Samsung Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s vs HTC One (M8) – which phone is best?

iPhone 5s vs HTC One M8 vs Galaxy S5

The release of Samsung’s Galaxy S5, follows hot on the heels of the comparably high profile launches of the iPhone 5s and HTC One (M8).

Each smartphone is so close in terms of speed and the clarity of its display that it’s getting increasingly meaningless to compare them on such terms. Put simply each phone will be faultlessly smooth to use and the screen will be crystal clear.

But there are differences. Battery life and camera quality remain a substantial battleground and, perhaps more importantly, so do the operating systems and the different skins of Android that each handset comes with.

Below we measure up the arms and legs of each phone to find out which one is the best fit for you.

Best Buy smartphones – the latest mobiles rated

Samsung Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s vs HTC One (M8) – video comparison

Samsung Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s vs HTC One (M8) – key comparisons

Operating system – not only is this a case of Android versus Apple iOS, but also a battle of Android skins – with HTC’s Sense 6 and Samsung’s TouchWiz offering a bespoke way to interact with your phone.

The clean interface of iOS 7 makes using the iPhone simplicity itself, but it is more restrictive. You can’t, for example, pick the apps to appear on your home screen with iOS – instead you’ll be stuck with the stocks app… forever. Broadly speaking iOS is best if you’re a smartphone beginner, but this choice really is down to personal taste.

Smile for the camera – smartphone manufacturers are looking to ever more elaborate ways to make-up for the lack of a large aperture lens on their phones. Dedicated camera lenses are built to let in as much light as possible so that every detail is captured, but on a pocket-size phone, that’s simple not an option.

The S5’s 16Mp camera features the highest megapixel count and therefore the largest images in terms of pixels. This means you can crop photos without losing detail. The HTC One (M8) sticks with its predecessor’s UltraPixel system, but also adds a second lens so you can alter the object of focus (though we’ve found this process can take some getting used to). The iPhone 5s also uses larger megapixels at 1.5 microns. This allows for the capture of more light, therefore helping produce brighter images than a small lens camera otherwise might.

We’ve taken a collection of images, with default settings and autofocus applied, so you can spot the differences yourself:

Battery life – if there’s one area where the iPhone 5s struggles it’s battery life. When we last put flagship phones through our battery life test the iPhone 5s came out a little red faced. It simply couldn’t live up to either the HTC One or Galaxy S4, delivering just 11 hours of call time on a full charge.

Given both HTC and Samsung are now claiming even longer lasting battery life in the (M8) and S5 respectively, we’d expect the iPhone to struggle once again. Expect a detailed battery life comparison of all the latest handsets on the Which? Tech Daily blog soon.

Look and feel – there’s currently a trend towards larger handsets as the Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8) attest, and the extra screen space they provide does make watching video and browsing the web a pleasurable experience. The iPhone 5s with it’s 4-inch screen is much easier to use with one hand though, which can be useful when you’re carrying a bag in the other.

The iPhone is surely the most premium-looking of the three phones too, with its smooth metallic finish giving a real ‘wow’ effect. Of the two Android handset the HTC, with its brushed aluminium case is the better finished, with the S5’s plasticy backplate really letting the side down.

A trick or two – all three phones have a trick or two up their sleeves, and it’s these that might sway your buying decision. The iPhone has its reliable fingerprint scanner and the world’s first 64-bit processor. The latter should, and does, provide a smooth experience when opening apps and swiping between screens. But, ultimately, few apps have been designed that truly push the chip so that in practice the iPhone is only ever as quick as the Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8) .

The HTC (M8) meanwhile has, as we’ve seen, its dual-lens UltraPixel camera and also its specially designed BoomSound stereo speakers that music lovers might find handy if they’re stuck without a speakerdock. Finally, the S5 has its own fingerprint scanner and almost military grade resistance to water and dust so that you can use the phone in any weather with confidence.

Which? expert verdict – ‘no clear victor means we’re all winners’

Mike Plant bylineIt’s the ultimate cop-out of course, but the short answer to which phone is best is that there is no clear winner. Each provides a good user experience, with decent battery life and camera performance, plus a whole lot of extras – most of which, from ‘Kids Mode’ to TV remote replacement, you’ll might never access.

I’ve used all three handsets extensively and, at risk of being called an Apple fanboy, still get the most out of the iPhone 5s. I find iOS 7 simpler to use than the Android OS, and there’s no doubting that Apple’s app store is easier to browse than the Google Play store.

Android does have much to commend too of course, especially its customisable homescreens that relay the top line information from your most used apps, such as Twitter, Facebook, email and the weather. However, if I was recommending a phone to a relative smartphone newcomer it would be the iPhone, and its less cluttered interface, that I’d suggest.

The fact I’m splitting hairs, however, just goes to show just how close the latest generation of smartphones is. In fact, I’d have no hesitation in saying that if you can get any of these handsets at a reasonable price, you won’t come away disappointed.
Mike Plant – writer

More on this

Smartphone reviews – the latest mobiles rated
Galaxy S5 first look review – is the S5 the phone for you?
HTC One (M8) first look – watch our hands-on M8 video

Categories: Smartphones

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16 replies

  1. “The clean interface of iOS 7 makes using the iPhone simplicity itself, but it is more restrictive. You can’t, for example, pick the apps to appear on your home screen with iOS – instead you’ll be stuck with the stocks app… forever.”

