Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. HTC One: Software Feature Showdown

The Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One are arguably two of the best Android smartphones of 2013, but neither phone is a pure Android smartphone. Samsung and HTC rely heavily on the software features to enhance the user experience and stand apart from each other, and the Nexus 4, in a crowded Android smartphone market.

This plethora of software features is also a strategy to compete with the iPhone 5, and to offer a unique experience that each company feels is better than the vanilla version of Android that Google offers on the Nexus 4.

Samsung focuses on sensors and smart features which come as part of TouchWiz, a fancy name for the skin and special software features that ship on the Samsung Galaxy S4. These software features bring the best features from the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 2 and add a few more which will launch with the Galaxy S4.

HTC may not include the same set of sensors, but it does ship the HTC One with HTC Sense 5. As the number suggests, HTC Sense is not a new software innovation from HTC, but with HTC Sense 5 users get a cleaner look and a collection of smart new features.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. HTC One Software Features

The Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One compete with special software features.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One compete with special software features.

Many users will compare the design, style and specs of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One, but a closer look at the software is just as important when trying to pick the best Android smartphone. Of course, check out our Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. HTC One breakdown to see how the two devices stack up in this regard.

After spending time with the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One, it’s time to share how the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One software stack up.

HTC Sense 5 vs. TouchWiz

The Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One run similar versions of Android, but on top of Android, is a skin that changes the look and functionality of Android. Both phones run a modified version of Android Jelly Bean, but that’s where the similarities stop.

Samsung TouchWiz and Nature UX sit on top of Android, offering up a more colorful version of Android with extra apps and features that connect the phone to other Samsung devices. The Samsung Galaxy S4 builds on the features and designs of the Galaxy S3, and offers a familiar experience.

HTC places HTC Sense 5 on the HTC One. This new version of HTC Sense includes several new features such as BlinkFeed, which takes over the home screen with a news feed and social network section that makes it easy to follow topics and friends. HTC Sense 5 brings a more minimal look to Android icons and other areas of the user interface.

Both of the phones offer a launcher with 4 apps at the bottom of the home screen and customizable app drawers. The HTC One runs Android 4.1.2 with an update to Android 4.2 rumored in the next month and the Samsung Galaxy S4 runs Android 4.2.2, the latest version of Android.

Galaxy S4 Smart Features vs. HTC One

The Samsung Galaxy S4 takes the lead in the software department when it comes to smart features. The Samsung Galaxy S4 features nine sensors that let users control the phone with motion, eye tracking and even without touching the display.

The video below highlights the Samsung Galaxy S4 software features such as Air View, Motion control and eye-tracking.

With Air View, Galaxy S4 users can hover a finger above the display to see a preview of a text, email, photo or place in a video. The motion control allow users to swipe over the phone to answer a call or scroll through a web page.

With eye-tracking the Galaxy S4 display can stay on when it detects a user is looking at it. Additionally, it allows a user to combine motion to scroll without touching the screen. The Samsung Galaxy S4 can also use this eye-tracking technology to automatically pause video when a user looks away.

The HTC One is a feature packed phone, but it does not offer any of these features with HTC Sense 5.

HTC Zoe vs. Galaxy S4 Camera Features

The HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4 are both designed with mobile photographers in mind. HTC tries something new this time around with an Ultrapixel camera that uses large pixels to deliver better low light photos. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is equipped with a 13MP camera which Samsung enhances with some new photo features.

The HTC One arrives with HTC Zoe, a feature that shoots a 3 second video and 20 photos with the push of a shutter. This makes it possible to capture motion, photos and sound all at once. Users can then share the Zoe as a moving photo or edit it to make a photo that shows multiple frames. On stage HTC Zoe sounded like a gimmick, but ater using it for a week it’s clearly a great HTC One feature.

The video above shows the Sequence shot feature in action, thanks to HTC Zoe. There is also the ability to take a group photo and pick the best face for each person in the photo, something that can accomodate a larger group thanks to the wide-angle camera.

HTC also bundles in an eraser feature that lets users remove unwanted people and objects from a photo. The video below highlights the feature.

Another cool HTC One feature relates to video. Users can pick between slow motion and regular speed, slowing down a video at a dramatic point. Check it out in action in the video below.

