HTC One S vs Samsung Galaxy S II

Introduction and Design

On first read the Samsung Galaxy S II is pretty similar to the new HTC One S - both have 4.3” AMOLED displays, dual-core processors, 8MP cameras and the same battery capacity. When you dig deeper, though, the choice is not that hard as there are key differences in software, hardware and design.

The HTC One S has only been on sale for a short while, but you are very likely to be comparing it with the Galaxy S II in the store before making a purchasing decision, despite that it was announced more than a year ago, as it is still one of your best options when it comes to smartphones. Can last year’s Samsung record breaker measure up to HTC’s current upper mid-range echelon? Read on our comparison to find out...


HTC has nailed the design of the One S, with a very thin and compact yet rigid frame, which is made of anodized or oxidized aluminum, depending on the color. The simple plastic construction of the Samsung Galaxy S II pales in comparison, more so since it weighs almost as much as the metal HTC One S.

Not only does HTC’s phone feel more sophisticated in the hand, but it is also more ergonomic with its slightly curved chassis and rounded corners, compared to the black rectangular slab that is the Galaxy S II. The prize for one-handed operation goes to the One S as well, since it is slightly narrower (and taller) than the SGS II, so your thumb can reach almost everywhere on the screen.

We would have given the design round to the HTC One S unanimously, if it wasn’t for one key difference - the thinnest HTC smartphone to date lacks usage flexibility, compared to Samsung’s finest. The HTC One S doesn’t allow you to add more storage than the 16GB which the manufacturer provided from the kindness of their heart, has sealed battery compartment, and only takes micro-SIM cards. The Samsung Galaxy S II? Well, you can pop in a 32GB microSD card for a total of 48GB local storage that is not dependent on the cloud servers, and won’t cost you in data charges. You can also carry a spare battery with you and put your good ol’ regular SIM card in.


The HTC One S has a 4.3” AMOLED screen of Samsung make, like we find on the Galaxy S II, but with a difference in pixel structure- it is done with a PenTile subpixel matrix arrangement, whereas Samsung’s phone offers a regular RGB matrix. The alternative arrangement might make the screen appear pixelated at times, if you are nitpicking, which could very well eliminate the resolution advantage a 540x960 pixels screen has over the 480x800 one on the Galaxy S II.

Still, the PenTile AMOLED on the HTC One S is way brighter than the RGB one on the SGS II, thus better for outdoor usage. The cold colors typical for Samsung’s AMOLED screens only start getting evident at an angle on the One S, whereas the Galaxy S II white appears blueish head-on, compared to a good LCD display.

Both phones exhibit the joyful oversaturated colors typical for Super AMOLEDs, which might look a bit tacky in the interface, but are a godsend when watching movies, along with the practically unlimited contrast ratio and very wide viewing angles.

HTC One S 360-degrees View:

Samsung Galaxy S II 360-degrees View:

Interface and Functionality:

Unlike HTC Sense 4.0, which is made from the onset with Android Ice Cream Sandwich in mind, Samsung’s TouchWiz looks slapped over ICS almost unchanged, and not taking enough advantage of Google’s newest mobile OS UI design changes. Case in point - HTC has left the stock ICS context menu button up right only a thumb move away throughout the default apps in HTC Sense, whereas in TouchWiz you still have to do the contortionist move to press a capacitive context menu key underneath the display.

HTC Sense is also much more polished and uniform than the ragtag TouchWiz that looks and feels like Samsung just pieced together different functionalities with their own color schemes, and called it a day, which, however, can be said for most Android overlays. Moreover, despite the more complex integrated and complex nature of the HTC Sense overlay, it flows as smooth as TouchWiz, powered by the latest 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4.

Both Samsung and HTC have dolled the Android 4.0 on-screen keyboard in the style of their respective UI overlays. The virtual keyboard on the Samsung Galaxy S II is more ergonomic, thanks to the larger space between keys, than the more cramped version on the HTC One S. The difference is akin to typing on a laptop with an island-style keyboard, and on one before the chiclet style came into fashion. The keyboard on the One S is a bit more functional, though, with an arrow keys row on by default, and a one-touch access to changing the input language.


Samsung’s own 1.2GHz dual-core Exynos processor that handles the Galaxy S II operation is slightly less powerful than the 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4, especially in the graphics department, but overall both phones won’t give you trouble running anything Android can throw at them. We got 4039 on Quadrant from the Galaxy S II, versus 5136 from the One S; 6115 vs 7015 on AnTuTu and 50.4fps versus 60.3fps on NenaMark 2 crunched by the One S. Overall, not a large difference, which can actually be attributed to the higher processor clock speeds of the One S.

