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Samsung Galaxy S3 vs HTC One X vs Apple iPhone 4S

Open the gates, unleash the titans, we’re going to pit flagship versus flagship in this epic battle. Gladiatorial references aside however, we’re going to take a look two of the most powerful Android devices on the market right now and add Apple’s flag bearer into the mix to see how they fair against each other.

Samsung Galaxy S3 VS HTC One X VS iPhone 4S: Overview

First let us set the scene. Apple’s iPhone 4S was the first to enter the market in October 2011 setting the interwebs ablaze with a better camera than ever before, dual-core processor and of course the ‘virtual assistant’ Siri.

Roll on to Mobile World Congress in February and HTC is pulling the wraps of the new HTC One series,  in amidst all this, the first quad-core smartphone was on display. The NVIDIA Tegra 3- powered HTC One X.

Where MWC did disappoint was at Samsung’s booth,with the absence of a particular flagship. We had to wait until May when Samsung’s Unpacked event in London played host to thousands of expectant journalists and fans. The Samsung Galaxy S3 arrived complete with an HD Super AMOLED display, Android ICS and took its place as the second quad-core smartphone on the scene.

So know you know how this encounter came to be, let’s take a look at the combatants in more detail.

Samsung S3, Apple iPhone 4S and HTC One X

Samsung Galaxy S3 VS HTC One X VS Apple iPhone 4S: Design

To inspect the design elements of the Apple iPhone 4S is to inspect the design elements of the iPhone 4; aside from a slight antenna redesign the proportions remain unchanged. The smallest of the three, the combination of glass on the front and back sandwiching the band of stainless steel which makes up the various antennas of the phone has been compared to “a beautiful old Leica camera” by one Mr Steve Jobs.

As minimalist as the 4S’s design may be, the sharp edges can be uncomfortable to hold, while the glass protrudes front and back protrude and open to scratches. Drop the device without a case and there’s little hope of you retrieving it unscathed (as so many 4 and 4S users can attest to).

The HTC One X is a refreshing take on a classic HTC design, with a polycarbonate unibody that uses a mix of textured and matt surface finishes (which look particularly good in white) paired with Gorilla Glass display that curves downwards into the lines of the bodywork. As with the iPhone, hardware controls are sparse with lock key on top and a volume rocker on the right side. The only other controls are three capacitive keys which sit below the display; a back key and task switcher key which sit either side of the home key.

The smooth bodywork feels great in the hand but runs the risk of slipping without a firm grip and the large body size may make it uncomfortable to hold for some users. 

Yesterday’s launch event not only gave us some pretty slides to look at, but an actual device to test drive. The S3 is a slim device which Samsung says is “inspired by nature” comparing the curved elements of the bodywork to that of a pebble or a leaf. Despite the huge display, the thin bezel means that it feels no larger that the HTC One X.

Of the three devices the S3’s button/hardware layout is functional, but doesn’t feel as considered aesthetically. The body itself is manufactured using a process which Samsung has dubbed ‘hyperglaze’. The blue variant (there is also a white one), offers the look of brushed metal, but effectively laminated under a layer of slightly flexible clear plastic, as if a case has been integrated into the bodywork. The result of this process does give the S3 a slightly cheaper feel, but the rubbery plastic top layer provides superb grip, essential on a device of this size.

Samsung Galaxy S3 VS HTC One X VS Apple iPhone 4S: Screen

The Apple iPhone 4S has the smallest screen of our three, at 3.7-inches with a resolution of 960×640 and 326 ppi, The HTC One X has a 4.7-inch screen with a resolution of 1280×720. The S3 offers up a vast 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display, with a resolution of 1280×720 and a pixel density of 306ppi, the S3’s display looks pretty sharp, but we were hoping for a non-pentile panel (for a greater explanation of the screen technologies, check out our article here), which would have been crisper and sharper.

