The lines between regular-sized smartphones and phablets are getting blurred. The HTC One (M8), which would have been considered an oversized monstrosity just a few years ago, is now par for the course for Android flagships. Let's plop it down next to the most popular phablet, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, to compare their features and specs.
The Galaxy Note 3 is still noticeably bigger, but this contest might be closer than you think. The Note is just 3 percent longer and 11 percent wider than the HTC One (M8). The Note is also 12 percent thinner.
On the whole, the One gives you about 90 percent as much surface area as the Note does. Does that make it 9/10 of its way towards being a phablet?
The Note is also just five percent heavier than the One M8. There are lighter phones around, but neither feels ridiculously heavy in hand.
Now we see why that weight is so close. Samsung used a fake leather finish for the Note 3, while HTC stuck with its classy unibody aluminum build. I don't have a big problem with Samsung's pleather, but I don't think it compares to the One M8's stunning metallic design. It's in a league of its own.
We're looking at three color options for each phone.
Even though the phones' sizes are closer than I would have guessed, the One M8 still only gives you 77 percent as much screen real estate as the Note 3. And though the One packs in the pixels a little tighter, that shouldn't be anything to worry about: these are two of the best mobile displays around.
It wouldn't be a Galaxy Note without a stylus. The Note 3's S Pen lets you do things like jot down quick notes, write a phone number and quickly add it to a contact, or scribble on screenshots. Some of it is more gimmick than something you're likely to use every day, but there is some handy stuff in there too. And if nothing else, styluses always give you a sense of precision that stubby fingers just can't replicate.
Both phones have good battery life, but the HTC One scored better in our standard test (streaming video with brightness at 75 percent), lasting 87 percent longer. You'll want to take that with a few grains of salt, since so many factors can influence battery life, but there's no denying that the One M8 is easily an all-day phone.
Samsung announced a new mode for the Galaxy S5 called Ultra Power Saving Mode. It lets you squeeze hours of extra battery life out of just a few percentage points (by making the screen black & white and limiting other processes). Then HTC announced that its version of the feature will be coming to the One M8 via software update. Samsung hasn't announced any plans to bring the feature to the Note 3.
So even though it looks like HTC might have ripped this feature off of Samsung, the One is the only phone in this showdown with an Extreme Power Saving Mode.
HTC's Motion Launch is a convenient set of sensor-based shortcuts. Hold the phone in portrait mode, and you can swipe or tap the screen (while it's off) to jump straight to several different areas. Or hold in landscape mode, and jump straight to the camera by tapping a volume button. Getting an incoming call? Just lift the One to your ear and it will answer.
Samsung's Multi Window is a desktop-like feature that lets you run two apps on screen at the same time.
The Note 3 wins handily on megapixels. The One's "UltraPixel" camera is a little polarizing, but I've yet to find another smartphone camera that takes as bright pictures under crappy lighting conditions.
One extra perk that HTC threw into the One's camera is its depth sensor. The second rear camera lets you simulate a narrow depth of field (blurred background) from a more powerful camera. You can add this effect after you've already snapped your pic.
Both phones let you record video in slow-motion.
Both phones have IR blasters that let you use your device as a remote control for your TV and satellite/cable box.
Right now, there's no competing with the One M8's BoomSound speakers. They put out much better audio than you're used to hearing out of a phone.
Both devices have near-field communication chips inside.
The Note offers higher tiers of internal storage. Both devices have micro SD card slots.
The One M8 has the slightly-updated Snapdragon 801, but performance isn't a concern in either phone.
The Note 3 is one of the few ARM-based mobile devices with 3 GB of RAM.
Both phones run Android 4.4 KitKat, and they each have custom UIs splattered on top.
We're probably about halfway towards the Galaxy Note 4 (or whatever Samsung calls its next phablet). The One M8 just released a few weeks ago.
Neither phone is cheap, especially if you pay the full off-contract prices above. If you live in the US, then the One typically goes for US$200 on-contract, while the Note 3 ranges between $200-300 with a two-year blood oath.
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