Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. HTC One: Army of two

GSMArena team, 26 March 2013.

Screen comparison

2013 is the year of the 1080p Android flagships and the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One are two of the most prominent members. The Galaxy S4 goes for a bigger 5" Super AMOLED screen, while the One sports a smaller 4.7" Super LCD3.

HTC One Vs Galaxy S4 HTC One Vs Galaxy S4 HTC One Vs Galaxy S4
The screens of the Galaxy S4 and HTC One are pretty awesome

The pixel densities of both are ridiculously high (441ppi for the S4, 469ppi for the One), but honestly anything over 400ppi looks the same. One thing is for sure though, there is a difference between the 400+ppi screens and the 300+ppi screens of the last generation, though it's not a Retina-scale revolution.

Still, it should be noted that the Super AMOLED on the Galaxy S4 uses a PenTile matrix, which means there are fewer sub-pixels in total (two per pixel instead of three). The high pixel density and the odd arrangement of the subpixels does a great job at hiding that, though. So, while the 306ppi Super AMOLED on the Galaxy S III showed some jaggies up close, this one doesn't.


Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One screens up close

Many people complain about the oversaturated colors of AMOLED screens (while others prefer them), but Samsung quells such complaints with the special Adobe RGB mode for the display, which greatly improves color accuracy.

Excellent viewing angles and contrast are typical advantages of AMOLEDs and the Galaxy S4 screen is a great example.

The HTC One's screen on the other hand is very much in the running for the best LCD - it has great colors and impressive contrast and viewing angles. There's a slight contrast loss at very wide angles, but you'll probably never notice. Black levels are good and the maximum brightness goes up pretty high.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
HTC One 0.13 205 1580 0.42 647 1541
HTC Butterfly 0.14 173 1200 0.45 501 1104
Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4 0 201 0 404
Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III 0 174 0 330
Sony Xperia Z - - - 0.70 492 705
Oppo Find 5 0.17 176 1123 0.51 565 1107
Samsung N7100 Galaxy Note II 0 215 0 402
LG Optimus G Pro - - - 0.41 611 1489
Nokia Lumia 920 - - - 0.48 513 1065
LG Optimus G 0.14 197 1445 0.33 417 1438
Apple iPhone 5 0.13 200 1490 0.48 640 1320

Where the One runs into a problem is sunlight legibility - it's good, but not great. It's comparable to that of a Sony Xperia Z and noticeably better than that of the HTC Butterfly. However, the Galaxy S4 screen is just less reflective, giving it better sunlight legibility even if the maximum brightness is lower.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Samsung Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.970
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.680
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • HTC Desire C
    1.300
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.180
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

One nice thing about having Android 4.2 and an AMOLED screen is that you can download a Daydream for the Galaxy S4 that shows a simple clock on a black background and you can run this overnight without losing too much battery.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S4. The Samsung flagship takes this one, as its screen is bigger, with better sunlight legibility, while still offering you the option to have accurate colors thanks to Adobe RGB mode. The HTC One screen is impressive, too, but the higher pixel density can't really make up for the lower native contrast and slightly inferior sunlight legibility.

Battery life

It doesn't matter how cool the screen is or how powerful the processor is if your battery is dead. Both phones pack batteries of over 2,000mAh and a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset, which usually means efficient standby.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 has a slight advantage in battery capacity - 2,600mAh over 2,300mAh - but its chipset is overclocked so we'll see how that balances out. Also, the screen types will make a difference, LCD usually does well on the web browsing test, while AMOLED typically does better in the video test.

Update, May 10: We ran a new battery test on the Samung Galaxy S4 and updated this page with the results. While before the update, the S4 and HTC One were matched in talk time, now the S4 jumps 4 hours ahead. It's among the longest lasting phones when it comes to talking. The HTC One is pretty good too - we doubt anyone will talk for over 13 hours on a single charge - but the S4 will give you more talk time if you forgot to charge the battery.