Rounding out the camera software features on the HTC One is the Video Highlights feature which creates a video highlights reel of an event. Check out one we made in the video below.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 doesn’t deliver an HTC Zoe competitor directly, but with a collection of features it delivers a similar experience. The standout Samsung Galaxy S4 camera feature is Dual camera mode, a setting that combines the front and rear facing cameras to let the photographer be part of the photo or video. Check it out in action below.

In addition to combining the cameras, the Samsung Galaxy S4 can also combine sound with a photo. The Sound & Shot feature is similar to HTC Zoe’s combination of photos and sound, but there is no video component. The Samsung Galaxy S4 ad below shows how this works, and why you might want to use it.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 camera app also includes familiar favorited like a group shot that lets you pick the best face and a new eraser mode that helps users remove unwanted people from photos.

HTC BlinkFeed vs. Samsung Home Screen

The HTC One delivers BlinkFeed, a new way to check updates from friends and favorite news sources. HTC Blinkfeed is customizable, and the HTC One software hands on video below shows it in action.

HTC BlinkFeed allows users to pick from a wide variety of sources, topics and connect to social networks. In addition to showing social networks, it also lets users update Facebook and Twitter from that main screen. This is the main home screen, but users can swipe to get a familiar Android home screen with apps and widgets.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 features a more common Android experience with multiple home screens, support for widgets and some built in widgets like the Galaxy S3 shipped with, but there is no direct BlinkFeed competitor.

Samsung S TV vs. HTC Sense TV

The Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One both include IR which allows users to control an HDTV with the phone. The HTC One ships with Sense TV, which includes fast access to favoriet shows. Tap once on a show and the software automatically changes the channel to it.

HTC Sense TV is a companion app that turns the HTC One into a remote control.

HTC Sense TV is a companion app that turns the HTC One into a remote control.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 uses WatchOn software to deliver a similar experience. The WatchOn software includes a similar looking interface that allows users to pick a show and have the S4 change the channel. This software also offers a search function which can search TV channels as well as Samsung’s movie rental and sales service. The Galaxy S4 also features a Peel Smartphone app for manual control.

Multi View vs. HTC One

The Samsung Galaxy S4 includes Multi-View, a feature that lets users run two apps on the screen at the same time. This is a very nice way to do more on the 5-inch 1080P HD display. We may see some limits to the apps that can runin dual screen mode on the U.S. model based on the Galaxy Note 2.

The video above highlights the Multi-View feature on the Galaxy Note 2. The user experience is the same on the Galaxy S4.

The HTC One does not offer such a feature to users, so there is no way to use two apps on the screen at the same time with the HTC One.

Two vs. Three Buttons

The Samsung Galaxy S4 features three buttons, while the HTC One only offers two. This changes some of the Android interaction and in many apps leads to an extra bar at the bottom of the screen. Because there is no menu botton on the HTC One, some apps will show one on screen, like in the screen shot below.

The HTC One does not feature a menu button, and instead shows one on screen.

The HTC One does not feature a menu button, and instead shows one on screen.

By removing one button, there are a few other limitations, though HTC does a decent job of adding in multiple taps to address them. The HTC One home button can; take a user home, launch Google Now with a long press or launch Multitasking with a double tap. The back button only goes back, but there is a tweak that allows it to also act as a menu button, removing the on screen menu bar. This may ship as a standard feature on the HTC One for T-Mobile AT&T and Sprint.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 features a physical button which acts as the home button, a menu key and a back button. The home button offers similar functionality with a single press, long press and double tap. A single press goes home, a long press opens the multitasking menu (where access to Google Now is found) and a double tap opens S-Voice.

S Voice Drive vs. HTC Car Mode

The HTC One features a Car mode which offers some in car voice control, but it is only able to use the built in music app and make calls. The Samsung Galaxy S4 includes S-Voice Drive, which is more full featured and an extension of S Voice.

S Voice from the Galaxy S4 on the Nexus 4 (left) vs S Voice on the Galaxy S3 (right).

S Voice from the Galaxy S4 on the Nexus 4 (left) vs S Voice on the Galaxy S3 (right).

S Voice drive can control navigation, music and phone calls as well as check weather and other information while you are driving. Samsung Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 users can try out S Voice Drive right now.