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Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. HTC One

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March 18, 2013

We compare the specs and features of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One

We compare the specs and features of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One

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Samsung and HTC both make great smartphones. In terms of sales, though, HTC has seen better days. The company wants to bring itself back to relevance with its new flagship, the One. But is it better than Samsung’s new Galaxy S4? Let’s see how the two phones’ specs and features compare.

Size

The HTC One is a bit narrower and thicker than the Galaxy S4

The Galaxy S4 and HTC One are about the same height. The One is about 2 mm narrower (chalk that up to its smaller screen) and 18 percent thicker.

Build

The One's aluminum design lends a more premium allure to it than the S4's plastic

The Galaxy S4 is made of plastic ... with a look that's very familiar to owners of the Galaxy S3. Radical departure? No way. But we were still happy with its look and feel.

The HTC One, meanwhile, sets a new benchmark for smartphone design. The aluminum unibody phone did something that’s increasingly rare. It's a smartphone that's both stunning and not quite like anything we've seen before.

Plastic does has some advantages. It helps to trim weight (see below), and it opens the door for removable batteries and microSD cards. The GS4 ticks all of those boxes.

Weight

The One is ten percent heavier than the S4

The Galaxy S4's plastic body is lighter than the One's aluminum chassis: by more than 9 percent. The GS4 feels like one of the lightest phones on the market, though, when you take its size-to-weight ratio into account.

Display

The Galaxy S4's display is a bit larger, but the One has the same number of pixels

Both phones have ridiculously-sharp 1080p displays. Both are terrific, but with different strengths.

The One's pixel density is higher (same number of pixels squeezed into a smaller screen), and it has more toned-down, realistic colors. The Galaxy S4’s screen is bigger, with the more vibrant, in-your-face colors you'd expect from a Super AMOLED display.

Processor

The Galaxy S4 (both versions) should have the faster processor

In terms of benchmarks, the octa-core version of the GS4 is the fastest. But the quad-core GS4 and the One are both extremely fast too, with their Snapdragon 600 chips. In terms of experience? Both phones – including both versions of the GS4 – are insanely fast. The One feels a little smoother, though, since its software is a little leaner.

If you live in the U.S., you'll get the quad-core Qualcomm version of the GS4. Ditto for Australia and much of Europe. Most of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East (and some of Europe) get the octa-core Exynos GS4.

RAM

RAM is even at 2 GB

Both handsets are even, with 2 GB of RAM.

Storage

The Galaxy S4 has a microSD slot, but the One's base model has double the storage of the S...

The base model of the One doubles the internal storage of the entry-level Galaxy S4. But Samsung’s handset has a microSD card slot. No such luck for One owners.

One thing to remember is that the GS4's wacky bag of software features (see below) take up a lot of space. So we're looking at about 8 GB of usable internal space after you add TouchWiz to the core OS.

So GS4 owners will probably want to take advantage of that SD card slot. Fortunately, you can pick one up for about US$12.

Wireless

Where available, both phones will ride speedy LTE networks

No surprises here. If your local carrier supports LTE, both phones should be able to take advantage of the speedy network.

Battery

The Galaxy S4 has a higher capacity battery

The Galaxy S4’s battery holds more juice. In our tests, it also lasted longer during typical use. There isn't much to worry about with the One, though. For most of us, both phones should last a full day.

Cameras

Megapixel counts can be deceiving, as the One's camera should be much better than its pixe...

On paper, this looks like a rout for the Galaxy S4. But the One has a wildcard up its sleeve. They call them Ultrapixels.

HTC put less pixels in the phone's sensors, but they're bigger (hence, the “Ultrapixels”). The One also has f2.0 aperture and a 1/3-inch backlit-CMOS sensor. HTC says that these will let it perform better in low light.

In our tests, the One had some of the better low-light performance we've seen in a smartphone ... as long as the light was really low. In moderately-lit indoor settings, the GS4 beat it out. The lower the lighting got, though, the better the One performed.

You can check out our review of the Galaxy S4 and HTC One for more detail on their cameras (including sample shots).

Software

The Galaxy S4 has the newer version of Android, but both phones have custom UIs hiding the...

Samsung achieved the impossible with the Galaxy S4: it released a phone that runs the newest version of Android (4.2.2). The One is a full version behind. Fortunately for One owners, though, the difference between the two Jelly Beans is relatively minor. So we wouldn't bail on the One just because of this.

Much more obvious are the manufacturer UIs sitting on top of Android. Samsung threw a crazy amount of features into the latest version of TouchWiz. Where do we start? You have Air Hover (preview select tasks by hovering your finger over the display), Dual Camera (combine front-facing and rear-facing stills or video), and Smart Scroll (scroll through emails and web pages via facial recognition).

Some of the features are gimmicky, but we found them to be fun and – in some cases – useful. And if you don't like them, you can always turn them off, and never think about them again.

... or you can just buy the HTC One. HTC’s new Sense 5 scales itself back a bit. There are much less extra goodies, but the stuff that is there is high quality. It's classic HTC: elegant, understated, professional.

