Review

The Verdict: HTC One vs. Samsung Galaxy S4

It's a battle to the death between two of this year's top Android smartphones: the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4. Both phones are packed with the latest technology, including 1080p displays, feature-filled cameras, powerful quad- and even octa-core processors and customized versions of Android. Which phone is the one you should buy? Check out the lengthy video above that details everything you need to know about both phones.

Too long? Skip to 47:53 for just the conclusion.

Also, be sure to check out our reviews and other coverage on these phones.

HTC One review
Samsung Galaxy S4 review
Cameras: HTC One vs. Samsung Galaxy S4 

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I own an HTC One, which I purchased after reading and watching countless articles and videos like this one. But if I could do it all over again, I'd go with the Galaxy S4 in a heartbeat. In terms of looks, the One is incredible. I love the interface and I love that the phone is not plastic like many Android phones. The sound quality is awesome, and the camera takes great night time pictures.

But that is where the compliments stop. HTC's One does not have the latest version of Android, and HTC directly tweeted to me telling me there are currently no plans to update to Android 4.2.2 in the U.S., even though the update is currently available in Europe and Asia. Why does this update matter you might ask? Well since the One does not have a menu button, this ugly black horizontal bar with three dots appears across the bottom of the screen in many of the apps. It is unbelievably ugly and it takes up a very noticeable chunk of your screen real estate. I can't believe that HTC even released this phone to the buying public knowing that this monstrosity shows up even in popular apps like Google Street View, AT&T Visual Voicemail, Facebook and Bank of America Mobile Banking. It's mind-boggling and it gives you an idea of what kind of company you're dealing with when you buy into HTC (they recently announced they will no longer provide updates to a phone they JUST released 1.5 years ago).

Since the One does not have the latest version of Android, quite a few of the apps will not be compatible with your phone. I'm a big fan of DashClock, but I cannot use it on the One because it requires Android 4.2 and up.

Also, you cannot view the notification panel when you are using the camera app on the One. If you get a text or any kind of update, you will hear the notification but you will not see it unless you completely close out of the camera. When taking photos, you always have to focus the camera. It does not have an autofocus feature, so if you open the camera to snap a quick picture, it will be blurry. You must tap the screen to focus whenever you open the camera app.

When you are on a phone call, if the screen blacks out (which it will) you have to press the power button at the top of the phone to light up the screen again. It's very annoying. On most smartphones when you're on a call, the phone knows to light up whenever you pull it away from your ear.

Finally, the stock messaging app is terrible, and I can see why most reviewers missed this since they don't really use the phone for a prolonged amount of time. Although HTC's stock messaging app has some cool features, like private inboxes and options to block contacts, the app runs incredibly slow and crashes quite often. There also isn't much flexibility in terms of design. The color schemes available tend to make outgoing messages completely illegible since text bubbles are not used for outgoing texts in this stock messaging app.

These flaws may not be a big deal to you, but I did find that very few reviewers picked up on them so I wanted to share. The HTC One could be a great phone, but HTC is in the way of making that happen. I now understand why the company is performing so poorly.

Geez Tim. So much bias. Here, materials used is not a spec or a feature. Aluminum factually is not TOUGHER vs poly-carbonate. Just drop them on the ground. Aluminum is not stronger in this case either, because it has toi be cut thinner to take off the weight and to make for a very thin design, which also means the metal will be more fragile.

If you drop the Galaxy S4 its not going to explode into millions of glittery little piece.
As far as the color saturation of the screen? The device has 4 color modes. If you switch to the natural mode, the colors look more natural and less saturated. Samsung by default chooses the standard tone because it adds vibrancy to the screen.

I do agree the One looks better, but where the S4 may not have in look, it wins in everything else. Here is where YOU need to be less bias. Whether you care about all the features or feel they are gimmicky in nature, they are still there. A phone with more capabilities is BETTER than one that is not.

