Monday, May 6, 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs HTC One

Ok, this post is going to be long and I know a lot of you will just glaze over, but it may benefit a few.  Some have shown interest in knowing about these phones from a disinterested third party that knows more about 1911s than smart-phones, so here it goes:

Let's get ready to rummmbllllle!

Well, as much as you can rumble when geeking on smart-phone tech.  I mentioned a little while back that I had received my HTC One and was diligently playing working on it to flesh out all of the pros and cons.  Mrs. 45er received her S4 a week later and has had it for the weekend.  I've been comparing the functions and workability of both phones as well as seeing how well they work together. That in addition to reading and watching different in-depth reviews that shed a lot of light on the pros and cons of each phone. 

First, a disclaimer (well, first I guess the FTC garbage about how I had to buy both of these phones and they are in no way a gimme, by any means). 

So, now my actual disclaimer:  I am biased against Samsung.  It's important to know this so that you'll understand that if I say anything positive, it is hard-earned (and somewhat begrudgingly done).  Mrs 45er and I have had 100% failure on all of our previous Samsung devices.  That would be a TV, Blu-Ray player and two smartphones.  I swore that my Samsung phone would be the last product I would get from them.  That is why I went with the HTC One.  Mrs 45er stuck it out and we read reviews and she decided to give them one last try.

First part, the hardware and case.

HTC One wins the looks and durability part.  The HTC has an aluminum body case and is a good looking phone.

HTC One, picture taken with Samsung S4

Samsung stuck with plastic.  The phone is light, but doesn't have a solid feel.  Detaching the back off of the phone is a scary endeavor that makes you wonder if you're going to break something.

Samsung S4, picture taken with HTC One

That said, the Samsung phone does have the ability to remove the battery and has a spot for an upgrade on the SD card.  Fine and dandy, except the base model S4 is shipping with a 16 GB card and (from recent reports), half of that memory is eaten up by "bloatware" or pre-installed carrier software, so it sure better be upgradeable.  The HTC One base model ships with 32 GB of space.  Everything I have see so far says it is not upgradeable.


I'm not going to get into specs, but the Samsung does have the newest version of the android OS.  The HTC, for some reason released their new phone with software that was a step behind.  I've not seen any demonstrable differences yet.


Both phones are smoking fast.  I'm not going to get into Gigahertzes and thingses, my precious.  Just know that for a regular to heavy phone user, the speed is very good on both models and screen movement is smooth, even with games and videos.  Data speed is not fair to talk about too much, since it is all based on carrier and location.  Mostly it's not that great around here, but the phone still seems to do pretty well.  Both of them are VERY fast when connected to WiFi.  For the phones themselves, I'd say it is more fair to judge that way.  I had no problems at all playing videos or even watching TV on the phones and download time and buffering is minimal to non-existent.

Power usage:

Both phones seem to do pretty well.  Compared to our old phones, these are practically battery camels so it's hard to be objective when you're euphoric that you don't have to charge halfway through the day.  With regular usage (including internet and video), my HTC phone lasted the entire day.  It needed to be charged by the end of the day for sure, but lasted until the day was through.  There is a power saver function that I tend to leave on all of the time with no real disruption and that seems to make the phone last twice as long.
The S4 also does very well.  The battery is a bit bigger than the HTC, and while the display is a touch larger (making me think more battery drain) it also seems dimmer.  Mrs 45er has no issues making the phone last at least an entire day.


Speaking of the display, on both phones it is very impressive.  The Samsung has a bit larger area, but less pixel density than the HTC One.  The screen size makes the Samsung seem larger than in actually is.  The phones are comparable in size, though the S4 is a bit thinner.  The S4 probably wins by a smidge on screen, but it being a little dimmer might negate the win.

Samsung S4 on bottom, HTC One on top
For size comparison and thickness, here are the two together (Samsung on top of the HTC):

As you can see, though the Samsung seems larger when viewing the screen, they are actually really close tot he same size.


