the few sound enhancers I’ve tried so far are that they suffer the same occasional glitch that happens when Beats Audio enabled. So once again I find myself preferring to play music with no effects applied.

So whats it going to be, Coke or Pepsi? I’ve been an iPhone and iPod fan for so long, I didn’t think it would be possible to find a worthy alternative. But I could definitely see myself using the HTC One X as my primary music player. Its a shame that Beats Audio didn’t perform flawlessly, but thankfully I found that having that feature disabled didn’t significantly impact the listening experience for me. I also miss the ability to use the headphone remote control to skip to the next song or change the volume, which are features I use with my iPhone quite a bit. But this omission is offset by the ability to queue additional tracks without breaking the flow of what I’m currently listening to. And as an out of the box experience, with no equalizer or sound enhancer settings in play, I prefer the audio quality of the HTC One X over my iPhone.

Looks like I may be a Pepsi drinker after all.

About the author
Hi I'm David, a self employed software developer on the wrong side of 40, residing in Auckland with my wife and two children. I am a passionate All Blacks and Blues fan, gadget junkie, mature aged gamer, and connoisseur of fine heavy metal (and music in general). I currently own an iPhone 4, but am very open to trying new technologies, and can't wait to see what the best of Android can bring to the smartphone table. I enjoy keeping up to date with the latest technological advances in general, and am encouraged to see that the smartphone market is no longer an iOneHorseRace. I’m very interested to see how the HTC One and Ice Cream Sandwich fares in this regard.



TelecomTech's profile

Telecom New Zealand
Auckland
New Zealand


Telecom Tech is a different type of blog. We're sponsored by Telecom New Zealand, but most of the posts here are from every day users like you.

We choose tech savvy Geekzone users to "test drive" the new handsets from Telecom New Zealand.

The team will post firsthand reports on using these smartphones on New Zealand's smartphonenetwork. Make sure to keep an eye on this blog. Who knows who might be our next "test drivers"?

   

Catch up on previous Telecom Tech reviews - read about the Nokia Lumia 1020Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Nokia Lumia 800, Nokia Lumia 710 and HTC Sensation.





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