Talk time

  • Motorola RAZR MAXX (ICS)
    21:18
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    20:45
  • Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX
    20:24
  • Motorola RAZR i
    20:07
  • Sony Xperia SP
    19:49
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)
    18:03
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II N7100
    16:57
  • Sony Xperia Z
    16:03
  • LG Optimus G
    15:30
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    15:22
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    15:17
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    14:17
  • Oppo Find 5
    14:17
  • Google Nexus 4
    14:17
  • HTC One
    13:38
  • HTC One X+
    13:31
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    13:33
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos
    12:45
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    12:30
  • HTC Butterfly
    12:18
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    12:14
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    11:58
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    11:30
  • Asus Padfone 2
    11:20
  • HTC Droid DNA
    11:07
  • HTC Windows Phone 8X
    11:07
  • Samsung Wave 3 S8600
    11:07
  • Samsung I9105 Galaxy S II Plus
    11:06
  • HTC Desire X
    11:03
  • HTC One X (AT&T, LTE)
    10:35
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    10:20
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III (JB)
    10:15
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    10:03
  • HTC One V
    10:00
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    10:00
  • Samsung Galaxy Express
    10:00
  • HTC One X
    9:57
  • HTC One S
    9:42
  • Samsung I9103 Galaxy R
    9:40
  • HTC Sensation XL
    9:30
  • Nokia Lumia 810
    9:05
  • Nokia Lumia 710
    9:05
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    9:05
  • Motorola Atrix HD
    9:04
  • HTC Vivid
    9:02
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    8:56
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    8:51
  • HTC Rhyme
    8:48
  • Apple iPhone 5
    8:42
  • LG Optimus 3D Max P720
    8:42
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V
    8:41
  • Meizu MX
    8:39
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    8:35
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    8:28
  • Nokia Lumia 800
    8:25
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    8:23
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    8:22
  • BlackBerry Z10
    8:20
  • HTC Desire V
    8:20
  • Samsung Captivate Glide
    8:20
  • Sony Xperia T
    8:15
  • HTC Rezound (LTE)
    8:10
  • Samsung Galaxy Note (LTE)
    8:02
  • LG Optimus Vu
    7:57
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    7:41
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    7:41
  • Samsung i937 Focus S
    7:25
  • HTC Evo 4G LTE (LTE)
    7:21
  • Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G
    7:14
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    7:09
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    7:09
  • Samsung Rugby Smart I847
    7:09
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro
    6:57
  • Nokia N9
    6:57
  • HTC Radar
    6:53
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace Duos
    6:53
  • BlackBerry Curve 9380
    6:52
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    6:42
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    6:22
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    5:54
  • Nokia Lumia 900 for AT&T (LTE)
    5:53
  • Sony Xperia ion LTE
    5:52
  • Sony Xperia P
    5:33
  • Nokia 808 PureView
    5:16
  • LG Nitro HD (LTE)
    5:16
  • HTC Titan II (LTE)
    5:10
  • BlackBerry Bold 9790
    5:00
  • Pantech Burst
    4:46

The HTC One topped our web browsing chart by beating the Apple iPhone 5 by a hair. It's also the top droid in this test by about 50 minutes. The Galaxy S4 lagged behind in this test by about an hour, but after the update the gap got even bigger. The One can last nearly an hour and forty minutes longer, which is a significant win.

Web browsing

  • HTC One
    9:58
  • Apple iPhone 5
    9:56
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX (ICS)
    9:12
  • Apple iPad mini
    9:05
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II N7100
    8:48
  • Nokia Lumia 810
    8:20
  • Asus Padfone 2
    8:20
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    8:01
  • HTC One X+
    7:56
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    7:42
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    7:38
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    7:37
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)
    7:24
  • Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX
    7:23
  • HTC Radar
    7:17
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    7:15
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos
    7:09
  • Samsung Galaxy Express
    7:09
  • Motorola RAZR i
    7:06
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    6:56
  • HTC One V
    6:49
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    6:40
  • Samsung I9105 Galaxy S II Plus
    6:40
  • HTC Droid DNA
    6:40
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    6:40
  • Motorola Atrix HD
    6:40
  • BlackBerry Curve 9380
    6:40
  • Sony Xperia Z
    6:37
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    6:35
  • BlackBerry Z10
    6:27
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III (JB)
    6:27
  • HTC Butterfly
    6:24
  • Sony Xperia SP
    6:18
  • Samsung i937 Focus S
    6:15
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    6:13
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    6:04
  • HTC Windows Phone 8X
    6:01
  • Sony Xperia ion LTE
    5:56
  • Samsung Rugby Smart I847
    5:53
  • Pantech Burst
    5:51
  • Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G
    5:45
  • HTC Desire V
    5:44
  • HTC Evo 4G LTE
    5:41
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    5:40
  • Samsung Wave 3 S8600
    5:34
  • Oppo Find 5
    5:33
  • Sony Xperia T
    5:33
  • Samsung Captivate Glide
    5:33
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    5:28
  • Samsung Galaxy Note LTE
    5:24
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    5:23
  • HTC Sensation XL
    5:20
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    5:19
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    5:17
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    5:16
  • HTC Rezound
    5:16
  • HTC Desire X
    5:16
  • LG Optimus G
    5:15
  • HTC Rhyme
    5:08
  • Samsung I9103 Galaxy R
    5:07
  • HTC One X (AT&T)
    5:03
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro
    4:50
  • LG Optimus Vu
    4:49
  • HTC Vivid
    4:46
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace Duos
    4:45
  • Meizu MX
    4:35
  • Google Nexus 4
    4:34
  • Nokia N9
    4:33
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    4:32
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    4:24
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    4:24
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V
    4:20
  • HTC One X
    4:18
  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4:14
  • LG Optimus 3D Max P720
    4:10
  • Nokia Lumia 900 for AT&T
    4:10
  • Nokia Lumia 800
    4:07
  • HTC Titan II (LTE)
    4:05
  • HTC One S
    4:03
  • BlackBerry Bold 9790
    4:02
  • LG Nitro HD
    4:00
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    3:59
  • Sony Xperia P
    3:59
  • Nokia Lumia 710
    3:51
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    3:50
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    3:47
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    3:35
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    3:23
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    3:01