S4 does win in the feature category.  It has more flash-bang, gimmicky features than does the HTC (touchless gesture operation, face detection, eye movement detection).  Though not all work perfectly.  The phone also has more "fun" features to play with.  Both cameras work well and both have a main and front-facing camera.  The HTC does pretty well in low light and has a much wider angle on the front-facing lens.  The Samsung actually has voice activation for taking the picture, which is pretty darn neat.  It recognizes the words "cheese," "smile," and "shoot" the latter word might have interesting consequences if you aren't careful.  Most importantly, both cameras take very fast pictures and have great recovery time.  You can snap one picture after another instead of missing all those shots or telling your young kids to "hold still."  That's like telling the wind to stop blowing.

One interesting feature that Samsung has introduced is their "S Voice" which seems to be a direct competitor with Siri on the iPhone.  I was a little jealous of that feature until I found a great app called "Sherpa".  It's in beta version right now, but you can get it for android and the voice recognition is pretty accurate.  It hasn't really messed up on anything I've asked it so far.  Even if you don't have a new phone, this might be something to look at for an android OS.

NFC and Bluetooth:

So, basically NFC (Near Field Communication) is the cool new thing for file transfer.  You turn it on (or leave it on), pick a file and touch the backs of the phones and when they buzz, touch the file and it transfers.  Whiz-bangy, I know.  It's also pretty cool, especially when you have a sealed phone like the HTC One.  No pulling cards, connecting cords and transferring files.  It is reliant on a chip, so you do have to get the chips reeeaaal close for it to work.  How close?  The HTC One NFC chip is in the top of the phone, the S4 chip is in the bottom.  Straight up back-to-back doesn't work.  With the phones back-to-back, flipping one over or holding them top to bottom does.  That's how close.  You can also transfer files device to device using bluetooth for family phones where you feel more secure and that's much easier.  It can be done from across the room once they pair.


Not normally a plus category with a phone, right?  How much is there to say about a screechy, tiny sounding little speaker that sounds like a cat fighting a peacock when you turn it all the way up?  Well, this is where the HTC shines.  While the Samsung S4 has "ok" sound, the HTC One has something they are calling "Boomsound."  There are two rows of speaker holes (with, I'm assuming, speakers behind them) across the top and bottom of the FRONT of the phone.  No muffled cat-screech when you sent the phone down.  The Boomsound in combination with the Beats Audio make this phone something on which you actually want to listen to music.

At the end of the day, I think either phone will make a new phone buyer very happy.  The HTC One was a bit less in cost than the S4 with carrier discounts and came with more on-board memory.  The memory upgrade on the S4 will cost another $50 or so to go to a class 10, 64 GB card if you're so inclined.  For the smartphone world, this is the Glock vs 1911, 9mm vs 45ACP conversation.  Both do their own job in their own way.  I don't see a clear, "OMG this is so much better" phone.  I'd be happy with either as long as it works.  That's me saying a lot about the Samsung.  The HTC One is your sleeker, steady-wins-the-race option and the S4 is your tactical tupperware whiz-bang option. 

I'm going to go back to playing working on my phone, now.


  1. Sounds like the HTC will win on durability... Thanks! Sent this to my daughter!

    1. I would say so, NFO. Some reports out now are supporting the fragility in general and lack of space on the base model. That said, Mrs 45er got a nice case to protect it and it is expandable so those can be corrected. If your daughter might benefit or like cooler features, the S4 would probably make her happier. The voice control is much more integrated and the no touch controls have already come in handy with little kids to deal with.

  2. I just can't seem to let go of my old Blackberry....I'm so not with it.

    1. Stephen, I know a couple of people that won't let go of the old crackberry. I have to confess we lived with frustrating first run smart phones for 3 years, so we haven't exactly been on the cutting edge. I also hear Blackberry is making a run at the market with their Q10. It might be something to watch for. I don't know anything about that one.

  3. HTC One has a very good sound and also looks durable because of its aluminum body.