The Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One are today two of the best Android smartphones of 2013. Samsung and HTC rely heavily on Android but tune its software differently to suit their brand. They also mend the software to offer a unique experience that each company feels is better than the vanilla version of Android that Google is offering in its Nexus devices. Generally, HTC mobiles focus more on durability and aesthetics while Samsung mobiles focus more on software features.
Design & Build Quality
Starting with the device design itself, Samsung and HTC have set out on different paths. Samsung has borrowed the design of the Galaxy S4 from their own previous flagships such as Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 but it is slimmer, narrower and shorter than both of them which is quite an achievement in spite of a bigger screen. It is mostly built of plastic with a HyperGlaze finish, which has a kind of dotted pattern on it. But the Galaxy S4 stands nowhere when compared to the likes of HTC One and the Apple iPhone 5 and doesn’t feel like you are holding a flagship device from world’s largest mobile phone vendor. On the other hand, the HTC One is entirely built of metal, glass and a bit of plastic inserts for better signal reception. As soon as you hold the device, you feel like holding some kind of jewellery. The curved back is good to hold and improves the ergonomics. The edges are bevelled and all the holes are laser cut for perfection. Samsung said that the plastic build has a number of practical advantages firstly it’s lighter for one, 20g, and has the removable back cover means a user-replaceable battery and a microSD card slot. The extra weight and the aluminium finish give the HTC One a premium feel that gives the consumer satisfaction.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 has a homegrown Super AMOLED HD screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels taking its pixel density of 440 ppi. Although this is a display with pen-tile matrix arrangement of sub-pixels which are known for displaying text with jagged edges, Samsung has greatly improved the sub-pixel arrangement in this version of the display. It is one of the best displays out there in terms of contrast, black levels but is not as bright as some of the LCD units out there. It also displays the colours with a it of greener tint but it can be corrected by setting the colour settings to ‘Movie’ mode. On the other hand, the HTC One display is the best display on a mobile device ever with accurate colours, high brightness levels and good black levels. The Samsung Galaxy S4 display also has a proprietary technology from Synaptics which lets you just hover the fingers on over screen to operate it but its not mostly useful in day-to-day life. On the whole, the HTC One display wins by a small margin against the Samsung Galaxy S4 display.
The HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4 are been both designed with mobile photographers in mind. HTC tries have unique efforts by installing the 4 MP UltraPixel camera that uses large pixels to deliver better low light photos. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is been equipped with a 13MP camera, which Samsung enhances with some new photo features. Both the phones feature AF, LED Flash, full HD video recording, Zero Shutter Lag, Simultaneous Image & Video recording and 2 MP front cameras. The Samsung Galaxy S4 takes slightly better photos in daylight but falters terribly in the low-light conditions compared to the HTC One. Even the video recording is smoother on the HTC One, thanks to OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation). The HTC One also has more FoV (Field of View) in both stills and videos when compared to the Samsung Galaxy S4.
The HTC One arrives with HTC Zoe, features mostly that shoot 3 second video and 20 photos with the push of a shutter. Which makes it possible to capture motion, photos and sound all at once. After it is uploaded on HTC website, users can then share the Zoe on social networks through mostly by moving photo or edit it to make a photo that shows multiple frames. On stage HTC Zoe sounded like a gimmick, but after some feedback of the reviewers, I think that it’s clearly is a great feature. The Samsung Galaxy S4 does not provides the HTC Zoe competitor directly, but has it with collection of features it delivers a similar experience. The standout Samsung Galaxy S4 camera feature is the Dual camera mode, with the setting that combines the front and rear facing cameras to let the photographer be part of the photo or video. The Samsung Galaxy S4 can also combine the sound and a photo. The Sound & Shot feature here is similar to HTC Zoe’s combination of photos and sound, but there are no video components in it.
Processing, Connectivity & Other Hardware
The Samsung Galaxy S4 runs on either Exynos Octa or Snapdragon 600 based on country. The Exynos Octa has 8 CPU cores of which, 4 CPU cores are based on ARM Cortex A15 and remaining 4 CPU cores are based on ARM Cortex A7. The Cortex A15 cores do all the heavy processing work while the Cortex A7 cores are used in relatively easy chores. The PowerVR SGX544MP3 GPU does all the graphical processing is very powerful to run any game smoothly ever built for Android. The processing difference between Snapdragon 600 (Quad-Core CPU + Adreno 320 GPU) and Exynos Octa (Octa-Core) is negligible and you can’t find any real world performance difference. The HTC One also uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor with Adreno 320 GPU. Both the smartphones have 2 GB of RAM. The HTC One has fixed storage of either 32 or 64 GB. The Samsung Galaxy S4 on the other hand comes in 3 variants of 16/32/64 GB of internal storage and an additional micro SD card slot for expansion. Both the devices perform nearly identically and you can’t go wrong with any of them.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One both include IR which allows the users to control an HDTV with the phone. The HTC One IR Blaster is reportedly more powerful in comparison. Both have micro USB 2.0 and 3.5 mm jacks. Both the phones have Wi-Fi ac/b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi Hotspot, NFC, Miracast, Bluetooth 4.0 and GLONASS A-GPS. The Samsung Galaxy S4 has a lot of sensors including temperature sensor, humidity sensor, RGB sensor in additional to other sensors. The HTC One has BoomSound speakers with additional sound amplifier which sound really loud and clear.
Operating System, Software Features & UI
The Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One are arguably two of the best Android smartphones of 2013, but neither phone is a pure Android smartphone. Samsung and HTC rely heavily on the software features to enhance the user experience and stand apart from each other, and the Nexus 4, in a crowded Android smartphone market.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One both run on the similar versions of Android, but on top of Android, the here skin is the one, which changes the look and functionality of Android. Samsung TouchWiz and Nature UX sit on top of Android, offers a more colourful version of Android with extra apps and all the features that connect the phone to other Samsung devices. with HTC Sense 5 users would get a cleaner look and a collection of smart new features.
The Galaxy S4 has a lot of eye, finger and hand tracking features to operate a phone without need to be touching it but they are, as of now, gimmicks which rarely work perfectly. display can easily stay on when it detects a user is been looking at it. Additionally, it allows a user to mostly combine the motion to scroll without touching the screen. The Samsung Galaxy S4 has the most interesting eye-tracking technology to automatically pause video when a user looks away. The HTC One on the other hand is a feature packed phone, but it does offer the BlinkFeed, provides a new way to check updates from social networks and favourite news sources.
Battery Life & Price
The Samsung Galaxy S4 has a 2600 mAh while the HTC One has a 2300 mAh battery. In real usage, both offer well over 14 hours of talk-time, 10 hours of video watching and 10 hours of web browsing in spite differences in battery capacities. Although the Galaxy S4 lasts longer in stand-by mode, the HTC one lasts longer if you use your phone constantly. The Samsung Galaxy S4 retails for around INR 41.5K while the HTC One is priced at INR 42,990.