Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. the rest: How does it stack up?

How does the Samsung Galaxy S4 stack up to its closest rivals, the Sony Xperia Z and the HTC One?

The Samsung Galaxy S4.

The Samsung Galaxy S4.

Samsung officially unveiled its hotly-anticipated Galaxy S4 Android phone at an event in New York City last week.

Read our preview of the Samsung Galaxy S4 here

Many consumers will be hard pressed telling the difference between the new model and the Galaxy S III, as the S4 retains a similar look and feel to its predecessor. However, it includes a 4.99in full HD display, comes with a 13-megapixel camera and features a number of Samsung-exclusive software features.

With this in mind, how does the Samsung Galaxy S4 stack up to its closest rivals, the Sony Xperia Z and the HTC One? And which of these flagship Android devices is right for you?

HTC One

HTC One Android phone (preview)

Sony Xperia Z

Sony Xperia Z Android phone (preview)

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4 Android phone (preview)
Operating system
Google Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
Google Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
Google Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean)
Screen size
4.7in
5in
4.99in
Display resolution
1920x1080
1920x1080
1920x1080
Display technology
Super LCD 3
TFT LCD
Super AMOLED
Pixel density
469ppi
441ppi
441ppi
Front camera
2.1-megapixels (wide angle)
2.2-megapixels
2-megapixels
Rear camera
4-megapixels (UltraPixel), single LED flash
13.1-megapixels, single LED flash
13-megapixels, single LED flash
Camera features
Autofocus, tap to focus, face & smile detection, optical image stabilisation, HTC Zoe
Autofocus, tap to focus, face detection, image stabilisation, HDR, sweep panorama
Autofocus, tap to focus, face & smile detection detection, image stabilisation, HDR, Dual Shot
Video recording
1080p HD @ 30fps (with HDR)
1080p HD @ 30fps (with HDR)
1080p HD @60fps (with HDR)
Internal memory
32GB/64GB
16GB
16GB/32GB/64GB
Expandable memory
No
Yes, microSD
Yes, microSD
Thickness
9.3mm
7.9mm
7.9mm
Weight
143g
146g
130g
RAM
2GB
2GB
2GB
Processor
Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 1.7Ghz Krait (quad-core)
Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro 1.5GHz Krait (quad-core)
Exynos 5 Octa 5410
Australian 3G networks
HSDPA 850/900/2100
HSDPA 850/900/2100
HSDPA 850/900/2100
Australian 4G networks
LTE 1800MHz
LTE 1800MHz
LTE 1800MHz
Wi-Fi
802.11a/b/g/n
802.11a/b/g/n
802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth
4.0 with A2DP
4.0 with A2DP
4.0 with A2DP
HDMI-out
No (Yes via MHL adapter)
No (Yes via MHL adapter)
No (Yes via MHL adapter)
Quoted battery life (talk time)
Not quoted
Up to 14 hours
Not quoted
Connector
Standard Micro USB
Standard Micro USB
Standard Micro USB
SIM card
Micro-SIM
Micro-SIM
Micro-SIM

As you can see, there isn't much between these three smartphones when it comes to specifications. More important than specs, and two things you need to seriously consider before making a purchase decision, are design and software. It's here that the Samsung Galaxy S4, the HTC One and the Sony Xperia Z are very different.

Design, ergonomics and looks

If you're in the market for a new Android phone then design is one of the most important factors to consider. These three devices really couldn't be any more different. The Galaxy S4 uses a largely plastic build, the Xperia Z glass and the HTC One has a full metal body. There are pros and cons to each phone.

The Galaxy S4 is just 7.7mm thick and weighs 130g.
The Galaxy S4 is just 7.7mm thick and weighs 130g.

Whichever design you prefer is ultimately a personal preference so our advice would be to try and see one in the flesh before making your decision. Samsung has been criticised for sticking with a glossy plastic finish on the Galaxy S4 but plastic is more durable than glass and this type of design means the battery is removable. Samsung has sold tens of millions of Galaxy S III devices, so the design of the S4 is both popular and familiar. It already resonates positively with consumers.

