Believe it or not, early reaction by competitors to Apple releasing the iPhone was laughable. Simply put, most companies did not believe that the Cupertino-based corporation would be all that successful with its venture into the smartphone market. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer essentially wrote off the first-generation iPhone and its high price tag, while BlackBerry executives were reportedly baffled by the iPhone and thought its technology was impossible.
In this capacity, the iPhone was the underdog. It did not have any proven sales numbers, and it was entering into an industry that was then dominated by Finnish handset maker Nokia, long before its Lumia range of smartphones, and enterprise leader Research in Motion, now known as BlackBerry. Fast forward nearly six years, and over 350 million iPhones have been sold to date and the handset is firmly cemented as the number-one selling smartphone in the United States.
With the dominant success of the iPhone, and factoring in the law of large numbers, the pace at which Apple is selling the handset is now beginning to slow down ever so slightly. Samsung, too, is perhaps beginning to feel the effect of being the largest Android smartphone maker, after recording a very strong year in Galaxy S III sales. The successor Galaxy S4 smartphone, although a respectable refresh, has a tough road to reclaim the same fortune as its previous model.
And it doesn’t entirely have to do with what features Apple or Samsung put into their new smartphones. The bottom line is that there is a large segment of consumers that like to be contrarians, naturally choosing a product that perhaps isn’t as mainstream as the rest. A year ago, that used to be the Galaxy S III. Millions upon millions of people have iPhones, but this new GS3 device was something different. But now that the Galaxy is just as much of a household name as iPhone, it’s now the HTC One’s turn to be the underdog.
For good reasons, too. The HTC One has a gorgeous design — most akin to the iPhone, in fact — that is tenfold better than the polycarbonate enclosure on the Galaxy S4. Samsung might argue that its choice of materials keeps the weight down, and allows for a removable battery, but not without the handset looking like it’s some cheap flip phone. The HTC One also packs a large 4.7-inch display with an impressive 468 PPI, 1.7 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon system-on-a-chip processor, 2 GB of RAM, and a new “UltraPixel” high-resolution camera.
When the embargo lifted on the earliest Samsung Galaxy S4 reviews, the first impressions that many had were good, but not great. The Galaxy S4 is a mere extension on the Galaxy S III, similar to what the iPhone 4S was to the iPhone 4 and what the iPhone 3GS was to the iPhone 3G. Most reviews, at some point, mention the HTC One as a worthy phone to look into.
The well-respected Walt Mossberg of All Things Digital said it flat out:
I urge readers looking for a new Android smartphone to carefully consider the more polished-looking, and quite capable, HTC One, rather than defaulting to the latest Samsung.
And not only does the HTC One look better than the Galaxy S4, it performs better too. Per Gizmodo:
The Galaxy S4 has a 1.9GHz Snapdragon 600 processor. The HTC One has the exact same processor, but it’s only clocked to 1.7GHz. So the S4 should be faster, right? Wrong. Despite that fact that the S4 benchmarks better, the HTC One leaves the S4 in the dust in every practical way possible. The One boots up three times faster, navigates the UI quicker, scrolls smoother, opens apps speedier, and most importantly, takes photos with no shutter lag, whereas the Galaxy S4 generally takes about a second to fire off a shot.
There is no guarantee that the HTC One will be a hit among consumers, but it’s arguably the best Android smartphone we’ve seen this year to date. If one thing is for certain, it’s that the smartphone lineup for 2013 — the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, iPhone 5 and others — seriously kicks ass. We haven’t had so many great smartphones to choose from in a very long time, and it will be exciting to see what innovation these companies bring to the table next.