Summary: I have now spent over a month with both devices and neither has compelled me enough to visit my local T-Mobile store to make a purchase. They are both solid phones, but also both lack some things I want in a flagship device.
I have been using both the new HTC One (M8) and Samsung Galaxy S5 with my personal T-Mobile SIM splitting the time in each so I could try to figure out which one I would purchase for myself. After more than a month with these devices, there are still a couple of reasons I haven't yet visited my local store and that means LG, Motorola, and Apple still have a chance to end up in my pocket.
The HTC One (M8) was the first to land in my hands and it is a very impressive piece of hardware with top notch design and construction. The HTC One (M7) was a fabulous device that served as my primary smartphone for a year. The Samsung Galaxy S5 is not as premium feeling as the HTC One, but it brings a much better camera and some more great features that I am enjoying.
Let's break it down into a couple simple lists to share my experiences over the past month. Here is what I like about the HTC One (M8):
- Metal design: HTC does a great job with design and the new One continues that tradition with rock solid construction, beveled edges, curved back, and excellent fit and finish.
- BoomSound speakers: The front facing stereo speakers are better this year than they were last year and I have yet to hear any other device that can match the experience.
- Sense 6 UI: I have always been a fan of Sense and it is even better on the new One. BlinkFeed is even more useful and customizable than before, the device flies when it comes to performance, the widgets are useful, and much more.
- Camera software: Highlight Videos are great ways to share photos and video clips with people, especially when you travel a lot or have young children whose experiences you want to capture and add some context to. The effects and editing tools are also great on the HTC One.
- Ample storage and microSD card: All HTC One devices in the US have 32GB of storage, which is the minimum that all flagship phones should have. HTC also finally brought their microSD support, common on their Japanese line, to the HTC One line so you can capture lots of video and images without worrying about filling up your storage.
- Long battery life: I am a heavy smartphone user and find I can go very long days with the HTC One without charging it up. It is so good that it makes my Moto X look anemic.
- Solid front facing camera: Front facing cameras are useful to capture photos with you in the picture with other people, especially given that handing over the new HTC One to a stranger to take your shot will likely result in your HTC One being dropped. The wide angle 5 megapixel camera takes good photos and is definitely the one to get if you take lots of selfies.
There are also a few things I don't like about the new HTC One (M8), including the following:
- Slippery back and sides: I am extremely careful with my smartphones, but even I have dropped the new HTC One a few times and can almost guarantee that this phone will be dropped due to the slippery skin.
- Camera doesn't capture detail: HTC could have hit it out of the park and I would own my personal One right now if they had bumped the camera up in quality over last year's model. I wanted to see at least 8 megapixels, even if they wanted to stick with their low light ultrapixel strategy. You can capture good photos, but they will not have depth and detail like you can get with most all other flagship smartphones.
- Long phone: I accept that many phones are getting larger today, but the HTC One (M8) feels too long in your hand without any real obvious benefit to the length. It sticks out of my back jeans pocket and I wish it was a bit shorter.
I just returned from a five day Disneyland vacation and took along the Samsung Galaxy S5 to use as my primary smartphone and it performed admirably. Here are several things I like about the new Galaxy S5.
- Waterproof design: While you do have to keep the bottom microUSB port door closed, going on rides with water splashing and enjoying the pool with the family was a relief knowing the phone was safe from water. It is very convenient to have integrated protection from the elements.
- Solid camera performance: Time and again the Galaxy S5 camera proved to be the best of the bunch while on vacation. I was able to capture excellent quality photos inside buildings, out in the sun, and while walking around the park.
- Vivid display: The HTC One has an excellent LCD display, but the eye-popping colors of the Galaxy S5 are tough to beat. It even performed very well in full sunlight in California.
- Removable battery and microSD card: Very few phones have removable batteries, but it is convenient to go long periods of time without charging and swap out batteries which is one major reason why I wrote that the S5 may be the best current business smartphone.
While the S5 is a nice iteration in the Galaxy line, there are a few things I don't like about it either. These include:
- Limited internal storage: You only get about 9 GB of available internal storage and with KitKat that means you can only install a limited number of apps and games. Every flagship Android device needs to launch with 32GB minimum and if Samsung had launched with this amount of RAM then it is likely I would have already purchased one at T-Mobile.
- Chrome frame: The plastic back doesn't really bug me at all and I understand its presence since you get the ability to swap the battery. It is the ridged chrome frame piece that gives the S5 a bit of a cheap feel and if Samsung could have just put in a little metal band around the device I bet it would have felt a lot more premium.
- TouchWiz UI: TouchWiz has gotten a bit better, but the settings area is terrible with something like 62 icons available to the user. The notifications area is halfway consumed with Samsung stuff that cannot be removed either. I do like seeing some of the Note 3 utilities in the S5, such as Multi-Window and Air View.
- Useless functions: The finger scanner rarely works and the heart rate monitor has limited functionality. Samsung doesn't have to throw everything in one device and should stay focused on what works well.
Both of these phones are excellent choices and some may say that I am being too picky in my cons that are preventing me from purchasing one or the other. However, we know that LG will be announcing their new flagship at the end of the month, Apple will likely announce the next iPhone next month, and Motorola is likely to update the Moto X with something a bit bigger and newer.
If Samsung had a 32GB S5 available on T-Mobile then I would likely have picked one up and if HTC had an improved camera then it would have been my first choice. The 32GB S5 model may actually come to T-Mobile in the future so it is more likely that a Samsung Galaxy S5 will end up in my pocket than a new HTC One (M8).