The Xperia Z doesn't have a removable battery but the glass-clad device is dust and water resistant, rated to IP55 and IP57 standards. It's a feature we really came to appreciate. The Xperia Z is comfortable to hold, has good ergonomics and the completely flat surface on the back gives it a distinctive look and feel. In our opinion it's one of the best looking smartphones on the market.

Sony appears to have used a very good finish on both the front and back glass panels.
Sony appears to have used a very good finish on both the front and back glass panels.

The HTC One doesn't have a removable battery either and it also lacks a microSD card slot, but there's no denying its a very attractive piece of hardware. It has a full metal body with a "zero gap" construction and we love the dual-stereo speakers that sit above and below the display. Its screen also a pixel density of 468ppi, making it the highest on the market.

Software and user interface

All three of these smartphones have similar major features. The main aspect you'll need to factor into your purchasing decision is the software overlay that sits on top of Android. The Galaxy S4 uses Samsung's TouchWIZ UI, the Xperia Z runs Sony's UI and the HTC One uses the latest version of HTC Sense. Each of these are very different and as they determine how you use the phone, very important.

Samsung and HTC follow similar paths. Both the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One have a user interface that has skinned almost every part of the standard Android layout. Which you prefer is again a personal preference. Samsung's software adds a lot of small and sometimes useful features, and the HTC One debuts a completely new home screen called "BlinkFeed".

BlinkFeed can't be completely removed from the HTC One but it doesn't have to be your primary home screen.
BlinkFeed can't be completely removed from the HTC One but it doesn't have to be your primary home screen.

The Galaxy S4 includes features like 'Smart Scroll', which allows users to scroll up and down with eye movement, 'Smart Pause', which will pause video when the user looks away from the screen, and 'Air Gesture' which allows you to swipe through photos or scroll without touching the phone. These are all big selling points for Samsung, so if you think they might be gimmicks and you won't use them often, keep that in mind.

HTC's biggest selling point is the One's "UltraPixel" camera sensor. The 4-megapixel sensor uses enlarged pixels that the company says can absorb up to three times more light than those inside "most leading 13-megapixel phone cameras." This technology has allowed HTC to introduce a new media called "Zoe". It enables users to capture up to 20 photos and a three second video simultaneously. Again, if the camera on a smartphone isn't important to you then you need to base your purchase on other factors.

From L to R: The Xperia Z's lock screen, home screen and app drawer.
From L to R: The Xperia Z's lock screen, home screen and app drawer.

Sony has taken a much different approach with the Xperia Z. It has made minimal changes to the stock version of Android but most of the changes it has made actually add to the overall user experience. The album app, Sony's take on the Gallery, is fast, smooth and provides better sorting and scrolling options than other Android phones and we also like the Walkman music app, which offers an equaliser, a visualiser and has an intuitive interface.

What do you think of the Samsung Galaxy S4, the HTC One and the Sony Xperia Z? Which one do you prefer and why? Let us know in the comments below!

Tags android phonessamsungSony Sony Xperia Zhtchtc onemobile phonessmartphonesSamsung Galaxy S4jelly bean

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

PC World

8 Comments

Pletman

1

Replaceable battery is key for me. S4 it's going to be (or Note 3 ;-)

pcworld169

2

I like everything about the One, except the lack of microSD ...

BTW: do any of them cover additional bands (esp LTE) for international travel?

GLComputing

3

What is the reason the "flagship" models seem to be dropping the removable battery? It has been one of the advantages of Android over iOS

vibe

4

my phone was lost recently because I had it on vibrate and it accidently slipped into my bum..

kim

5

htc one for me.love the aluminium build and its time for a change from samsung

simon

6

I got the s4 and love it, the plastic back doesnt bother me as ive never not used a phone case. Its light as a feather, better picture than my sony led tv and handles the most extreme hd games with ease.

Praz

7

the HTC One will make heads turn. Even my maid has a Galaxy.

Sandra

8

Lack of changeable battery was deciding factor for me. I've never bad a Samsung phone- now using RAZR & happy with it. Husband's work phone (S4) arrived today! I had HTC phone earlier & liked their widgets.
I'm assuming I can use GO Launcher EX & that will make usage more familiar. I've never had experience with this TouchWiz but everyone seems to dislike it. I wonder once I install GO, will that have effect of disabling TouchWiz or am I dreaming?

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