HTC rearms for holiday smartphone fight with One X+

UpdatedHTC officially announced the One X+ smartphone on Tuesday but if you didn’t see the picture of it yet, you haven’t missed anything visual: The One X+ appears the same as its predecessor on the outside. Inside is a completely different picture, however. HTC has boosted the processor, storage capacity and battery life for the Google Android 4.1(s goog) handset.

HTC first debuted the One X at February’s Mobile World Congress event and AT&T(s t) launched the phone in May here in the U.S. Then, the company said it would better compete in the market with fewer smartphone models, hence the “One” line of phones. I found the One X smartphone to be a solid contender to other Android devices, and even the iPhone 4S(s aapl), at the time. Now that model is getting a relatively fast refresh, likely in an effort for HTC to keep pace with Samsung and Apple as the latter two have already leap-frogged the original One phone.

HTC One X+ videoSo what’s changed in the new model? The 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm(s qcom) Snapdragon S4 is replaced with a 1.7 GHz quad-core Nvidia(s nvda) Tegra 3 chip, while internal storage is now a whopping 64 GB. HTC claims the new phone is 67 percent faster than the original One X. Battery life should improve — up to 50 percent, says HTC — with a larger 2100 mAh battery as well. On the software side, the One X+ ships with Jelly Bean — Google’s latest version of Android — and the HTC Sense 4+ user interface.

I can’t remember HTC ever doing an internal refresh of an existing phone so quickly, if at all, but the concept follows the company’s plan to reduce the overall number of different phone models. Even with a few tweaks, especially the processor, this product could add some challenge for HTC to deliver future software updates. Instead of developing, testing and delivering software changes for the One X, it now must do the same for the One X+. However, HTC did say that the current One X (and One S on T-Mobile) will be updated with Android 4.1 and HTC Sense 4+ starting this month.

This refresh should tide HTC fans over until early 2013 when the Consumer Electronics Show and Mobile World Congress events take place. I’d expect completely new hardware from HTC at that time. But the company may have felt the need to tweak its current flagship phone now to better challenge its rivals until then: The company has gone from smartphone market rocket to a falling star over the past 18 months as Samsung and Apple have taken the lion’s share of sales and profits.

HTC hasn’t announced U.S. availability yet as that likely has to be worked out with carriers. The One X+ launches in Europe and North Asia this month and in South Asia next month.

Update: And just like clockwork, AT&T will reportedly offer the One X+ in the near future.