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