|$700~ on Amazon.com
|$760~ on Amazon.com
It’s that time of the year again when mobilephone super-manufacturers jostle for your attention, and a sizeable slice of your bank balance. Clearly more effort has gone into the flagships this year from Samsung and HTC in the practicality department, with a better focus on battery life. But they both take to very different directions in presenting something with lots of features that overlap each others’. So how should you choose between them?
*A variation of this article first appeared on SCMP’s 48 Hours on the 9th of May*
On the one hand, the HTC One is the most beautifully crafted and sophisticated piece of kit ever to grace the 2013 mobile landscape. The 200 minute of machine cutting love that went into shaping the all-aluminium chassis alone is enough to win anyone over. Not to mention the pleasant surprise that is its Power button that also doubles as a television remote, the beauty of symmetry in its rows of micro-drilled holes for its speakers also doubling as the ear piece and speakerphone… it is this kind of attention to detail, choice of premium materials and dedication to overall design that contributes to its Best New Mobile Device award during 2013’s Mobile World Congress.
Samsung on the other hand, stays rather conservative with their “if it ain’t broke” attitude. If you already know what the Galaxy S3 looks like, then the only thing you have to get excited about is its new faux-metal surrounding. But to be clear, Samsung’s design improvements are less about aesthetics and more about practicality. Why, just look at its larger screen and larger battery. They’re both crammed into a chassis with the exact same dimensions as the S3 and manage to make the whole package lighter. Genius.
Of course, HTC would tell you that less is more. While they both have a super high definition display panel at running at an eye-watering resolution of 1920×1080, HTC is the one to take the crown with its 4.7 inch SLCD3 display in the pixel per inch race. In fact it is the world’s highest at 468 pixels per inch.
But what all those pixels on the Super LCD3 doesn’t do for HTC is turn completely off when displaying anything in black. That is a privilege only available to Samsung’s AMOLED-based display that switches off pixels to show true blacks creating a near-infinite contrast level. In other words, beautiful blacks with colours that pop out at you.
While the fight has been a close one so far, the HTC pulls far ahead here. Sure, Samsung’s octa core S4 has Wolfson audio chips- the same ones found in a lot of Apple products- powering its media playback. HTC takes the software route and uses Beats that they bought off Dr. Dre and puts and enhancement blanket over all audio outputs from the One.
And that includes HTC’s new BoomSound. It may sound comical and might even make you think of Guile. But make no mistake as HTC sets a new standards benchmark for all others to follow suit with their front-facing stereo speakers. BoomSound in combination with Beats enhancements pumps out audio that is so rich and balanced at high volumes that you almost forget you’re using a mobile phone. And because it is front-facing, the stereo effect is crisp and wide where it needs to be, making games and movies especially enjoyable.
Here’s where it gets interesting because we have cameras at both ends of the resolution spectrum.
The S4 continues to chase after specsheet numbers and appears a strong contender with a whopping 13 megapixel camera. What this means is you can zoom in that little bit more with less image quality degradation and you have a bigger margin for error because you can crop your resulting photos.
HTC sets out to dispel the megapixel myth once and for all, and offers a 4 megapixel equivalent. Essentially, megapixel numbers are not everything- you could have a high megapixel camera and a bad photo and vice versa. And HTC proves this to be absolutely true. Photos are just as vibrant and detailed and lowlight shots are fantastic- which is extremely rare in mobile phones. With its smaller sized photos dedicated processing chip, shutter lag is completely eliminated. To top it off, the camera is also equipped with a hardware Optical Image Stabilizer to ensure minimum motion blur.
HTC focuses on doing the essentials and they’re all done well. Blinkfeed brings all your social feeds, television guide and various other notifications together to a centralised area and presenting them in beautiful tiles.
There’s also Zoe, short for zoetrope that further exploits the advanced camera system to capture 3 second videos where you’re then able to do all sorts of magical things with them such as scrub out unwanted objects, pick the best still frame or even let the phone create a montage of still photos and videos out of them known as Event Highlights.
Samsung brings a wondrous assortment of features that are out of this world. You can control a lot of things on the phone, without so much as touching it! You can for example see details of your emails and folders by hovering your finger over them, videos automatically pause as you look away and even choose to let your eyes do the scrolling for you. Not to mention a whole suite of software applications all designed to make your life easier.
Performance and variants
HTC keeps things simple: there is only one version, it’s 4G and runs on a fast quadcore processor from Qualcomm called the Snapdragon 600. It’s a win-win situation when you combine superior transfer speeds with a fast processor and then power it with a good sized battery- this is a guaranteed 12 hour phone.
Samsung on the other hand presents consumers with a very difficult but interesting choice: 3G meaning slower transfer speeds coupled with Samsung’s very own Exynos 5 processor that is highly focuses on speed and power efficiency, or 4G with a the Snapdragon 600 that’s been made to run slightly faster than on the HTC. It is easy to say that the 4G version is the better choice because it’s 4G and the processor is already faster than the HTC. But here’s the rub the Exynos 5 Octa processor crunches numbers faster than the Snapdragon 600. What’s more, it’s in a 4+4 configuration- it balances workload between two separate sets of quadcore processors, one for speed and one for power efficiency!
so to conclude…
HTC One is
- absolutely beautiful, minimal
- great for taking pictures for online sharing
- focused and simplistic with its feature set without gimmick
- the best sounding mobile phone ever
- more suitable for the younger generation
- going to make everyone jealous
HTC One is not:
- for those hoping to replace their point and shoot cameras
- and definitely not for photography prosumers who want the extra image resolution
- built to go on an adaptor-less marathon
- for those who insist on using microSD for capacity expansion
Price: $760~ on Amazon.com
Galaxy S4 is
- amazingly fast
- built to last all day long
- filled with a scattershot of features, more than you’ll ever need
- great when high resolution photos are required
- more suitable for people who want more productivity, professionals
Galaxy S4 is not
- focusing on certain features and hence not doing one thing particularly well
- going to make anyone jealous
- easy on beginners
Price: $700~ on Amazon.com
*A variation of this article first appeared in SCMP’s 48 Hours on the 9th of May*