Android smartphones have really escalated the hardware race on mobile devices, with this year’s contenders leaving the iPhone 5 in the dust and bringing an impressive amount of processing power and features that would have been unimaginable just a couple of years ago. Today’s smartphones are really pocketable personal computers, and the latest flagships from HTC and Samsung prove it.
Samsung has pretty much owned the market in 2012, with few of the competing companies being able to bring forth something good enough to rival the Galaxy S smartphones, especially when it comes to marketing – the company is nearly as good at it as Apple nowadays. But this year, we’ll probably see a real change, what with LG, Sony and HTC all bringing the big guns.
HTC’s new flagship phone, named the One, is particularly impressive – it packs enough features, a high build quality and stylish design at a relatively low price, which is an amazing combination for the end users. So, how does it stack against Samsung’s Galaxy S4, which has been announced at around the same time?
Design and build quality
I’ll just say it right away – the HTC One definitely feels better than the Galaxy S4, and I’m pretty sure most people would agree it looks better, as well. The reason for that is the nice, fresh design coupled with a light yet sturdy plastic/aluminum combo construction. The HTC One has an unmistakable unique design that incorporates the best of all world – it’s got the iPhone 5’s rounded edges, Droid DNA’s sleek tapered back, the Galaxy S3’s narrow bezel and the newest Gorilla Glass 2 on the front that is pretty much scratch proof.
Samsung Galaxy S4
The Galaxy S4, just like its predecessor, has an all plastic body that comes in different colors, with a Gorilla Glass 2 sheet covering the whole front and a removable back cover. It’s not bad at all, but it just feels cheaper when you take a closer look at it – it’s just the nature of the beast. The glossy finish is scratch resistant and the various colors make the phone unique, although you may mistake it for one of Samsung’s other high end smartphones, like the Galaxy S3 and even the Galaxy Notes.
Display and Cameras
The HTC One has the highest density display on the market at the moment, and as you’d expect, the 4.7 inch, 1920×1080, 468 PPI Super LCD3 screen looks simply gorgeous. The colors are as true to life as it gets, and although the contrast isn’t quite on the same level as Samsung’s Super AMOLEDs, the brightness is more than enough to make the phone useable in outdoors conditions and even direct sunlight. The viewing angles are also near-perfect, with the picture being so close to the surface it seems like it’s floating up there.
The reason? It’s using large pixels (dubbed Ultrapixels by HTC), the same size used on dedicated digital cameras. These pixels “soak” in more light in a short amount of time, meaning that you’ll get higher quality photos not only in the dark, but also in outdoors conditions. The only drawback is that the end size is not as large as what an 8 or 13 Megapixels camera would provide – but if you need photos larger than 2240×1680 pixels, you’re better off with a dedicated camera anyway.
Coupled with HTC’s ImageSense technology (basically a dedicated image processing chip), you can take great photos in less than a second, 5 FPS continuous shots, great 1080p HD video, shoot while recording and more. It’s one of the best camera phones this side of the Nokia N8.
Samsung Galaxy S4
Samsung’s Galaxy S4 also uses the Full HD resolution, but of course it comes in a Super AMOLED package, 5.0 inches in size. That will definitely polarize the opinion of a lot of people – on one hand, the larger screen and Super AMOLED technology make it slightly easier to use the phone and provide an unmatched picture and contrast even in outdoors conditions , but on the other hand, not everyone likes the oversaturated colors – even games look too colorful on this display.
If you value the ability to take and view your photos in as good a quality as possible, the HTC One is a better choice (due to both the camera and accurate display), but if you just want a camera with you all the time, the Galaxy S4 will be more than enough.
The front facing camera on the S4 is a 2.0 Megapixels unit that of course supports 1080p video recording – pretty much the same as the HTC One.
Connectivity and Battery Life
Both the Galaxy S4 and HTC One are filled to the brink with the latest hardware features, however the HTC One is slightly ahead – thanks to the integrated infrared transmitter (it’s inside the power button at the top in case you were wondering), which you can use to control any electronic device with a remote control, and support for Miracast, the open wireless display standard that is pushing to be an alternative to Intel’s proprietary Wi-Di. The other specs are very good: there’s Wifi N, Bluetooth 4.0 (with aptX for the best audio quality), HSPA+ 3G and 4G LTE (so it’s a global phone), GPS/GLONASS, HDMI out, NFC and more sensors than you’ll probably ever need.
