It’s comparison time, folks. But this one is far from predictable. If you thought our last comparison was a heated contest, then you should prepare for a scorcher in this grueling battle. Just a couple weeks back we pit the sleeping giant iPhone 5 against the new HTC One hottie. The sparks flew, dirt was flung and eventually the former iPhone 5 champ cried “Uncle!” and conceded the coveted win to the dashing HTC One. The iPhone 5 fought hard and put forth some new and interesting features, taller screen and is omnipresent making it easy and affordable for users to obtain. While you can’t really call the iPhone 5 a dinosaur, it certainly seemed like one when positioned next to the One and it’s tidal wave of slick and relevant new features.
This time we’re pitting the One against an exceedingly more worthy contender in the Samsung Galaxy S4. This is easily–hands down–the most difficult evaluation I have ever conducted within the tech industry. These two phones sit at the peak of high end Smartphone devices. They each offer an amazing array of features not found on most premium Smartphones, plus Android 4.2.2 and the beastly Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor. But there can be only one, or so we’re told. Lets see who can claim the mountain for their own. But I guarantee, the results will surprise you.
I’ll keep this one simple. The is an easy tie as some will favor the GS4’s lightweight, wider body build. The 5-inch screen pushes it’s width past the HTC One’s (4.7-inch display). But the one grips your hand a bit better with a nicely textured metal back and slimmer sides.
This is a pretty easy one. While both phones are certainly attractive and easy to hold in a single hand, there are some clear deciding factors that tip the scale in the One’s favor. HTC has the display go edge-to-edge with the tiniest hint of housing/bezel at the edges. The use of plastics has been snubbed pretty hard by consumers and press alike. The One seems to pounce on that chink in the armor with an all-metal no-gap design. The result is a heavier, more industrial device that looks stunning in both black and white-ish chrome. Myself and others have said it many times: the design of the One ends in a sultry minx that commands attention fondling. I want to pick it up and play with even if unneeded. The GS4 has 1 more physical button than the One. It’s the Home button positioned at bottom and flanked by the Back button and Menu key. The volume rockers are on the left side on each. But the One tucks these flush to the device so they don’t protrude out like they on most device, include the GS4. Alternatively, the design on the GS4 lends itself to some cool UI navigation features. Where the One keeps things a bit more simple. More on that in the OS section.
Winner: HTC One
The two companies have gone in different directions for their display choices. The GS4 is packing a large 5-inch 1080p Gorilla Glass Super AMOLED display with 441ppi. The window on the One is a smaller 4.7-inch 1080p HD IPS display. Yet the One puts forth more vibrant colors and enhanced brightness over the GS4. This is especially notable in general use web browsing, UI navigation and such. Yet the GS4 produces more attractive video quality. It’s really a matter of preference. There’s no clear winner here.
Both of these phones have now stepped their OS-game up to the new Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2. But each looks completely different. Like a young girl with two identical dolls, it’s all in how you dress each one up that will decide the day. At first glance many will find the Samsung GS4 custom UI skin to be very familiar. But new comers could easily think otherwise as it is wholly cluttered in an unforgiving way. There are so many overlapping interfaces that really test the limits of that large 5-inch display. There is method, though, to this madness. If you take your time and investigate all the various ways to navigate, the GS4 becomes a powerhouse of possibilities. There is even an “Easy Mode” that simplifies the UI and helps you get accustomed to the features.
One thing that really stands tall above the One is the level of UI customization on the Galaxy S4’s. There are some many ways to arrange your Lock and Home screens that trump the One’s limited options. There is also a fantastic multi-window app tray that slides from the left side of the screen. It can be customized with your most frequented apps for easy access. This is something from which the One could learn. You can, however, double-tap the Home button on the One to get a list of all running apps, which helps a ton.
Air View is a new feature here in the GS4, but it’s more gimmicky than useful. It’s meant to work by hovering a finger over your different content such as emails, notifications, text message, web page content and more. But it just doesn’t feel useful. I like it. It’s neat, but I have absolutely zero use for it. Air Gesture is a similar feature but a bit more useful. You can cycle through gallery photos and other documents by swiping your hand over the face of the device back or forth, without actually touching the display or marring it with greasy smudges. Clever stuff!
I think BlinkFeed and the custom viewing features it brings to news, social media, videos and photos is a decidedly more useful and expansive set of features. But really this stuff is preferential. I digest a lot of news and BlinkFeed on the HTC One is a marvel for this. The style of presentation even extends to your photo gallery and share-able photo mash-ups, which can be customized with different music. Even still, Samsung has included a stellar Flipboard app integration that does much of what BlinkFeed can do. However the interface and functionality is not an inherent and integrated part of the UI functionality like BlinkFeed is for the One.
Winner: HTC One
This is, thankfully, much easier to decide. The Samsung Galaxy S4 uses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor that the is powering the HTC One. But the GS4 is clocked up to 1.9GHz. The One is clocked at 1.7. Surprisingly the One is just a bit faster in both games, UI navigation and web surfing. Let’s be clear! These are two of the fastest phone on the market. Sure the difference is noticeable, but not negatively so. Users will be immensely impressed with urgent response to input and commands coming from both phones.
