The Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9 offer the best hardware experience available from Google's Android platform. They rival the Apple iPhone 6 in design, materials, quality, and features. Both phones are tempting in their own right, but each has clear advantages over the other. Here's a primer covering the pros and cons of these attractive and powerful new smartphones.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the saying goes, but Samsung and HTC both crafted fine handsets in the Galaxy S6 and One M9. Each relies on a mix of high-quality metal and glass components that are assembled to create classy, premium phones. The GS6 has a metallic band that is sandwiched between two glass panels. The M9 is mostly aluminum and uses glass only for the screen. The GS6 is significantly lighter and also slightly smaller than the M9. Both devices have sealed batteries, but only the M9 has a memory expansion slot.
The smartphones are mostly on even footing here, but the M9 has one distinct advantage: Uh Oh Protection. HTC is offering one free replacement M9 to people who break the phone in the first 12 months of ownership. Samsung's dual-glass device doesn't offer that type of insurance.
The GS6 has a 5.1-inch quad HD (2,560 x 1,440) Super AMOLED display. The M9 has a 5.0-inch full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LCD screen. HTC's screen delivers more accurate color, but Samsung's is larger, much brighter, and far sharper. They each have about the same outdoor visibility and viewing angles, but Samsung wins this one hands down.
This is a case where megapixels simply don't count for a darned thing. Samsung's flagship has a 16-megapixel sensor and HTC's has a 20-megapixel sensor. Samsung's image signal processing abilities are far better, and the GS6 produces a more consistent series of good photographs. HTC prides itself on image quality, but it falls quite flat in this case. The M9's pictures aren't nearly as good as the GS6's, and, in fact, fall far short of most other flagships (Apple iPhone 6, LG G3, etc.). Samsung owns the M9 when it comes to camera quality.
Both phones run Android 5.0 Lollipop at launch, with their respective manufacturer's user-interface overlay. Samsung's TouchWiz and HTC's Sense offer more personalization tools than does stock Android. Which one is better boils down to a matter of personal preference. Each one has its own set of fonts, icons, and graphics that offer dramatically different experiences. HTC's Sense is somewhat more customizable thanks to a variety of themes and accent colors.
Samsung ditched Qualcomm's processors in favor of its own Exynos-branded APs. Samsung is keeping somewhat quiet about the processor. We know it's clocked at 2.1 GHz and offers 64-bit computing, but we don't know how many cores there are, or what their configuration is. The assumption is eight in a big.LITTLE combination of some sort. The M9, on the other hand, has Qualcomm's premiere processor, the Snapdragon 810. The 810 has eight cores clocked at 2.0 GHz. Both phones have 32 GB of storage (base) and 3GB of RAM.
[ Read Samsung and HTC at MWC. ]
HTC's phone has stereo speakers that produce high-quality sound. Samsung's doesn't. HTC's phone is slightly water resistant. Samsung's isn't.
This is an area where the M9 falls a bit flat. First, the GS6 has a fingerprint reader for biometric-based security. The reader can be used to secure the phone or individual apps, folders, and files. Most significantly, it secures Samsung Pay, Samsung's Apple Pay competitor, which is scheduled to launch later this year. Offering mobile payments gives the GS6 a major advantage over the M9.
The GS6 also supports two different wireless charging standards. Wireless charging may not be a killer feature, but it's a convenient one. By supporting two standards, the GS6 can grab a charge from most existing wireless charging pads. The M9 will always need to be plugged into a charger.
The last issue here is enterprise security. Samsung's phone comes with its Knox enterprise security suite, which taps into many of BlackBerry's government-grade protection powers. The GS6 will be an easier phone for IT to manage, and a more secure one.
The phones are both going to be widely available from US carriers on April 10. They have similar price points, and come in several different shades and colors to suit personal taste.
At this point, if I had $650 burning a hole in my pocket, I'd go with the Samsung Galaxy S6 over the HTC One M9.
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