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Summary:

These two smartphones represent the best of Android, but which one should you buy?

samsung-galaxy-s5-htc-m8

Now that HTC has unveiled the HTC One M8, it only seems natural to compare it to the other major new Android smartphone out there, Samsung’s Galaxy S5. I’ve compared some specs for each phone in the chart below. I’ve also spent a bit of time with each phone, and can say how many of these features measure up based on my experience.

HTC One M8 vs. Samsung Galaxy S5

Display, design and size

This first comparison is a tricky one, because both phone displays look great. The Galaxy S5 has a 5.1-inch, 1080p panel, while the M8’s display measures 5 inches. The HTC One has a slightly higher pixel density, due to its barely smaller screen size, but you really can’t tell the difference with the naked eye. Luckily, both screens are very bright, with vivid colors and good viewing angles. You won’t be disappointed with either one.

HTC One M8 home screen

You might be a little disappointed by the Galaxy S5’s design, though, which is made of plastic and doesn’t feel particularly high-end. That’s especially true when you compare it to the HTC One, which features a gorgeous metal build. In my opinion, it’s the best looking Android phone on the market, and definitely the phone to get if you’re big on design.

Size-wise, I found both phones to be very comfortable. They’re big devices, but neither of them quite reaches into “phablet” territory. It’s worth noting that the Galaxy S5 is slightly smaller and lighter all around, even though it has a larger display. I didn’t feel a noticeable difference when handling either phone, but I haven’t held both of them at the same time.

Galaxy S5 lock screen

Power, battery life and storage

Both the Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 are powered by Qualcomm’s new, super-fast Snapdragon 801 processor. The Galaxy S5 will ship with a 2.5GHz quad-core chip, while U.S. models of the M8 will feature a 2.3GHz quad-core processor. That shouldn’t make a big difference as far as power and speed are concerned. Qualcomm’s chip is among the fastest silicon currently available, and both phones operated flawlessly when I got a chance to handle them.

HTC One M8 gold

Battery life isn’t quite as close. The Galaxy S5 has a 2800mAh battery, which is slightly larger than the 2600mAh cell in the HTC One M8. But the Galaxy S5’s battery is removable, which means you can carry a spare, while the M8’s battery is permanently sealed in. Both phones come with software features meant to expand battery life by days when down to just a 10-percent charge, but if battery life is your main concern, the Galaxy S5 offers more flexibility.

Both phones stack up evenly when it comes to storage, though. You can get either device with 16 or 32GB of internal storage. And both feature a microSD card slot, which allows you to increase you to add up to an additional 128GB.

Galaxy S5 back

Camera and software

I haven’t had a chance to put these cameras to the test, but based on my experience with the previous generation of devices, as well as some of the early HTC One reviews out there, my money is on Samsung. The Galaxy S5 features a 16-megapixel camera, along with some cool software features like Live Preview, which allows you to see a photo with a filter or HDR before you snap it. And Samsung claims it has the world’s fastest autofocus in as quick as 0.3 seconds.

HTC One M8 camera

The HTC One M8, on the other hand, has the same 4-megapixel “UltraPixel” camera as the original HTC One. The idea is that the phone uses larger pixels to capture more light, rather than more detail. So while you might not be able to shoot a sharper picture than the Galaxy S5, in theory you can get a better shot in lower light. But my experience with the first HTC One proved this just wasn’t true. Sure, it did a decent job in low light, but it was not resoundingly better than the Galaxy S4. I don’t think a minor gain in light is worth a significant hit against detail.

HTC has added a second rear sensor, which allows you to change the focus on pictures after you take them. And the phone has a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, which means you should be able to take some of the sharpest selfies possible. But I’m mostly interested in replacing my digital camera, and I think the Galaxy S5 has a better shot at doing that.

Galaxy S5 camera

As for software, both phones run Android 4.4 KitKat, so it’s really a tossup of whether you prefer the overlay from Samsung or HTC. Both are better than we’ve seen from either company in the past, though neither is close to stock Android. HTC offers Sense 6 and BlinkFeed, which is a Flipboard-like homescreen replacement. Samsung, meanwhile, scales back a bit from the overbearing presence of TouchWiz on previous devices, and adds some cool apps like S Health, which works with a heart rate monitor on the back of the phone to measure your heart rate.

Unique features

While many of the basic features look similar on a spec sheet, each phone offers a few completely unique features.

As mentioned above, the Galaxy S5 has a heart rate monitor, which is great for fitness buffs. It also has a fingerprint scanner that allows you to unlock the phone, like the iPhone 5s, though it might not be quite as easy to use. The M8, on the other hand, offers a wide range of motion controls that automatically detect when you pick up the phone. This lets you unlock the device or perform a number of other tasks without even needing to hit the power button. And the HTC One’s dual front speakers are the best I’ve heard on a smartphone.

HTC One M8 case open

Decisions, decisions

Each phone costs the same ($199.99 on a two-year contract, though you get 16GB of storage on the Galaxy S5 for that price compared to 32GB on the HTC One), and each will be readily available throughout the U.S. in just over two weeks (though if you can’t wait, the HTC One is available from Verizon Wireless stores right now).

Picking a winner is harder to call than pretty much any other comparison I can think of. But that’s a good thing. Both of these phones share many similar features, and both represent the best of Android right now.

