One month with the HTC One (M8) and Samsung Galaxy S5

One month with the HTC One (M8) and Samsung Galaxy S5

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.

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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.

One month with the HTC One (M8) and Samsung Galaxy S5
(Image: HTC)

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.
attgalaxys5
(Image: AT&T)

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).

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Topics: Mobility, Android, HTC, Samsung, Smartphones

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23 comments
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  • Small nit to pick but you're mislabeling storage as RAM.

    There is a difference and, given context, it's understandable what you're referring to. But someone unfamiliar with these devices may not. Of course they're likely to be referring to it as RAM too.
    ye
    • Oops, corrected my reference to RAM

      I meant internal storage since they both have 2GB of RAM, which is fine for these devices. I would like to have seen 3GB of RAM in both, like the Xperia Z2, but 2GB is acceptable.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • Memory

        3 GB of memory? What exactly are you doing on your phone that you need this much memory for?

        Google reduced the memory usage significantly with KitKat. And 2gb is PLENTY.
        Njdbkn18
      • Matt, since you mentioned the Xperia,

        what are your thoughts on Sony's new phone, and the advances in their camera?

        Thanks...

        TW
        T-Wrench
  • Can you elaborate on Battery Life.

    I have been reading reviews that the Samsung Galaxy S5 was getting nearly double the battery life than the HTC one M8 with regular use? CNET mentioned this in the prize fight between these two devices. Have you performed any usage tests, would you concur this is correct?
    Sweat Studio
    • I'm getting long life from both, seems to be a bit more with the S5

      I use my phones pretty heavily throughout the day and am finding I can go long days (12-16 hours) with both phones. During my Disneyland vacation the S5 lasted me the entire LONG day even while taking photos and uploading them to share with family that weren't on the trip. I would give the edge to the S5 in battery, but they are both quite good.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • wrong about this too.

    T-mobile does not sell 32G Htc ones or S5s. You can special order them but 16G is the biggest youll find in the store.
    gunch_bandit
    • I can't speak to the M8 but my M7 has 32GB

      Purchased from the store last year.
      ye
      • Then why did u comment?

        nt
        CornheadsBack
        • Because I suspect the M8 is the same as the M7.

          In fact this is the first time I've ever heard the 32GB HTC One was not available in stores. So far the evidence supports 32GB being available.
          ye
    • All US HTC One devices have 32GB internal storage/ROM

      All US models of the HTC One come with 32GB of internal storage/ROM.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • Your talking the M8

        At least I hope so as my M7 Stealth has 64gb (ATT).
        rhonin
  • I choose the GS5 for 2 main reasons.

    The HTC is beautifully crafted and I love the premium materials however, the phone is too long, combined with the slippery aluminum made the phone feel unwieldly in my hand. I don't use cases. I also love that the GS5 is dust and water resistant. You can't go wrong with either device if you want a android phone.
    Low_tech
    • Sadly I'm passing on the HTC One due to its increased size.

      My current model is perfect. The new one pushes it too far. I would like to have dust / water resistance as well. Hopefully the next generation will return to the M7 size, add dust / waterproofing, and increase the camera resolution. If they do these things, and do not regress elsewhere, I'll be considering it. The battery life on the new one is mighty attractive though.
      ye
  • returned the s5 for above mentioned storage issue

    While I had read about 4.4 kit kat imposing restrictions on the external sd card, I really didn't know what to expect until I upgraded my 16gb s3 with 32 gig removable sd card and bought the 16gb s5. Suffice to say I hated it. Not the phone, but the combination of low internal storage, and crippled external sd card because of 4.4. Three days later I exchanged for a note 3 with 32 gigs. Yes, it has the same external sd write issues, but with close to 25 gigs free (before I install stuff) compared to like 9 on the s5, it felt like a much better upgrade. Plus more ram, bigger screen, crazy battery life... I dunno, the s5 was disappointing in the 16 gig variation, .. The only thing truly better about it was the camera, but the 13 megapixel on the note 3 isn't too bad either. Same 4k video too.
    Eric Holbrook
  • Why didn't you add an SD card?

    Now that 128gb micro SD cards are plentiful, you can run the S5 with 140gb storage and the One M8 with 156gb. That would have met your 32gb minimum with room to spare.
    You listed that a slot for an SD card was a big benefit of these phones, I'm curious as to why you didn't choose to take advantage of it.
    djmiller@...
    • errr.... 144 and 160 :-)

      typo
      djmiller@...
  • M8 Pros mirrors the cons

    Two of the pros listed for the HTC 1 M8 are the case and the camera.

    Two of the cons listed for the HTC 1 M8 are the case and the camera.

    smh
    osborn4
  • Metal obssesion

    "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."

    "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."

    Do you realize that a smartphone would be garbage after a few years of teching?
    Why do you insist on propagating the myth about how important is the design or the metal
    on a gadget?
    Look what happens in desktops and laptops! Do you seriously put the presence of metal as a main selling point? Maybe wood?
    This is the paradox of our times, too many ecological sensitivities, yet they 're completely ignored when it's about aesthetics on something so temporary as a smartphone.
    prszdn4
  • No such thing as a "perfect" anything

    There will always be pluses and minuses to anything that one seeks for perfection. I have the M8 myself and yeah it's a slippery bugger. My solution? Buy a nice clear gel case that is nice and grippy and it's clear so you can still see the beauty of the phone. I know there are many of the "I don't want to besmirch the beauty of my phone by sticking on an ugly case". But man up... unless you don't mind breaking a $600 phone because your pride won't let you get a case for it, then you must have money to burn.

    I also noticed for the M8 you have 7 pros and 3 cons, while for the S5 you have it as even (4 pros 4 cons). So really it sounds to me like you have made your decision really. The S5 was what I originally was going to get since my other phones have been Galaxy ones, but this version of HTC One grabbed my attention. Sure it's tall but not phablet tall. To get that 5 inch screen there they would either have to go tall or go squat. It's a slender phone (not iPhone slender, but it fits in my had pretty well). But nothing that is insurmountable here. Don't like it in your pocket? Get a holster that fits on your belt.

    If you had to wait for the perfect device to appear I think you will be waiting a VERY. LONG. TIME.
    duchovny