Time for another smartphone deathmatch spec comparison… This time it’s the iPhone 5S versus the HTC One.

The iPhone 5S is Apple’s flagship smartphone.  The iPhone 5C is for the slightly budget conscious and or, in my estimation, teenagers and young adults who crave color and plastic… it’s basically the iPhone 5 in polycarbonate.  The 5S boasts a more capable processor, Touch ID (the newest way to secure your phone), more robust camera features, but is essentially the same as the 5/5C… and therefore an incremental smartphone variant from Apple.  We’ll have to wait until the iPhone 6 for other rumored features, but for now, we have one smart-looking smartphone in the Apple tradition of premium devices.

The HTC One marked a new direction for the Taiwanese manufacturer once known for notebook computers the way Apple was once known for Macs.  HTC makes Windows and Android compatible smartphones, though it tends to rank behind its main competitor, Samsung (which has fast become Apple’s chief rival in mobile computing), and has had to fight for brand identification in a crowded marketplace after launching phones that were either marketed poorly (HTC One X) or had delays in production (nearly all their models, but the last few model rollouts were marred by worrisome production difficulties or material shortages).   With the announcement of the One back in March, HTC has tried to differentiate itself from the pack.

Apple’s iPhone 5S has three color variations (Gold!), but beyond that is a single release phone, no tech or branding variants.  The HTC One, like other Android phones that seek to (over)saturate the market, has model variants that include a Google Play version with a stock Android OS (the HTC One we’ll compare comes with HTC’s proprietary Sense 5 skin on top of Android 4.2.2), a Developer version and versions geared toward retailers (Best Buy Blue) or carriers (Sprint Red), even a new “mini” model.  We’ll have none of that… and stick with the flagship HTC One for comparison’s sake (well, except for one mention of the Mini)

And the specs….

iPhone 5S
iPhone 5
HTC One
iPhone 5s
Size 4.87(H) x 2.31(W) x 0.30(D) inches 5.41(H) x 2.69(W) x 0.37(D) inches
Weight 3.95oz  5.04 oz
Body Composition Aluminum / Glass Aluminum / Polycarbonate / Glass
Display 4-inch (diagonal) Retina display; 1136 x 640 resolution; 326 ppi  4.7-inch (diagonal) S-LCD 3 display; 1080 x 1920; 468 ppi
Battery Built-in rechargeable 1,560mAh lithium-ion battery / Charging via USB to computer system or power adapter / Talk time: Up to 10 hours on 3G / Standby time: Up to 250 hours on 3G / Internet use: Up to 8 hours on 3G, up to 10 hours on LTE, up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi / Video playback: Up to 10 hours / Audio playback: Up to 40 hours  Built-in rechargeable 2300 mAh lithium-ion polymer battery / Charging via USB to computer system or power adapter / Talk time:  Up to 18 hours on 3G / Standby time: Up to 480 hours on 3G / Internet use: Up to 8 hours on 3G, up to 10 hours on LTE, up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi / Video playback: UP to 10 hours / Audio Playback: Up to 40 hours
Processor Apple A7 with 64-bit architecture (dual core); 1.3 GHz; 1GB RAM; M7 Motion Co-Processor* Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 (quad core); 1.7 GHz; 2GB RAM
OS iOS 7 Android Jelly Bean 4.1.2 – 4.2.2 –      4.3 (coming soon)
Connectivity GSM / CDMA / LTE / GPS and GLONASS GSM / EDGE / CDMA / LTE / GPS and GLONASS
Storage Flash Memory: 16GB / 32GB / 64GB Flash Memory: 32GB / 64GB
Camera 8 MP iSight Camera (rear); Video recording: HD (1080p) up to 30 frames per second with audio ** 1.2 MP FaceTime camera (front); Video Recording HD (720p) up to 30 frames per second 4 MP HTC UltraPixel Camera (rear); Video recording: HD (1080p) up to 30 frames per second with audio ** 2.1 MP HD camera (front); Video Recording HD (1080p) up to 30 frames per second
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.0 4.0
Price  Subsidized (usually 2-year contract) 16GB $199 / 32GB $299 / 64GB $399 with contract  **  Without contract: 16GB $649 / 32GB $749 / 64GB $849 Subsidized (usually 2-year contract): 32GB $49 – $199 / 64GB $99 – $299 **   Without contract: 32GB $599 (unlocked) / 64GB: $699 (unlocked)

 

SIZE & WEIGHT

The iPhone 5S retains the size and weight of the previous iPhone 5.  It still fits very comfortably in the hand, allows for easy navigation with the thumb, and still has that solid, premium feeling the iPhone line is known for.

The HTC One is larger, as most Android phones tend to be (bigger is better, right), but it’s not so large as to be unwieldy in the hand, still allows for navigation with the thumb and generally feels fine.  It’s not as wide as the Samsung Galaxy 4S in this regard, but rather offers a bit more height. The lack of additional width is a plus for those with smaller hands who prefer phones to fit nicely and comfortably.  However, it is heavier by an ounce and change and though the additional heft might not be too noticeable, the iPhone does feel a tad lighter, which is nicer in the pocket or pocketbook.

