Home / Opinions / I’d love a Samsung Galaxy S4, but I’d rather have an HTC One

I’d love a Samsung Galaxy S4, but I’d rather have an HTC One

Andrew Williams

by

HTC One
HTC One

The secret’s out. We now know what almost all the biggest Android phones of the year will be, short of a Mighty Ducks-style miracle turnaround from a lesser phone maker like Alcatel.

Top of the tree are the Samsung Galaxy S4, the HTC One and the Sony Xperia Z. All we’re waiting for is the rumoured Google Nexus 5 to complete the set.

No matter how good the phones are, no matter how many sides of buses are splattered with images of these mobiles, Samsung’s victory is all-but secured. And the phone hasn’t even been released yet.

The Samsung Galaxy series has become the ruler of the Android realm, and there’s no way we can think of for Sony and HTC to catch up in this generation. Short of Samsung accidentally making the Galaxy S4 out of asbestos, that is.

Much as you may simply accuse us of favouring the underdog, the phone I’d like to lovingly keep in my pocket every day, slowly scratching it to death in a sea of shrapnel and house keys, is the HTC One.

There is a lot of support for HTC’s latest phone online, support that was much less markedly apparently for last year’s HTC One X. So what’s so special about the latest phone?

Hitting nails

HTC, more than most other phone makers, has been happy to experiment with different approaches to phone design. It has produced ceramic phones, metal phones and, yes, at times plastic phones.

This mish-mash approach has led to some design classics – the HTC Legend, for example – but has also arguably led to an unclear brand image. What is HTC about these days? Does anyone know anymore?

However, the HTC One represents a re-focusing of HTC’s aims. In short, it has aced the phone’s hardware design. More so than the Sony Xperia Z. More so than the Samsung Galaxy S4.

I’ve put the HTC One in the hands of around a dozen people, and the same response has always followed – something along the lines of “wow, that’s a nice phone.” Occasionally it’d be followed by “I’d hate to think what would happen if I dropped it.” But that’s beside the point.

In contrast, the Sony Xperia Z is all rubber lined flaps that dangle like flailing limbs given half the chance, and glass you’d mistake for plastic if you weren’t faced with a clear specs lists that contradicts that. And the Samsung Galaxy S4 is just a Galaxy S3 that’s wearing more effective mascara and has given up on dinners for a few weeks. Samsung didn’t need to change its hardware design significantly. So it didn’t.

Add in the technologically interesting “UltraPixel” camera of the HTC One, compared to the me-too 13-megapixel sensors of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Sony Xperia Z and you’ll realise the HTC is one of the only truly hardware-focused flagship phones of the year.

What confirmed the Samsung Galaxy S4’s lack of hardware inspiration was the announcement that none of the main Western markets would get the phone running an eight-core processor. We’re stuck with the more familiar four-core type – which is likely to offer poorer battery life, if not markedly poorer performance.

If the Samsung Galaxy S4 isn’t about hardware, what is it about?

Soft-core

The Samsung Galaxy S4’s focus is clearly on software. We’ve long argued that at this point of hardware saturation, a software focus is the way forward. However, Samsung’s approach in this field is like a child who bounds up to you every five minutes with a drawing they’ve just made, all excited, but a quick glance tells you that most of the drawings are a bit rubbish. Yes, Smart Scroll, we’re looking at you.

Even these extras are all based on foundations that were setup last year with the Samsung Galaxy S3, or even earlier. Maybe phones don’t have to be exciting to be good, but progress based on sequential increases in specs is too often not real progress at all.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 camera sounds like it’s a huge upgrade over the Samsung Galaxy S3’s, with a 13-megapixel sensor over the S3’s eight-megapixel jobbie. But it’s not that simple. They use roughly the same-size sensor, which means that the sensor’s light-grabbing pixels have to be much smaller than those of the S3.

Smaller pixels means less area within which to take harvest light. Samsung has tried to compensate for this by using a faster lens, but it’s still possible that low-light performance in the Galaxy S4 will be worse than that of the S3. Cue fast intake of breath.

There was a reason phone makers started rolling back on megapixels – the first 12-megapixel phone was released in 2009. That’s ancient history in smartphone terms.

The HTC One’s UltraPixel camera may not be a complete success, but it at least bucks the megapixel trend. Realising the problem with using teeny tiny sensor pixels, HTC uses a similar sensor size to the Galaxy S4, but packs in far fewer megapixels.

