Let me get the HTC One out of the way first.
HTC One is a great phone – infact it has everything right which all other manufacturers flounder upon. Great aluminium unibody design, fantastic CPU, an awesome custom Android skin, 1080p display, front facing dual speakers – and – the UltraPixel camera – which is THE correct step forward. However, it gets beaten hands down at two places – small battery and steep price in India. The battery is a small’ish 2300 mAh (see below why I call it small’ish) and cost ~= INR 43k (By contrast, SGS3 is INR 30k). The unibody design kills any scope of battery extension. (I handle my devices very carefully. They generally happen to remain intact even at 2+ years – but battery slowly caves in. If the battery is extensible, it gives the device almost another year to live.)
Hence – HTC One (though a super lovely phone) – is out of the race.
I will compare these two devices on the factors which I value the most. I have derived these factors from my daily usage – which generally happens something like this…
- Morning 8:30 AM to 10 AM 3G browsing (travelling, constant screen on)
- 3G data for sync (at times wifi) till 6:30 PM
- 10-20 calls of average 3 minutes each
- Light browsing and emails on 3G
- Evening 6:30 PM to 8 PM 3G browsing (travelling, constant screen on)
- About 15 minutes of gameplay during the day
- Rarely watch movies (~= 2 per month)
- Heavy browsing, gameplay, apps usage from 9PM to 11 PM on wifi
- Overnight data sync on wifi
Disclaimer : I recently owned a Note 2 for a couple of weeks. The comparisons done below are heavily drawn from that usage.
- The S Pen
- If you haven’t used the S Pen – you won’t miss it. BUT once you have gotten used to it, the ability to whip out the S Pen and tuck it back within the phone as and when you need it – is a feeling which just can’t be beaten. Being able to scribble your thoughts on the device is so much more easier and thought provoking than typing on any notes app. Free flow of line diagrams, doing quick calculations, etc give you such a feeling as if you are using a white board.
- S4 completely misses this point. Note 2 is the winner here. Exactly for this reason, LG Optimus G Pro is out too. If I need to carry such a big phone – it has to have a stylus
- I have trolled this thought so much now that I have watched almost every SGS4 review on Youtube which was uploaded in last 1 month. Here is my take on the situation… India is going to get the Octa core version of SGS4. In this model, the super powerful A15 quad will do the heavy lifting while the very power efficient A7 quad would do the mundane tasks like syncing data, running simple apps, etc. This big.LITTLE architecture from ARM is expected to make the same battery last upto 20% longer. The Note 2 has 3100mAh battery. When I had the Note 2 for a couple of weeks – I used to reach home with about 40-50% battery left. I am assuming that on a more heavy workload, this could go down to 15-20%. By that calculation, I roughly need about 2500 mAh battery in a day (which will still leave me with a comfortable 20% when I reach home). The, SGS4 effectively seems to have about 3120 mAh (20% extra on 2600 mAh because of bigLITTLE architecture) – which seems just right.
- Hence both Note 2 and SGS4 seem to be pretty neck to neck on battery consumption for my daily workload
- Screen resolution & size
- SGS4 has got a beautiful & crisp 1080p Super Amoled display while the Note 2 has an equally beautiful (& big) 720p display. I think jumping from my Galaxy S1’s 480×800 display – both new devices are fantastic. The difference from S1 to either of SGS4 and Note 2 is so huge that whichever device I pickup – its going to look super nice. Though having a 1080p display beats any other resolution
- However – in my everyday usage, I rarely come across content that is 1080p. I am yet to watch a 1080p youtube video on my laptop (the reason is a blog post for another day). So – consuming 720p content on a 1080p display… hmm.
- I don’t have a perfect eyesight. I need spectacles to focus & clearly see things which are far off. I like the text big when trying to read it (specially on a small device like a phone) – I just feel comfortable with that size. So with this perspective, the Note 2’s screen is just perfect. Its big & has lesser resolution than the SGS4 screen – making text look larger. And since its a physically bigger screen – it shows almost the same content as the SGS4 screen (like on a browser).
- I have not yet held an SGS4 in my hands (because its not yet released in India) – but typing on the Note 2’s keyboard was a flawless experience. It was big enough & wide enough for the key taps to happen at just the right places. And even with an extra row of numbers on the top of keyboard – there was still enough space left on the screen to look at what you are typing into.
- Moreover, when using the S Pen, Note 2 never felt like a cramped place.
- Note 2 fits well in my hands and my pocket. Thought – its not intended for a single handed usage.
- In India – SGS4 is going to launch at about INR 45k while Note 2 is running at about INR 32k. That’s a steep INR 13k difference. Imagine how many more accessories I can by with this extra INR 13k. I anyways will need to buy a INR 0.5k worth screen guard and a INR 1k worth flip cover – whatever be the device selection.
- Note 2 clearly has the price advantage here.
- The year of Quads (& Octa)
- Jumping from a single core SGS 1 to a quad core Note 2 was a big difference. It was a similar shift as was going from 480×800 to 720p resolution – as was going from 1500 mAh to 3200 mAh battery. The speed is more than good enough. Whatever an Octa core do – Quad core can do just well – well enough for me not to notice any difference. Anyways I don’t play that many games – so GPU performance is not a question here. I just want to be ready enough for Key Lime Pie – which is expected to be built for the quads.
- Hardware sensors + IR blaster
- SGS4 is full of gimmicky sensors which I am any ways going to turn off. I have no intention of controlling the page scroll by waving my hands across the screen. Why not just use the screen itself? I consider this an absolute waste of battery. Even when I had the Note 2 earlier – I used to switched off all the sensors.
- IR Blaster – though is a nice to have – but really? Think about it for a minute. When I am watching the TV, in 90% of the cases, my wife controls the remote – and almost 50% of the times its the dinner time. Do I really want to use my phone to switch channels when my hands are all greasy? I also have apprehensions on weather the IR blaster software included in SGS4 will work with Airtel IP TV.
- Camera : 13 MP vs 8 MP
- Let me cut though the chase here. I own a DSLR. Whatever photography I do – is with the DSLR. The mobile camera is just to capture some spur of the moment shots – for which 8 MP is more than enough. If I look at my gallery, 60% of my shots are white-board captures. Who needs a 13 MP to capture these white boards!
- Moreover, besides the jump in MP – whatever the SGS4 is touting – can be easily done with Note 2 via software improvements.
- I am yet to do a beauty shot with any of my phones – which is good enough to be used as my wallpaper. I do tons of such shots with my DSLR.
SGS 4 is a fantastic device – has tons of new hardware upgrades which any mobile junkie would want to get hands on. But at the same time, it has a steep price as well. In comparison, the Note 2 is an equally well built & battle tested device (with my own approval stamp on it). I consider the Note 2 as the best executed device Samsung ever launched till date (ofcourse, India is yet to experience the SGS 4 in flesh). Its hardware & software comes together so well that it was my first mobile device for which I had no intentions of replacing/disabling the OEM’s OS modifications. I used to love – how pulling out the S Pen pops up the note taking app in popup mode & turns it off the moment you put the S Pen back in. LOVELY.
The question then boils down to – do I really need the latest & greatest of the hardware spec (which is anyways going to be outdated in 6 months)? – or do I need to find a fast & good enough device for my usage needs? …& save INR 13k in the process.
I am going to buy the Note 2 & skip the SGS 4.
Update : 13 May 2013
After playing with the S4 in Samsung shops, I realized that the phone was constantly overheating. I have made a short video describing the problem.
Share your feedback on what do you think about Note 2 vs S4