Samsung's Galaxy S 4 has been the center of attention for months, considered the main rival to Apple's iPhone and the signature Android smartphone. But the HTC One should share those honors. It's a more sophisticated piece of hardware and much more stylish -- more Apple-like in its simplicity and attention to quality than the Galaxy S 4. And it has none of the half-baked apps that the Galaxy S 4 suffers from, though the AT&T model I tested came with a bunch of AT&T junkware.
Make no mistake: I like the Galaxy S 4 a lot. But I like the HTC One even more.
It's a classic issue of taste: If you like simple, solid, and precise details, you'll prefer the HTC One. If you like your tech soft, curvaceous, and laden with options, you'll lean toward the Galaxy S 4. The former style is much more the Apple way, which is why any iPhone owner tempted to go Android for the bigger screen should look at the HTC One.
The HTC One's slick hardware
The HTC One's aluminum body is much like that of Apple's MacBooks, with the same solidity. Just as a MacBook makes a PC laptop feel cheap by comparison, so does an HTC One make the Galaxy S 4 feel, well, plasticky. On the other hand, the HTC One's aluminum body can come across as cold and hard, whereas the S 4's plastic feels warmer and softer in the hand.
With the Beats Audio setting enabled, the HTC One's sound quality is the best of any mobile device I've tested. It's rich and well balanced, whereas the Galaxy S 4 has a hollow tone. The HTC One's audio quality even beats the best tablet audio, that of the iPad Mini. The HTC One's speakers do very well at high volumes, avoiding the distortion that often occurs at the loudest settings. It can easily function as a boombox in a small room.
The HTC One's screen is very nice, but the Galaxy S 4's is both a tad larger and, more important, easier to read when viewed at an angle. The HTC One's screen dims more when viewed from the side.
The Galaxy S 4 also has a removable battery, unlike the HTC One. But the One's placement of buttons is more sensible than the S 4's, which has a power button that's too close to the volume buttons, leading to frequent unintentional presses.
Both devices support NFC short-range wireless, though there are few other NFC-based devices for them to interact with. Both devices support the MHL video-out standard in their MicroUSB ports for output of video to an HDMI monitor. But you need the newer 11-pin version of the MicroUSB cable, and compatible MHL cables require that you connect to a USB power source; it's nowhere near as easy to plug these devices into a monitor as it is an iPhone or iPad. The wireless screen sharing on both the HTC One and Galaxy S 4 work only with a small set of devices. (Neither works with my DLNA-compatible LG Blu-ray player, which does work with the BlackBerry Q10's DLNA support. DLNA is the weak industry response to Apple's AirPlay.)
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