Just a coincidence, huh? Imagine, two Android phones dropping out of the heavens into my lap simultaneously. As of Friday, April 11, they were in the stores and all you had to do was choose!
Beauty first: The HTC One is elegant and simple and has heft. The Samsung Galaxy S5 is a miracle of compactness and offers more features and a slightly better camera-phone and inspires something like love with its gorgeous design and simplicity. Still, if I use my mind instead of my heart, the Galaxy S5 is ultimately the better phone: a powerhouse of features and capability, a slightly better camera and is a few ounces lighter Both offer top-of-the-line, quad-core, Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processors that support faster 4G LTE, faster Wi-Fi and faster processing images compared with their predecessors. Better yet, this macho chip makes for some really muscular graphics processing for games and video, and far superior power management, which means a much improved battery life over previous models.
The One (M8) has a 4-megapixel camera with HTC’s UltraPixel Technology, using larger pixels to capture more light and better photos. The Galaxy S5 has a 16-megapixel camera featuring Isocell, Samsung’s brand-new ‘image technology,’ although I’m unclear as to what that actually means. A few sample HTC One (M8) photos made for some exquisite images, but also a tendency to oversaturate in a lot of light. Yes, for the first time, the Galaxy S5’s camera is absolutely superb. Having too often dealt with blurry Samsung photos over the years, I’m really happy that, after almost a decade of failure the Korean behemoth has finally fixed a lingering problem. Additionally, the camera’s color palate is really sophisticated and lifelike.
Both phones also feature a ‘Headline camera’ feature with the groovy ability to refocus images after the fact. The HTC One (M8) accomplishes this through its Duo Camera, a second camera lens mounted on the back of the phone which captures dimensional information about an image. Now you can take photos in automatic mode, and you can tap ‘Edit’ to see a number of alternative effects and the UFocus option where the phone automatically chooses the closest item in the image to focus on. You can tap anywhere else to refocus. You can even apply fun filters like Foregrounder, which can manipulate foreground images in different colors and experiment with various ersatz ‘hand-drawings in backgrounds.
Meanwhile, in spite of ‘Duo Camera,’ Samsung are just as intrepid. The Galaxy S5 owns a feature called ‘Selective Focus,’ and it uses onboard image processing rather than a second camera. You need to remember to enable ‘Selective Focus’ before you shoot, but the button is much more conveniently emplaced at the top of the camera screen than in the HTC One.
Love Selfies? The HTC One (M8) comes with a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. The Galaxy S5, though, shoots ultra-high-definition, or 4K, video recording compared with The One (M8)’s 1080p video. Still, beware! Its back is shiny and slippery and rounded instead of having grippable corners, and so is difficult for one-handed Selfie use.
Both phones deliver improved battery life. The Galaxy S5 lets you choose either power saving mode or “ultra” mode, which descends into gray-scale, restricts background data, and allows only low-power communication like texting and calling. The HTC One (M8) automatically kicks into ‘power saver’ mode once it falls into 5 percent battery life.
It’s the extras that give the Galaxy S5 ever so slight an edge. The Galaxy’s user interface is simplified and easy to use, and the phone has the Samsung S Health app including a pedometer, an exercise tracker, a heart rate sensor and a calorie tracker, all preinstalled.
The Galaxy S5’s keyboard is far superior to the HTC One (M8)‘s, which is too narrow and needs tiny child fingers. Its interface is also easier to read. Impressive also is the Galaxy S5’s dust-free, water-resistant design. There’s a rubberized strip inside the case and a cover over the charging port made out of the same material, which helps keep out moisture. For me, often reporting sports from out in the rain, it’s a Godsend.
That’s about it. Try them both out and use your own intuition. US$650 is not chump change to be sure and… remember… the iPhone 8 will be meandering into our collective vision soon, too.