Monday, February 27, 2012

HTC One X competes with better photo features

It's becoming very hard to choose between Android phones -- and the manufacturers know it. As a result, many of them are now concentrating on try to differentiate their devices, either by making them more stylish (such as the ultra-thin Motorola Droid Razr) or more like a tablet, such as the recently introduced (to the U.S., anyway) Samsung Galaxy Note or more attractive to music lovers, such as the HTC Rezound.
Cameras have also become popular with smartphone buyers, to the point where they're no longer considered modest add-ons, but important features. The ability to create higher-quality photos and video will certainly be a large part of the marketing push for HTC's latest line of smartphones: HTC One.
Announced yesterday at the Mobile World Congress, the HTC One thus far consists of three phones (none of which will ship for at least a couple of months): the HTC One X, which has a 4.7-in. screen and will be sold by AT&T; the HTC One S, which has a 4.3-in. display and will be sold by T-Mobile, and the HTC One V, which will have a 3.7-in. display and will be sold in the pre-pay market (and about which, so far, there is not much information).
Both HTC One X and One S will come with the same Beat Audio sound enhancement as their Rezound predecessor, but they will also offer HTC's new ImageSense technology: a suite of features designed to try to convince consumers that having a separate camera is a thing of the past. According to HTC, they've give the One X an 8 megapixel camera, an f2.0 lens, backsensor illumination, and an HTC ImageChip to speed up the graphic processing.
Giving it a try 
I had a chance to try out the HTC One X this morning at an HTC press event here in NYC (see video below), and the camera interface was certainly nice. You can access the camera directly from the Android lock screen (the One X will come with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) overlaid by HTC's Sense environment). Once in the camera app, two large icons give you the choice between still photos and video -- click on the video icon and you're immediately recording.
There are a number of interesting features, such as the ability to take up to 99 continuous photos by pressing and holding the shutter button (and then easily choose the best of the group. While recording a video, you can capture a frame without stopping the shoot, essentially creating a video and a still photo simultaneously. There are also a number of special effects and setups (for group shots or panoramic shots) which you can access via menus.
I only played with the HTC One X for a short time, but from what I could see, the photo and video-taking ability of the camera seemed to have the a lot of potential -- it could, at the very least, satisfy casual photographers who would like to be able to grab a photo or throw a video up on YouTube quickly, cleanly and with some extras added.
HTC isn't the only phone vendor looking to making itself more visible by making the phone's camera more useful. Nokia has just announced that it is launching a phone called the Nokia 808 PureView which will be capable of 5-megapixel, 8-megapixel and 38-megapixel photos. (Unfortunately and, rather strangely, it will also be one of the last Nokia phones running Symbian and not Windows Phone.)
As someone who used to always carry a small point-and-shoot in my bag in order to be able to take photos or videos whenever the opportunity might arise (and living in a large city, the opportunity arises frequently), I count myself among those who would welcome better, faster and higher-quality cameras as part of my smartphone. However, even if Nokia's new smartphones fulfill their photographic promise, there may be a slight hitch in HTC's specs.
How well will the battery hold up? 
The battery for the One X will be a reasonable but not impressive 1800mAh -- and will not be user-replaceable. (The HTC One S, which will also feature the same photo/video enhancements, will have a 1600mAh battery.) As the owner of a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which came with an 1850mAh battery, I know how power-hungry these smartphones can be, especially when using them as video cameras or viewers.
Many of the Nexus owners I know have opted to purchase the 2100mAh extended battery; when I first purchased my phone and couldn't get the extended battery in time for a business trip, I opted for a second 1850mAh battery so that I could switch off when I needed to. If the HTC One X turns out to be as power-hungry as many of the other feature-heavy smartphones out there, there's a good possibility that its owners will need to either be very careful about power use or get used to carrying around mobile power devices.
Or not. When the new HTC phones ship (they are expected to be available in two or three months), we expect to be able to provide a more thorough review.

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