Review of the HTC One from a Samsung Galaxy S II User

The former Android flagship has finally met its match in the HTC One

With two huge flagship phones released to the market so close together it's inevitable that they would be compared to each other - which explains all the reviews comparing the HTC One to the Samsung Galaxy S 4.  But if you're like me and bought Samsung's earlier smash hit, the Samsung Galaxy S II (SGS2), you're probably looking to upgrade about now so here's a Samsung Galaxy S II user's impressions of the HTC One. I'm reviewing a HTC One Unlocked US edition running 1.29.1540.16 (Android 4.1.2) and comparing it against a Samsung Galaxy S II GT-I9100 UK Unlocked running Android 4.1.2.


As you've probably heard all over the blog-o-sphere, the HTC One is beautiful to look at and to hold.  It's a minimalistic design with a back made from a solid piece of aluminum and broken up by plastic white lines.  The edges of the body is nicely machined to a shiny finish.  The sides of the phone are plastic to facilitate the antennas, buttons, microUSB charger, SIM card holder, and 3.5mm jack. One thing that many people have noticed is a slight gap between the top plastic sides at the speaker pieces.  From a drop test or tear down, you can see that the speaker pieces are not part of the back of the phone but are actually glued on.  This would explain most of the complaints about the hairline gaps at the top and bottom of the phone. The front facing speakers line the top and bottom of the phone providing stereo speaker when displaying video in landscape.  Two soft keys for back and home are just below the screen.  Most users will miss the dedicated menu key but it just takes some getting used to.  The back key is on the left while on the SGS2 it's on the right so that will throw most Galaxy S users off.  Some people on XDA forums have complained of stuck or dead pixels on the display.  A green/red LED lies behind the 3rd to the left bottom speaker grill hole. Top:   The 3.5mm audio jack is at the top - a much more natural position than the bottom placed iPhone 5.  The power key is at the top which makes it hard to hit to unlock the phone.  Most HTC Ones will have a small gap at the top of the phone between the white sides and the top speaker grill piece.  That's because the top grill piece is only held to the phone by glue.  Some people on XDA forums have complained about poorly machined white plastic so it has jaggies. Bottom: A micro-USB connector and microphone at the bottom.  Most HTC Ones will have a small gap at the top of the phone between the white sides and the bottom speaker grill piece.  That's because the bottom grill piece is only held to the phone by glue. Right side: The volume keys are flush with the sides but have a slightly different texture but it's still hard to feel out. Left side: Nothing on this side except the micro-SIM slot tray Back side: The HTC One has a smooth back making it very slippery to hold when typing in portrait style.  There is no longer a back lip that you can grip onto to pull the phone out of a pant pocket.  There are white bands on the back that are supposed to be antennas.  Some people on XDA have complained about the camera glass cracking or cracked right out of the package. The HTC One's distant cousin, the original Apple iPad: Both the HTC One and iPad feature an aluminum unibody back that tapers at each corner. Country of Manufacture: Taiwan (your device may vary) CPU and RAM There's no question that the HTC One dominates the Galaxy S II in this category.  The HTC One is powered by a Qualcomm APQ8064T Snapdragon 600 Quad-core Krait 300 running at 1.7 GHz with an Adreno 320 GPU.  The Galaxy S II is no slouch with a Exynos Dual-core Cortex-A9 running at 1.2 GHz.  The HTC One has 2GB (1.5GB available to the user) of DDR2 RAM while the Galaxy S II has 1GB (726MB available to the user). Display The HTC One uses a IPS LCD supporting 1080p (1,920x1,080 pixels) in a 4.7 inch screen which gives it 468 pixels per inch - the highest pixel density of any smartphone currently in the market.  Although the display is not an OLED display like those found on the Samsung's Galaxy S line of smartphones, the HTC One does an impressive job at rendering black very near black.  Like other reviewers have commented, the HTC One display produces fairly accurate colors compared to the over-saturated colors on the SGS2. The sub pixels on the HTC One are arranged in a traditional RGB layout just like the SGS2. On my visits to cell phone stores, I found a HTC One that had a dramatically dimmer screen than the HTC One I have when both were at maximum brightness setting. There may production issues with consistency on the display. Speakers The stereo front facing speakers produce very clear audio even at its highest volume but it never gets overwhelmingly loud as you'd expect with a name like "BoomSound".  They're very similar to laptop speakers which pretty decent considering it's just a phone.  Some people on XDA have experienced cracking issues on the speakers. Camera Ultrapixel. It's a buzz word. The HTC One has a lackluster 4MP camera that performs better than 5MP from yesterday-year flagship Android phones. But it struggles to beat out my old SGS2 in daylight photos. Unlike the SGS2, the HTC One will pre-focus on the center.  But for both the SGS2 and HTC One, if you didn't manually pre-focus and click the photo capture button, they will focus on the center then take the photo.  Similar to the SGS2, if you pre-focus, clicking the camera capture button will just take the photo without re-focusing, unless you move the HTC One where it will cancel your pre-focus and perform a focus at center on clicking the camera capture button. The brightness is set where you manually focused the camera but not locked. So if you move the camera, the brightness will change according to the changes in light of the focused area in the viewfinder. Daylight
