Apple iPhone 4 versus HTC Sensation: Which to buy?

It's Apple versus Android...

The iPhone 4 continues to hold its own against the steady stream of Android phone releases, but can the HTC Sensation topple the Apple smartphone? It's head-to-head time...

It's Apple versus Android once again as the dual-core powered HTC Sensation becomes the latest Google-powered smartphone aiming to break up the iPhone 4 dominance.

Both the iPhone 4 and the HTC Sensation are in the running to be crowned T3's 2011 Phone of the Year, but which one deserves your hard earned cash? We’ve pulled them together for a head-to-head.

Reading time? About 10 minutes. Deliberating time saved in your nearest phone shop? Limitless. Read on, smartphone pioneer…

Apple iPhone 4 vs HTC Sensation: Build

Apple iPhone 4 | iPhone 4 Review

Antennagate, anyone? Our findings are that when you hold the iPhone 4 with your hand covering the bottom left corner, there is a loss of signal. However, we have not found that this has caused us to drop calls or lose data connections when out and about actually using the handset. Whether this is because we’re subconsciously moving our hands to avoid the issue developing is hard to say. That aside, there is no denying that the iPhone 4 is a stunning piece of tech. It’s 24 per cent slimmer than the 3GS at just 9.3mm thick, beautifully compact and elegantly designed with a stainless steel band separating the handset’s scratch-resistant glass covered front and back.

It’s this steel band, which is also the aerial, which seems to be causing the problems. Presumably it’s something to do with contact between the metal band and human skin causing conductivity issues as putting a casing on the iPhone seems to alleviate the problem. Bizarre reception flaws aside, the iPhone 4 is a great showcase for Apple’s technological and design prowess.

HTC Sensation | HTC Sensation review

From the front it follows the same unimaginative build of other dual-core Android handsets including the Motorola Atrix and LG Optimus 2X. But turn it over and it’s classic HTC, this time with striking three-tone aluminium back. It feels incredibly well built and solid, certainly what you’d expect from HTC and of a premium product. The metal is a world away from the cheap plastic back of the Samsung Galaxy S2.

Apple iPhone 4 vs HTC Sensation: Screen

Apple iPhone 4 | iPhone 4 Review

The new 3.5-inch Retina Display is another big improvement over the 3GS – and all other mobile devices for that matter. With an 800:1 contrast ratio and 960x640p resolution – according to Apple, that’s more than the human eye can process at that size of screen – the Retina Display sets a new benchmark for mobile screens.

The Retina Display is a joy to use indoors and at most outdoor light levels, although it becomes reflective and difficult to admire when in direct, bright sunlight such as we’re having recently. Although adding a gratifying pop to images and videos, older applications and their icons can also appear dated and grainy on the new high-res screen – app developers will have to improve their wares for the iPhone 4.

HTC Sensation I HTC Sensation review

At 4.3-inches the screen is a great size and HTC has boosted the resolution of the Sensation to 960x540, matching the Atrix. It’s bright and sharp, and movies look fantastic.

Whites can’t quite match the purity of the iPhone 4’s retina display and blacks don’t reach the inkiness of the AMOLED screen on the Samsung Galaxy S2. Whites are ever so slightly pink and off-angle viewing isn’t as good. Although we should point out the screen is still great and will be fine for most people, but not class-leading. It's also quite tricky to see in bright sunlight.

A neat design tweak is the glass. Here it’s slightly set back, so when you put the phone face down the glass doesn’t get damaged.

Apple iPhone 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S2: Processor

HTC Sensation | HTC Sensation review

At the heart of the HTC Sensation sits a 1.2 Ghz dual-core processor with 768MB RAM. It’s the first HTC dual-core handset to arrive in the UK and makes a huge difference to the phones performance.

Everything feels quicker zooming in and out of web pages is lightning quick, as is scroll up and down web pages. You can play back HD movies and stream movies without a stutter, downloading is quick too.

As with other HTC handsets the text wraps automatically. Flash support is native, so you can easily play videos. The quick look-up tool is new; tap this to access You Tube quickly.

Apple iPhone 4 | iPhone 4 Review

Bringing the iPhone 4 to life is the same sprightly Apple A4 processor found in the original iPad. You’d think that packing this hefty workhorse under the bonnet would drain the battery, but the new iPhone’s battery life is not noticeably diminished from the 3GS, and Apple claims it actually lasts longer. When playing back HD content, motion is fast, without judder and free of lag or distortion when rotating the screen. It’s a slicker, quicker experience than the iPod Touch.

Apple iPhone 4 vs HTC Sensation: Camera

Apple iPhone 4 | iPhone 4 Review

Following repeated cries from consumers, the iPhone 4 now offers flash. No, not the Adobe version for viewing web video – that’s just not gonna happen, so get used to it – but a scorchingly bright LED flash to accompany the improved camera. Stills are not suddenly of compact camera quality, but they are undeniably better, and bigger at five megapixels. Video is much improved, with 720p HD video offers pristine and sharp detail on the Retina Display, though some detail seems to be lost when compressing for direct uploading to YouTube. In-camera editing is also straightforward, and you can add the iMovie app (£2.99) if you want more sophisticated editing of your clips.

HTC Sensation | HTC Sensation review

The Sensation has two cameras. A front-facing VGA camera for video calls and a rear 8-megapixel offering. The rear camera is OK, but not as good as the Galaxy S2. Colours are generally natural, if a little pale, but fine detail can appear too soft, like many cameraphones it's at it's best in bright sunlight. Be careful with the white balance presets, while Auto produces natural results, some of the others can produce oversaturated results.

Capture HD video and 1080p and 720p, it isn't as sharp as we'd like, with some artefact blocking, but it's a lot better than many HTC phones we've seen recently. At 1080p in motion is smooth and fairly sharp at the edges, if lacking fine detail. In summary, not bad, but we've seen better. Video editing is limited to trimming tracks, so is best viewed as editing for web upload rather than creating masterpieces.

In addition to the main, rear camera there’s a second, front-facing one. This offers decent picture quality, but it’s there for more than just vanity’s sake. Apple, you see, is attempting to transform video calling from its current status as the forgotten starlet of the tech world into a must-have feature. To this end, it’s included the Skype-style Face Time app. Given that this works only over Wi-Fi and only between one iPhone 4 and another, we can’t see it reviving video calling’s fortunes, somehow, but it does work nicely enough, with much better video quality than on earlier mobile systems.

Apple iPhone 4 vs HTC Sensation: Hands-on videos

White iPhone 4 video

HTC Sensation video

Apple iPhone 4 vs HTC Sensation: Verdict

So who wins in this latest battle of Apple versus Android? Both handsets have a wealth of apps to choose from and while the Apple App Store may be ahead in terms of the number of apps, the Android Market is making up good ground.

Both boast strong, premium builds, have plenty of multimedia capabilities to shout about and sport user interfaces which are probably the best you'll find on a smartphone at this current time.

The Sensation's dual core processor power ensures a blistering fast performance, but the iPhone is by no means a slouch. If we had to separate them in any major department, the Retina Display on the iPhone 4 would probably shade HTC Sensation's Super LCD display.

There's not much in it between the two and if you were to opt for either, you'd probably be very happy with your purchase. If watching your movies and playing games on a gorgeous screen is high on your list of priorities though, the iPhone 4 would come out on top in this tighly fought battle of the smartphones.

Do you agree with our Apple iPhone 4 versus HTC Sensation verdict? Let us know your comments below