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HTC One vs. Nexus 4

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May 7, 2013

Gizmag compares the HTC One and LG/Google Nexus 4

Gizmag compares the HTC One and LG/Google Nexus 4

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As the Android world focuses on the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, it’s almost easy to forget about the Nexus 4. But the latest “pure Google” phone is still ringing up for a nice off-contract price from Google Play. Is it still a good buy? Or are you better off getting one of the newer flagships? Let’s see if we can answer that, as we compare the Nexus 4 and the HTC One.

Size

Sizes are pretty close

No huge differences here. The One is a little bit taller than the Nexus 4, but it’s also a hair narrower. Neither phone is breaking any records in the thinness department, but neither is going to be a thick, uncomfortable slab either.

Build

Both phones have unique, memorable builds and designs

These are two of the most striking Android phones. The One, in particular, sets a new design benchmark with its aluminum unibody build.

The Nexus 4 has a solid construction of its own. Its back is made of glass, and its edges are lined with a rubbery band to help you keep a good, firm grip. It's a great balance of sharp design and comfort in the hand.

Weight

Weights are pretty close

Weight is pretty close, and both phones feel relatively light. We aren’t looking at iPhone 5 or Galaxy S4 light, but there shouldn’t be anything to worry about in this department.

Display

Sizes are the same, but the One packs in almost 110 percent more pixels

Advantage: HTC One. Both measure 4.7” diagonally, but the One’s 1080p display is much sharper.

The Nexus 4 still has a good display. Its pixel density (318 PPI) is in the same ballpark as the iPhone 5. If you’ve never seen a 1080p phone, you probably won’t have a single complaint about it.

But if you look at these two side-by-side, good luck going back to the Nexus 4. The One’s cutting-edge display is just that good.

Processor

The One has the newer and faster processor – but both are speed demons

Advantage: HTC One again. Both have Qualcomm-made processors, and the Nexus 4’s S4 Pro is nothing to sneeze at. Just a few months ago, it was the cream of the crop. But the One’s Snapdragon 600 is newer, faster, and has better power management.

RAM

2 GB of RAM is a great number for both phones

Both smartphones have a good amount of RAM, with 2 GB a pop.

Storage

The Nexus 4's storage is a bit cramped

The Nexus 4’s cheap off-contract pricing has some tradeoffs. One of the biggest is the base model’s mere 8 GB of storage. That could fill up really quickly. The lack of a microSD slot isn’t helping matters either.

The One doesn’t have an SD slot either, but HTC pumped it up with a lot more flash memory. You’re looking at 32 GB or 64 GB, depending how much you want to pay.

Cameras

Ignore the 4 MP for the HTC One ... its camera is much better than these numbers suggest

On paper, the One looks really bad here. But that’s just on paper. The One has less megapixels, but they're larger (Ultrapixels). This improves its low-light performance. Check out our HTC One review for a more in-depth look at its camera.

Both phones also have some interesting software-based camera features. The HTC One takes “Zoes,” which are little three second video clips made up of 20 still frames. Share the Zoe clip as is, or pick your favorite still frame from the bunch. It can be helpful in capturing that perfect shot.

The Nexus One has Android 4.2 Jelly Bean’s new Photo Sphere feature. We're talking panorama, only one that wraps around in all directions.

Wireless

No LTE for Nexus 4 owners

Here’s the other big tradeoff with the Nexus 4. No LTE for you. Why would Google skimp on the fastest wireless technology? You can chalk that one up to carrier politics. Turns out it’s damn near impossible to release a compatible LTE phone without playing ball with the big carriers.

The good part, though, is that the Nexus 4 ships unlocked from Google Play. Sign up with a GSM carrier, and avoid those pesky long-term commitments.

Battery

The One's battery holds a bit more juice

The HTC One’s battery holds a bit more juice. As we mentioned, its processor also helps out with getting the most bang for your battery buck.

But there shouldn’t be much to worry about with either phone’s battery life. As impressed as we were with the One’s uptime, the Nexus 4 should also last a full day (with regular use) too.

Software

The Nexus 4 runs the latest version of Android, and doesn't have a manufacturer UI

The Nexus 4 runs the latest version of Android. And it always will (or at least it will as long as Google keeps supporting it). The HTC One is a full version behind Google’s latest.

