The Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One have been two of the most popular flagship phones to be released so far this year. It's impossible to say exactly which one is better since everybody has different tastes and preferences when it comes to design, features, and uses of their phones. It is fair to say that both of them have interesting features and specifications that make them such popular flagship devices, so it can be tough narrowing down which one to choose from if either of these phones are in your lineup of potential future smartphone purchases.
I hadn't planned on upgrading my phone this early, although I had been looking forward to my upgrade date for quite some time. I was still torn between what phone to get: I wanted a BlackBerry 10, I wanted a Windows Phone, and I wanted an Android. I eventually came to the conclusion that I will be purchasing two devices this year to switch back and forth between, but I still wasn't sure which devices I was going to get or when I would make the switch. Since my beloved iPhone 4S was still holding out alright, I figured I had time. As luck would have it (or didn't have it, I suppose) my son took a cup of water to my poor phone and although it still worked okay, it wasn't exactly in the best shape. It was time to switch it up.
Since the BlackBerry Q10 or a Windows Phone still hasn't debuted on Sprint's network, I decided to go with an Android device first. Naturally, I decided to choose between the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4, but the real tough part was actually figuring out which one I wanted. I spent a few extra days conducting more research on which one I thought would be best for me; re-watching Dogfights, review videos, reading blogs, reviewing specs, and most importantly heading into retail stores to physically compare the two themselves. After much deliberation, I decided to go with the Samsung Galaxy S4.
It's interesting how small the Galaxy S4 looks compared to the Galaxy Note II, but when you hold it in your hands and have no other phones to compare it to it actually felt quite a bit larger than I thought it would. I already knew that I had small hands, and I was having a bit of trouble with the device on the display, but I attributed that mostly to the chunky security device attached to the back. However, I also figured that this was something I would get used to. After all, my EVO 4G was also a rather large device and I was able to deal with it just fine.
My first day with the Galaxy S4 was bittersweet. It was exciting to experience a new phone and to be able to personalize the bazoodles out of an Android device again, but one thing was making me very irritated was the issue that my phone was actually very feeling very hot near the camera. Unusually hot. As in, I had to set it down on the sofa ledge because it was too hot for my hand. I looked up the issue and it seemed that a lot of people were experiencing this, but said that the heat subsided after letting the phone die and letting it charge a full cycle while the phone was powered off. Alright, I thought. It couldn't hurt to try it. So I did try it, and unfortunately the heat issue was still there. This was after I had only sent a few texts and did a little web browsing. I got a case and although you could still feel warmth through the case, it wasn't unbearable anymore. I was going to give the device a few more days before taking it to get it checked out.
My experience within the phone was pretty fun. I had a good time getting to know all of the features in the camera and even took some nice pictures. The only downside to the Galaxy S4's camera was that it did take a while to actually take the picture, not to mention choosing the right shooting mode beforehand can be somewhat time consuming. I briefly went over this in my article yesterday regarding whether the UltraPixel camera on the HTC One was worth the risk of buying one or not for those who rely on their smartphone camera as their main camera.
I did find myself enjoying some of the smart features, mostly Air Gesture, because it made me feel magical. But even then I knew the function wasn't really practical for me to use. It just gave off that "Yer a wizard, Anna," feeling that I've so longingly wanted to experience since reading the first Harry Potter book at the impressionable age of 9. It was still pretty fun. Even my toddler had a good time waving his hand over my screen to make the notifications pop up.
There was a noticeable lag between screen changes. Not every time, but it did happen. It surprised me given that although the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One run on the same processor, the S4 is the device that uses an overclocked one. This lag is what prompted me to turn off most of the smart features, but even then I still had some issues. I also wondered if perhaps the heat issue that was still going on had something to do with it, because it doesn't seem like a normal issue to be having with a brand new phone.
Button placement was a huge issue with me. It's actually a situation I was referring to in another article I wrote recently that discussed why design does matter in a smartphone. Oddly, I've never considered button placement to be a huge issue until now. I'm not sure if it's because of the size of the phone or what, but when it came to watching YouTube videos or Netflix the buttons were in all the wrong places for me. I would hit the power button because that's where my index finger would rest while holding the phone in landscape mode, or I would accidentally turn the sound all the way down because that's around where my thumb rested on the underside of the device. It was pretty frustrating. I also had issues with turning my sound all the way down or up just by trying to hold the phone in one hand. My index finger would push down the volume and I would miss notifications. This is possibly something that I could have adjusted to in time, but for the ten days that I used the device it was a constant issue.
Finally, on the tenth day, I did decide that perhaps the Galaxy S4 wasn't the device for me. It had its good qualities about it, but there was too much going on with it that I never really got that euphoric feeling of owning the device. I briefly considered that it might have been the heat that was the root of all the issues I was experiencing, but in the end I decided that I think I would just go with the HTC One instead.
I was nervous because the main thing holding me back was the UltraPixel camera, but as it turns out it's really not that bad. They're certainly not the most detailed images I've seen, but they are detailed enough. It's not noticeably different unless you place it next to other photos taken by phones like the Galaxy S4 or the Lumia cameras. Even then, it does perform exceedingly well when taking low-lit photos, as it has been known to do. It's not the perfect camera, but it works well as a smartphone camera.
The actual feel of the device in the hand felt better to me than the Galaxy S4 did as well. Perhaps it's because I'm used to a little more heft coming from the iPhone 4S and all, but the device was also slightly narrower and I have an easier time using it one-handed than I did the Galaxy S4. I also like the slightly curved back of the device in the hand, although the OCD in me isn't very happy that it doesn't set perfectly flat on a flat surface.
I noticed that the transitions on the One were a lot smoother and quicker than the Galaxy S4, something that surprised me given that the S4 has a slight edge on processing power. From the lock screen to switching between apps, the One does a great job of keeping the transitions quick and clean. It's also a lot faster at taking photos, which is important when trying to get those quick shots of time-sensitive photo subjects.
BoomSound is also something that I've come to absolutely adore. Not only is the sound loud, but it's also clear. Who would have thought that front-facing speakers would be such a game changer? Now I don't have to put in headphones if I want to listen to the music on my phone clearly, not to mention I can keep my phone facing upwards when resting on a flat surface to keep tabs on my notification LED. Front-facing speakers and BoomSound is a great feature for the HTC One.
Overall, I've been enjoying my time with the HTC One more than I enjoyed my Galaxy S4. There are features that I do miss about the GS4 that I would like to incorporate into the HTC One, but since I can't mash the two devices together and get one super awesome phone, and I can only pick one, I have to say that my experience with the HTC One has been more pleasant overall for me. The Galaxy S4 is still a great phone, and although it didn't work out for me doesn't mean that it can't work out for other people. These two devices are both awesome, and each have different features to bring to the table depending on individual preference. It just so happens that what HTC had to offer better suited my tastes.