They’re the two biggest Android phones of the year, and the Galaxy S III and the HTC One X share many things in common: 720p screen, quad-core processor, high-quality camera and more. So how do you decide which is the right phone for you?
Design and build
There’s little between the two in size. The S3 is 2mm taller, a touch wider and a little lighter, and includes a slightly larger display (4.8″ as compared to 4.7″). Both devices feel great in the hand but the One is noticeably superior in both design and build quality, carved from a single polycarbonate block, while the S3 continues Samsung’s tradition of plasticky build.
Interestingly Samsung has kept the Menu button that Google is trying to phase out of Android. HTC removed this in favour of a task switching button, which results in a virtual menu button appearing at the bottom of the screen in many apps, one of the complaints we noted in our One X review.
Winner: HTC One X
Both the S3 and One X have a 720p display. The pixel density on the S3 is 306ppi compared to 312pii on the One X. The One X screen is Super IPS LCD2, and is sharper, crisper and brighter than the S3, but with its backlight also consumes an enormous amount of power. The S3 screen is Super AMOLED, which offers darker blacks and uses less power in most conditions.
The S3 has a pentile display, which does not always prove popular due to the way it can give text the appearance of jagged edges, although at this high pixel density you would be hard pushed to notice it in real world use.
Winner: HTC One X (although it’s a close call)
The Galaxy S3 runs Ice Cream Sandwich with TouchWiz for the UI, which is bright and not altogether classy (Samsung has even replaced the default Roboto font from ICS). The most unique feature is the phone’s ability to adapt to how you’re using it – eye tracking software will detect whether you’re looking at the phone and keep the screen awake (such as when you’re reading an ebook), and there’s an app called S Voice that is best seen as Samsung’s version of Apple’s Siri voice recognition service.
The HTC One X runs Ice Cream Sandiwch with Sense UI. This is more stripped back and refined than TouchWiz, with a greater emphasis placed on the functionality. The key features are in the camera app, with the ability to shoot photos and videos simultaneously or extract still images from video. Some of these features have now found their way into the S3.
Both phone sport eight megapixel cameras. The One X is equipped with a dedictaed imaging chip which enables fast performance and near instant focussing. Samsung hasn’t done anything new on the physical camera spec, but has brought the zero-shutter lag feature over from the Galaxy Nexus. In our tests both are very fast and responsive, with quality about the same across the two.
One of the key differentiators is in the two companies approaches to battery life. The One X has a non-replaceable 1800mAh battery; the S3 has a replaceable 2100mAh battery. Although we’ll have to wait to test it properly we would expect the combination of bigger battery and less energy-sapping screen on the Galaxy S3 to give it a clear advantage.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy SIII
Both phones have similar feature sets, yet on balance Samsung appears to have made better choices on some of the smaller but no less crucial decisions. The battery is replaceable, there are versions with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB of storage, and there is a microSD card slot to expand this further, and the front facing camera can shoot in HD. In addition there is Samsung’s S Beam service, which combines the Android Beam NFC solution with Wi-Fi to make faster wireless sharing of files a possibility, and AllShare cast, which enables you to stream movies to a TV with ease.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy SIII
The One X is already proving a very popular device among the Android modding community with plenty of custom ROMs and tweaks already available. We’d expect the Galaxy S3 to be as popular if not moreso, with ROMs to remove the TouchWiz UI in favour of a vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich build likely to be in high demand.
There’s no doubt HTC has been a lot more ambitious with the One X. The company had little choice after a pretty disastrous 2011, so had to completely rethink its approach with the One series.
By contrast Samsung has come to the S3 from a position of strength so has been able to be a lot more conservative – everything from the S2 has been upgraded but there’s nothing that is especially new. Both companies have, however, put a lot of thought into the software, and the voice and motion recognition features in the S3 could be very interesting, assuming they work as advertised.
HTC may be the moral winner, then, but the reality is that conservative usually wins out (see, for example, the enormous success of the very incremental update that was the iPhone 4S, compared to the radically different Windows Phone OS that Microsoft and Nokia cannot give away to consumers).
Samsung has built on the things that made the S2 so successful – better screen, better battery life, better software – and there’s no reason why it won’t repeat that success again.