The battery is kind of a disappointment – mainly due to the fact that it’s non-removable. The integrated battery has a 2300 mAh capacity, but even though it’s rated at 12 hours of continuous use, it will probably last a bit less, maybe 10 hours if you’re not using your phone to its full extent. That’s not bad (especially considering the power hungry display and processor), but not that good either – however you can always buy a compact portable battery to charge it whenever it’s running low.
Samsung Galaxy S4
The Galaxy S4 has pretty much every option that the HTC One offers, with the notable exception of the infrared remote and Miracast capabilities. Wifi N, Bluetooth 4.0 (with aptX enabled), GPS/GLONASS, NFC, HDMI out, HSPA+ and 4G LTE are all present and accounted for. The lack of a remote control is a downer for a lot of people – but it’s really an unusual bright idea that HTC’s engineers/marketers had, and maybe other companies (including Samsung) will follow suit. Miracast is not supported, but technically it looks like it could be added later, as it works via Wifi.
|Specifications||Samsung Galaxy S4||HTC One|
|Display||5.0 inches, 1920×1080 pixels, Super AMOLED, 441 PPI pixel density||4.7 inches, 1920×1080 pixels, Super LCD 3, 468 PPI pixel density|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, 1.9 GHz, quad core (there is also an alternative version using the new Exynos 5 Octa platform, with four 1.7 GHz Cortex A15 cores and four 1.2 GHz Cortex A7 cores)||Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 (APQ8064T), 1.7 GHz, quad core|
|RAM||2048 MB||2048 MB|
|Graphics Adapter||Adreno 320 (or PowerVR SGX544MP3 in the Exynos 5 Octa version)||Adreno 320|
|Storage Space||16/32/64 GB onboard storage space, micro SD card slot||32/64 GB onboard storage space (26 GB user accessible)|
|Camera(s)||Back – 13 Megapixels with LED flash and support for 1080p video recording; Front – 2 Megapixels camera with support for 1080p video recording||Back – 4 Ultrapixels with LED flash and support for 1080p video recording; Front – 2.1 Megapixels with support for 1080p video recording|
|Connectivity Options||Wifi N, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, GLONASS, micro USB and HDMI out, NFC, HSPA+, 4G LTE, Wifi Direct, DLNA||Wifi N, Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX, GPS, GLONASS, micro USB and HDMI out, NFC, HSPA+, 4G LTE, Wifi Direct, DLNA, Infrared transceiver, Miracast|
|Sensors||Light, proximity, magnetometer, barometer, gyroscope and accelerometer sensors||Light, proximity, magnetometer, barometer, gyroscope, accelerometer|
|Battery||Li-Ion, 2600 mAh, up to 12 hours of continuous use||2300 mAh, up to 12 hours of continuous use|
|Dimensions and weight||136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm, 130 grams||137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 mm, 143 grams|
|Operating System and Software||Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, Touch Wiz UI||Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, HTC Sense 5.0 UI|
Processor and Memory
HTC has once again partnered with their good old friends, Qualcomm, to provide the processing power for the One. The phone is using the newest Snapdragon 600 platform, which has a quad core processor running at 1.7 GHz, as well as the Adreno 320 GPU and 2048 MB of RAM. That is definitely more than enough for any kind of use, from Web browsing and watching YouTube videos to heavy document editing or gaming on the go. It also makes the phone very future proof – I doubt this processor will be slow even after 3-4 years.
The storage space is another issue, though. You’ll pretty much have to get the 64 GB version, even if you don’t plan on keeping the phone for more than a couple of years before upgrading. The reason for that is that there’s really too little storage space left in the 32 GB model – 6 GB are taken up by the OS, and if you count out another 2-3 GB for various apps that are needed to make full use of the device, you’re only left with around ~23 GB, which is not enough if you consider that photos take several MB each, videos take several hundred MB, and games can easily take over 2 GB of space.