It’s a one step back, two steps forward ideal.

Less = more?

The less-is-more motif is in evidence throughout the HTC One’s software. By default it crams in less app icons than other phones, and aside from the BlinkFeed-Zoe-UltraPixel mantra the phone feels refreshingly free of gimmicky gadgety nonsense.

To pick the HTC One is to opt for an altogether classier phone that’s out to revert a few destructive mobile trends. And to me, that sounds like a pretty darn good thing.

If the HTC One is at the top of your most-wanted list, let us know why in the comments.

stoney

March 21, 2013, 7:48 pm

Yep, want above all else.

toboev

March 21, 2013, 8:28 pm

"I’d love a Samsung Galaxy S4, but I’d rather than have an HTC One"

Is it me, or are standards of writing than proofreading slipping?

Keith

March 21, 2013, 8:59 pm

Ok, got mine today. So far so good.. I really like the Blinkfeed, works really well, I can see me leaving that on. The TV remote software is very clever. And of course the Screen & Build quality are A*. I think some reviewers have said the keyboard input is not very nice, I'd have to disagree, I like how you can get to the shift keys by just holding, rather than having to push another key, aka, like my IP4, the tactile feedback seems just about right too. I've not played with the camera much yet, but what I can tell you is low light is certainly good, focusing is fast even in low light, and taking pictures is extremely fast. The hardest part for me though, is I've come from iOS so it might take me some time to adjust. But so far I'm liking what I'm seeing, and coming from iOS my phone is now something interesting again. Come on Apple you really do need to sort yourself out!!

Keith

March 21, 2013, 10:14 pm

Well, what can I say.. This phone is superb.. I thought I would test the speakers out, and yes there really nice. But again the software from HTC is spot on too, I copied some music over to it, it asked if I wanted to download Music Art / Lyrics, so I said yes. I wasn't expecting much, but to my amazement the music was playing with nice graphics, with the lyrics playing along with the music. Very nice, well done HTC, I'd say it's not just the hardware that's good, some of the software tweaks are very nice too.

B Brad

March 21, 2013, 11:00 pm

Locked bootloader... check.
Uncertain upgrade schedule... check.
Vendor skin on top of android... check.
Fixed battery likely to leave you stranded and significantly shorten it's useful life... check.

What is there to get excited about again?

Andrew_TR

March 22, 2013, 9:27 am

In a word - oops. Sorry, my bad.

Keith

March 22, 2013, 11:18 am

>>Locked bootloader.

Really? From HTC's website ->We have heard your voice and starting now, we will allow our bootloader to be unlocked for 2011 models going forward.

>>Uncertain upgrade schedule

Do you want to unlock or not,? But even then any phone this the case, eg. My iPhone4 hasn't had any real upgrade since buying it. Yes, it got IO6, but that gave me nothing really extra. And in fact removed a very good mapping App. Even if you get a Nexus it's still the same, eg. last update for Nexus One, 2.3 Gingerbread.

>>Vendor skin on top of android...

Well I see that as a bonus, and since it doesn't have a locked bootloader, then you have the option anyway.

>>Fixed battery,

Well at least it's Li-Polymer. And if that is a real concern, just take a juice pack with you. HTC even do one that's 6000mAh.

Nate Ebner

March 22, 2013, 11:29 am

"Is it me, or are standards of writing than proofreading slipping?"

Is it me, or are the standards of commenting and proofreading slipping? ;-)

mothergoose85

March 22, 2013, 11:33 am

I'm excited about a nice bit of industrial design, purportedly good ergonomics (how are you finding it Keith Johnson?), 4.7" Retina display (I don't really care about the PPI, once it is retina it all seems to be the same) as opposed to 5".

It does have a locked bootloader though, the developer edition is unlocked. However that's more a problem with Android as a whole...we were discussing this issue at work the other day.

I'd like Google to dictate that OEM's can do whatever they want with the OS but they have to give the user the option of running it stock.

mothergoose85

March 22, 2013, 11:35 am

Grammar Nazi's are good for the internet - I approve.

It's also good fun when they spell something wrong in their comments. I'm assuming you meant "then" instead of "than"?