One of Sense’s more memorable features is Blinkfeed, which puts a Flipboard-like news and social hub on your homescreen. It's well-made, but we would've preferred the option to disable it.

Both phones also have similar TV apps that take advantage of their built-in IR (infrared) blasters. Using your smartphone as a TV remote control sounds gimmicky, and maybe it is. But we were happy with the feature: nice for those times when your remote is on the other side of the room.

Wrap-up

Sometimes, in these comparisons, it’s clear which device is better. After spending a lot of time with both of them, though, we still can't declare a clear-cut winner. How do you choose between two of the best smartphones ever made?

You could easily pick the HTC One for that stunning, premium design and more subtle software. But you could just as easily go with the GS4, for its bigger screen, ridiculously-light build, and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mix of software features.

The bottom line? They're both stellar, and this is one of the toughest choices smartphones shoppers have ever faced. If you're still torn, then maybe our HTC One review and Galaxy S4 review will help.

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
15 Comments

Main idea of the article: Maybe we should give a chance to HTC One!

Seriously though, I think both are fine. And you, potential purchaser, you know that you'll still use your smartphone mostly for calling, texting and maybe for looking things up on Google and checking your e-mail while you're out. Therefore, I think either will do. No one fails because their phone does not have AirView or BlinkFeed. :)

LilQTBrain
19th March, 2013 @ 01:31 am PDT

I think the main feature that sets HTC One apart from any other smartphone is the HTC BoomSound™ made by Beats Audio™.

Differences like: + or - .3 inches, + or - 200MHz (CPU speed), SD card present or not = are not that important.

Having a more than decent sound is very important.

After all, the main function of this device is the phone.

Why don't you mention the audio at least in the Wrap-up section?

LGA
19th March, 2013 @ 03:33 am PDT

They are not the same on RAM, S4 has DDR3 while the One has DDR2.

The One has a brighter flash too. It's clear these are prototypes for people who are not patient for the Note / Nexus / iPhone 5.5 / next HTC phone. During the Q3-Q4 the best phones always come out to compete with the iPhone and that's when they've stored enough displays and chips. Also if you have the S3 it's not worth the upgrade to the S4. Just like the S3 was not worth the upgrade if you owned an S2.

Jayvan Javier Santos Zayas
19th March, 2013 @ 08:23 am PDT

I used to be an HTC fanboy & loved my Desire (except for the battery, and the lack of memory for apps) and my Flyer (until it got stolen)

However, I was forced to move to Samsung because of a couple of things that always get skimmed over because Apple does them too.

a) no microSD ... why not? Easy, simple, cheap way of giving the customer the ability to upgrade data as well as to plug in large amounts quickly and easily. This is an absolutely massive mistake

b) no easy replaceable battery ... my Desire got so bad that I had to keep 2 batteries and swap them in and out.

HTC seem to have bought into the philosophy that customers are idiots who can't be trusted to access even the most basic bits of a phone. Either that, or that customers are idiots who are going to make you more money by buying another of your phones every time their battery dies.

Neither philosophy inspires great devotion. So HTC you lost a fan (and by the way, Samsung has not gained one. For all its greatness the S3 is "just a phone" not an inspiration).

Nickov8
19th March, 2013 @ 08:32 am PDT

Hey Nickov8 I know I may not change your decision, but I too own a desire hd, and the batt sucked, but I own a one x+ and it's leaps above my desire, I can only imagine the HTC ONE will destroy the desire in battery like it will my one x+, memory side if things I purge my phone by putting stuff on my computer or my external hard drive if I wanna keep it, and mainly use my storage for games and apps, 64 gigs is sufficient, but that's just how I see it, good luck on ur future investment

Derrick McGalliard
19th March, 2013 @ 09:35 am PDT

So the only thing the HTC one has is a slightly better PPI which is countered by Samsung S4's slightly bigger screen. Seeing as both are to a level of quality undetectable to the human eye, I think Samsung win's that. Good as I've already started tracking it on WishPlz waiting for price to become affordable, http://bit.ly/XRexQQ if anyone else wants to track it too.

Mike Osborne
19th March, 2013 @ 11:56 am PDT

What upsets me is that no 'gadget site' differentiates between the TYPE of RAM found in the S4 and other devices, the LPDDR3 DRAM found in the S4 is almost twice as fast as other mobile's RAM.

How everybody states that only four cores can be run simultaneously, but barely any of the sites mention that it is 4 A15 cores as opposed to A7/A9.

And finally how Apple is never slated by most tech sites for bringing incremental updates to their lineup, but when Samsung not only change a reasonable amount about the design, but also upgrade almost every single piece of hardware found inside it, they all complain of copying itself. Never-mind the difference between the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, the differences between the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 5 aren't as big as the S3 and S4.

Of course neither are perfect phones, and I am a 'fanboy' of neither camp, it just pains me to see the blatant bias towards Apple that most media outlets show.

Facebook User
19th March, 2013 @ 03:22 pm PDT

Too bad we couldn't get a Samsung SIV that looked more like an HTC One, and less like the previous S3. My only caveat...

