Phone Wars: The Samsung Galaxy S IV vs. The HTC One

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on June 19, 2013
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I’ve been waiting for a little while to get my hands on these beasts. I’ve been really excited to get my hands on the Samsung Galaxy S IV to see how it compares about the older Samsung devices I’m used to and how Samsung are improving their range of apps and features exclusive to Samsung products. On the other hand I’ve been a little dubious of the HTC One partly because I’m not familiar with HTC’s of any kind and partly because until very recently I was a self confessed Samsung fanboy. The real question I wanted to find answers to was; Which phone is better? Samsung’s latest flagship device, or the HTC device everyone is calling “The best Android handset – ever”.

First Looks:

IMG_8944I first spent most of my time with the Samsung Galaxy S IV. This is the one phone I’ve been looking forward to fiddling with since it was announced earlier this year. Everything about the S IV screamed awesomeness, it was light, shiny, and fast. The screen was super responsive and bright, and the overall feel of the device was really simple and nice all be it a little non existent thanks to it’s meagre 130g weight. Samsung have stuck with using mostly plastic for this device but somehow it still retains it’s quality. Samsung have also kept the pebble-like shape that they introduced with the Galaxy S III.

The HTC One looked like an old friend, the BlackBerry Z10 (or at least the Z10 took some inspiration from the HTC One). As soon as I picked it up however the device screamed quality. Much like the Nexus 4 and most other HTC devices (to my knowledge) it was a complete unit. It’s aluminium unibody added a nice bit of weight to the device, not too much, mind, but enough to give you something substantial to hold onto – something I felt the Samsung Galaxy S IV failed to give. Though the Galaxy S IV has a larger screen the HTC One doesn’t need it. It’s a little on the large size for one handed use, but it was large enough for me to enjoy videos and pictures.

From a glance the Samsung Galaxy S IV looks a little too similar to the Galaxy S III, though side-by-side comparison would tell them apart, individually they are fairly similar. The HTC One however stands out a lot more. The speaker grilles located on the top and bottom of the phone (or either side depending on the phones orientation) give it a slight bad ass effect over the Galaxy S IV and the overall build of the phone also gives it an advantage over S IV.

For first looks the HTC One wins.

Screen

IMG_8949The Samsung Galaxy S IV comes with a 5-inch Full HD Super AMOLED screen at 1920×1080 with 440 ppi. It’s bright even in sunlight and the colours as usual are vibrant. Samsung have always provided amazing colours with their screens, something I noticed when going from my Note to my Nexus 4, the Samsung Galaxy S IV doesn’t let me down in that department which is good.

One fantastic thing about the Samsung Galaxy S IV is the Air View feature. This feature is exclusive to the Samsung Galaxy S IV and adds a brand new experience that allows you to use gesture based commands without even touching the screen. This also allowed the use of Samsung’s official accessory the S-View Cover to work correctly and display a small bit of information such as the time and personal message through the window found on the cover of the case.

The HTC One has a slightly smaller screen at 4.7in but still offers a Full HD experience at 1920×1080. Due to the smaller screen the pixels per inch have increased (468ppi) making the images on the HTC One look much crisper than on the Galaxy S IV, the high pixel density is also the highest available on the market right now. It doesn’t quite have the same vibrant colours of the Samsung Galaxy S IV however and it also lacks the fancy features such as Air View.

Overall Samsung have won in this area due to the Samsung Galaxy S IV’s functionality of the touch screen as well as the vibrant colours that the Super AMOLED screen offers.

Software

Both the Galaxy S IV and the HTC One come with their own custom skins, the S IV has the TouchWiz skin and the HTC One has HTC’s Sense skin, both of these offer two very different experiences so really it’s down to personal preference.

The Samsung Galaxy S IV’s TouchWiz skin isn’t anything new. In fact my wife’s Galaxy S II has just updated with the latest Android Jelly Bean firmware and along with that came the new version of Samsung’s TouchWiz UI – the same as the Galaxy S IV. Sadly this is where Samsung lose marks in my book. The TouchWiz UI is pretty dated until we look at the various different features which Samsung include in the Samsung Galaxy S IV.

