Final update on 6/22/2012
For years, we’ve compared nearly every new smartphone to the iPhone. Even today, it remains the best-selling phone of them all. Times are changing though. Excitement over Android handsets has always been scattered, but right now, everyone keeps asking me the same question: Should I get the One X (or the EVO 4G LTE) or the Samsung Galaxy S3? For the first time, we’re seeing excitement for new Android handsets begin to rival the iPhone — at least more than ever before. The Galaxy S3 is actually the first smartphone to launch on all four major carriers (and US Cellular).
So which should you buy? Samsung and HTC are clearly attempting to duke it out. These handsets are nearly identical in many ways, but if you’re going to lay down cash for a top phone, you want the best. And so we bring you our guide to picking which handset is better for you: the HTC One X (known as the EVO 4G LTE on Sprint or the Samsung Galaxy S3.
One X vs EVO 4G LTE
There are few differences between these two phones and they are both on different carriers: The One X is on AT&T and the EVO 4G LTE is on Sprint. We will say that in almost every small way, the EVO outshines the One X. It has the same Super LCD screen, comes with a cool kickstand, has physical camera shutter button, has a slot for a microSD card (though the One X has twice as much internal storage at 32GB), and the EVO has a slightly larger battery at 2,000mAh, compared to the 1,800mAh battery in the One X. However, in the rest of the article we will treat this as an HTC vs Samsung battle. If only one of the two HTC phones is better, we will point that out.
Winner: EVO 4G LTE
Design and construction
A good looking phone to you may not be a good looking phone to me. Choosing a phone based solely on its design is a personal choice. We can make a couple observations though. Both HTC and Samsung have chosen to build their phones out of plastic, but while Samsung has gone its traditional route, creating a phone with a very typical shiny plastic-like feel to it, HTC stepped it up a notch and wrapped the One X in a polycarbonate unibody that is finely tailored to have a great, solid feel. The benefits of polycarbonate are many: it is much more durable than traditional plastic, handles the elements better, and because the One X uses it, that white design isn’t paint, so if you chip the phone or scratch it (it’s harder to scratch), the entire shell is white underneath — there’s no paint to scratch off. The HTC One X screen also bends a bit over the edges.
The Galaxy S3 also uses polycarbonate, which is good, but has a more traditional, layered design to it. It’s still one of the better looking phones out there, but its shiny white design picks up fingerprints and it just doesn’t look as premium as the One X. To be fair, the design of the EVO 4G LTE isn’t exactly mind blowing either. It’s shell is half-shiny plastic and half aluminum with a black matte finish and red stripe that pulls out as a kickstand
Winner: One X
Feel is another subjective category. We will say that all three of these phones are absolutely huge, and probably too large for a lot of phone buyers. The EVO 4G LTE and One X are both fairly comfortable, though we prefer the One X by a hair due to the shape of its sides, which bend inward toward the screen to help you keep a better grip on the phone. Both the One X and EVO 4G LTE have a power button on the top right (port) of the phone and a long volume toggle on the ride side. The Galaxy S3 is curvier than either of the HTC designs, and had a feel that was reminiscent of the Galaxy Nexus, which I like. The power button is on the right side of the phone (toward the top) and the volume toggle is on the left side, but it’s shorter and located about two-thirds of the way up the side. Having the power and volume buttons separated like this feels more comfortable for me, but if you’re someone with smaller hands (again, don’t buy any of these phones), then you might have trouble reaching that far.
Though Android 4.0 doesn’t require physical navigation buttons (see: Galaxy Nexus), both HTC and Samsung have chosen to retain them. However, the version of the Galaxy S3 that we tried, also featured an iPhone-like Home button as well, and reversed the multitasking and Back buttons, oddly.
Overall, this category comes down to preference. After a few days, you’ll get used to either phone.
All three of these phones run on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), which is great, but they both look different nonetheless.
HTC’s custom interface is called HTC Sense 4.0 and looks a lot like its previous interfaces, though some of the edges have been smoothed over. All of the core Android 4.0 features are intact, but many of them have been modified to feature more blacks and more customization. As usual, HTC has the most and widest variety of widgets and pre-installed apps, making it a great first smartphone. Both HTC phones have the same interface.
Though the One X and EVO 4G LTE attempt to make Android 4.0 feel more like previous versions of Google’s OS, Samsung has gone a different route, claiming that the Galaxy S3’s version of TouchWiz UI is inspired by “human emotion” and “nature” (why pick just one marketing slogan?). As much as we hate gimmicky stuff, we found the new interface to be extremely pleasant. The unlock screen is animated water, allowing you to swipe across waves to unlock the phone, and the rest of the interface has a relaxing, blue tone to it, filled with new icons and a decidedly pleasant set of water sounds. If you held a gun to my head, I’d probably opt for the vanilla Android experience on the Galaxy Nexus, but Samsung is on to something. The S3 has a fresher look to it that doesn’t tinker around with Android too much (minus some difficulty in making folders and the inclusion of the Menu button). Users can enjoy the new colors and elegance but don’t have to relearn how to use an Android phone either.
Winner: Galaxy S3