Samsung Galaxy S3 vs HTC One X

With the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X generally available to South African users it’s time to pit this year’s Android powerhouses against one another. Will Samsung or HTC win the 2012 battle of the Android superphones?

The HTC One X is only available on MTN contracts for the moment, with Cell C saying that they will launch the device on 20 June 2012.

Vodacom doesn’t have a firm launch date, but it is understood that they’re working with an indicative launch of mid-July.

Both MTN and Vodacom are offering the Samsung Galaxy S3 on contracts, will Cell C set to be offering them “soon”.

Cell C previously said it would offer the Galaxy S3 from 15 June 2012, but calls to some of their stores around Gauteng indicated that they didn’t have any available at the time of writing.

Without further ado, here’s the scorecard:

Scorecard: HTC One X vs Samsung Galaxy S3
Element HTC One X Samsung Galaxy S3
Design
Button layout 0 1
Physical buttons 1 0
Aesthetics 1 0
Hardware
Benchmarks 1 0
Display 1 0
Storage 0 1
Cameras 1 1
Battery life 1 1
Beats Audio 1 0
Removable battery 0 1
Software
UX customisation 1 0.5
Keyboard 1 0
Custom theme/app hubs 1 1
Custom video content hub 0 1
Tegra Zone 1 0
Bundled third-party apps 1 0
Voice interface (S Voice) 0 1
Eye-tracking (Smart Stay) 0 1
Motion gestures 0 1
Extras
Free Dropbox storage 0.5 1
Price 1 0
Totals 13.5 11.5

Design

When it comes to industrial design, the HTC takes home the crown this year.

Samsung and HTC have both stuck to their guns when it comes to general button layout and Samsung’s just seems more sensible.

Whether holding the Samsung Galaxy S3 in the left or the right hand, the power button and volume rocker sit right under your thumb or forefinger. The HTC One X, on the other hand, requires that you reach around the top of the device to unlock it.

The HTC One X does better with its choice of hardware buttons and overall aesthetic, however.

While the Samsung Galaxy S3 looks and feels plasticky, the HTC One X comes across as more solid and refined.

HTC has also opted for a “Recents” hardware button rather than the “Menu” button Samsung opted for. This is in line with Google’s new direction for Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” (ICS), though some apps don’t properly support it yet.

It would have been better if both devices had followed in the footsteps of the Galaxy Nexus and used the software buttons now supported in ICS instead of the three hardware buttons on the front face.

HTC One X front and back
HTC One X front and back

Hardware

The HTC One X comes out on top in a hardware comparison as well, trouncing the Samsung Galaxy S3 in both AnTuTu and Smartbench.

In our benchmarks the HTC One X scored 10,607 on average in AnTuTu, while the Samsung Galaxy S3 got 8,864.

Smartbench was just as unfriendly to Samsung’s system-on-chip, with the One X scoring 4,771 and the Galaxy S3 2,936.

Although the cameras of the two devices are scored equally, they aren’t the same by any stretch.

While the Samsung Galaxy S3 arguably takes better quality photos than the One X, HTC’s camera software is more user friendly. Among other things, it lets you record video without switching between still and video mode.

The preview image displayed on the HTC One X was a little disappointing, however. In low light it is very grainy. Fortunately images turn out far better than the preview seems to suggest.

Neither battery seemed to stand out either. Although the Samsung Galaxy S3 includes a monstrous 2,100mAh battery this didn’t seem to translate into longer times between charges compared to the HTC One X.

Where the S3’s battery does stand out, however, is in the fact that it’s removable.

2012 Superphone comparison - Samsung Galaxy S3 vs HTC One X vs Galaxy Nexus vs iPhone 4S
Display comparison (from left to right): Samsung Galaxy S3, HTC One X, Galaxy Nexus vs iPhone 4S

Display

While the HTC One X boasts a large 4.7-inch Super LCD screen, Samsung has decided for a slightly larger 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display.

The choice of Super AMOLED over the Super AMOLED+ screen of the Galaxy S3’s predecessor was a contentious one.

Close examination reveals that the colour reproduction on the HTC One X is better and that text and images are crisper.

Since both displays run at a resolution of 720×1280, HTC therefore offers the better screen of the two devices.

That said, the differences between the two screens are hardly noticeable to the human eye.

Samsung Galaxy S3 front and back
Samsung Galaxy S3 front and back

Software

One category where Samsung does win out over the HTC One X is in its software offering, mainly through the pure volume of features.

Where the HTC One X offers a number of bundled apps and services such as Soundhound, and Facebook and Twitter for Sense, the Samsung Galaxy S3 includes S Voice, Smart Stay, and various gesture-based features such as Smart Alert.

Both devices offer their own set of hubs and content not available to the other. In particular, Samsung offers a video purchasing and rental service called Video Hub.

For input, Samsung offers a keyboard very similar to the stock Android keyboard, while HTC’s keyboard remained largely unchanged from its previous devices.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X keyboards both include swipe-based typing, but here Samsung’s implementation falls short.

Neither Swype-inspired keyboard is bug-free, but Samsung’s simply doesn’t work in certain apps. Sometimes it even stops working in apps it previously worked in.

Free Dropbox storage

While it should be noted that not all operators offer free Dropbox storage with a Samsung Galaxy S3, the one we reviewed did include 50GB free storage for 2 years.

The HTC One X also includes free cloud storage, but only half the Dropbox storage of the Galaxy S3.

HTC One X Wi-Fi issues

It would be remiss not to mention the issues being reported with the Wi-Fi on the HTC One X.

Users on the popular XDA Developers forum have reported experiencing poor Wi-Fi signal with the HTC One X which appears to be linked to a flakey internal connection.

HTC haven’t confirmed or refuted the issue, but are quoted as telling Recombu:

HTC is committed to delivering a high quality product and great experience for all of our customers. We investigate all reported issues and if a hardware or software change is found to improve a customer experience, it will be deployed to all applicable devices according to our standard, required processes. We apologise for any inconvenience customers have experienced and appreciate your patience as we work quickly to investigate this issue.

HTC did not respond to our requests for comment on the issue by the time of publication. Neither HTC nor Samsung commented on the type of after-market support their flagship smartphones would enjoy in South Africa.

So what’ll it be?

Whether you prefer the Samsung Galaxy S3 or HTC One X ultimately depends on the weight you assign to the various elements of the smartphones.

Do you want a more ergonomic physical button layout, better handling of internal storage and microSD support, removable battery, and a host of Samsung-specific features?

Or do you want a good looking unibody device with powerful internals that favours the Android ICS button scheme at a lower price?

Although Samsung’s Smart* features are great, to me, power, beauty, and The ICS Way at a lower price outweigh them, even at the risk of a trip to the HTC repair centre if the Wi-Fi conks out.

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Samsung Galaxy S3 vs HTC One X