Internet and Connectivity:

The browser of the HTC One S is also more functional than on Samsung’s phone, thanks to some interface touches in Sense 4.0. The Taiwanese have added a bottom navigational strip, which appears when you try to scroll up. It allows you to quickly save the page for reviewing later or access the browser tabs.  You can also turn Adobe Flash on and off directly from the context menu button in the HTC One S in the browser. When you scroll down, both browsers behave the ICS way, and hide any of their UI elements, leaving you with a full screen view.

The One S has a text reflow that kicks in automatically at every zoom level, unlike the one on the Samsung's handset, but it slows down rendering significantly compared to the smoother experience on the Galaxy S II.

The phones are almost neck and neck in connectivity options, since they both have the full suite but NFC, with HTC One S slightly ahead with 42Mbps HSDPA download speeds versus the 21Mbps radio on the SGS II.


The HTC One S sports a very rich camera interface with plenty of shooting modes, tweaks and effects you can apply over to your photos and videos. The Samsung Galaxy S II is no slouch in that respect either, offering panorama and macro modes, as well as many effects too, but the choice coming with the HTC's proprietary ImageChip technology is richer, and the interface is more ergonomic to use. The One S has the camera and video shutter keys on one screen, so you can immediately start filming after a shot. The brighter screen also helps in framing a shot well.

The pics from the 8MP cameras on both turned out very good, with the One S oversaturating the colors, whereas the ones from the Galaxy S II were slightly colder than reality, and the truth somewhere in the middle. The handsets make sharp looking photos with good white balance and plenty of detail. They manage fine even in tricky lighting situations, like when the sun shines directly at the lens, with the One S having a slight edge in these circumstances. Where the Galaxy S II does better in auto mode are artificial and low light shots, where its pics come out slightly sharper, while on the One S you have to pick the low light mode from the menu to achieve the same result.

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Overall, the pictures from the HTC One S are more pleasant to look at with their vivid, saturated colors than the more accurate, but colder images from the Samsung Galaxy S II. HTC's handset has one big advantage in terms of camera, though – it takes less than a second to focus and take a shot, and its burst mode is a sight to behold, whereas the Galaxy S II camera feels like a last year endeavor compared to the new sub-second speeds we have in the HTC One series, the iPhone 4S or the Xperia S, for example.

Both handsets shoot 1080p video with 30fps, which runs fluid and without frame skippings or unpleasant artifacts, and with a good level of detail. The video from the One S exhibits the same high contrast and saturated colors as the stills, while the one made with the Galaxy S II is more plain looking in comparison, but overall you can't complain from the footage created by both phones.

HTC One S Sample Video:

Samsung Galaxy S II Sample Video:

HTC One S Indoor Sample Video:

Samsung Galaxy S II Indoor Sample VIdeo:


The music player on the Galaxy S II is more functional than the one on the One S due to the number of equalizer presets it offers and the mock 5.1 channel surround sound mode. The One S has Beats Audio, which improves the sound with the suitable high-quality pair of headphones, but you could probably achieve a similar result playing around with the Galaxy S II equalizers. The loudspeaker on the Galaxy S II is on par with the One S unit - both are nothing really spectacular, but do the job in terms of strength and sound clarity for phone rings and the occasional call on speaker.


Both handsets have pretty useful video players that won’t make you resort to the application store, since they support DivX/Xvid by default, and allow for brightness adjustments, subtitle support and basic video trimming directly from their interfaces. With the Galaxy S II you can also set the color tone, though, which might come useful when watching movies.


The HTC One S has a slight edge in call quality, since voices sound a bit louder and cleaner in its earpiece, though noise-canceling works like a charm for filtering out the surrounding audio for the other end on both handsets.

The 1650mAh battery units on the Galaxy S II and the One S get more mileage from Samsung’s phone, as it is quoted for 9 hours of talk time in 3G mode, compared to 7 hours for HTC’s handset. Still, both handsets will take you through the daily cycle with average use, but you can quickly swap the battery on the Galaxy S II the next day, whereas the HTC handset has to be plugged in due to its non-removable piece.


The HTC One S is the more sophisticated handset out of the comparison with the Galaxy S II. It has the better design, faster camera and processor, and Sense 4.0 is much better woven into Android ICS than TouchWiz.

The Samsung Galaxy S II compensates very well with its removable battery and regular SIM slot, as well as the expandable storage it offers. For a lot of people this added flexibility will make it the better handset, despite that the HTC One S excelling in almost every other department.

As far as pricing goes, both handsets cost roughly the same now. Granted, we are on the verge of the next Samsung Galaxy S version launch, which might see discounts in the S II price, but the HTC One S tag will only be heading downwards from here as well.

Samsung HTC One S vs Samsung Galaxy S II Video Comparison:

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