Samsung’s various “Smart” features is what makes the Samsung Galaxy S IV pretty incredible. Samsung’s Smart Stay is a form of eye tracking which allows you to scroll up and down web pages without the need to tap the screen. Smart Pause is another eye tracking-esque feature which pauses the video you’re watching when you look away. The only issue I came across is that this only works with Samsung’s stock browser and video player app. Smart Stay doesn’t work on Chrome (which comes pre-installed on the device)  and Smart Pause doesn’t work on YouTube – this also includes the “pop out player” which allows you to do other things whilst watching a movie or a video on a smaller, moveable screen.

Along with the plethora of “S” apps which come with the Samsung Galaxy S IV it is a pretty useful and functional device straight out of the box. Most apps that I download and use on my devices are because I’m used to similar apps located on various Samsung devices.

The HTC One comes with Sense which I mentioned above. It also comes with a new feature unique to the HTC One in the form of the BlinkFeed. This is a brand new home screen which collects various feeds such as Facebook, Twitter and News Feeds and bundles them together into an easy on the eye, Windows Phone style panels. As someone who likes to keep an eye on RSS feeds as well as the occasional browse on Twitter and Facebook I loved the BlinkFeed.

The HTC One isn’t actually packed with too many features which is good it saves on memory, something that we’ll touch on later. One feature I do have to point out is the TV app. Both the S4 and the HTC have a TV app where you can control your TV from the handset itself. With the Samsung I had problems getting it to work but I was offered to contact Samsung when it didn’t recognise my TV. The HTC One’s TV app was a little more thorough. It offered you the chance to add TV programmes to your favourites as well as the TV remote function. Again my TV wasn’t recognised which was a shame, but it did however offer the chance for me to add my TiVo box. After a few minutes of finding out what code worked I was changing the channels with the HTC One – this is where the favourite TV Programmes feature comes into play. It remembers what you like and shows you when it’s on within your BlinkFeed if you then go ahead and tap that notification it’ll actually change the channel for you. Incredible!

Processor and Memory

IMG_8945Overall with software I’d say it’s a draw. The Samsung Galaxy S IV has some pretty neat features but are only really useful if you use the apps they’re compatible with, there’s also a lot to work with out of the box. The HTC One doesn’t have as many fancy features which in turn doesn’t clog your phone with unwanted apps. The BlinkFeed is a fantastic feature alone though, it provides function without looking too out of place.

The Samsung Galaxy S IV comes with the quad core Snapdragon 600 clocked at 1.9 GHz and 2GB of RAM. In terms of internal memory the S IV comes in either 16, 32, or 64GB version with the option to add a microSD memory card up to 64GB in size. The HTC One also comes packed with a Snapdragon 600 but this time clocked at 1.7GHz, it also comes with 2GB RAM. Because the HTC One is a complete unit there’s no way to add a microSD card so you’re limited to either 32 or 64GB storage.

Though the HTC One seems to be clocked lower than the Galaxy S IV they were both adequate enough for every day use. Both devices managed to deal some pretty power hungry apps with ease. The Samsung Galaxy S IV did show a little bit of lag at times though which was quite unexpected.

Overall it’s Samsung who win. On paper Samsung is the clear winner but in terms of operation both devices match up to each other quite well. The option to add a microSD card was also the deciding factor in Samsungs favour.

Camera

cameratestOn paper the Samsung Galaxy S IV may seem like the winner with 13-megapixels on top of the HTC One’s 4-megapixel camera but we need to consider that the HTC One has an Ultrapixel camera with an F2.0 aperture which makes this camera pretty amazing in low-light situations. The Ultrapixel feature is also an improvement over standard megapixel cameras this is because Ultrapixel uses pixels that are 2.0 µm in size compared to the usual 1.4-1.0µm pixels that current phones are using. This larger size pixel allows the camera to retain dynamic range and sensitivity making the HTC One’s camera perfect in low light situations.

