Two of the best smartphones of the year will be getting better on June 26. Following the announcement at Google I/O about a pure Android Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC and Google have come together to give the same treatment to the HTC One. Both "Nexus" editions will be released on the Google Play Store on June 26.
Apart from the hardware distinction between the two handsets, the one major difference is seen in the price. While the newest version of HTC One will be sold for $599 (approx Rs 34,000), the S4 has been priced at $649 (approx Rs 37,000). The difference in price could turn out to be a major coup for HTC, especially considering both phones will be sitting side-by-side on the Play Store on the same day. So, the obvious question is: which one to go for? Let’s try and look for an answer.
Design and build quality
In terms of design, there’s no doubt that the HTC One is a winner. Even if you don’t have any other phone to compare it with, the One looks a stunner. In front of the Galaxy S4, the One looks to be a different beast thanks to the aluminium unibody design. However, in terms of practicality, the plastic body of the S4 is slightly ahead. Thanks to the removable back, the S4’s battery can be replaced with ease. We are also certain there will be more than a few battery packs that can replace the back of the S4 to provide extra juice. This is not possible on the HTC One unless you get a case with a battery pack. So with regards to design, the HTC One is miles ahead, but Samsung claws back thanks to the practicality of its plastic body.
Unibody at its best
Samsung also has managed to make the S4 smaller and more compact than the HTC One. The S4 is 0.3 inches shorter than the One, despite the larger display, and a good 1.4 mm thinner too. It’s a tough call, but the S4 nicks this one thanks to the more compact body, the practicality of the removable back and potential for extra battery packs.
Plastic body is practical
The Galaxy S4 has the better display out of the two handsets. But when we say better, we are talking in marginal terms. The One with its 4.7-inch 1080p display has more natural colour representation, but the larger 5-inch display on the S4 produces blacks the One can only dream of – thanks to the Super AMOLED panel.
Is it on or off? Super AMOLED brings deep blacks
Critics of the S-AMOLED panel complain about oversaturated colours, but Samsung has an Adobe RGB mode for the display to improve colour accuracy. We are yet to find out whether this mode will be present in the S4 Google Edition. Viewing angles are excellent on both phones, but the Galaxy S4 has the edge in terms of contrast of the display.
Full HD glory
The HTC One's screen is very much the best LCD we have seen in a while. The colours look great and the contrast is impressive, though not S4-great. That’s because there’s a contrast loss at very wide angles, but this situation comes up very rarely in daily use. The One falls short in terms of sunlight legibility, where the Galaxy S4’s less reflective screen makes it a better display to read under bright sunlight. That’s despite the One having a brighter screen at maximum setting. Slight edge again to the S4.
The HTC One has the much-talked-about UltraPixel camera, which has larger pixels to absorb more light and capture greater detail in an image. However, the size of the final image is equivalent to the size of a picture taken with a 4 megapixel camera. The Galaxy S4 sticks to the conventional bump-up in megapixel count with the 13 megapixel camera. In our camera comparison, we found the Samsung flagship to be far better than the HTC One in terms of outdoor portraits, capturing of colours in daylight and detail of distant or obscured objects. The HTC One does have the edge in low-light and night shots, where the S4 is not bad, but not stellar either. For most parts, the Galaxy S4 is clearly ahead in the imaging department too.
13 megapixel camera is more than worthy for the flagship
Samsung has fitted a much larger 2600 mAh battery, which should ideally allow long usage times. The HTC One has a slightly smaller 2300 mAh battery, which sounds lacking in comparison. However, when it comes to battery life, the usage pattern dictate a lot and it entirely depends on the usage and the frequency with which the phone connects to networks. It would be hard to tell how long exactly either phone will last with the new stock Android ROM, considering both have been tested in our labs with Sense and TouchWiz UI running. This one's still up in the air.
The HTC One has front-facing stereo speakers, while the S4 delivers sound through the now-familiar loudspeaker grille on the back. The HTC is just too good when it comes to phone loudspeakers and we have rarely, if ever, heard comparable sounding speakers on a smartphone.
Front stereo speakers are a great addition
While Samsung has stuck to the three navigation keys, HTC has gone for an odd two-button setup, where the home button does triple duty to give access to Google Now and the Recent Apps. While we don’t know if there will be any difference in the HTC One sold through the Play Store, most purists will still stick to Samsung’s implementation.
The bottom line
The trend has been obvious in the above segments. HTC brings great hardware, but owing to slightly better counterparts in the S4, the Samsung smartphone earned a very close victory. However, we would be remiss to not point out that the One does offer a more premium feel in the hand thanks to the excellent build quality. And to get that excellent look and feel, buyers will have to spend $50 less. So it’s certainly a great deal. One thing is for sure, neither choice is wrong and it ultimately will boil down to personal preference. Do let us know which one rocks your boat!