Add the Verge to the list of One > S4 reviews
GS4 - Verge Score 8.0
AT&T One - Verge Score 8.5
I ended my HTC One review by saying there were two Android phones worth buying, the One and the Nexus 4. That number is now very clearly three, but I had hoped against hope that Samsung would emerge the undisputed winner. The Galaxy S4 is a very good phone in most respects ó it has a stellar camera and solid battery life, blistering performance and an impressively useful complement of software features. It's a technological achievement ó there's no question about that.
But part of what has me so excited about the smartphone market is that manufacturers are finally starting to step back from the relentless forward march of Moore's Law and spec races, and seek quality in other places. Weíve seen it in laptops, as companies like Toshiba finally turn away from racing to the pricing bottom and begin to build truly excellent ultrabooks; we're also seeing it in cellphones, from the HTC One and a small selection of other devices.
I don't need more cores, more gigahertz, or more software features that ostensibly help me use my phone more easily. I need a phone that feels good in my hand, looks good on my desk, does everything I expect it to, and gives me no reason to think it won't last the life of my two-year contract. I bought an iPhone 5 because last fall it was the only phone that fit that bill ó now there are several Android options as well, and theyíre good enough to make me want to switch back to Googleís OS.
For now, it's a choice every buyer will have to make. You can have the far better-looking phone or you can have the slightly better-performing phone ó and you really can't choose wrong. If the GS III is any indication, millions upon millions will choose the GS4. Me? I think design matters. Polish matters. The Galaxy S4 is fast and impressive, but it's also noisy and complex. The One is refined, quiet, comfortable, beautiful, and above all simply pleasant. I love using that phone, in a way I haven't experienced with anything since the iPhone 5. That's why, when my contract is up in June, I'll probably be casting my lot with HTC instead of Samsung.
HTC One (Review Unit/Int'l) - Verge Score 8.3
The HTC One is one of the best Android phones I have ever used ó and it is by far the best Android hardware ever. The addition of LTE support only makes the whole package better, and while I'd love to see better battery and camera performance, it's hard not to recommend the One. We still have yet to see how Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S4 fares in the real world, but as it stands right now, HTC has a much more compelling device in my eyes. I just hope that the company and its apparently superior product will be able to withstand the marketing and mindshare onslaught that Samsung has planned for this year.
I really, really like the HTC One. Iím a sucker for beautiful hardware, and this device is one of the best-designed smartphones Iíve ever used. HTCís done great hardware before, though, and ruined it with ugly and problematic software ó this time, itís manageable. Not great, not as good as stock Android, but manageable. Here, the problem lies with the camera. Maybe Iím in the minority when I say I care about the quality of my cellphone images, but I do, and the One just doesnít deliver. Its battery life is also disappointing, though Iím not as concerned about that Ė itís just a fact of life at this point.
In my quest to find the perfect Android phone, Iím still left wanting. I want the Oneís hardware, but I want the Nexus 4ís software and promise of timely updates ó Iíve said for a year that HTC should offer stock Android phones, and Iím still convinced the company could save itself with the One plus pure Android. I also want a better camera ó the One isnít bad, itís just mediocre, and Iíve seen better from Android phones. For now, the list of Android phones worth buying is two items long: the Nexus 4 and the One. Personally, Iíd buy the One if I had to choose right now, but with the Galaxy S 4 coming in just a few days, I'm pretty lucky I don't have to choose right now.
Even if Samsung can't best the One later this week, though, the most important question is still unanswered: can HTC find a way to sell a phone, even a great phone, when Samsung has so dominated the Android market? Until it does, it won't matter how good the One is ó but for consumers' sake and HTC's, I hope the company figures it out.