Galaxy S5 heart rate

That said, I don’t think either of these phones is the clear-cut victor, at least after my limited experience with each of them. Instead, I think they each appeal to a slightly different audience.

If you’re more interested in good design and snapping selfies, the HTC One is a better choice, thanks to its stunning build and high-resolution front-facing camera. But if you’re looking for a handset to replace your digital camera, the 16-megapixel Galaxy S5 is likely to offer a better overall photo experience. These phones are sure to inspire plenty of debate, but ultimately, you won’t be disappointed with either.

This post was updated at 12:18pm to show that the HTC One M8 comes with 32GB of storage for $199.99.

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  1. Alex, they don’t cost the same. HTC is in fact cheaper: it’s $199 for 32GB model. At the same price, Samsung S5 has only half the storage size (16Gb).

    1. Thanks for catching that! I’ll revise.

    2. @andy: well, why compare prices just on the storage size? The S5 has 16M pixel vs 5M for M8 — shouldn’t that matter as well? I’m pretty sure 2.5Ghz costs more than 2.3Ghz, there! The S5 is cheaper than M8.

      1. Well it’s not that simple. Smartphones these days are in fact priced by storage since the hardware remains the same throughout the different prices. Whether this is a good idea or or is up for debate.

        The M8 has a low megapixel because like the author said, it’s supposed to work much better in low light. Does it actually work? This author didn’t think so, but you should probably get your hands on it and see for yourself. Also, the processors are the same, both use the snapdragon 801, the samsung one is just clocked at a higher speed. Essentially samsung choose a higher speed while trading off battery life and heat issues (not saying the S5 has heat issues, just saying a higher clock speed produces more heat). HTC could have gone this route as well, but they choose a lower clock speed to preserve battery and have less heat from the processors. Whether the marginal increase in real world performance is worth the possible marginal decrease in battery life and increase in heat production is once again, up for debate.

        1. I used the M8 camera last night. Pure garbage when I compared it to an LG G2.

          1. im waiting for lg g3!!

          2. Sergio Gutzalenko digk Wednesday, March 26, 2014

            Really i have a htc one and a g2 for work and the g2 is never as sharp or fast and has less color accurate pictures. I actually have never beem inpressed with my g2. Also in the dark the g2 is pretty much worthless whole my htc jas alwaus been great. The htc does blur out sometime whem ypu zoom in tho.

      2. the 5mp is just the front facing Camera on the M8 not the rear. He also missed the fact that the M8 has, in fact 2 rear camera’s now. One is specifically dedicated to capturing depth and detail. 2.5ghz is a slight bit different from 2.3ghz, but it isn’t a true selling point, because the average user won’t be able to see any difference.

  2. One you by on specs the other you buy on looks…

    1. Most people are the easy-to-manipulate people, the ones that go for looks

  3. 32 GB is available on Samsung S5. With better camera megapixels. Only difference is outside case Metal composite vs Plastic Composite. it’s always better to buy what’s inside of electronic consumer products. Forget TWO year Contracts to make a Phone Company richer. Buy the BEST product.

    1. Not on Verizon.

  4. I have the HTC one and I have zero problem with capturing detail and the M8 will be no exception. I haven’t decoded which phone ill go with but I’m leaning towards the M8. The video camera however I would assume is better on the Galaxy just for the features it has. The One tried to autofocus during video taking and it’s very frustrating

    1. Learn to spell Pal.

  5. Both phones sound better than before, but besides personal preference the main difference is one of them is much more durable because it is water resistant. As a parent it is a no brainer which is the “best phone”

    1. the HTC one was proven to be water resistant for up to 30 minutes by a youtube video test. google it.

  6. If you really care about image quality, buy a decent pocket camera or a DSLR. Phones couldn’t remotely compete on image quality with a dedicated camera. A phone is a phone. It makes and receives calls, holds all your contacts, sends and receives email and documents, and plays music. But, the embedded image capture functionality is only capable of taking casual photos – not high quality images. I’m going with the M8. The hardware and software is just better designed and, best of all, will make the Apple fanboys/girls drool.

  7. desmond tinarwo Wednesday, March 26, 2014

    I am done with the galaxys. Samsung has got the annoying preferential treatment of its native Korea when it comea to specs, updates etc. This time I going with other brands.

  8. Have owned apple samsung nokia now going for htc. People if you really want to take really nice pictures buy a really nice camera. Kinda looking forward to the htc. Kinda looking for a little change. Variety is the spice of life. If you are the type of person that listens to the same type of music all day long chances are you have an apple product.. if you listen to many types you have tried other brands. My wife loves apple I got her one I liked it for a year.then I tried samsung liked android better. Apple ipads and all .apple store for gods sake. They work you. Might as well be one of the walking dead. Its amazing to me to see all the walking dead in apple stores around holidays.i mean really. Are you people kidding me.for a phone or tablet ?? Get a life. Sorry if I went on an apple rant….lmao. back to htc m8 looking forward to a phone actually built out of aluminium. Versus plastic.

  9. there was no mention if these phones are had a dual sim slots,could anybody tell me which phone carries dual slots

    1. I don’t think either phone has dual sim slots.

  10. This time I going with other brands.

    1. if it’s not Samsung, or HTC, then the Mediocre apple product is your best bet…but there’s a reason why the big 3 are the big 3…just a tip.

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