Nate Ebner

March 22, 2013, 11:40 am

How come you got yours yesterday? Who was it from? I've yet to hear a peep about getting mine, and I thought they weren't coming until next week or the week after.

Andrew_TR

March 22, 2013, 11:51 am

I agree, even if it's at my expense. I assumed it was a nugget of internet wit. I may be wrong, though.

Keith

March 22, 2013, 11:57 am

I pre-ordered mine from phones4u as an O2 upgrade. I must admit I wasn't expecting to receive it so soon, with all the talk of delays etc.

Nate Ebner

March 22, 2013, 12:09 pm

I ordered mine from T-mobile as an upgrade. I'll think I'll give them a ring. Glad you're enjoying it, looking forward to mine. Have you got any sort of case to protect it?

Keith

March 22, 2013, 12:16 pm

On the bootloader locking, that quote was from HTC own website. I would post the link, but moderation would kick in. It even says this -> "HTC is committed to assisting customers in unlocking bootloaders for HTC devices.". So from what I can gather HTC seem to be one of the good guys from this POV.

The screen is very nice, even in eco mode. No complaints there.

If there is one thing I'd say is not great, it's the volume rocker. Maybe that's just me getting used to it, but I'm finding it easer to click the volume rocker, and then use the on screen volume control.

Keith

March 22, 2013, 12:28 pm

Yes, phones4u threw in the official HTC flip case, and some DRE headphones, + £150 cashback.

EasternRising

March 22, 2013, 1:55 pm

Nah, can't get excited over an HTC phone. Shiny, bling design cannot paper over a sub-standard battery, lack of SD slot, crappy sw updates and a non-descript brand image.

Think I'll give it a pass.

Keith

March 22, 2013, 2:52 pm

I can understand that this phone is not for everyone, but what I often find strange is the instant Troll mode some people take. I can see by your tone, even if somebody wanted to have a debate with you, it would be totally pointless.

Nate Ebner

March 22, 2013, 3:23 pm

So what phone are you excited about/own?
And if you are an informed consumer, why do you care about brand image? Most people consider the battery to be fairly good, even if they wish that manufacturers would put a bigger one in.

toboev

March 22, 2013, 5:02 pm

I meant exactly what I wrote, but clearly my weak attempt at parody missed the mark.

I'm not a journalist, but if writing was my trade I'd hate to think that my readership couldn't care less about the quality of my writing. And as a reader, I like to enjoy the experience.

icedfusion

March 22, 2013, 6:35 pm

The software in the S3 is shocking and I don't expect the S4 to be any better. With the hardware inside, everything and I mean everything native should zip along - that includes opening address book, phone logs, the phone etc can sometimes take a few seconds. You only have to google these problems! The solution? Try a factory reset - what a pile of crap.

Until Samsung learn how to write software that works (this includes the stuff in their T.V's, so don't get me started on that) - I welcome the competition.

Graham Tapper

March 23, 2013, 12:14 pm

Won't be touching any HTC with a bargepole until the company starts doing something to improve the reputation of its Customer Service.

ElectricSheep

March 23, 2013, 8:40 pm

I must have read and then re-read that sentence 4 times before I even noticed the 'than'. I must have an inbuilt spelloing filter.

Pabasamdee

March 24, 2013, 12:23 pm

I love HTC phones. Had a Desire HD and One X.....both phones were great. The only issue I had was with the battery life which was abysmal at times to be honest. The One seems to fair far better and GSMArena gave it a 48 hour rating which trumps even the One X+. I honestly don't care too much about the camera but if its at least as good as the One X I'll be happy. HTC FTW!!!!! P.S. Sammy's great but I hate paying a bajillion bucks for a mound of plastic and Apple's even more expensive and way too tiny.

Gavin Martin

March 24, 2013, 4:53 pm

Don't suppose you noted how much empty storage it has as stock? I think I read 25GB free space, somewhere....which made me wonder what's taking up so much room. IIRC my iPhone 4 32GB had wayyyy more free space.

Still think I'm going to get one of these though, just for something different after 3 years of iOS - Apple works, but it's stale! My inner geek is no longer satisfied and this is the first Android phone I've really considered getting my wallet out for. I personally don't need a removable battery (I'll just get a USB battery pack for flights etc), SD slot would have been nice (if it has a pop-out tray for the SIM, why not a similar one for a microSD card?) but I've done fine without so far. This phone looks pretty damn good.

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