You’ll fill the phone up in no time. Sure, you could get some cloud storage account, but that’s not a viable solution for now – too slow and too expensive. 64 GB, on the other hand, is enough for now, but not very future proof – you will have to clean your phone once in a while to avoid running out of space.
Samsung Galaxy S4
The Galaxy S4 actually comes in two configurations (just like its predecessor), but we’ll talk about the one that comes out first, which uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 platform. The other configuration is pretty interesting, though: it will use Samsung’s own Exynos 5 Octa platform, which will have 8 processor cores – 4 ARM Cortex A7 cores running at 1.2 GHz for energy efficiency and 4 ARM Cortex A15 cores running at 1.7 GHz for applications that require maximum performance. It’s interesting to see how that will work, but we’ll have to reserve our judgment until it’s actually released.
Back to the Snapdragon 600 – it’s the same chip used in the HTC One, only it runs its 4 cores at 1.9 GHz in the Galaxy S4 – no doubt the company thought they could afford to rev it up a bit thanks to the larger battery. The GPU is the same Adreno 320 and the amount of RAM is also 2048 MB. Overall, the absolute top performance should be higher than the HTC One, but in everyday use it will be about the same. If you use custom kernels, the frequency won’t matter since the Snapdragon should be able to under/over-clock relatively easily.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 has a major advantage when it comes to storage space – it comes in 16/32/64 GB models (although they’re all more expensive than the HTC One) AND has a micro SD card slot, so you can be sure you won’t be running out of space anytime soon. That makes the Galaxy S4 more future proof than the HTC One.
The HTC One comes with Android 4.1.2 out of the box – I don’t know why it doesn’t use the latest version since it’s been out for a while, but 4.1 is still good enough and HTC will release an OTA update soon. On top of Android is HTC’s own Sense UI, this time it’s the all-new version 5.0. It has a simplified interface that should make it easier for new users to adapt to the UI and Android/smartphones in general, however it may actually be harder for current Sense users since they’ll have to readapt.
There aren’t all that many pre-installed apps – only Google’s standard selection and a few HTC apps – everything else is up to the user. HTC’s apps include a customized Camera app, the Sense TV app for remote control via infrared, a custom lock screen, Zoe (basically a gif maker, only in high quality video format) and Blinkfeed (a latest news/updates kind of app that looks like a mix between Google Now and Live Tiles).
Samsung Galaxy S4
The Samsung Galaxy S4 ships with the latest version of Android – 4.2.2, which has a few improvements over 4.1.x, but no major changes. Still, it’s good to have the latest version right away. The phone also uses the company’s own Touch Wiz UI, version 5.0 no less – an interesting coincidence. The user interface looks more like the default Android UI, although the customizations are quite extensive.
The Galaxy S4 packs a few unique and interesting features. First up are Smart Pause and Smart Scroll, which are the most talked about features and indeed are pretty interesting to see in action. They basically automate video pausing/playing and scrolling in the browser by tracking your eyes – if you’re looking at the screen, the video plays, if you take your eyes away, it pauses. The same with Smart Scroll – once your eyes reach the bottom of the screen, it should automatically scroll further – it’s not very accurate, though, and both of these features depend heavily on the lighting conditions.
The Galaxy S 4 also has advanced gestures and motion control that make use of the integrated sensors and camera. You can answer phone calls with a finger swipe, change tracks with a rotation, set the phone to vibrate or silent mode by turning it over for a second, and more.
The most interesting feature, however, is multitasking – just like the Galaxy Note 2, the Galaxy S4 lets you run two apps side-by-side, like in the Windows 8 Metro UI. That can be pretty useful a lot of times, and it’s these software features that make the Galaxy S4 unique and worth considering.
Upgradeability and Hackability
Rooting and custom ROMs
The HTC One has a special Developer Edition coming soon, but don’t worry, this isn’t Motorola we’re talking about – the standard version can easily have its boot loader unlocked, and afterwards the phone can be rooted with a few simple steps. Obviously, there are pretty much no custom ROMs at the moment, but development will pick up, and soon you’ll be able to have a faster HTC One running the latest version of Android with lots of custom options that will never be available in a standard installation. Being able to root and flash custom ROMs is an amazing advantage (especially when the device reaches its EOL), and the HTC can do it with ease.
