“Planning to buy a high-end Android smartphone this season? Here’s how the newest flagships stack up”
Welcome to one of the most heated battles of the year 2014 in the Android realm. The contenders include top-of-the-line devices by respective manufacturers, and in a way they’re continuing where the battle left-off last year. In 2013, there was intense competition between the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Sony Xperia Z which is now being carried forward by their successors. The latest flagships have been unveiled recently and will be available on retail shelves by next month. However, even before they start selling, consumers are pitting them against each other to find out which of these will give them the best bang for their buck. Read on as we compare the HTC One (M8), Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2.
The externals: design and display
All three smartphones continue with the tried-and-tested design approach along with slight bumps in their screen sizes.
The HTC One was regarded as one of the best-looking smartphones of all time, and its successor features the same zero-gap metallic shell with curves this time to offer better handling. It gets a classy look with the help of jewelry-grade metal finish and is available in classic grey or silver, along with a gold variant that will land later. Contrary to rumours and our expectations, Samsung’s Galaxy S5 comes encased in a plastic body similar to its predecessors. However, it has a perforated back which adds to the look and aids grip. The S5 is available in blue, golden, black or white. Sony also flaunts the unibody design aesthetics with the combination of aluminum and glass started by its predecessors. The device will sell in black, white or purple hues.
The HTC One (M8) is fitted with a 5-inch display as opposed to 4.7-inch display that adorned its predecessor. However unlike its predecessor, the device has software navigation keys. The Galaxy S5 features a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display, whereas the Xperia Z2 comes with a 5.2-inch TRILUMINOS display. All of them bear a resolution of 1080p.
Overall, all the devices are pretty similar in terms of screen real estate, though design-wise the new HTC One definitely deserves a mention. However, both the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2 focus on durability factor as they’re resistant to dust and water.
The internals: processor and memory
Qualcomm’s latest quad-core Snapdragon 801 chipset is powering the show in all the three devices and the only difference is in terms of the clock speeds. Both the HTC One (M8) and the Samsung Galaxy S5 have sport 2.5GHz processors, while the Sony Xperia Z2's four cores are clocked at a slightly lower 2.3GHz. There’s an octa-core powered variant of the Galaxy S5 as well, however there’s no confirmation on which one will be launched in India.
In the memory department, both the M8 and S5 pack 2GB of RAM in comparison to 3GB of RAM in the Xperia Z2. The trio comes in 16/32GB storage variants and provide the option of adding more via microSD cards. The latest HTC One overcomes one of the biggest limits of its predecessor by offering a microSD expansion slot.
We can’t compare these devices in terms of their performance without even using them, but needless to say that the Xperia Z2 makes up for its marginally lower clock speed thanks to its 3GB RAM, making it future-proof and offering better multitasking abilities.
The interface: software and customisations
The mobile phones ship with the latest version of Android KitKat with a layer of proprietary customisations.
Sony’s Xperia Z2 sports minimal customisations and comes with useful features like Quick Toggles, Small Apps and more. The new HTC One comes with the Sense 6 UI and brings with it features like BlinkFeed which has also been updated with useful options like offline mode and shows data from Fitbit, Foursquare, etc. HTC has also added gestures with the Motion Launch allowing features such as double tap to wake up. Thankfully the Korean brand has listened to its users and reduced the amount of tweaks on the OS with TouchWiz UI in the Galaxy S5, though they still can boggle anyone’s mind. It also features MyMagazine UI which is akin to HTC’s BlinkFeed and offers news powered by Flipboard.
Each of the handsets flaunt a different set of photo-centric capabilities in a bid to lure shutterbugs.
The HTC One (M8) takes the UltraPixel technology to the next level with the addition of a depth sensor to supplement the camera. The duo camera setup will help in features such as image refocusing and creating depth-of-field effects. Post-capture image refocusing was first seen on a dedicated camera called Lytro and was also added to the Nokia Lumia range later, with the Lumia 1020 being the first to sport it. Nowadays, it can be seen on many devices including the Samsung Galaxy S5. However, this feature normally works by capturing multiple shots with a single camera to create this effect, but in contrast, HTC’s hardware implementation (courtesy the additional depth sensor) might yield better results. It also has a dual-colour LED for more natural looking flash photography in low light. The camera retains the same specs of its predecessor with BSI sensor having 2.0µm pixel, 1/3” sensor and f/2.0 lens. Sadly because of the dual camera, the smartphone loses on the OIS functionality which was available in its predecessor. There’s also the Zoe feature which allows you to record short videos. At the front, it has a 5-megapixel BSI sensor.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 comes with a 16-megapixel ISOCELL camera with LED flash. The new technology is supposedly better in taking shots in poor lighting conditions. Samsung also claims that the smartphone boasts zippy autofocus speeds. The camera hardware is backed by a plethora of Samsung’s software features. For video calls and selfies, it comes with a 2MP secondary camera.
Sony’s Xperia Z2 gets the same camera that was available in its previous avatar – a 20.7-megapixel shooter with Sony's G Lens along with Exmor RS optics powered by the BIONZ processing engine. It has a 2.2-megapixel front-facing camera facilitating video conferencing.
While the S5 and Z2 allow 4k video shooting, all three devices support slow-motion recording.
Connectivity and power
In the connectivity department, the trio are fully loaded with support for 2G/3G networks, Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth, NFC and GPS. The One (M8) and the S5 also come with Infrared ports for universal remote functionality. Additionally, the HTC One (M8) is compatible with Indian 4G band, which means that you can enjoy super-fast browsing speeds once 4G is deployed nationwide. Samsung has included a microUSB 3.0 port in the S5, allowing fast data transfer with the computer.
HTC has packed a 2,600mAh battery inside the M8, while the Sony Xperia Z2 has a 3,200mAh battery. Unlike the removable 2,800mAh battery in the S5, the other two devices have sealed batteries. The trio also comes with battery-enhancing features in the form of Extreme Power Saving Mode, Ultra Power Saving Mode and Stamina Mode. Both the One (M8) and Galaxy S5 can turn off non-essential features, only giving access to calls and messages and allowing them to last for days.
Samsung has also packed the Galaxy S5 with some other features including a Finger Sensor and a heart rate monitor. Similar to the Apple iPhone 5STouchID, Finger Sensor unlocks the device as well as adds as layer of protection for documents. Users can also monitor their heart rates by simply keeping their fingers on the flash at the back of the phone.
Just like its predecessor, the HTC One (M8) offers a richer audio experience with its BoomSound speakers at the front and built-in amps. Sony also boasts of music-centric features like digital noise cancellation, Clear Audio+ and stereo speakers.
Check the detailed comparison table to see how they fare spec-wise (the green highlights indicate better specs).
At the surface, all the three smartphones comes with top-notch specs and you can’t go wrong with any of them. However if you look closely, they’re different in many ways. If you’re looking for the stylish device with good sound output, then the HTC One (M8) is the way to go. The Samsung Galaxy S5 rides on the popularity of the Korean giant along with having some useful capabilities like a fingerprint sensor, a heart rate monitor and IP67 certification (making it resistant to dust and water). Sony’s Xperia Z2 offers a slightly larger screen than the two along with good camera. We can't really make a decision for you, at least not before trying out the devices for ourselves and evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. However, pricing will also play a vital role – a difference of a few thousand rupees may not be enough to sway potential buyers looking for a premium device, but if one of the devices is priced significantly lower than the others, it could tilt the balance heavily in its favour.