Winner: HTC One
The Samsung Galaxy S4 offers an additional capacity variant than the HTC One. You can find it in 16gb, 32gb and 64gb capacities. The One is available in 32- and 64gb flavors. The One has passed up any microSD support so expansion in that area is a moot point. Samsung retained a clue and know storage expansion is highly important. Just pry open the back cover to reveal the MicroSD card slot. It should be noted, there is a small window of opportunity for those seeking HDD expansion in the One. You could import the microSD-ready version heading to China. I know that’s not much consolation.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S4
There’s nothing real exciting here. Both phones we have today are with us courtesy of Sprint and each is 4G LTE compliant depending on the area. Each phone makes use of NFC (near field communication). But the GS4 requires the purchase of new TechTiles at $14.99. The One is all ready to go with various NFC use scenarios. But the Samsung parries with Qi support for wireless charging, something that has some HTC One owners shouting WTF! But both phones are packing a small town’s worth of internal radios and such for massively wide array of wireless connectivity options. Oh, and The GS4 houses more UTMS frequencies on Sprint than the One. But really there’s no hardcore deciding factors here.
This was a tough one. Not because of the photo quality, but more for the sheer host of features and tools each device commands. Samsung is sticking with the high megapixel model. We have a 13mp camera on the back and a 2mp front-facing camera. The HTC One is going for an UltraPixel camera with a host of tech to enhance photos and compensate for the lack of megapixel density. The back camera is 4mp and the front uses a 2.1mp wide angle lens with HDR capabilities. It does 1080p full HD video and slo-mo video recording. The One can also do auto image stabilization and features proximity-related flash level (5 total).
The resulting images are great, even in low light settings. That wide angle lens and all the tech cranking under the hood congeals for surprising high quality photos. But the Galaxy S4 simply produces better photos with richer color vibrancy that seems to pop in a near-3D level or quality.
To be fair, Samsung has done quite the number on their camera tech too. One feature that is standout is the Dual-Camera function. With it you can take a single photo captured simultaneously by the front and rear cameras. The two photos can then be resized, moved around and edited to ultimately display a single side-by-side image. It’s pretty darn handy and fun stuff to play with. Other notables are Drama Shot for capturing series of consecutive static photo. If used in a flipbook they would appear animated. Eraser shot is the friend to all scorned lovers and former friends. As the name insist you can easily erase unwanted object and whole people from a shot.
Personally, I love HTC’s new set of features such as HTC Zoe and HTC Share. The former allows you to snap a 3-second video burst instead of a sill photo. If a picture is worth a 1000 words than a 3-sec Zoe shot is worth 3000. Plus the way the HTC can seamlessly mash up the photos with music and special effects is widely fun way for creating indelible memories. These can be shared over email, social media and more. Still…
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S4
It’s the GS4 2600 mAh removable battery vs the One static non-removable 2300mAh battery. Samsung steals this win too quite easily. Yet it does so in a manner that could seal its defeat. All the bits that drain the HTC One quicker than the Samsung Galaxy S4 are all standout super cool features absent on the GS4, like HTC Zoe, Slow motion video recording, cable set top box remote control functionality, BlinkFeed and more. This is where the One excels. My hope is that further updates will give the batt-life some well-deserved longevity. The company boasts of 27hr talk time over CDMA 3G and 479 hours of standby. After much use I can say this is far from the truth. HTC One does solid mild-to-medium use. Video playback limps along at 6-7hrs and you get approximately 12-30hours of overall use. While Samsung’s white paper states 17hour talk time, 350hr 3G standby time, 300hr 4G standby and 11hrs of video playback is a more honest assessment.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S4
If you’ve been watching these two then you already know the Galaxy S4 is available from more carrier than the HTC One. That’s likely to change with proven and continual success of the One. But currently, the One is available at AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. There are muttering of a Verizon inclusion, that’s not here yet. Meanwhile the one has successfully courted the aforementioned trio in addition to Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Cricket and C Spire.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S4.
Sprint is offering the 32gb HTC One for $99 with a 2-yr contract while also offering the reduced capacity 16gb GS4 at $149 with a 2-yr contract. There’s even a way to nab the One for a cool $80 bucks. Christian elucidates here. The devices are more expensive at AT&T where you can have the 32gb HTC One for $200 and the 32Gb Galaxy S4 can be yours for $250 (16bg variant price matches 32gb One). It’s much the same with other carriers, rendering the one as the clear leader in affordability.
Winner: HTC One
Overall Winner: Tie!
Shawn loves gadgets, literature, history and games. For 10yrs+ he's straddled both the comic book & video game industries, as a writer, editor, marketing officer & producer. Shawn got his start in tech & games as an editor & Hardware Director for GameRevolution.com. More notable accomplishments include Executive Producer on mobile games Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved & The Shroud.