HTC One vs Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z vs iPhone 5 £529
19th Feb 2013 | 15:45
We pit HTC's big hope against its closest rivals
HTC One vs S3 vs Xperia Z vs iPhone 5
So, it's here. HTC's worst kept secret in a while has been announced. To be fair, it was pretty hard to keep it under wraps, once chairman Peter Chou started waving it about in front of the media, but at least now it's all official and above board. We like that.
And HTC's looking for salvation here. Let's be frank: the company's lost its way. Profits are down, sales are down, market share is down.
- Hands on: HTC One review
A few years ago, if you weren't on an iPhone or a BlackBerry, chances were you were rocking an HTC Android device with a big clock on the homescreen. But times change – and Samsung got busy with its Galaxy line, ultimately stealing the top Android spot from HTC and making HTC wince.
Of course, every launch is accompanied with the same cliches – "revolutionary, "the next big thing", "iPhone killer" and so on. We had it last year with the HTC One X and that hardly won over the masses. Step up to the plate, if you will, the HTC One.
HTC One vs Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z vs iPhone 5: design
The HTC One features an all new design. Well, we say 'all new' – and it is for HTC. But you may think you've seen it before. Yup, it's a dead ringer for the iPhone 5 – particularly the white version. If Apple was annoyed with Samsung, we think HTC's bound to get it in the neck for this. Similarities extend to the three panels on the back and the silver border around the phone.
From a design perspective, it's beautiful. As per its last few offerings, it's a unibody design and HTC describes it as 'gap free'. Available in silver and black, it's created from aluminium.
We much prefer handsets like this – it's going to feel solid in the hand, like it means business and comes in at a respectable size of 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3mm, with a weight of 143g. It means, roughly in the hand, it'll be on a par pretty much with the Galaxy S3, though the preference of metal over plastic will make it heavier.
In fact, it'll be nearer to Sony's new flagship, the Xperia Z in terms of physical print, though that comes in an all glass flavour. Opinion on design will differ – with some preferring Sony's elegant gloss and others much more favourable towards the metallic industrial feel of the HTC One.
HTC One vs Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z vs iPhone 5: processor
Naturally, a beautiful phone can end up as a beautiful paperweight if the processor isn't up to task. This used to happen a lot – but has not been as much of an issue in the last twelve months since OEMs started pulling their fingers out.
Always helps to have something to boast about too on the spec sheet – and HTC is right up at the top with the HTC One offering a quad-core 1.7GHz processor of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 variety. That's sure to mean this phone never slows down.
To be fair, it will be helped along by Project Butter – but even without that, we can think of few situations where the processor would be stumped.
It makes last year's Exynos quad-core 1.4GHz offering on the Samsung Galaxy S3 seem so old fashioned. Although we did occasionally experience a half a milisecond of lag with that handset, it was by no means an annoyance.
Sony comes in with a Krait 1.5 quad-core offering on the Xperia Z and that's more than respectable as it is. In reality, we can't see situations where any of these handsets will struggle.
The thing is, even a good processor can be rubbish on a bad OS. And vice versa. Apple's iPhone 5 only give us a dual-core 1.2 GHz. On the face of it, that's very third world but you'll find few complaining of lag or slowdown on the iPhone 5. This is because it runs on such a sold OS. Likewise, Android should be able to cope and help the HTC One's processor to put its back into things.
HTC One vs Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z vs iPhone 5: screen
Screen resolutions tend to inspire real one-upmanship among OEMs. Apple's launch from the old style to retina really was groundbreaking and set the bar. It's hard to make something that replicates that first impression again – hence why even on the iPhone 5, two years on, Apple itself even, hasn't managed to top it.
In our upcoming Xperia Z review, we talk about how amazing that screen is. Full TFT 1080 HD at 5-inches is pretty impressive. There are slight issues with it looking washed out now and again, but this is pretty much as good as it gets on Android right now.
It also shows up the Galaxy S3 – when that was launched last year, in one of the biggest shocks of 2012, Samsung went for a Super AMOLED panel that actually can show pixels. Yes, you have to strain the naked eye but they can be seen and that's unacceptable in the eyes of many.
With that in mind, HTC's made sure it can secure boasting rights here over the oposition. It's taken an almost identical screen size to the Samsung, but boosted it up to the quality of the Sony Xperia Z at 1080 HD. It's a win win situation.
Camera, storage and media compared
HTC One vs Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z vs iPhone 5: camera
This one of the more exciting aspects of the HTC One. Megapixels are so last year – 2013 is all about the ultrapixel. How many megapixels is that? Good question. And one HTC is a little shy about revealing.
Here's why – the photos it'll capture will be called Zoes. Seriously. It's part of new technology it's incorporating called HTC Zoe which means that your photos will actually be small videos spanning around three seconds. That's like a posh GIF file, right?
There's loads of other bumph we've been given by HTC but the highlights are that the lens will let in around 300 times more light than previous iterations, meanwhile there'll be an F2.0 aperture and even five different levels of flash that automatically set themselves.
