If you don't care for an iPhone, but are due for a new smartphone this year, then chances are that you're tossing up between the flagship phones from Samsung and HTC. This is a very difficult decision to make, but let's see if we can pick a winner between them.
|SPEC||HTC One X||Samsung Galaxy S III|
|Processor||Nvidia Tegra 3|
1080p HD video
1080p HD video
|Storage||32GB internal||16GB, 32GB, 64GB internal options|
|Battery||1800mAh capacity||2100mAh capacity|
HTC Watch movie rentals
|S Voice commands|
Wireless charging accessory
DivX and XviD video playback
HTC Sense vs. TouchWiz UI
The most obvious difference between the two phones is the way they look and the way you use them. If you're not familiar with the user experiences offered by HTC and Samsung, HTC calls its UI "Sense", while Samsung has named its UI "TouchWiz". Both systems are several years in development, existing on handsets that pre-date the company's use of Android, so both are feature rich and offer some unique tweaks.
HTC Sense is the most recognisable, with thanks mostly to the design of the combined clock/weather widget that is the centrepiece of HTC phones. Though Sense offers a few usability tweaks, the focus is on the phone's aesthetic, with several options for changing the look of the system through the extensive Personalisation menu in Sense.
TouchWiz has far less flexibility in the way it looks, but offers some excellent shortcuts to speed up how you navigate around the phone. At the bottom of the home screen and app drawer, for example, are dots representing how many pages you can view. If you slide your finger across these dots, you can leap from one page to another, rather than having to swipe from page to page. We published a guide for many of the TouchWiz shortcuts after the Galaxy S II was released last year, and we expect many of these to remain in the GS3.
Last year, Samsung could boast of having one of the best, if not the absolute best, camera in a smartphone. HTC has swiftly advanced its camera tech over the last three or four releases, though none have impressed us as much as the camera we saw recently in the HTC One X. Besides taking excellent photos, the camera in the One X is packed with tricks and features, including a nine-shot burst mode, best-shot selection and the ability to take photos while shooting HD video.
Samsung is not a company to be outdone, though, and so it comes as no surprise that the Galaxy S III now also supports burst shooting (up to eight shots), best shot selection and the ability to take photos while shooting HD video. So this battle will be decided by the camera that takes the best photos, and we'll be sure to put these models side by side when the GS3 is released shortly.
If you examine the specs list above, it is difficult to separate these phones based on chips and RAM, but there is a significant difference in the way that both companies have addressed internal memory. HTC opts for a one-size-fits-all 32GB, which is comparatively generous when you scan what's offered by most of the other smartphone makers. Samsung goes farther, offering 16GB, 32GB and 64GB storage options, like Apple does with the iPhone.
Furthermore, Samsung includes space in the Galaxy S III for a microSD memory card, with the possibility of adding another 64GB of memory for storing apps, videos and music. HTC forgoes an expandable memory option, locking the One X in with its 32GB. Some might not see this as much of an issue; 32GB is a lot of memory, after all, but many will favour Samsung's flexible approach to memory this year.
It's worth noting that both Samsung and HTC also bolster the local storage offer, with a large chunk of cloud storage through Dropbox. Again, Samsung comes out on top, with a 50GB deal for its customers, compared with 25GB for HTC's users.
The vibe of the thing
Desirability, X-factor, the vibe; however you define it, personal preference will play a huge part in differentiating phones with specs as similar as these two models share. HTC has an advantage here, we think, with its polycarbonate unibody giving the handset a premium feel that the GS3 with its plastic chassis doesn't have. However, this unibody solution does lock the battery and memory inside the handset, while Samsung's battery is removable and its memory is expandable.
There's also the subtle difference in the quality of the screen. While both phones offer the same number of pixels across their display, Samsung chooses a PenTile sub-pixel array, while HTC uses an RGB Stripe array. The PenTile array has been shown to be inferior to RGB Stripe, but only when viewed under magnification. The result is that you will probably not notice the effect of the PenTile array unless you are really observant, and looking at the devices side by side. But if you compare them in-store, there might be a subtle differences in the quality of the screens that you can't quite define, giving an advantage to HTC.
And the winner is...
We are! OK, so it's a corny way to put it, but it is true. The fierce Android competition of the last few years has culminated in two very attractive, powerful and desirable smartphones, so whichever way you go, you end up with an awesome handset.
Samsung has the edge when it comes to hardware and specs, and apparently performance, according to early reports. But HTC still leads in design, with a superior chassis and the design of its Sense UI. At the end of the day, it'll be up to you as to which of these factors you give the most consideration to.
For us, Samsung maintains its lead on its competitors. We prefer the simplicity of the TouchWiz UI over Sense; we'll always prefer a larger battery; and the option to buy an inductive wireless charger is awesome. We do wish that it wasn't wrapped in such cheap-looking plastic, but, as with all ugly ducklings, it's what's inside that counts.