    Er, that isn’t true. You can reorder apps, move them into folders, and move them onto other home screens entirely. Just tap and hold on any app icon and then drag away.

  2. Hi Julian,

    You can ‘reorder apps, move them into folders, and move them onto other home screens entirely’ but what you can’t do is get rid of pre installed iOS apps from your home screens, like stocks.

    You can hide them away in folders but you can’t delete the folders, so you’re stuck with stocks and other apps you don’t want, like Game Center, forever.


    1. Not at all, it only might be possible if you are using an app that has a license, or has a paid subscription, assuming there is the same app for the other device, also assuming they give you the option.

  3. The key difference, for me, is that with apple phones (and computers for that matter) is that they last for years. They are very well built and reliable, but moreover apple continues to support older products – eg when os7 came out my 4 year old iphone 4 (now owned by my dad) got most of the new features in a very easy and well controlled upgrade. It was like a new phone and he got it for free.

    Can anyone remember what Samsung was peddling 4 years ago? Well guaranteed in 4 years time it will be the same with the S5 which will by then will be junk.

    1. Well said. My 4-year-old iPhone 4 looks and works like new. It’s worth a lot more than a 4-year-old Samsung too. I disliked everything Apple stood for when I bought it, but bought it anyway, mainly because there some good satnav apps available, and now I’m a convert.

      I’ve moved all my unwanted Apple apps into a folder and moved the folder far away from my Home screen. No problem.

      There are some valid arguments against iPhone / in favour of Android. I know Android well but won’t be switching away from Apple any time soon (having swapped my Nexus 7 for an iPad recently).

  4. I do wish you wouldn’t use the word “megapixel” as if it’s a physical object, as in “The iPhone uses larger megapixels”. A megapixel is a million pixels. “The iPhone uses larger pixels” is more correct.
    Anyway regarding the phones, I just find the Samsung and HTC phones too big. They don’t fit comfortably in my hand or in my pocket, whereas the iPhone is perfect. That more than anything is why I have stayed with Apple. There are of course smaller Android phones, but they also tend to have fewer features.

    1. ‘“The iPhone uses larger pixels” is more correct.’
      Unfortunately, this is not even remotely more correct. a pixel is the small unit of red, blue and green lights that when lit in combination, create the image on the display. Megapixel much like Megabyte is a measurement of these individual units. Larger pixels would actually cause poorer image quality as the image would start to appear blocky. If you look at things like pixel density, you will see that higher pixel density on a per-square-inch basis, the higher density will result in smaller pixels (and a smoother image).
      The correct term would probably be more like ‘ The iPhone has a greater megapixel sensor’.
      Still… With the tiny apertures, I’d still rather have a dedicated camera…

    2. Jeff, please don’t comment if you don’t know what you’re talking about. “The iPhone uses larger pixels” is perfectly correct (assuming the report is correct, and as it even quotes their size as1.5 microns, I have no reason to doubt it). Larger pixels doesn’t mean that the pixel density is necessarily lower as there are spaces between them – you can have larger pixels with a greater density if the spaces are smaller. That’s leaving aside your statement that pixels are lights (not in camera sensors they’re not) which light in combination to create the image (they don’t light, as they are not lights). You are thinking of the pixels in the display screen, not the camera sensor. “The iPhone has a greater megapixel sensor” is nonsense.

  5. If you don;t crave the latest everything, you can buy a used Google Nexus 4 on eBay for £120. Get a nice leather protective case, for less than ten pounds and you won’t miss the other phones.

    It’s a bit like buying a car. There are really good cars out there which have some aspect or property which makes them unpopular. When they are sold on, it’s the original buyer who takes the hit and the second owner reaps the benefits.

  6. Nature gave us two hands, why would you prefer to use one? Unless you are doing something else at the same time? ;-). I have a Note II and it fits my hand fine, but then, I am over six foot with bucket hands!

  7. The battle between iPhone and Android is more to do with personal choice than anything else. The iPhone and S5 and HTC One all do a very good job at making calls, receiving texts, surfing the internet, etc. They all have excellent screens and good battery life. So what distinguishes them?

    Apple has its own “bubble world”. As long as your Apple product is communicating with other Apple products then it works perfectly. Androids have a more open approach to communicating with other devices. So…I can mirror my android screen on my Smart TV with no extra software or hardware; with an iPhone you have to splash out £99 for an Apple TV box. My android phone has NFC which allows me to program it by swiping it against a special sticker. Apple does not have this. My android phone can connect to and control other devices; for instance I can connect my camera to it to upload pictures. Apple cannot do this. My android device has expandable memory using a micro SD card (extra 64GB for £16). Apple does not have this and if you wanted more memory you would have to buy an iPhone with the extra memory in it at an exorbitant cost. My android phone charger uses microUSB; Apple of course has its own connector which is not even compatible with previous iPhones let alone anything else. Android has more settings that I can change than iOS has.

    Which? comparisons never look at these aspects of a mobile device. For me android is a much better option.

  8. If you’re simply looking for a ‘stand alone portable communication device’ I don’t think there is a huge amount to choose between any of the premium offerings from Apple, Samsung, HTC, Sony etc. they’ve all got their strong points and weaknesses – its simply a matter of which suits you best at the price you can afford. However, the point which is often overlooked is that if you’re looking for an integrated, properly joined-up solution including a home computer, tablet, music streaming etc. nobody comes close to Apple in making it happen. The others try and all have some elements which commend them but none even come close to the level of intuitive competence you get from Apple – it just works.

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