HTC OneSamsung Galaxy S II
HTC OneSamsung Galaxy S II
HTC OneSamsung Galaxy S II
In daylight photos, the HTC One photos don't have as much detail captured compared to the SGS2.  There's much more noise when zoomed up on a HTC One photo. Lowlight Auto
Samsung Galaxy S II
The HTC One captures much more light than the Samsung Galaxy S II. Here you can barely see the subject on the Galaxy S II. Night Mode
Samsung Galaxy S II
My hands shake so you can see with night mode, the Galaxy S II fared a lot better while the HTC One wasn't much different than auto mode. The Galaxy S II has a smoother photo with a tad more detail while the HTC One had more noise. Unfortunately, in a real life situation for me, where I don't have a tripod and only have my shakey hands, I'd prefer the HTC One. Flash
Samsung Galaxy S II
Here the bright flash from the Galaxy S II overpowers the photo and reflects off the glass in front of the subject. The HTC One flash is dimmer, still reflects off the glass, but the subject remains the focus of the photo. The HTC One excels in the dimly lit subject photos.  A great camera for indoor foodie photos. Additional features you'll enjoy:
  • built-in HDR (allows you to take photos of a subject while the overexposed background will be taken care of by merging another photo in real time)
  • built in filters
  • Zoe, an over-hyped ability to shoot 3 seconds of video while the camera takes 20 photos.
Features you'll lose:
  • Fine controls in the image size (but who really tinkers with this and doesn't just shoot at maximum resolution)
Overall There's no question that the Samsung Galaxy S II has the better camera for daylight shots giving much better detail and less noise.  The HTC One has the better indoor poor lighting camera.  It may not catch action shots as good as with a Xenon flash like on the N8 or Lumia 928 but it does a really good job on stationary objects like food.  If you print your photos, the HTC One takes widescreen photos natively so you'll need to crop for a traditional 4x6 inch but they look great on current computer screens. WiFi The HTC One supports all the WiFi bands found on the SGS2 and adds support for 802.11ac enabling up to 6Gbps throughput. The HTC One also has better ability to pick up WiFi access points so you can walk a little further from the access point than you can with the SGS2. GPS The GPS on the HTC One is more accurate than the SGS2 and locked on just a few seconds faster from cold boot.  With the GPS on for over 30 minutes, the back panel will turn uncomfortably warm. It won't burn your hand but it can make your palm sweat. If you live in Russia, the HTC One supports GLONASS which the SGS2 does not but I wasn't able to test this. The HTC One picks up more satellites than the SGS2 and locks on faster. Memory The HTC One comes in 32GB and 64GB with no support for microSD memory. The SGS2 officially supports microSD up to 32GB but I've heard people getting the SanDisk 64GB microSDXC to work on the SGS2) and commonly includes 16GB on-board memory. With Jelly Bean applications cannot be loaded onto removable storage so you're stuck to 16GB on the SGS2 for apps while you get 32GB on the HTC One.  Since the SGS2 supports moving apps to microSD, the lower on-board memory on the SGS2 is not a factor. In their most common variant, a comparison:
HTC One (32GB)Samsung Galaxy S II (16GB)
User Accessible~25GB~11GB
Removable MemoryNoneUp to 32GB (29.81GB user accessible)
Total User Accessible~25GBUp to ~40.81GB
In practicality, going to the HTC One from a SGS2 with a 32GB microSD card will net you a loss of almost 16GB of space for content like videos and music but less 16GB for apps. I personally don't have any issue with 32GB and I'm sure many other people, such as iPhone users who are limited to 64GB or lower, will find it OK too. Battery The battery on the HTC One is larger (2300mAh) than the SGS2 (1650mAh) but it still uses a higher percentage of battery compared to the SGS2 for the same task. As you may already know, the battery is not replaceable on the HTC One so if you may need an external portable charger if you can't make a day with the SGS2 already. My average usage: The HTC One lasts only 7/10 as long as my SGS2 in my typically light usage. I haven't been impressed with the battery.  Here are my usage experiences:
  • With minimal usage I got a little over an hour per 1% of battery usage.
  • With GPS and display on, it dropped a little over 2% for every 3 minutes of usage.
  • On WiFi web browsing, it dropped about 2% for every 9 minutes of usage
Recharge from empty to full takes about 2.25 hours using the included 1A charger. IR Blaster The SGS2 does not have this hardware feature and it's very awesome.  It lets you control your TV and cable box with your phone.  There are a number of pre-programmed TVs and cable boxes available but if you can't find your hardware on there, you can program your own by lining up your remote with the HTC One's IR blaster. Hardware Overall The smooth body and nicely machined edges of the HTC One make it one of the best looking Android phones on the market.  It looks almost like the original iPad from the back - which is a great compliment. It has a couple features not found on the SGS2 such as the IR blaster and LTE connectivity while keeping all the features of the SGS2 such as FM radio, great GPS sensitivity, improved speakerphone, and 2MP front facing camera.  The only drawback is the 4MP camera which can't keep up with the SGS2's 8MP camera in daylight photos. The other two drawbacks that don't affect me are the lack of microSD support and non-removable battery. There are reports of production issues such as gaps and display issues so buyers should be aware and look for defects before letting the warranty period expire.


