Now that the brand new HTC One M9 has officially been released and is available from all major carriers, buyers are likely weighing their choices here in 2015. And while the new Galaxy S6 is also worth considering, here we’ll be comparing the Galaxy S4 to the HTC One M9, for owners that have enjoyed the phone for nearly two years and are eligible for an upgrade.
On March 1st the HTC One M9 smartphone was finally announced and revealed after months of leaks, rumors and speculation. It came as no surprise thanks to a variety of leaks, but sadly didn’t feature many design changes from last year. It may look just like the model before it, but it has plenty to offer making it a worthy upgrade over the aging Galaxy S4.
Samsung’s Galaxy S4 was one of the best smartphones released in 2013 and is still an excellent device worth keeping for another year, potentially for the Galaxy S7 or the next Moto X. That said, below we’ll be comparing HTC’s latest to a device millions of users already own, the Galaxy S4, and pointing out a few differences that make it worth upgrading to.
If you chose the Galaxy S4 over the original HTC One, you may not want to upgrade to the HTC One M9. Simply because it looks extremely similar to all the other One models. That said, it features premium materials and so many more features that it could be a great move for any potential smartphone user.
This year HTC didn’t take any major risks and change the design like Samsung did with the Galaxy S6, and instead delivered a phone that looks nearly identical to the model last year. However, they improved every aspect of the phone, made it slightly smaller, and introduced a new two-tone color option, among other things. Lets get started.
First up is the display, since that is an extremely important aspect of both these devices and something all buyers look at. As for the HTC One M9, it’s the same size and resolution this year as it was in 2014. This means it’s actually the same size and resolution as the Galaxy S4 from 2013. Yea! Both phones have a 5-inch 1920 x 1080p full HD display, so this is one (and the only) area that these phones are the same. Everything else about the HTC One M9 is an upgrade.
The HTC One M9 doesn’t appear to get as bright as the Galaxy S5 or new Galaxy S6, but at the same time no one really needs 100% brightness anyways, unless you want to drain that battery really quick. The colors are crisp and vibrant from our review linked to above, and most likely being two years newer it will have better colors, contrast, brightness, and be more efficient than the aging Galaxy S4.
If you want a bigger screen the HTC One M9 isn’t for you, but at the same time the Galaxy S6 is only 5.1-inches and not much of an upgrade either. Meaning you’ll need to spring for a Note 4, DROID Turbo, or the Nexus 6 if you want more screen real estate.
This is one huge area that separates these two phones. The Galaxy S4 is made almost entirely of plastic. Some love the aluminum of the HTC One M9, while others argue the lightweight and durable plastics used by Samsung are the best route. Everyone has a different preference, and this is key for some. The S4 is also old and doesn’t have the fingerprint scanner, waterproof rating, or other features of newer Samsung devices. It’s just a big display on an all plastic device.
The HTC One M9 looks nearly the same as last year, as we stated above, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s one of the most elegant devices around. The brushed aluminum unibody frame looks and feels great in the hand. The edges are more round, making it easier to hold. The big bezels below the screen are still around, sadly, and the dual front speakers are as good as ever. Over the past year or so if some users have had enough of the Galaxy S4, the new two-tone silver and gold or gunmetal gray and black aluminum HTC One M9 may be worth considering.
This year the HTC One M9 looks the same, but is actually slightly lighter, and they shaved a few mm of the size of the handset as well. All while improving every aspect of the device. The bezels and dual speakers make it taller than the Galaxy S4, but slightly thinner. Overall it feels like a better device, is certainly made of more premium materials.
There is no question the HTC One M9 is the better device, but is it worth the upgrade? That’s for you to decide.
While the HTC One M9 looks just as it did in 2014, everything under the hood is completely different. This is one extremely powerful smartphone with top-tier specs, and even a better camera.
The new M9 is fast, fluid, and much more powerful than the aging Galaxy S4, but that’s to be expected. While specs don’t mean everything, this is still something many consider, so here’s the raw numbers for those interested.
