Brains vs. Beauty: Samsung Galaxy S IV or HTC One?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| Published: March 14, 2013

Well, it’s finally official. The Samsung Galaxy S IV has arrived fashionably late to the 2013 mobile phone lineup (with a very entertaining and noteworthy presentation) and it’s not taking no for an answer. The Galaxy S IV is the new device from Samsung and it packs a lot of high-end and interesting features into its slim 7.9mm thick body. Inevitably my head was already reeling with comparisons to my other top contender for best mobile device of this year (so far), the HTC One. While both devices hold their ground and make bold statements, only one can be chosen.

The HTC One’s 4.7-inch Full HD LCD3 display is on the larger scale of handsets, but that’s to be expected as larger smartphones seem to be in higher demand. The device runs on Android 4.1.2 out of the box, with Sense 5 as a covering skin. It sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core 1.7GHz processor, 2 GB of RAM, and runs on a 2,300mAh Li-polymer battery. The device comes in either 32GB or 64GB of internal memory with option for expanded memory through microSD card slot. Probably the most controversial and played up topics of the HTC One comes with its rear-facing camera and how HTC questionably opted for a 4MP camera when 13MP has become the new “norm” for mobile phone cameras.

The explanation: UltraPixel technology, which increases the quality of the photo despite the seemingly important megapixel count. Judging by reviews, it’s not that far off from being right, depending on who you’re asking.

For those who aren’t convinced, you then have the device in the opposing corner: the Samsung Galaxy S IV. The S IV stands a tall 5-inch display, almost just .5 inches smaller than the Galaxy Note II. While I feel that this size is starting to invade on all that’s sacred with the Note II, we’ll just ignore how much my hands despise larger displays this time and let more unbiased opinions touch base on that. The Galaxy Note IV runs on a mysteriously unidentified processor and also has 2GB of RAM. This device will come with 16GB of onboard storage (with options of 32GB and 64GB) and also features a microSD slot for additional storage.  The rear-facing camera pleases the consumer who is more interested in megapixel count with a 13MP camera, and the front-facing camera is at a more standard 2MP. All of this runs on a 2,600 mAh battery.

Some of the more interesting features of the Galaxy S IV include dual-cameras, which allow you to take pictures of your family with the rear-facing camera and also include yourself in a smaller frame with a picture by using the front-facing camera. There’s also S Translator, which (according to the presentation) helps people who travelled to a different country completely unprepared find their way around town by translating what you’re saying into another language. The S Translator is probably better for things like e-mails and text messages where you’re communicating with people who speak a language you don’t understand.

So, I’m comparing these two devices and you think, “Well duh, the Galaxy S IV wins. Look at it!” Not so fast! As fast and as nice as the specs are on the Galaxy S IV, I’m actually a huge sucker for beautiful hardware, and I’m not going to hide how I feel about it – I really don’t like the way the Galaxy S IV looks. It just looks so similar to the Galaxy S III, which I also disliked the look and feel of, and I can’t help but wish that it offered a little more eye candy. I understand that Samsung liked the way the Galaxy S III looked - and yeah, it sold well – but can a sista get a little bezel? A nice contrasting texture? A little somethin’ somethin’ to brag about when people see the back of my phone as I stare intently at the device, scrolling with my eyes with Smart Scrolling? No? Well, okay.

Realistically though, I understand the vanity of the device can only go so far. If I’m lost in the middle of the scary part of town and my device doesn’t work for nothing there’s not much that a nice bezel or a beautiful metal back can do to rescue me; but assuming all is working well, it’s nice when you have your phone sitting next to you and your focus kind of drifts from the article you’re writing to the phone located to your left and you think to yourself, “Wow, that’s a nice thing I have. I like having nice things. What a beautiful design my phone has!” all in the name of procrastination. It still doesn’t really do anything productive, though.

So ultimately, which device would I choose? Both designs have their pros and cons. The Samsung Galaxy S IV might look about the same as the Galaxy S III on the outside of the device, but on the inside the device offers quite a few noteworthy upgrades (even if I find Smart Scrolling and Smart Pause to be gimmicky, they’re still new and fresh ideas that can always be turned off).  S Translator is a great idea that focuses on those with more international connections. Samsung also focuses quite a bit on the organization and optimization of cameras and photo albums. However, so does HTC. The HTC One offers beautiful hardware with dual front-facing speakers, not to mention the introduction of Blink Feed and Zoe, two remarkably different features than we’re used to seeing with our HTC devices. So, brains or beauty? 


Why not both?

Overall, I think I’d rather have the HTC One. While at first it might seem that I’m only allured by it’s beautiful hardware design, I’m actually partial to HTC Sense as oppose to TouchWiz. Perhaps it’s because HTC was the brand of Android devices that I held on to the longest (HTC EVO 4G to HTC EVO 3D); regardless, I think that Sense 5 makes for a good cleaned up version of Sense. It’s like Sense is that 30-year-old guy who still dressed in street clothes from his high school days, but you give him a nice haircut and throw him in a tux and you say – hey, that guy cleans up pretty good. While the device doesn’t have as many new features as the Galaxy S IV it does offer a different experience and interface with Blink Feed, giving their version of Android a touch of Windows Phone-esque atmosphere and making Android more minimalistic.  I don’t think that the HTC One lacks brains per se; it just doesn’t have as much brain as the Galaxy S IV has – I can admit that. However, the HTC One just tailors more to my lifestyle.


Smart Scrolling, Smart Pause, S Translate, Group Play, Samsung Knox, and S Health are all very intriguing features – but for me, I think that it’s just too much phone.

But enough about me, let’s talk about you! If you had to choose between these top contenders, which would you choose? Would you go for the now official Samsung Galaxy S IV, which offers better specs and a plethora of new features, or the HTC One, which offers a unique Android experience that goes against the grain of what we normally see today? Share your opinions and thoughts with me in the comments!