The One also runs the HTC Sense UX, next to the Nexus 4’s stock Android. We can’t tell you whether you'll prefer Sense or stock Android. But we did prefer the new Sense 5 over previous versions.

Both phones run the standard suite of Google apps, including the Play Store, Gmail, YouTube, and Google Now. So nothing to worry about there.

Off-contract price

The Nexus 4 is a steal off-contract

If you’re looking to buy an off-contract smartphone, the Nexus 4 is still the best value around. Apart from some skimping on storage and wireless, you’re looking at a high-end Android phone (running the latest software) for only a little more than similar phones cost on-contract.

Note that the prices listed above are in USD. Also, that's what you'll pay ordering from HTC or Google Play, respectively.

Wrap-up

So which phone is better? For most of us, that’s going to be the HTC One. Amazing screen, cutting-edge performance, breakthrough design ... it and the Galaxy S4 are the cream of the crop right now.

But if you’re looking for lots of bang for your off-contract buck, the Nexus 4 is hard to beat. If you prefer pure Android, and like to get the latest updates first, the Nexus 4 fares better there too.

With Google I/O quickly approaching, there's also the chance that we'll be looking at an updated version of the Nexus 4 soon. Even if it isn't a proper follow-up, a new edition with LTE and more storage would only make it a better value. Might be worth waiting to see if we hear anything on that front before throwing down for a Nexus 4.

... and if you want to cast your net a bit wider, you can check out our updated Smartphone Comparison Guide. For a more in-depth look at HTC’s flagship, you can also hit up our One review.

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin covers consumer technology for Gizmag. He's previously written for Android Central, Geek, GottaBeMobile, Android Police, and The Huffington Post.
He lives in New Mexico, U.S., with his lovely wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
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9 Comments

A few other things to consider..

The Sound quality (the ONE's premier feature)

Nexus 4's lack of USB OTG

HTC's software update history (or lack thereof)

David Anderton
7th May, 2013 @ 10:20 pm PDT

Wow! HTC one beats the Nexus 4 at almost every area. I even think it is better than the Galaxy S4.

I also agree with the article that the HTC's 4 mp camera should not be a cause for concern as HTC uses the ultrapixel technology which captures quality images even on low light. But the article failed to mention how impressive its front dual speakers.

Rich Dawson
8th May, 2013 @ 02:11 am PDT

Htc one is better in every way bit in gaming performance since the GPU(Adreno 320) is the same in both and the resolution is smaller ....the NEXUS 4 wins...check the benchmarks please !

Sergiu Sifu Sechel
8th May, 2013 @ 07:08 am PDT

Yes Rich the HTC One and the Galaxy S4 both beat the Nexus 4, but that's because both are way more expensive phones (around $650/ $700/$425 respectively) If you don't want to go high-end, I think the Nexus 4 is a great phone with all the good features of the other expensive ones.

CarolPet
8th May, 2013 @ 08:38 am PDT

Great comparison. Sums up the differences well.

Any info on reliability of these phones?

Good work!

Sri Prabha
8th May, 2013 @ 02:32 pm PDT

Of course the biggest (and stupidest!) failing in the Nexus range is the lack of a micro SD slot.

Why oh why?

Wombat56
9th May, 2013 @ 06:00 pm PDT

The Nexus is more my style.. Why I love to flash roms kernels mods etc etc. Now when these phones have great dev support maybe just maybe i will consider getting a non nexus device NOT...

Facebook User
10th May, 2013 @ 05:20 am PDT

something that the nexus 4 has going for it is that ubuntu's mobile platform supports it.

https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Touch/Install

Facebook User
22nd June, 2013 @ 07:25 pm PDT

Well, yes, the HTC One does win, but remember, the Nexus 4 was released in 2012 while the One was in 2013. It is simply too unfair to compare the two as they were in different time periods. Try comparing the S4 to the One, that seems fairer.

- Think this is what you're after: http://www.gizmag.com/samsung-galaxy-s4-vs-htc-hands-on-one-comparison/27552/ Ed.

Osamah Tahir
15th July, 2013 @ 10:46 pm PDT
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