HTC and Samsung are once again gearing up for battle with their latest releases.
HTC and Samsung square off in battle of the Androids
The HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 were, to most minds, the only two Android phones that mattered last year.
Samsung had long controlled the premium Android segment prior to the S4’s release, not even feeling a pinch from its competitors until HTC introduced the One in 2013.
The HTC One was one of the best-looking and best-built smartphones of the year. The phone’s matt aluminum body housed a 4.7-inch 1080p screen sandwiched by BoomSound speakers, among the loudest found on any smartphone, which were uniquely located on the front of the device.
In regards to the camera, HTC took an unconventional route; instead of engaging in the pixel war, it opted to equip the One with a 4MP ultrapixel camera, which was great for low-light photos but not much else in comparison to the competition. The phone’s software included Sense 5 and a new feature called Blink Feed, a news aggregator similar to Flip Board. A 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 processor and 2GB of RAM powered the device.
The Samsung S4 was a feature-filled beast. Aesthetically, it wasn’t much of a departure from its predecessor, the S3. The phone’s plastic build surrounded its 5-inch 1080p screen on the front, while the back of the phone housed a 13MP camera.
However, the S4 wasn’t about what was on the outside nearly as much as what was lurking on the inside. The S4 had a laundry list of innovative features and gestures, including Air View, Air Gestures, Smart Pause, and a focus on S Health, all powered by a 1.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor and 2GB of RAM.
By the end of 2013 one thing was clear, the HTC One had fallen way behind the Samsung S4. But why? The One checked every box HTC needed to in order to have a winner on its hands, with the exception of the one that really matters. Design, yes. Build quality, yes. Internal specs, yes. Innovative features, yes. Excellent reviews, yes. Marketing budget, no.
HTC is no match for the marketing powerhouse that is Samsung, with their budgets occupying different stratospheres. A large contributory factor to this discrepancy is HTC’s recent performance, or lack thereof. Many viewed the One as HTC’s last hope, and according to IDC, the company has of late been in bad shape financially, recording declining profits and market share. So while HTC built a spectacular phone, it lacked the kind of funds needed to really put it out there, which translated in lackluster sales.
Now we are well into 2014, the two vendors are once again gearing up for battle with their latest releases; so how does the new HTC One (M8) measure up to Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S5?
The HTC One (M8) is a slight upgrade on last year’s version. Design wise, it is reminiscent of its previous incarnation, maintaining its aluminum build. However, it now sports a larger 5-inch screen, and both the BoomSound speakers and the device’s battery life have both been improved. The handset also now features new gesture controls that allow you to operate it with various swipes and taps; for example, you can now double tap the screen to unlock the phone.
A major criticism of last year’s HTC One was the poor image quality of its camera, and this has not been changed for the new edition. The back of the phone still features the same 4MP ultrapixel camera, although there is the addition of an extra lens that captures depth and lets you add effects after the photos have been taken. All of this is powered by a 2.3-GHz Snapdragon 801 processor and 2GB of RAM. Samsung’s Galaxy S5 will bring with it another long list of improvements. The design is more evolutionary than revolutionary, with the plastic back now replaced by a faux-leather perforated look that houses the S5’s 16MP camera and heart-rate monitor. The front of the phone touts a slightly larger 5.1-inch super AMOLED screen along with a new finger print scanner. The handset is also water and dust resistant, and is powered by a 2.5-GHz Snapdragon 801 processor and 2GB of RAM power.
The HTC One (M8) and Samsung Galaxy S5 are both great phones, improving on every aspect of the devices they replace. On paper, at least, we are scheduled for a repeat of last year’s debate over which phone should reign supreme at the top of the Android charts. However, HTC will need much more than rave reviews to convert supposition into sales, and IDC expects Samsung to continue where it left off last year. Aside from building an exceptional device, Samsung has the sheer marketing might to push the Galaxy S5 to a state of market dominance. And while HTC has once again delivered an outstanding piece of kit, it will not turn this situation around overnight; instead it will have to engage in a lengthy uphill battle, one that will require a huge amount of expense from a company already short on funds. This double-edged sword will once again sway the weight clearly in favor of Samsung.
Saad Elkhadem is a research analyst at IDC Middle East, Africa and Turkey
Follow us on Twitter @Ind_Insights