After an over all picture test though (right), I found that the Samsung Galaxy S IV’s camera produced a much brighter and vibrant picture than the HTC One, this was during what would be considered as perfect lighting to some, during a bright summer’s day at around 2pm. You’ll be able to tell that in the photo with the Galaxy S IV, but not in the photo taken by the HTC One – the HTC One however does have a wider angled lens which allowed more of the subject to be included in the photo. (both photo’s were taken seconds apart standing at exactly the same distance and exactly the same height.)

The HTC One also includes a higher megapixel front facing camera at 2.1-megapixels compared to the Galaxy S IV’s 2-megapixel camera. Both the phone’s camera’s shoot 1080p HD video with both front and rear cameras which leaves the phones almost even.

Overall the photo test shows that the Samsung Galaxy S IV has a much better camera that produces a more vibrant and bright image. In low light conditions the HTC One came out on top however (I did forget to save that image).

Battery

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Both the Samsung Galaxy S IV and the HTC One performed pretty well during casual every day use such as the odd game here and there, browsing Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Feedly, and Reddit throughout the day. Various text messages and phone calls were also made. The Samsung Galaxy S IV needed charging a little sooner than the HTC One but both needed to be placed on charge at around 8-9pm. With much heavier use both phones needed to be put on charge a lot sooner but that’s to be expected.

The Samsung Galaxy S IV comes with a 2600 mAh Li-ion battery that can be replaced on the move. The HTC One has a 2,300 mAh Li-Po. Though battery use is really down to the amount of use you’d personally be putting your handset through, the Samsung Galaxy S IV has the option to replace your battery with a fully charged one if needs be, the HTC One is a solid unit and batteries can’t be replaced so sadly it loses marks on that.

Overall both phones performed pretty well and I had a decent day of use out of each of them. If I were travelling around where I didn’t have the option to use a charger, I would prefer to have the option to change the battery which the Galaxy S IV does offer, so again the Samsung Galaxy S IV is a winner in this race.

Verdict

Now this might leave you a little confused. Though the Samsung Galaxy S IV came out on top on most of the different categories, I still think the HTC One was a much better phone in comparison.

I feel that Samsung and their annual flagship devices are starting to just be a copy and paste of the previous model with a few new features and a larger screen. It didn’t seem at all special to me. I was really hyped about the new Galaxy S IV but once I managed to get my sticky fingers on it I wasn’t at all impressed in fact after using it for a few days whilst I waited for the HTC One to arrive, as soon as it did, I couldn’t wait to box the SGS IV up and play with the HTC One.

The HTC One is a much better built handset, it feels like something I’d pay £400-£500 for. It’s aluminium unibody gives you something to feel and hold; the Galaxy S IV doesn’t. It’s light and plastic-y even though it retains build quality – I even prefer my Nexus 4 over the SGS IV.

The SGS IV’s UI is just boring and the features only work on specific apps, so really it’s no different than the S II or S III for me because I only ever watch YouTube videos on my phone, and I only use Chrome because of the bookmark syncing features. I also don’t have any friends with a Galaxy S IV for Group Play, and if I did, they wouldn’t want to hear my crap.

To sum it up the HTC One is simple and it’s mine. It’s my BlinkFeed, it’s my apps, and it’s all mine to use however I want.

A huge thanks to Phones4U for the chance to get hands on with these handsets. Check out their fantastic HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4 Deals.

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  • trurl3

    So, it’s like always… one is better, but I like the other one more, because… I like it :) Heh…

    • http://www.n3rdabl3.co.uk/ Aaron Richardson

      Haha, I guess you’re right!

      It does boil down to personal preference at the end of the day and personally I’m a little bored of Samsung and TouchWiz. They’re both fantastic phones, but the HTC One is the only one that seems unique.

      Thanks for your comment! :D