Perhaps one of the most surprising features onboard the Google Play edition SGS4 and HTC One is the new camera UI. This UI was previously leaked as coming with the next version of Android, so it's a bit interesting to see it crop up here in 4.2.2 on these devices. I suspect there was some element of – we're going to have to do tuning and make sure the interface works twice otherwise, so why not just do it now – at play here. 

The fundamental set of features remains largely the same. What's different is there's a new settings menu which works by sliding your finger up through settings panes. Previously the settings switcher was a circular menu, this new one moves up and down through a hierarchy of drill-down settings panes. This can be activated either by long pressing anywhere in the preview or tapping the settings circle. The first level has HDR, manual exposure control, flash settings, and rear/front facing camera switcher. Tapping on Settings gets you into more options with location, countdown timer, color temperature, photo size and scenes. Another new addition is that the volume rocker (up or down) acts like a shutter button. There's also unsurprisingly no way to change the default storage location from internal to the SD card for the SGS4 GPe, as I touched on earlier.

Beyond that nothing is really all that different in this new version of the interface. I still want control over ISO, and I still am dismayed at Google's decision to fit the camera preview to the viewport in their camera application – it's like this bold surreal statement that composition doesn't matter when taking a photograph. For example, the preview is a 16:9 crop of a 4:3 aspect ratio image on the SGS4, it's just a lucky coincidence that the 16:9 preview on the HTC One is accurate since it has a 16:9 aspect ratio sensor. The result is an interface that trades appearance for functionality, and I'm totally dismayed by it. 

Of course, the benefit of the platform including the stock camera application is that you get the ability to shoot PhotoSpheres and 360 Panoramas from the application on both devices.

The big concern with the GPe versions some people had is what happens to image quality. I wasn't too worried about image quality since this is all stuff upstream of the camera application itself and the UI that dictates image quality, and that's still the responsibility of the respective OEMs to tune and get right. The concern is lack of control over the camera thanks to the simplified stock Android camera UI and how much control translates between the two. We've already evaluated and hopefully settled the debate between the two cameras in the respective reviews. This is just a matter of checking to see if there's anything different. 

HTC One GPe: 1/315s, ISO 125

I took pictures on a stock international version HTC One and the HTC One GPe alongside it in normal test scene light, low light, and low light with night mode to check if these three corners of the camera tuning check out. Thankfully, they do line up like expected almost identically. The "Night" scene mode in the settings menu lines up with the 0.3 second, ISO 800 night mode in the stock UI, the rest of the performance produces results in line with the stock version. A big difference is that it seems as though sharpening is turned way down, maybe even off, on the GPe variant, a thoughtful change. 

I performed the same sanity checks with the SGS4 GPe and discovered that thankfully this also reflects basically the same tuning as the stock version. Better still, the Night scene mode in the stock UI corresponds exactly with the Low Light Shot shooting mode on the stock SGS4 with the same performance. I purposefully pushed the dark scene for both the HTC One and SGS4 to the extreme to see if they have the same cutoff behavior. 

SGS4 GPe: 1/100s, ISO 64

You can also see what I'm talking about with the stock Android camera UI clipping off the top and bottom of the image. By default it shoots 13 MP 4:3 stills, which is awesome, just be warned that there's more field of view both above and below the cutoffs in the frame which need to be framed to. I've said my part already about how blowing up the preview to fill the frame and cutting those regions off is so, so wrong. Again, composition when taking a photo is important, giving me a preview that isn't a lie is also important. 

I'm glad that both devices have no degradation in image quality from what I can tell. This is again not a surprise given the abstraction of those stages in the image processing pipeline away from the core Android software platform. 

I checked out video encode to see if those settings were preserved between both platforms. On the SGS4 and SGS4 GPe the 17 Mbps 1080p30 H.264 High Profile encode is the same. Unfortunately on the HTC One video encode drops from the promised 20 Mbps 1080p30 H.264 High Profile of the stock version to 12 Mbps H.264 High Profile. I'm guessing this is just a configuration error. I should mention that Video HDR is another thing missing between stock and GPe versions. 

Software - Different Features Performance and Battery Life


View All Comments

  • hollovoid7 - Saturday, June 29, 2013 - link

    lol no comparison to Razr Maxx HD in battery life? Seriously tho, not buying another phone that does not last at least as long as that phone does. Reply
  • vhargyle - Saturday, June 29, 2013 - link

    Dont buy the HTC One. Had it a week. Glass broke first time I dropped it - six inches to my desk. Gorilla glass? Took four years to break my iphone. Antenna gate is alive. Have to hold with two fingers and several inches from my ear. And do not try texting in bed in the dark. Real trouble keeping the display lit. Phone keypad is odd on that first digit. And yes it has gremlins. Volume turns down to zero by itself. Surfs goggle all by itself. Camera just starts whenever.

    About AT&T. Dont believe what they say about the protection plan. The deductible is $199 no MATTER what the store rep tells you.

    It is beautiful to hold and touch. But put a $25 shock cover on an all aluminum case?!
  • batongxue - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    Sense? Yes.

    TouchWiz? No
  • TinCity - Monday, July 01, 2013 - link

    Not only did I buy one of the best smart phones of 2013, but Amazon has some awesome s4 cases at great prices. I'm so excited that I just wanted to share the deal that I received on my s4 case - Don't know how much longer these discounts will be active, but they have many. Reply
  • AngelT - Monday, July 01, 2013 - link

    Do either of these have issues with apps/games? I currently have the HTC Desire, having issue w/game & HTC won't assist, saying they don't support 3rd party apps. Just curious, if I have to update I don't want same issues. Reply
  • dineshramdin - Tuesday, July 02, 2013 - link

    I find it pretty difficult to reset things and had difficulties with volume buttons. Reply
  • NobleHelium - Tuesday, July 02, 2013 - link

    Can you tell us what languages are supported on the Google Play versions, please? Is it the full spectrum of languages like the Nexus devices? Reply
  • anitaantoinette - Wednesday, July 03, 2013 - link

    Big fan of samsung galaxy s series. Did my homework. Got alot of my information from this site also Reply
  • darkice1111 - Tuesday, July 09, 2013 - link

    My iPhone 5 iOS 7 beta 3 results: Sunspider 1.0 - 709.0ms; Kraken - 13783.9ms; Octane v1 - 3056; Browsermark 2.0 - 3056. So 9 month old dual core hardware that's faster than anything on the market today, and faster in some benchmarks than Qualcomm's 800 that's not even on the market yet... Google, wasssssssup??
    I don't believe the soc on the iPhone can be THAT GOOD... So why isn't Android getting faster??
  • vinhsoft - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - link

    samsung was really great Reply

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