David Cameron
19th March, 2013 @ 06:40 pm PDT

Yes David, I like the appearance and build of the HTC, (Looks very nice indeed) but I want the guts of the S4.

Terry Penrose
19th March, 2013 @ 08:25 pm PDT

Hey Derrick

Always good when stuff improves, and glad to hear it was better with the OneX+ but:

- it's not about how strong the battery is at first. It's about the fact that they all get significantly less good over time. By 2 years in, that initial 2 to 3 day charge is down to 2 to 3 hours if you're lucky. My point is that the correct solution is "pop in a new battery" for $25 or so, not "buy a new phone".

I don't see any justification whatsoever for designing in a whole new set of complexities that introduce additional problems/difficulties and give no customer benefit

Also, the problem with the Desire was not the amount of overall storage available via SD (I had a 32G card in there). It was the ludicrously small amount of system memory - i.e. available for apps. I had it cut down to the absolute minimum, put as many as possible onto SD, etc and it was still completely impossible.

I used to find my phone would be downloading all the updates each day, failing to install them due to system memory constraint, and then (because it had failed) re-downloading them the next day to try again.

It was such a great phone, except for these small and easily fixed problems. Unfortunately since then they've taken some really bad design decisions and gone down Apple's "disempower the customer" and "make them spend" path.

Still ... maybe next time round??

Nickov8
19th March, 2013 @ 11:40 pm PDT

The micro SD card is what is important to me in a phone. I can store movies and music on different cards and change them out as I please. This is important on long trips and flights. I also like that Samsung provides a charger & extra battery so I can have a charged battery ready any time I need one. *The extra charger & extra battery does not come with the phone.

Sonya Jones
20th March, 2013 @ 06:25 pm PDT

No SD = No sale!

Also a 4MP REALLY? i dont bloody care about night shots, i use my phone during day mostly, the pictures are garbage at night anyway even with the crappy 4MP camera. S4 has far better software programs and support. HTC should quit making crazy choices. Sure the design is nice but for premium phone only design wont cut it. HTC is not Apple :)

Reza Ghorbani
24th March, 2013 @ 04:12 pm PDT

The Samsung galaxy S4 is the clear winner vs the HTC One. There is simply no comparison. The benchmark test already proved that the blazing speed of either processors on the S4 is faster than the HTC One or any other phone for that matter. The flexibility of micro SD card and the ability to change a battery is a clear advantage. The Jelly Bean OS is another reason to choose the S4. The beats audio in the HTC One is mainly a bass boost and has not proven it self to be a better.

The finish on HTC One is better than the previous version, which is not saying much, but it looks and feels cheap in person. I will be placing an order for the S4.

arubamd
8th April, 2013 @ 12:34 pm PDT

I bought s4 & my brother bought htc one & i think I hv made a big mistake in buying s4, I should hv gone for the one. I decided to buy s4 bcoz I thought that it has so much excellent features like air gesture, smart pause, smart scroll etc, but after using i found out that none of these features works properly, it sometimes work & sometimes doesn't. More over the price of s4 of 16gb is the same of the 32gb htc one & not only with this out of the 16gb the system eats out 7gb only 9gb gets for use whereas in htc one my brother gets above 25gb. And the biggest drawback of the s4 is that i can't move the apps to sd card. Even though the s4 has a little bit faster processor, it doesn't run as smooth as the one. The camera quality of the s4 is good but sometimes it gives over saturated colors and in low light it gives very poor quality photos whereas the htc one is excellent. Inspite of having only 4mp, the htc one gives excellent image quality. Moreover the htc one cameras joe feature is superb and the boom sound of the front dual speakers is rocking. I can say that if htc has used a 13mp camera insted of 4mp then it would hv been the greatest & best camera phone ever. The battery of s4 drains very quickly, it doesn't even last for a day & compared to that the one lasts for longer duration. More over the s4 lags from time to time, most of the times i hv to remove the battery and put it back and on it. The last thing when i took both the phones in hand, the htc one gives a rich look whereas the s4 looks like an ugliest thing in ur hand just like of an some cheap phones. I m going to replace my s4 ASAP and moving on to HTC One.

David Nadar
15th May, 2013 @ 12:50 am PDT

Excellent write-up. What I would like you to actually compare is the WHITE reproduction of the HTC ONE vs the Samsung Galaxy S4.

The Galaxy S4 is a very dull and blue white colour which looks really poor and pathetic when compared to the HTC ONE.

I'm writing up my own review which will show this.

To test, on both phone's set brightness to MAXIMUM both in phone settings and in browser.

Then open a new tab and stop the page from loading or load Google.com.au and zoom in completely where you can see white.

Now... once you put them side by side the HTC ONE looks like it's a rich vibrant warm natural white, the Galaxy S4 looks well umm rather substandard and half as bright.

Give it a test guys! This is the one thing people all miss out when reviewing the devices... and to me when the primary purpose of using your phone involves "staring at the screen" I'd sure like the colours to be perfect.

This is where Super AMOLED is rubbish.

I've had an S3 and tested an S4 and was very unimpressed.

Vas Boz
21st May, 2013 @ 06:26 pm PDT
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