We're excited to see how this pans out in our full hands on review, since the flash on the iPhone 5 isn't the best out there. Pictures shot in good daylight with that 8MP snapper look great – and even those in the dimmer lights. But it's no strong enough to illuminate a whole room in the same way that the flash on the Galaxy S3 can.
We've had people actually complain about being blinded by the flash on the S3 because it is so strong – and when it's not on, that 8MP camera is also one of the best out there.
And that just goes to show it's not all about numbers because Sony has graced us with a snazzy 13MP job for the Xperia Z – and yet, as you'll read in our review, it's one of the poorest cameras we've seen in a mobile phone for years, falling way behind the above 8MP offerings and taking us back to the mid 2000's
HTC One vs Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z vs iPhone 5: storage
HTC has incurred our wrath before over this. See, Google doesn't want us using memory cards – it thinks they're evil and confusing. And HTC has bowed down to both Mountain View's pressure - and the constraints of building a memory slot into a unibody design in recent year. But God almighty, has it annoyed us.
The thing is, with all of these handsets capable of sporting super HD content and apps getting increasingly larger, storage doesn't go as far as it used to. 8GB, 16GB or even 32GB is paltry and annoying to many.
HTC has continued the trend by eschewing a memory slot on the HTC One but there is a silver lining to this silver-bezelled tale and that is this: the HTC One will be available in 32 or 64GB variants.
This brings it more in line with Apple's iPhone 5 offerings (until the iPhone 6 bumps up to 128GB, potentially) and keeps Google happy. As with the iPhone, one memory source means there aren't two different options to choose from when saving files and things getting untidy.
This is different to both the Xperia Z and the Samsung Galaxy S3 which offer removable storage on top of what you get. With the Xperia Z, you get 16GB out of the box and then can add whatever you want on top up to 64GB.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 offers several different sizes with the option to put in your own SD card on top of that – but we wonder if that'll be the case when the S4 is finally unveiled.
HTC One vs Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z vs iPhone 5: media
We'll be accused of being Apple fanboys in saying this, but the iPhone 5 offers probably the best media experience in that if you do things Apple's way (itself a weakness because it takes away the choice), it's fairly innovative and seamless to get content on and off and it just all works.
Android has been playing catch-up in a lot of ways. For example, to sync iTunes (which lots of people use, whether you love it or hate it) to an iPhone is simple.
But doing it with Android is anything but. You have a plethora of different programmes from iSync to Double Twist which work when they want to plus Samsung offers its own ghastly Kies software whilst Sony does too, at the expense of ignoring Mac owners. Drag and drop seems so crude and inelegant. So HTC needs to crack this nut, if it can, to take home that crown of best Android smartphone.
The Xperia Z (if you're not using a Mac) is a dream to use for media. It builds on that Walkman heritage and comes with Sony' Unlimited services. In our review, you'll see that we say it gives one of the best audio offerings available in the smartphone market. Through headphones, the sound is out of this world.
Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is a bit old hat. We liked some of the music presets on Samsung's own player but we'd hardly say it is an area where the S3 excels.
HTC, in all fairness, has been working on its media offerings for the last few years. From having a go, but not getting it right with HTC Watch, to its not too bad Beats Audio integration, we've been impressed in a lot of ways. Now, it's moving things up a level.
We're getting HTC BoomSound. Even the name makes you think it means business. The HTC One will come with dual front facing stereo speakers with their own amplifier. Not only will loud audio, showing clips to your mates on YouTube and so on sound great, but the days of the muffled ringtone speaker on the back may be numbered.
On top of that, Beats Audio remains. So audiophiles will hopefully be in for a treat!
HTC One vs Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z vs iPhone 5: extra features
The HTC One comes with a new version of its Sense skin – arguably one of the best OEM skins out there. On top of this, there's a new element thrown in called BlinkFeed, taking all of your social media and news updates and having them constantly ping on the screen.
It sounds interesting – though on the face of it, hardly a new idea. If you follow thousands of people on Twitter for example, it could prove really annoying – especially if you only want to see particular lists. Will it filter individual Twitter lists? We doubt it. Or groups on Facebook? Our money's on 'no.'
Widgets that do this (like Sony's thankfully now-retired, ghastly, Timescape) can quickly jarr. But we'll reserve judgement until we've seen it as this could end up being the best thing since sliced bread.
Hats off to HTC for having a go here. By comparison, Apple may tout iOS as being "the world's most advanced mobile OS" but it's also the most boring, having barely changed since 2007.
We're fans of Samsung's TouchWiz – but it is a fairly contentious piece of code, with lots of haters amassed too. Meanwhile, Sony's is very much vanilla Android with a few mild tweaks to give it the corportate luck on the Xperia Z.
For those who love the pure Android experience, the HTC One will be akin to the mobile antichrist. But for everybody else, it looks like a rivetting offering and we can't wait to get hold of one for a more in-depth look.