Also the US version of the S4 has the same chipset as the One. But Samsung did even better with it. For one, they clocked the CPU faster because since the case is plastic, it can handle the heat which likely would burn your hand in that metal skin. Overall it has a better camera. The best thing about AMOLED is the screen isn't backlite which uses more battery power. LCD's do have better color reproduction, but where the AMOLED win is, their colors are easier to read in direct artificial or natural light, because the light isn't being reflected by more light coming from the panel. Also the colors are warm vs hot like LCD's. Because AMOLED screens produce natural blacks vs LCD's, bright colors look richer especially when in the dark. Where LCD's are better us white is produced naturally by the bulb so whites look whites where as LED screens don't have white LED's so the whites look a bit off in color.

What also great about the S4 is Samsung managed to fit a bigger screen in a smaller case. Even thought the HTC one is bigger in size, it loses space that could have been used for a screen in that lower part. But this wasn't enough to make you be less bias.

You said it yourself, just because the HTC One was made of metal, it made it the better phone in your opinion, even though it on papers sucks in almost every category vs the S4.

If you are going to give a review there are things you must follow. No matter how biased you are to what you like, your job is to equally highlight the pros and cons of both devices and let us choose which one we like.

So in reality no matter how nice your review was, it is totally flawed because even in cases where the S4 is better, your bias towards the One took your opinion.

You basically said what I wanted to say but well thought out so Thank You! I also want to say that I think the review also didn't talk about the "gimmicks" that the GS4 with as much detail as with the HTC1, I, for one, don't think I would use the "Metro-esque" style of the news feed on the HTC1; however, having kids, to me it's more attractive or useful to have the smart screen "gimmick" feature of the GS4 simply because I think it's important that while watching videos I would be able to pause the video simply by taking my eyes off the screen to pay attention to what matters the most. Again, it's all a matter of opinion and the end user should be able to decide what's best for them. Having the reviewer give you his strong preference to one software over the other makes you question his credibility.

The verdict will be "They are both very good phones that are adequate for today's environment, if you want a stock rom go for the S4 if you want aesthetics go for the HTC One".
Mind you, with the HTC One GE you will soon be able to get stock rom for your current HTC One so that point is pretty mute too.
I personally like HTC Sense and the launcher is clean and simple, what i don't like is the fact that i can't remove blinkfeed from one of my home screens OR remove facebook! god i hate facebook! although you can disable it, but still it irks me that it is there.... like a cancer!
Still i would go the HTC One, even without the removeable battery and no sd card, it is a very sexy phone. If i have ever had to remove a battery it usually means that there is a fault and i would just return it for a replacement anyway under warranty.

sirjay said,
The verdict will be "They are both very good phones that are adequate for today's environment, if you want a stock rom go for the S4 if you want aesthetics go for the HTC One".
Mind you, with the HTC One GE you will soon be able to get stock rom for your current HTC One so that point is pretty mute too.
I personally like HTC Sense and the launcher is clean and simple, what i don't like is the fact that i can't remove blinkfeed from one of my home screens OR remove facebook! god i hate facebook! although you can disable it, but still it irks me that it is there.... like a cancer!
Still i would go the HTC One, even without the removeable battery and no sd card, it is a very sexy phone. If i have ever had to remove a battery it usually means that there is a fault and i would just return it for a replacement anyway under warranty.
you can root the HTC One whether you have the Google version of not and install whatever ROM you want. I miss HTC Sense as I loved Sense that came on my Droid Incredible. But Sense after that became too senseless because it made the phone slow and it added no real features to the phone.

I use to hate TouchWiz, but after getting the Note II and GS3/4, I now love it and everything else now looks boring.

No matter which phone you like, Android offers the freedom to change it and I am happy Samsung supports more of that freedom.

my personal experience with these phones is that build quality alone makes the One the winner with me. How the S4 has noticable lag is puzzling. Some will reply saying mine doesnt but most everyone insterested in these phones has see videos of the lag on the S4. So I went for the HTC One and there is no lag to be found. Ive had iphones and a nokia 920 so removable batteries and sd cards dont matter to me. A lag free experience and "timely" updates from my factory unlocked HTC One will be just fine for now.

You have to remember that there have been several patches for the S4 since its release. I haven't seen any lag on mine so far as I bought mine quite recently.

I went with the S4 mostly because I found one new in box for a good price, preferred the slightly larger display and the button placement. I also felt the Blinkfeed stuff on the HTC was going to be useless to me based on what was available for it.

