Ever take a photo where the colors seem clinically cold, washed out or just plain bland? It's probably because the white balance was inaccurate. White balance simply refers to the overall color cast of a photograph. If the white balance is too "cool", your image will appear blue-ish. Too "warm" and everything will look like it was taken at sunset. 

Android phones, since version 2.0, have offered built-in color balance options. This allows you to get the color cast that you want. On iOS devices, white balance settings are entirely automatic, but there are numerous third party camera apps that allow you to deviate from Apple's choice of a correct color balance in your pictures.

On the HTC One X, you can tap the Settings icon, select White Balance from the scrollable list and choose from one of the presets. The screen updates in real time to preview your chosen setting.

By default, even if it offers manual white balance settings, your camera will be set to Auto, where it analyzes the scene and chooses what it deems to be the most appropriate white balance parameters. If your camera has manual control, you can override this by choosing from a list of built-in presets. The screenshot above is from an HTC One X running Android's Ice Cream Sandwich and HTC Sense 4.0. Note that various flavors of Android and manufacturer UIs will differ in appearance but will have similar functions.

If you're going for a realistic effect, start by selecting the preset whose name best describes your current lighting conditions and try taking a picture with that setting.

Shooting this scene on the HTC One X with the white balance set to Auto led to a very cold, dull image.
Changing the white balance to Cloudy and re-shooting gave a much warmer result.

And you don't have to limit yourself to just producing a more realistic result. Get creative and try out presets that add a wildly different mood or feeling of your photograph. In the examples below, we photographed the same scene four times using the HTC One X, changing the white balance between shots. The differences are dramatic.

White balance: Auto
White balance: Daylight
White balance: Fluorescent
White balance: Incandescent

Whether your aim is a more accurate image or one that creates a striking mood, white balance presets can be a quick and easy way to get there.