HTC One vs Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Sony Xperia Z


The feature set on most of today's smartphones are immense - there's very little you can't get information on already, and with the smorgasbord of apps, it gets a little bit frightening.

All three of the devices on test here have a lot of attempted innovation on board, although some are more impressive than others. Let's start with the Sony Xperia Z, a phone that promises a lot from the revamped brand.

HTC One vs Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Sony Xperia Z

Our favourite features on the phone from the outset are the Smart Connect and the Xperia Link. These two are clever as they take away all those unnecessary key presses the blight our daily lives, inching us ever closer to fat beings that sit on floating chairs all day long.

Smart Connect lets you set an 'event', be it plugging in the charger, entering a location or even a time of day, and sets the phone to do something automatically. So whether that's open the alarm, turn on music or just going into silent mode, it feels very intuitive.

Xperia Link allows you to use the phone's internet connection to other devices. That's a familiar feature, but you can remotely set it to function from another device, without having to dig it out of the pocket on a commute. Nice.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is probably the most feature-rich of the three, with a whole heap of 'innovation' on board. Be it scrolling with your eyes, waving your hand over the phone to move through photos or internet pages or just keeping track of your peepers to maintain screen brightness, there's a lot going on here.

The latter feature aside, a relic from the Galaxy S3, none of it works though. That's not completely true: it works, but is utterly pointless. Scrolling with your head or tilting is a very poor relation to just using your finger, and the same goes with Air Gestures. When forced, we can think of reasons to use these (having no hands, for example) but really it just shows that Samsung needs to go back to the drawing board when flinging new ideas on the consumer market.

Or at least making them infallibly amazing, and not bettered by incumbent methods.

If Samsung was looking for an approach to ape, we'd heartily recommend the HTC way of doing things. The One has loads of filler features: be it the UltraPixel camera that can take low light pictures, the BoomSound microphones that prevent distortion when recording at high volume, or the simple user interface, there's a lot here to love.

HTC has gone for the physical when it comes to innovation, and for the most part it completely shines through, making it a really solid purchase, while the other two scrabble around to make their ideas work.


The camera on all three phones is excellent - but there's a big difference between the three. Well, not so much the Sony or the Samsung option, as both are rocking a 13MP sensor, but when it comes to the HTC One, you'll have to make do with a 4MP option.

The Samsung camera is the most powerful of the three, as while it packs the same resolution as the Xperia Z, it manages to come up trumps when trying to frame the perfect shot. You can get almost flawless macro shots instantly and without having to coax the phone to take them; it also has a wide range of features that are presented in a really easy to use interface.

HTC One vs Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Sony Xperia Z

The Samsung Galaxy S4

The Sony Xperia Z is also a contender here, as it builds on a rich cameraphone heritage to take some rather lovely pictures. The Intelligent Auto mode is strong, and often came up with the best quality of picture during our testing of random scene types. Be it indoor or out, we were often surprised and impressed at the richness of colour on offer, as well as the overall detail.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.