Overall it really comes down to what features you value most. The HTC has better speakers, better display visibility in sunlight and better low light camera. The S4 has larger display, better camera in well lit situations, removable battery and expandable memory.

Josh_LosAltosHills said,
my personal experience with these phones is that build quality alone makes the One the winner with me. How the S4 has noticable lag is puzzling. Some will reply saying mine doesnt but most everyone insterested in these phones has see videos of the lag on the S4. So I went for the HTC One and there is no lag to be found. Ive had iphones and a nokia 920 so removable batteries and sd cards dont matter to me. A lag free experience and "timely" updates from my factory unlocked HTC One will be just fine for now.
Who cares about lag. What lag I saw is easy to deal with...you simply go to the settings and turn off the animations which by default are set a 1x which makes them take a full second to change. I set them to zero and its is instant to move from screen to screen.

All we hear about on tech blogs are the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One.

But in the grand scheme of things... these two phones will only make up a fraction of the 200 million Android phones that will be sold this quarter.

Michael Scrip said,
All we hear about on tech blogs are the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One.

But in the grand scheme of things... these two phones will only make up a fraction of the 200 million Android phones that will be sold this quarter.

Yes, but the GS4 will be the single top selling model between these 2.

TechieXP said,
Yes, but the GS4 will be the single top selling model between these 2.

That's a nice achievement for Samsung and it makes a great headline... but... so?

Is there some contest between these two phones?

Why does HTC cripple their phones in the US/Europe market? No microSD, no accessible battery? Yet, the very same model of phone in the Chinese market has those features, at a lower price than the US model. And HTC wonders why their US market share has suffered.

I don't know how many models of the One S are out there, but I figure it's so they can sell tiers of phones (e.g. 8 GB, 16 GB, etc.), mimicking Apple's business plan. Can make a ton of money that way, especially since memory is (relatively) cheap.

ohh god.. i though the main thing with such design is that it had to be uniform...


the link shows that it does not have to be, and i want that phone.

however, i would like to see a link to a proper phone page, not just one link, and i wonder what it will do to the durability of the phone as whole.

i dropped htc one many times, and while i got small marks on aluminum edge, and sim card slot popped out once, the phone is like new


i have seen lesser phones destroyed by lesser drops. so build quality is important!

my htc one x was thrown on concrete with force, and jumped on.. (dont ask)
and it was still working perfect.

Biggest grudge with HTC is the updates. You'll never know what they might do, even with the top of the line like the One. That's the biggest reason why I went with the Xperia ZL.

Didn't even look at the S4 at my carrier at that time, not really a big fan of the S line.

alwaysonacoffebreak said,
Biggest grudge with HTC is the updates. You'll never know what they might do, even with the top of the line like the One. That's the biggest reason why I went with the Xperia ZL.

Didn't even look at the S4 at my carrier at that time, not really a big fan of the S line.

If you think Sony will do better than HTC then you are in for a rude shock.

I agree sony is the best for it's community lately starting aosp projects by themself for the community and more ^^

Though I'm gonna wait for the next nexus or motorola x phone

alwaysonacoffebreak said,
Biggest grudge with HTC is the updates. You'll never know what they might do, even with the top of the line like the One. That's the biggest reason why I went with the Xperia ZL.

Didn't even look at the S4 at my carrier at that time, not really a big fan of the S line.

I do believe HTC has been pushing updates fairly well recently, though this has never been so much of an issue for me as I root and replace the ROMs. The bigger issue is carriers that take forever to push the updates. The One is already updated to the latest version of Android right now. The question will be how fast they can bring KLP to it when it's ready.

Dhillon said,

If you think Sony will do better than HTC then you are in for a rude shock.

Sony is still releasing updates to the xperia p, which is not a top-end phone even in 2012, resembling the situation of this year's z and zl. I own a droid dna and a z. I love sony ui better. Htc is really a bit slow and skipping in updates oweing to (as i assume) the sense integration, which wouldnt be a huge problem for those dont care, unfortunately im among those who care.

With obvious bias towards the One but he addresses some valid point though. Samsung should look at this review and really see some of the points he has even though he has obvious bias ...
I have the Note 2 and like it very much because of the Samsung software features.