Review: Samsung Galaxy S4 versus HTC One versus Nokia Lumia

Getting a new phone is an annoying decision. I mean, aside from the fact that you dish a lot of money for a handset that you’ll be using constantly for a year or two, a phone is such a personal purchase. It isn’t just a new MP3 player or a new camera; you need to connect to a phone to enjoy it. After all, it becomes an extension of you.

After over two years of lovingly using the Samsung Galaxy S2, it was time to get a new phone. I immediately knew that I wanted an Android, because I don’t trust Windows and because I really hate how closed Apple’s iOS is. My two top options: HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4.

Then came the testing. I tested my mother’s HTC One (HTC have SHITTY marketing in the MENA), and the S4 was generously loaned to me for testing purposes by Samsung. Fortunately, Nokia also sent me the Lumia to test, so I basically had in my hands the three top-of-the-line handsets available to compare before I made my purchasing decision.
If you want to get a phone, here’s my review of each:

Software

Galaxy S4

The Samsung TouchWiz GUI is easily the best Android user-interface I’ve ever used. It is easy, intuitive, and powerful. They also pack a lot of features that make the experience more novel, especially today when there hasn’t been any groundbreaking new technology introduced to mobile in years. But Samung seriously need to invest in better visual design, but more on that in the design section.
5/5

Nokia Lumia

I was blown away by Windows on Lumia. I never thought I’d say this about a Windows product, but damn, it’s different, in a really good way. Although there are certain confusing aspects about the user experience, Windows managed to change the way we interact with apps on the Lumia. It feels like the future. I love it. The only issue is that app support is absolutely crap.
4/5

HTC One

The HTC Sense GUI is simple and beautiful, although a lot can be done to improve the user experience. It just isn’t well thought-out. The touchscreen is too sensitive, for one thing, so I call people by mistake at least once a day. There are some really absurd UX decisions that really piss me off, like the difficulty of getting to contacts. Of course, it’s Android, and the beautiful thing about Android is that you can hack it to perfection, but HTC Sense is quite stupid out-of-the-box.
2/5

Hardware

Galaxy S4

You can’t beat the great hardware shoved into the S4. It’s light, durable, and top-of-the line. The camera is great and packed with features.
5/5

HTC One

I have a serious issue with unibodies. I really panic at the idea of not being able to look at the guts of my phone. The camera is excellent, even at night. BeatsAudio is disappointing.
4/5

Nokia Lumia

Hardware also seems good, but it’s a unibody and unibodies are stupid. The customary Carl Zeiss Camera is okay.
3/5

Design

HTC One

It’s amazing how gorgeous the handset looks. It’s easily the most beautiful phone available, with the chiseled edges and the perfectly-aligned everything. It feels like something that involves Steve Jobs… the evolution of Apple aesthetics. This is how the iPhone should look today. I miss you, Steve. Even the OS is gorgeous; the type, the attention to detail, the colors. I love it. I want to hug it and kiss it and tell it how beautiful it is.
The only retarded thing about the design is the standby button on top. It’s hard to access, and there’s no other way to activate the screen. Stupid.
5/5


Very clean and beautiful interface for the HTC One


The HTC One looks better than Apple products

Nokia Lumia

Beautiful design. I am exceptionally impressed with the way the Nokia looks. The typography is GORGEOUS. The user experience is fresh and different. The hardware is sexy. Everything makes sense and fits perfectly. Every element is designed. Great job, Windows.
5/5


Lumia has beautiful hardware


Amazingly gorgeous interface for the Lumia

Galaxy S4

This is where the Galaxy really screws up. With such amazing R&D and amazing products, I can’t figure out why Samsung can’t get better designers. The phone is hideous; the curves feel outdated and the buttons just don’t fit properly. The software is also hideous. There is no attention to detail whatsoever… The undesigned state of the menus and error messages breaks my heart. The typography is not typography, it’s just text. Samsung, I love you, please get better designers.
0/5


Ugly menus in Galaxy S4. This could easily be a screenshot from a Windows ’95 PC


The curves on the S4 look like someone scaled them without retaining proportions

I ended up getting the HTC One, mostly because it’s gorgeous. I am sort of panicking about the stupid unibody; how am I supposed to grow a real connection with my phone if I can’t open it? Whatever. I would have bought the Nokia Lumia, if app support wasn’t so crap. I mean, come on. No Instagram? No Dropbox? What’s the point of a smartphone with no Dropbox?






9 Comments »

  1. Meshx86

    July 4, 2013 @ 10:37 am

    design might not lead to better rigid output was it software or hardware.

    i hope you don’t end up with your HTC torn apart of daily use, just like what happened with my cousin on his HTC windows phone, it started with the volume rocker..

    if Samsung menus are from Win 95, what about Google’s stock Roms ? more eye candy is not always good; as GUI will exhaust your phone and correspondingly your battery

    both are flagships, will eventually end up with Cyanogen Mod 2 years from now..

  2. omar zakaria

    July 4, 2013 @ 10:44 am

    hey … unfair to compare L920 with S4 … you should compare it to S3 … they belong to the same era …

  3. Nabil Kilany

    July 4, 2013 @ 11:13 am

    Dear Roba,

    A good effort for your review of the phones, though I feel that not enough research has been done! anyhow I found it helpful, I hate Samsung to the bone and after my experience with owning an S3 I made a promise to myself not to ever by any samsung product ever again! I still believe that Apple products are the best there is I’m now looking for a secondary device and I owned one of the Lumia’s, I have to agree that Nokia and Windows really did a good job and I hope to see more devices as I see windows 8 as a viable mobile platform with lots to offer. I’m surprised about the HTC software issues you faced and I still believe that HTC is the best android handset out there, I’m going for an HTC Desire 600 as I’m looking for a decent dual sim phone!

    Regards,
    Nabil

  4. Rand

    July 4, 2013 @ 12:53 pm

    I really hope your HTC doesn’t break and you won’t have to send it to the company. Honestly, the shittiest service in the world. Even shittier than Orange (if possible).

    Enjoy it, they are gorgeous phones. That’s why I have one.

  5. Craig

    July 7, 2013 @ 12:01 am

    You don’t trust Microsoft, but you trust Google? That’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen on your blog, by far! Anyway, I really enjoyed reading the post :)

  6. Roba

    July 7, 2013 @ 11:01 am

    You’re right…. not really comparable :) But Lumia still stands quite well in comparison.

    And I do agree that Apple makes the world’s best products, but I just seriously dislike the iPhone.

    As for Google… I guess I wasn’t referring to that kind of trust :)

  7. Radi Radi

    July 15, 2013 @ 11:40 am

    Nice post, I disagree about the S4 design, its actually designed to be more functional and less intensive in the menus, but valid points.

    P.S. Carl Zeiss is not a camera-maker he is a lens maker

  8. Ryan

    July 24, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

    The HTC One’s design is by far the best among the current flagship phones, but S4 definitely is the most feature-rich phone out there.

  9. Alvin

    December 2, 2013 @ 3:19 pm

    I love HTC One the most. Sleek design and sick performance. But the other two are awesome anyway.

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