When you place the S3 side by side with the One X and 4S, you can see that the AMOLED still falls prey to the same shortcomings of its processors. Probably in an attempt to conserve power, the S3’s AMOLED struggles to counter its opponents when displaying a white screen at full brightness. The HTC One X and Apple iPhone 4S offer brighter punchier images and avoid the blue tinge, noticeable on AMOLED, especially at more extreme viewing angles. The HTC One X offers on of the most beautiful displays we’ve seen overall, with bright vivid colours and pin sharp definition. 

We had limited time with the S3 at the launch to perform a detailed comparison, so we’ll update this section when we get a working sample.

Samsung Galaxy S3 VS HTC One X VS Apple iPhone 4S: UI

iOS on the iPhone 4S offers the cleanest interface with the main homescreen directly populated with either apps or folders of apps. There are no sub-menus to scroll through and everything is easy to find with a swipe left to Spotlight search. The notifications panel is more or less a lift from Android, offering the latest updates from social and messaging feeds with a swipe down from the top of the display.

Android may not look as consistently clean as iOS, but it offers far more in the way of flexibility and customisability. Alongside pinning apps to the numerous homescreens, Ice Cream Sandwich on both the HTC One X and the Galaxy S3 includes functionality for widgets and resizable widgets. 

HTC Sense 4.0 offers a less intrusive example of an Android overlay, with natural elements of stock Ice Cream Sandwich shining through. Meanwhile the Galaxy S3’s new Nature UX TouchWiz launcher alters the experience more heavily. It feels like a natural progression from the Samsung Galaxy S2’s TouchWiz 4.0 UI, offering more fluid transitions, faster smoother animation graphics and more functionality, something we hope to test out in full down the line.

Samsung Galaxy S3 VS HTC One X VS Apple iPhone 4S: Camera

At the launch of the HTC One X, HTC went to great lengths to emphasise the the potential of the camera quality and in our smartphone camera test, the 8-megapixel shooter on the One X proved its worth, beating the iPhone 4S (and a number of other devices) at the photography game. That being said the 4S also offers excellent 8-megapixel stills too, although in our tests it wasn’t quite as versatile as the One X.

We haven’t had a chance to put the Samsung Galaxy S3’s 8-megapixel camera to the test, but first impressions show promise. In the awkward lighting conditions of the launch event, the camera copes well and produced sharp images in low light and high contrast situations with good colour reproduction. We’re hoping to really put the unit through its paces and try some of the more exciting features like HDR photography, once we get our hands on a review sample.

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs HTC One X vs Apple iPhone 4S: Connectivity

All three devices offer near equal levels of connectivity, with mobile data speeds of up to 21Mbps on both the S3 and One X and up to 14.4Mbps on the iPhone 4S. Of course there’s also Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, DLNA streaming functionality on the droids and AirPlay on the iPhone, and that’s just for starters.

Each device can be charged using a conventional cable, but the S3 is the only one with inbuilt wireless charging capabilities, (when paired with the compatible charger).

Samsung Galaxy S3 VS HTC One X VS Apple iPhone 4S: Performance

You might think it unfair to pit the Galaxy S3 and the One X, which both bring quad-core processors to the table, against the iPhone 4S’s 1GHz dual-core A5 chip, but in the battle of flagship against flagship, the iPhone can still competently hold its ground. Of course artificial benchmarking may shun the 4S, but the interface and apps, including high quality 3D games are so well optimised that the user experience is near enough on par with that of the quad-core giants. We’ll find out more when we put the three phones through some real-life tests.

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs HTC One X vs Apple iPhone 4S: Conclusion

At this stage it’s tough to discern which of these devices really pulls out all the stop to impress users and offer the best overall experience. iPhone 4S owners shouldn’t feel too threatened by the onset of quad-core smartphones as although by Apple standards, the 4S is looking a little long in the tooth, it still offers a premium smartphone experience, fitting of a flagship device and the services surrounding iOS, such as iCloud, iTunes and AirPlay create a strong infrastructure with which the 4S can utilise.

The HTC One X may have made headlines by being the first quad-core smartphone on the scene, but Samsung clearly designed the Galaxy S3 with the primary intention of trumping the One X in every field, how successfully it has achieved this has yet to be established. Of course, Apple has yet to introduce its new 2012 flagship, which could really shake things up even more.

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