Would we care about Android if it weren't for HTC? Perhaps not. The HTC Desire was an early poster boy for Android, a genuinely great design that squared up to Apple's all-conquering iPhone and suggested it step outside.

The HTC Desire remains at the top of our Best Mobile Phones in the World Today list despite younger, prettier competition, and it still represents exceptional value for money.

So what happens when HTC takes the Desire and makes it even better?

There are two answers to that. The first is the HTC Desire HD, which suffers from a few niggling issues, and the second is the brand spanking new HTC Sensation.

Our colleagues at T3.com grabbed some HTC Sensation video footage which you can watch below.

HTC says it sets "a new multimedia high for smartphones", and it's certainly an impressive and desirable bit of kit. But how does it compare against the other two big hitters of the smartphone market, Apple's iPhone 4 and the Samsung Galaxy S II? Let's find out.

HTC Sensation vs iPhone 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S II: Operating system

The HTC Sensation ships with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, although HTC has also stuck the latest generation of its Sense user interface on top - just like Samsung, whose handset also runs Gingerbread but with TouchWiz 4.0 on top. The iPhone currently runs iOS 4.3.

Sense 3

MORE SENSE: The latest iteration of HTC's Sense UI is a lovely thing, although it was a bit juddery on the prototype we tested

HTC Sensation vs iPhone 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S II: Processor

The heart of the HTC Sensation is a nippy, dual-core Snapdragon processor with a rated speed of 1.2GHz. The Samsung rocks a 1.2GHz dual-core chip too, but Apple's A4 is a 1GHz model (although we suspect it's underclocked to preserve battery life after Apple refused to give out the exact speed).

HTC sensation

PRETTY GOOD: The HTC Sensation's got the power to match its striking good looks: it has a dual-core heart beating inside

HTC Sensation vs iPhone 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S II: Touchscreen

Both the HTC Sensation and Samsung Galaxy S2 boast 4.3-inch touchscreens, displaying 960x540 resolutions, but they're different display technologies: the HTC uses an S-LCD, while Samsung has plumped for an extremely bright Super AMOLED Plus display. The iPhone 4 screen is smaller but more densely packed: its Retina Display means the 3.5-inch screen has a resolution of 960x640.

HTC Sensation vs iPhone 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S II: Storage

The Sensation comes with 1GB (or 4GB according to Vodafone) of on-board storage, expandable via MicroSD memory cards, while the iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy S2 come with two larger choices of internal storage: 16GB and 32GB. The Galaxy S2 also has a MicroSD slot, but the iPhone 4 doesn't.

HTC Sensation vs iPhone 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S II: Memory

The iPhone is the worst off here, with just 512MB of RAM compared to the HTC's 768MB and the Samsung's 1GB.

Samsung galaxy s2

PAPER TIGER: On paper the Samsung Galaxy S2 has the edge: it's got more of everything

HTC Sensation vs iPhone 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S II: Camera

The iPhone's 5 megapixel camera looks fairly crummy in this context: both the HTC Sensation and Galaxy S2 offer 8 megapixels and can shoot 1080p HD video, compared to the iPhone's 720p. All three phones can geotag your pictures, include LED flashes (dual in the case of the Sensation and Galaxy S2) and have front-facing cameras for video chat.

HTC Sensation vs iPhone 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S II: Connectivity

All three phones are quad-band phones with 3G/HSDPA and Wi-Fi, and all three support Bluetooth A2DP for wireless stereo. There are different versions of Bluetooth here, however: both HTC and Samsung offer Bluetooth 3.0, while Apple is still on Bluetooth 2.1.

All three phones support HDMI output - the HTC and Samsung via their MicroUSB ports, the Apple via its 32-pin Dock connector - via adapters, and both the HTC Sensation and Samsung Galaxy S2 are DLNA compatible for wireless streaming of video to compatible TVs and computers.

The iPhone has Apple's own AirPlay streaming system, which enables wireless audio and video streaming to Apple TVs and a growing number of AirPlay-compatible home entertainment devices.

The Samsung Galaxy S II also has the addition of NFC - well, at least it will do. The initial release model was shorn of the functionality, but Samsung has spoken to TechRadar and confirmed that there will be a Samsung Galaxy S II version with NFC on board.

HTC Sensation vs iPhone 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S II: Dimensions and weight

The iPhone 4 is the smallest phone here by some margin: it's 115mm x 59mm compared to 125mm x 66mm for the Samsung Galaxy S II and 126mm x 65mm for the HTC Sensation.

That all-glass body means its small size doesn't mean to light weight, however: the Galaxy S II is the lightest handset here at a positively titchy 119g, with the iPhone 4 weighing in at 137g and the HTC Sensation 148g.

iPhone 4

HEART OF GLASS: The iPhone 4's glass body looks great, but adds weight: the smallest phone here isn't the lightest

HTC Sensation vs iPhone 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S II: Talk and standby times

As with all smartphones you should take official battery times with a pinch of salt - hours of talk time are all very well until you switch to a location-aware app and watch the battery indicator vanish like sands in an hourglass - but all three handsets promise ridiculously long standby times and decent talktime too.

The iPhone 4 promises 420 minutes of chat or 300 hours on standby; the Samsung Galaxy S II 540 minutes or 576 hours on standby; and the HTC Sensation offers 400 minutes of talk time or 400 hours on standby.

HTC Sensation vs iPhone 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S II: Which is best?

We don't know the price of the HTC Sensation yet - we're assuming it'll be close to the HTC Desire's - so we're missing a key bit of information here: if there's a significant price difference between it and the Samsung Galaxy S II it could seriously skew the results.

For the sake of argument, though, let's assume that the two Android handsets will match one another pound for pound. On that basis, the Samsung has the edge: it's lighter, brighter, lasts longer, has more RAM and has more internal storage.

The only area where we think it falls down is in the looks department: it's a bit blocky next to the sleeker Sensation, and to our eyes TouchWiz is a bit chunkier than HTC Sense 3.0.

And the iPhone? A straight comparison doesn't really work, because there's a different operating system, a different ecosystem and a different philosophy here. In purely hardware terms the HTC and Samsung devices are better phones, but the iPhone's edge has always been about the software, not the hardware. For many Apple fans, that means the iPhone will still be the winner here.

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Liked this? Then check out our Samsung Galaxy S II review or our Hands on: HTC Sensation review

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