At video playback, both phones do very well with times just over 10 hours. Pre-update, the Galaxy S4 had a small advantage (15 minutes or so), but after the update it added 2 hours and 15 minutes to that lead. The HTC One shows a good improvement over the Butterfly (up by an hour and a half), while the Galaxy S4 climed closer to the top (and beat its predecessor, which had a smaller, lower-res screen, by a nice margin).

Video playback

  • Motorola RAZR MAXX (ICS)
    16:35
  • Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX
    14:17
  • Apple iPad mini
    12:51
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    12:51
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II N7100
    11:27
  • Samsung Galaxy S4
    10:16
  • Apple iPhone 5
    10:12
  • HTC One
    10:02
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    10:01
  • Samsung Galaxy Express
    10:00
  • Samsung I9105 Galaxy S II Plus
    10:00
  • Nokia 808 PureView
    9:53
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    9:42
  • Samsung Rugby Smart I847
    9:34
  • HTC One S
    9:28
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III (JB)
    9:27
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    9:24
  • HTC Evo 4G LTE
    9:07
  • BlackBerry Z10
    8:44
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    8:40
  • Nokia N9
    8:40
  • HTC Butterfly
    8:28
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    8:25
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos
    8:11
  • HTC One X+
    8:11
  • Motorola RAZR i
    8:11
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    8:00
  • Samsung i937 Focus S
    7:55
  • Samsung Wave 3 S8600
    7:52
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    7:46
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V
    7:45
  • Asus Padfone 2
    7:38
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    7:38
  • Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G
    7:33
  • HTC Droid DNA
    7:30
  • Samsung Galaxy Note LTE
    7:30
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    7:30
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    7:23
  • LG Optimus G
    7:16
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    6:33
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    6:32
  • HTC Windows Phone 8X
    6:27
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    6:27
  • Nokia Lumia 810
    6:27
  • HTC Desire V
    6:26
  • HTC One X (AT&T)
    6:26
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    6:25
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace Duos
    6:25
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    6:23
  • LG Optimus Vu
    6:23
  • Samsung I9103 Galaxy R
    6:21
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    6:19
  • HTC Sensation XL
    6:12
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    6:06
  • Samsung Captivate Glide
    6:04
  • Sony Xperia ion LTE
    6:03
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    6:02
  • Sony Xperia T
    6:01
  • Motorola Atrix HD
    6:01
  • HTC Vivid
    6:00
  • HTC Radar
    5:54
  • Nokia Lumia 800
    5:52
  • HTC Titan II
    5:50
  • BlackBerry Bold 9790
    5:47
  • HTC One X
    5:45
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro
    5:44
  • Sony Xperia Z
    5:39
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    5:38
  • HTC Desire X
    5:38
  • Pantech Burst
    5:38
  • Meizu MX
    5:27
  • HTC Rhyme
    5:23
  • HTC One V
    5:20
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    5:18
  • Oppo Find 5
    5:18
  • Nokia Lumia 900 for AT&T
    5:18
  • BlackBerry Curve 9380
    5:09
  • HTC Rezound
    5:03
  • Google Nexus 4
    4:55
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    4:30
  • Sony Xperia P
    4:30
  • LG Nitro HD
    4:17
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    4:14
  • LG Optimus 3D Max P720
    3:28
  • Nokia Lumia 710
    3:27

We crunched the numbers and calculated an overall battery rating of 69 hours for the Samsung Galaxy S4. The HTC One scored just 48 hours. That number shows how long a full battery charge will last if you do an hour of calls, web browsing and watch an hour of video each day.

In the individual tests, the Galaxy S4 beat the HTC One in two out of three by several hours, but crucially lost the web browsing test. We suspect users do more web browsing than watching videos, so that one loss keeps the S4 from total domination.

Even so, the Galaxy S4 has plenty of juice for browsing throughout the day and savings in the other categories will allow it to stay ahead of the HTC One in a mixed usage scenario (no one uses their phone just for browsing). The relatively low standby power usage of the S4 means that lighter users will go longer with the S4 (which loses less charge during the night). Keep in mind too that the battery is easily accessible and Samsung will be selling a dedicated charger for a spare battery.

Still, the HTC One might appeal to heavy browsers, especially if they lower the brightness at less than 50% (the One screen is brighter than that of the Galaxy S4).

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S4. After the update the gap between the two phones widened in favor of the S4. The HTC One offers good battery life too, but you'll have to charge it more often than the S4.

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