Samsung Galaxy S4
Continuing the Galaxy S3’s tradition, the Galaxy S4 is also able to be rooted and have custom ROMs flashed without much difficulty. Seeing as the Galaxy S3 has one of the most thriving developer community on XDA and other forums, it’s not farfetched to predict that the S4 will also have a ton of customized, fast and flashy ROMs available for it in a few months’ time. It also makes the phone as future proof as it gets, especially since you can replace a dead battery anytime you want.
Overclocking and Undervolting
Overclocking can give you a noticeable boost in performance, while undervolting can do the same thing for battery life. Seeing as the HTC One will definitely benefit from the latter, it’s good that it can be rooted – this means that processor overclocking/undervolting isn’t far off. Seeing as the Snapdragon S4 was able to overclock a good 300-400 MHz (that’s for all 4 cores, so the boost is noticeable!), the Snapdragon 600 should be able to do the same, reaching the Galaxy S4’s 1.9 GHz with ease and going even further. But you’re better off actually underclocking to ~1.5 GHz and undervolting as far as possible for a cool device and a looong battery life.
Samsung Galaxy S4
The above also applies to the Galaxy S4 – as the phone can be rooted and it can have custom ROMs flashed, you’ll be able to overclock and undervolt as you see fit – within normal limits, of course. As the Galaxy S4 already runs at the Snapdragon 600’s top stock clocks of 1.9 GHz, it will overclock less, but then again, you’ll probably see a higher increase in battery life when undervolting (compared to the HTC One).
|Samsung Galaxy S4||HTC One|
|Large 5.0 inch display with 1920×1080 resolution||Gorgeous 1920×1080 display|
|Large, removable 2600 mAh battery||Sturdy and well-designed polycarbonate/metal body|
|Android 4.2.2 out of the box||High quality camera with large sensor pixels|
|Micro SD card slot for expansion||Infrared transceiver|
Pros and Cons
Samsung Galaxy S4
|Compact body for such a large display||All plastic body|
|Micro SD card slot lets you add more memory|
|Camera is one of the best around||Non-removable battery|
|Infrared transceiver and Miracast add a host of unique and useful capabilities||No way to extend the storage space|
|Can work as a normal universal remote using the infrared port and transmit video over Wifi using Miracast|
|Has a better main camera, as well as a dedicated image processor for it|
Who is the phone made for?
The HTC One is aimed at a wide range of users – from power users and developers who want the latest toy to play with, to average users who want a nice looking smartphone that can do more than just browse the Web and run the latest apps (the infrared remote is a great addition!) and even people who are new to smartphones, who will find the One easy to adapt to thanks to the simple interface. It’s quite a range that HTC is targeting, but they really might just succeed – with the given price, great build quality and internal hardware, it’s hard to ignore the HTC One as a potential buy no matter what your needs are.
The Samsung Galaxy S series was traditionally aimed at people who have the money and can spend it on a high end device that looks good and can do everything a smartphone needs to do. The Galaxy S4 is no exception – with the latest hardware under the hood and a slew of unique colors to complement the design, the phone will find itself in the pockets of people who want it as a fashion accessory, as well as power users and developers who want the latest and greatest device. Even new users will like it, but it will be harder to adjust to the user interface, and the price isn’t exactly budget-friendly, either.
Price and Availability
The HTC One is already on sale – it goes for $100-200 on a contract depending on the network, or $599/$649 unlocked without a SIM for the 32/64GB models, respectively. That’s cheaper than the midrange iPhone 5, which is impressive for such a handset, and it’s also cheaper than the Galaxy S4, which makes it very attractive for anyone.
Samsung Galaxy S4
The Galaxy S4 has been released few months ago, and so far the networks seem to be keeping different contract prices. We do know that it will cost $825 without a contract for the 32GB version, which is in line with the previous two models (Galaxy S2 and S3) and the iPhone 5, but obviously it’s higher than the HTC One, which has the same specs.
Both the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One are excellent phones, and choosing between them may be hard – if you like Super AMOLEDs and are ready to pay the price or are getting it with a contract, the S4 is an excellent purchase – if you want the best camera, a slightly more unique looking phone or just the best hardware for your money, the HTC One looks like the better choice.