Here you'll see HTC's minalistic approach continue on the software side with a flat pane 2D user interface in their new Sense 5 user interface while Samsung continues enhancing their TouchWiz with fancing looking interface tricks like ripple lock screen and home screen 3D cube transition effects, calling it their Nature UX. Home Screen The first thing you'll notice is the page with Blinkfeed - a non-removable Flipboard-like service.  Blinkfeed can display calendar, Zoe, Facebook updates, and news feeds from a small set of sources.
HTC One - Sense 5
Samsung Galaxy S II - TouchWiz
A non-moveable clock and newsfeed service called BlinkFeed consume one of the home screen pages. The clock is the same as the the lock screen clock so sliding up the lock screen clock nicely puts the clock at the top just like the home screen.A more traditional Android home page that initially features a clock/weather widget and shortcut to apps. You can reorganize the bottom shortcuts but the "Apps" shortcut cannot be moved and always remains to the right.
Editing the Home Screen Sense 5 provides a single screen to see the multiple home pages and widget that can be added. Unlike stock Android and TouchWiz, Sense 5 does not allow you to change the ordering of the pages - new pages are always added to the end/right so I spent a few minutes deleting pages and recreating them in the order I liked. TouchWiz behaved more like stock Android allowing you to change the order of the pages and, from the app drawer, hold and drag a widget onto a home page. Both allow resizing of some widgets.
Samsung Galaxy S II
App Drawer Once again, the clock is featured at the top of the HTC UI but will disappear as you scroll down through the apps.  Only apps are shown and no widgets are shown.  Scrolling is locked to "pages" so you can't smoothly scroll without it snapping to the next or previous page - it's like the stock left and right pages but now it's up and down.  Just like Gingerbread, the app drawer shows the bottom shortcuts found on the home screen.  TouchWiz adopts the stock Android look and feel with the standard left and right swiping but does not swipe between Apps and Widgets which require clicking on the top tabs. Both allow you to reorganize the apps, create folders, and hide apps.
Samsung Galaxy S II
Notification Pane Sense 5 adopts a very modern flat look to the notification pane while TouchWiz is littered with numerous buttons and huge fonts.  Both offer a simple way to remove all notifications with an X on Sense 5 and a "Clear" button on Touch Wiz.  I do miss the toggles found on TouchWiz but I found a 3rd party app called Notification Toggle that almost does the same except it can't toggle GPS.  Hopefully the Jelly Bean 4.2.2 update for the HTC One brings toggles.
Samsung Galaxy S II
Task Manager Sense 5 displays 9 cards allowing the flick of each card to remove the application while clicking on a card will open the application.  There are no clear all application button on Sense 5 and no task manager built into Sense 5.  TouchWiz looks more like the stock Android task manager but includes additional funtions at the bottom such as Samsung's Task Manager, Google search, and trash to clear all applications.
Samsung Galaxy S II
Additional Software Samsung packs their phones with numerous software that complete the experience. Here is a list of some applications that you'll miss when you switch from the Galaxy S II to the One and alternatives I recommend
Galaxy S II SoftwareAlternative 3rd party software
File ManagerFile Expert HD
Kies AirAirDroid
Video PlayerMoboPlayer (HTC One has very limited video format support, the SGS2 cannot properly play large FLV files while HTC One with MoboPlayer can)
Music Player(Be ready for BoomSound for added bass because there's only that and neutral since the built in music player does not have an equalizer)
One plus to the HTC One software is the Notes application that lets you save drawings and audio clips to the note. Software Overall HTC's Sense 5 is more different than stock Android than Samsung's TouchWiz. Sadly it's mostly in a bad way with missing functionality such as reordering home pages, seeing widgets from the app drawer, and non-removable BlinkFeed. It's missing some of the nice features of TouchWiz such as the notification toggles and Samsung's task manager to free up RAM. The clean interface on Sense 5 is refreshing to look at, especially compared to the busy TouchWiz notification pane, but I wished functionality wasn't sacrificed for that simplicity. Considering I already overlayed Sense 5 with NovaLauncher and never did that to my Galaxy S II, I would give software a clear win to Samsung's TouchWiz.

HTC One Overall

The HTC One is a worthy upgrade for Samsung Galaxy S II users.  It has an amazing display, great hardware design, all the hardware features found on the SGS2 including the FM radio that is no longer found on the SGS4.  Although I'm not a fan of Sense 5, it's easy to replace it with one of numerous launchers found on Google Play.  The only other drawbacks have been the production quality issues such as gaps between the white plastic sides with the metal pieces and the poor 4MP camera.  I've heard future firmware updates will improve the camera quality so we'll have to wait and see.  Apart from that camera, I'd highly recommend picking up a HTC One for your next high end Android device.
Review of the HTC One from a Samsung Galaxy S II User Review of the HTC One from a Samsung Galaxy S II User Reviewed by Eric on 5/28/2013 Rating: 5

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