Here’s that mention of the HTC One Mini… its 5.20 x 2.49 x .37 dimensions have an even nicer fit in the hand, and is very close to the iPhone 5S in fit and feel.  For those who’d rather not purchase the iPhone, but want the comfort of a smartphone that doesn’t edge into phablet territory (the two-handed beast, in my ever so humble opinion).

Winner: In terms of dimensions and weight only (not taking into account screen, mind you), the iPhone 5S wins.  It’s just a bit more comfortable to tote around and handle on the go.

 

BODY COMPOSITION

The iPhone is one of those technological brands that speaks to a certain person… it lets you know it’s a premium phone on mere looks alone.  Taking into account matters of taste, and those with a preference for plastic, the iPhone 5S looks great just sitting on a table in the same way a Mercedes looks good just sitting in the driveway.  Jonathan Ive’s design sense has carried over from the iPhone 4 and 5, and now comes in stately silver, Space Grey (charcoal black) and gold shades of metallic brilliance.  Of course, for the truly design-oriented, there are the weird details that only seem to matter to Apple and students of industrial design… perfect circles (the home button that’s the same size as iOS 7′s lock screen circles and phone “buttons”), perfectly machined chamfered edges, a lighter, anodized aluminum frame and body casing, subtle use of plastic around the edge of the screen (so subtle it’s barely there), and on and on.

If the above sounds like the retched chatter of the Apple fanboy, I assure you the HTC One is absolutely no slouch in the design category.  Of the myriad Android smartphones in the marketplace, very few come close to the refined look and overall stylishness of the iPhone, stylishness that for some might be overkill (and for those, there’s Samsung).  The HTC One comes closest to the design sensibility of the iPhone without being a complete knockoff (Look! Chamfered bezels on the edge!).  On looks alone, it’s definitely striking, with a solid appearance and attention to detail that reaches for Apple-like levels of design obsessiveness.

Or maybe I’m just a sucker for the sleek looks of unibody aluminum… both the iPhone 5S and HTC One are both zero-gap, metallic phones, and to me it speaks to premium quality better than polycarbonite or other high-impact plastic.  Not to say that the HTC One doesn’t use polycarbonate… it does, but it uses it to accent the back of the case and nothing more.  The HTC One has a nice, rounded back case in contrast to Apple’s flat back (the iPhone 5S retains that monolithic shape straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey) and though hands might get a better grip on the One than on Apple’s device, the iPhone still has a better overall feel, especially for those with smaller hands.

The iPhone 5S maintains the single multi-function home button, now surrounded by a metallic ring that holds a laser-cut sapphire crystal protecting capacitive touch scanner capable of scanning the fingertip (which is the core hardware feature linked to iOS 7′s Touch ID security/ID management process).   The metallic ring also acts as a touch detection sensor to help activate the scanning process.

Typical of most Android smartphones, the HTC One has touch home and back buttons integrated beneath the Gorilla Glass (gone is the menu button… it’s been further integrated into Android OS).  Below the buttons a speaker grill indicates that the HTC One seems to be more serious about sound than Apple is.  You’d expect Apple, long a favorite of audio and video enthusiasts and creators, to give their all when it comes to speakers on the iPhone… you’d be wrong.  Though the speaker is pretty good, it’s not great… and that’s speaker, single not plural.  All your sound (save for phone calls) is coming out of that single speaker on the right (when facing the phone), the left is the microphone for phone calls, interacting with Siri, spewing angry babble into text, etc.

If anything, HTC has decided rich, room-filling audio is going to be a big feature of the One (formerly Beats Audio they now call it “HTC BoomSound”).  Behind the sleekly designed grill are amplified dual speakers featuring Beats Audio technology (though this will be changing on future production of the HTC One and the upcoming HTC One Max).  Just how important was Beats Audio to HTC before rebranding?  Important enough for them to buy half the company in 2010, which gave HTC an exclusive edge in using the audio technology and branding in future devices, though they’ve now divested themselves completely and will go it alone instead of with Dr. Dre.

Apple still has a thing for big borders around its display, something I always found a waste of screen real-estate, the glass is certainly big enough to go almost edge-to-edge for viewing without making the phone significantly larger, but Apple refuses to lop off portions of the top and bottom borders in favor of display space.  The HTC One seems to me to have smaller borders. Granted they are there, but HTC has minimized them in favor of using more glass for display rather than… nothing.  Sure you need a place for telephone audio, a front facing camera, and home button… but maybe not so much space.  Remember, though, the HTC One does this by having an overall bigger body design (now if they would only minimize their logo on the front of the device).

Design is fast becoming another way for Android handset manufacturers to distinguish themselves, and with the Sony Xperia Z and the new Nokia Lumia creating waves in design circles, HTC has to stand apart, and they do so most fashionably and elegantly with the One.

Winner: iPhone 5S.  In terms of body composition it’s a tie for raw materials.  Though the HTC One manages to put practicality and style into one excellent unibody design, setting itself apart from Android-centric competitors, it can’t outmatch the iPhone 5S’s truly elegant appearance and feel.  Beats Audio/BoomSound is kinda cool, but isn’t enough to turn heads the way iPhone does.



Christian Hokenson

 
Christian Hokenson is a writer based in Burbank, CA. He's interested in technology, movies, and home entertainment. If you're nice to him, he might buy you ice cream.