Mobile Technology

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. HTC One

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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The HTC One is a bit narrower and thicker than the Galaxy S4
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The HTC One is a bit narrower and thicker than the Galaxy S4
The Galaxy S4 has a higher capacity battery
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The Galaxy S4 has a higher capacity battery
The One's aluminum design lends a more premium allure to it than the S4's plastic
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The One's aluminum design lends a more premium allure to it than the S4's plastic
Megapixel counts can be deceiving, as the One's camera should be much better than its pixels would suggest
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Megapixel counts can be deceiving, as the One's camera should be much better than its pixels would suggest
The Galaxy S4's display is a bit larger, but the One has the same number of pixels
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The Galaxy S4's display is a bit larger, but the One has the same number of pixels
We compare the specs and features of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One
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We compare the specs and features of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One
The Galaxy S4 has the newer version of Android, but both phones have custom UIs hiding their Jellybean roots
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The Galaxy S4 has the newer version of Android, but both phones have custom UIs hiding their Jellybean roots
The Galaxy S4 has a microSD slot, but the One's base model has double the storage of the S4's base model
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The Galaxy S4 has a microSD slot, but the One's base model has double the storage of the S4's base model
The One is ten percent heavier than the S4
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The One is ten percent heavier than the S4
Where available, both phones will ride speedy LTE networks
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Where available, both phones will ride speedy LTE networks
The Galaxy S4 (both versions) should have the faster processor
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The Galaxy S4 (both versions) should have the faster processor
RAM is even at 2 GB
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RAM is even at 2 GB

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

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
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 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 pixels would suggest
Megapixel counts can be deceiving, as the One's camera should be much better than its pixels would suggest

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

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.

15 comments
LilQTBrain
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. :)
LGA
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?
Jayvan Santos
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.
Nickov8
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).
Derrick McGalliard
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
Mike Osborne
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.
Amed Hirori
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.
David Cameron
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...
Terry Penrose
Yes David, I like the appearance and build of the HTC, (Looks very nice indeed) but I want the guts of the S4.
Nickov8
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??