HTC One M9 Specs
5-inch 1920 x 1080p Full HD S-LCD3 Display
8-core Snapdragon 810 processor (64-bit)
3GB of RAM
32GB of internal storage and a micro-SD slot for expansion
20.7 MP rear facing camera and 4 Ultrapixel front shooter
Android 5.0.1 Lollipop and HTC Sense UI 7.0
Dual HTC Boomsound Speakers with Dolby 5.1 Audio Technology
2,860 mAh battery
Infrared Blaster for remote control
Brushed Aluminum unibody design
Galaxy S4 Specs
5-inch 1920 x 1080p HD AMOLED display
1.9 GHz Quad-core Snapdragon 600 with 2GB of RAM
16GB internal storage (Micro-SD expansion)
13 Megapixel camera and 2MP front shooter
Android 4.4 KitKat with a new TouchWiz (Android 5.0 Rolling out now)
Removable 2,600 mAh battery
Infrared Sensor for remote
A few major things you’ll notice are the design, the camera, and of course the processor. The HTC One M9 is powered by the latest 8-core processor with 3GB of RAM, a great camera, awesome dual front speakers, and a bigger battery to finally compete with Samsung, Apple, and the others. The Snapdragon 810 actually has a powerful 2.3 GHz quad-core for heavy tasks, and a battery-friendly 1.2 GHz quad-core for smaller tasks like browsing the web. They work together for the best performance/battery life possible.
Obviously numbers aren’t everything and both of these devices will perform great, but if you’re debating which to buy or want to upgrade, the hard numbers are above.
While we briefly mentioned this above, another thing many buyers consider when purchasing a smartphone is in regards to the camera. The HTC One M8 sort of failed last year with the Duo Camera, but had some neat software tricks. The HTC One M9 now has a 20.7 megapixel rear camera, and the 4 Ultrapixel rear camera last year is now on the front for better selfies and group photos.
This is much better than last year, and should be much better than the Galaxy S4 13 megapixel camera, and don’t even get us started on the front shooter. That said, our initial impressions are average at best, but should be good enough for most average buyers. The Galaxy S4 was good in 2013, but these days users want more, and HTC delivers. Add in the HTC Eye software tweaks, and the HTC One M9 should produce great photos for any user. The Galaxy S4 is no slouch, but it is getting a little old.
At the moment software is a bit of a toss up, not to mention this comes down to personal preference. Some love stock Android like the Nexus 6, others enjoy Samsung’s TouchWiz, and some are huge fans of HTC Sense UI. Personally I’m not the biggest fan of HTC Sense, but with Android 5.0 Lollipop and Sense 7 on the HTC One M9, things are finally looking a little better. It’s still radically different from stock Android, but they’ve cleaned everything up, improved performance, and added a powerful new HTC Theme tool allowing users to change the entire look and feel in seconds. This includes colors, icons, font and more.
The HTC One M9 even lets you snap a photo and use it as a background, and the theme engine will pull colors for that and integrate it into your devices software. Making the entire device feel personal unlike any prior HTC device. It’s a nice touch, but certainly not for everyone.
Our Galaxy S4 is still on Android 4.4 KitKat, and eventually it will see Android 5.0 Lollipop. However, this may be one of its last updates considering its age. There are a lot of new features, improved notifications, a better lockscreen and more. All of this is already on the HTC One M9, and are available now or coming soon to the Galaxy S4.
With the HTC One M9 being two years newer, it may get an additional year or so of support from HTC in terms of software updates 12-18 months down the road. This may be one reason to upgrade, not to mention everything else mentioned above. Overall Android 5.0 Lollipop makes both these devices extremely fast and fluid, even if it has a few bugs Google’s working to fix, so it all comes down to personal preference, or if Samsung fans want to try something different and go with HTC in 2015.
The Galaxy S4 is still a good phone, and Lollipop should make it even better, but don’t expect much more in terms of software updates for the old and aging smartphone.
In closing, we’re not really sure what to think here. On one side we don’t see enough improvement with the One M9 over last year to make it a worthy device. At the same time, it’s a stunning looking phone, has neat new software features, a better camera, and the latest version of Android. It may not be a huge increase over last years One M8, but it certainly will have more to offer those with a Galaxy S4. If you’ve had the S4 for two years, you’ll love the One M9.
The Galaxy S4 is still a good phone that will run great for another year or so, but with one advantage going to the HTC One M9 for simply being much newer, and getting support and updates longer. Those looking to upgrade from a Galaxy S4 will certainly love the HTC One M9, but coming from a Galaxy S5 won’t get buyers as much as they were probably hoping for.
Are you sold on the HTC One M9 even though it looks similar to last year, or possibly waiting for the Galaxy Note 5? All said and done users will probably want to head into a Best Buy or carrier store soon and give the HTC One M9 a try themselves before buying it. This phone is excellent, but get your hands on it before you make a decision.