The flagship war is firing up for another year with the likes of Samsung, Sony, HTC, BlackBerry, Apple and Nokia all vying for consumers affection’s (and wallets). In the Android camp, 2013 has already given us the Sony Xperia Z, HTC One and most recently; the Samsung Galaxy S4, but whilst the new Sammy is making headlines, it’s still a little way off hitting store shelves like its most obvious competition.

In the meantime, we’re taking the Korean manufacturer’s next best offering, the most recent iteration of the most successful phone of 2012 in the form of the Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE. So of these three combatants which one of these top-notch droids takes the cake?

Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE VS Sony Xperia Z VS HTC One: Design

Each handset offers a distinctive look and feel, with a blend of plastics, glass and metals on offer to suit different user preferences. The S3 LTE is dominated by plastic which might seem comparatively cheap, but features an elegant design which looks clean and fits nicely in the hand thanks to its smooth rounded aesthetic. We particularly like the addition of the removable back granting access to a removable battery and microSD slot.

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Sony’s Xperia Z debuts the company’s OmniBalance design, which results in an imposing structure of glass and metal. The feel in the hand isn’t as natural with the hard edges and sheer faces, but the design exudes power, legitimately backed up by the excellent hardware under the hood. Although the Z doesn’t feature a removable battery, there’s a microSD slot which is concealed under one of the several rubberised ports which help allow the Xperia Z to feature IP55/57 water and dust resistance.

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Special care and attention was said to be utilised in the design of the HTC One’s backing, which required a special milling tool in order to create such a natural curve to the handset’s back. In truth the all-metal body feels luxurious but surprisingly light and strong. The split lines and panelling break up the form which is a shame compared to the flowing lines of last year’s One series and although feeling premium, it doesn’t leave as much of an impression as the Xperia Z’s aesthetic. What’s more, the lack of removable memory and battery won’t appeal to everyone.

Winner: Sony Xperia Z

Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE VS Sony Xperia Z VS HTC One: Screen

We have examples of the both LCD and AMOLED technology in the ring in this instance with the Galaxy S3 employing a 4.8-inch 720p HD Super AMOLED display, stacking up against the Xperia Z with an LCD-based 5-inch Full HD ‘Reality Display’ and the HTC One with a 4.7-inch Full HD Super LCD3 panel.

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Whilst the 720p AMOLED at work on the S3 promises vivid colours and battery power efficiency, the HTC One’s Super LCD3 tech wins out overall, with amazing colour and contrast balance, accurate whites, a powerful backlight, the highest pixel density of practically any smartphone on the market and the edge over the Xperia Z with regards to viewing angles.

Winner: HTC One

Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE VS Sony Xperia Z VS HTC One: Performance

Specs wise, all three of these devices tote quad-core processors and 2GB of RAM, with the Galaxy S3 using Samsung’s own Exynos 4 chip, clocked at 1.5GHz, the Xperia Z using Qualcomm’s popular Snapdragon S4 Pro chip, also clocked at the 1.5GHz, while the HTC One wins out on paper thanks to its 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 chip.

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All three devices were extremely tightly wound, offering snappy user experiences and able to support heavy duty 3D apps without issue, however the S3 didn’t deliver the same viewing experience as the expansive Xperia Z which in turn didn’t have incredible clarity of the One. The screen resolution naturally accommodates Full HD video playback in its truest form on the latter two handsets, something the S3 LTE couldn’t offer, but on the flip side, with 4G usage being so battery intensive, the S3 outlasted its newer rivals and with the option to swap out the battery, users might prefer the more conservative specs for longer 4G usage.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE

Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE VS Sony Xperia Z VS HTC One: OS

The Galaxy S3 was the first handset to feature Samsung’s TouchWiz Nature UX overlay, which offers a huge amount of variety and customisation. The Jelly Bean experience works well and we particularly like the Mutli window feature which came over from the Galaxy Note 2, but for some the system is too convoluted and overtly complex with bloatware that will seldom be used. Sony’s user experience is by comparison stripped out, featuring a minimalist aesthetic with simple customisation options and a number of widgets, with special mention having to go to the Z’s Small apps: a selection of temporary widgets which can shift above homescreens and come in very useful for quick tasks. Sony continue to push focus on their services, such as Music and Video unlimited, but don’t see the uptake they garner.

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HTC Sense 5 debuts on the One and it’s safe to say, we were blown away by the new experience. In terms of flexibility, Sense 5 offers a perfect balance between the other two handsets respective user experiences. HTC have trimmed the fat on previous iterations of Sense, making it easy and faster to customise and navigate as well as introducing BlinkFeed: a feed aggregator which helps deliver content specifically over a mobile interface in the most efficient way HTC can think of. It’s annoying that BlinkFeed can’t be removed but hiding it works just as well for those who don’t wish to use it.

Winner: HTC One

Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE VS Sony Xperia Z VS HTC One: Camera

Our Olympic-themed camera comparison yielded the Galaxy’s 8-megapixel shooter as a great all-rounder, but against the newer technologies employed by the Z and the One, it couldn’t compete. The Xperia Z has some impressive photographic chops, with a 13-megapixel sensor and the fact that it’s the first handset to sport HDR video.

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The One takes a completely different approach to imaging, dropping the megapixel race altogether and focusing on creating simply better looking shots. The 4.3 UltraPixel camera doesn’t produce images as large as either of the other two handsets, but does an impressive job in achieving pleasing results. What’s more HTC have introduced ZOE photos which offer up now, interesting options for mobile photographers. Where the One’s camera really comes into its own is in the inbuilt editing tools; advanced features like Sequence shot and feature smooth capabilities make it a very compelling camera for mobile shutterbugs.

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Winner: HTC One

Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE VS Sony Xperia Z VS HTC One: Verdict

We have to commend all the devices in the comparison; the Samsung for its longevity, especially considering it’s up against two of the newest flagships in town and Xperia Z for its beautiful design and unique waterproof capabilities, but the HTC One takes the cake for being the brave and trying new things.

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Sense 5 looks and feels amazing, the UltraPixel camera has more features than you can shake a stick at and the display is quite simply the best we’ve ever seen. There’s only one other handset which could shake things up and that’s the Samsung Galaxy S4, but in the meantime, we’re letting the One enjoy its victory.

Winner: HTC One