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This year, Samsung and HTC both chose to announce their new flagships back at Mobile World Congress in February, while LG chose to wait until a few days ago to announce the new LG G4.

We’ve already reviewed the HTC One M9 and been hands on with the LG G4 but how does the best of LG compare with the best of HTC? HTC’s flagship smartphone went on sale at the beginning of April, four weeks before LG announced theirs but does HTC need to be worried by LG’s latest flagship? Let’s take a closer look.

Design

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When designing smartphones, OEMs seem to choose between going for thin, flat handsets and curved designs. Both HTC and LG have opted for the latter. The LG G4 has a slightly curved build which is designed to make the handset ergonomically friendly, while the HTC One M9’s curves are more pronounced.

On the front, the HTC One M9 features a 5.0-inch Full HD display – which offers 441 pixels per inch density – and is flanked by the dual BoomSound speakers above and beneath the screen. In comparison, the LG G4 has a 5.5-inch Quad HD display – which offers 538ppi density – but the real design win is for LG, who have managed to keep the bezels to a minimum.

The smaller bezels on the LG G4 result in a more immersive experience with the G4 offering 74.3% screen-to-body ratio, which is far superior to the 68.4% ratio offered by the One M9.

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At its thickest point, the LG G4 measures 9.8mm while the HTC One M9 measures 9.6mm, but the curves are more pronounced on the G4 which measures just 6.3mm at its thinnest point at the edges. To keep the G4 as thin as possible, LG have stuck with the G3 design of having the power and volume buttons on the rear of the handset, while HTC have gone with a more traditional design and the power and volume keys are on the right side of the One M9.

The biggest trend this year is manufacturers who have dropped removable batteries and expandable storage from their handsets. Both LG and HTC somewhat buck this trend but LG have kept both of these in the G4.

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The One M9 is made from a metal unibody without a removable battery and the microSD card slot can be accessed through a tray on the right. While the One M9 is made from a metal body, LG have opted for a plastic build coupled with a choice of either titanium-finished plastic rear cover or a vegetable-tanned real-leather back cover. The removable back cover on the G4 gives you access to the 3000mAh battery and the microSD card slot.

There are many similarities between the LG G4 and the HTC One M9 but also a few differences to set them apart. Both handsets offer the best experience that the manufacturer can offer – although the One M9 Plus arguably offers a better package than the One M9 – and use similar curved designs to offer the best in-hand experience.

Hardware and Performance

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Over the past few years, Qualcomm established itself as the best available processor manufacturer but 2015 is proving to be a challenge for the company. Previously, the Snapdragon range was used in almost all top-previous devices but this year, we’ve heard numerous reports of issues with the company’s latest Snapdragon 810 premium chipset.

The HTC One M9 was one of the first handsets to use the Snapdragon 810 but this hasn’t stopped talk of the overheating issues with Qualcomm’s latest processor. The One M9 is powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 810 and in our M9 review, we found little issue with the performance offered by Qualcomm’s latest chipset.

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The talk of problems with the Snapdragon 810 could have been one reason that LG opted to go for a different Qualcomm processor. Rather than use the 810, as it had in the G Flex 2, LG opted to use the Snapdragon 808 processor and LG have worked closely with Qualcomm to optimise the processor for the needs of the G4.

Both the G4 and the One M9 have 3GB RAM and 32GB storage, which can be expanded by up to 128GB using a microSD card slot. On paper, there’s very little difference between the G4 and the One M9 but LG’s close relationship with Qualcomm and the optimisation of the processor to meet the G4’s needs means that LG’s flagship is likely to have slightly better performance.

However, we’ve not spent enough time with the G4 to confirm this and we’ll be putting it through its paces in a review in the weeks to come.

Camera

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The camera is where both LG and HTC have made significant changes versus last year’s flagship.

The HTC One range has always used HTC’s own Ultrapixel sensor for the rear camera but this year, the Ultrapixel makes its way to the front and is replaced by a 20.7MP Toshiba-made sensor. The One M8 came with a duo camera – which allows you to change the focal point of an image after capturing it – and Optical Image Stabilisation but with the new sensor on the One M9, both of these features are missing.

In comparison, the LG G4 bumps up the 13MP sensor on the G3 to a 16MP shooter on the G4. The upgrade is about more than just megapixels, however, as the G4 offers an f/1.8 aperture package with a larger sensor than on any other smartphone. The G4 also comes with OIS and a colour spectrum sensor, which analyses scenes to achieve the right white balance automatically and accurately.

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One of the other major upgrades in the G4 camera is the new manual mode, which offers professional controls for those who need complete control over their images. The manual mode comes with lots of ISO stops, manual focus, a full white balance gamut, a histogram and the ability to shoot RAW and JPEG images at the same time.

We’ve only spent a few minutes with the LG G4 but on paper at least, the camera is far superior to the One M9. The combination of a colour spectrum sensor, OIS and f/1.8 aperture should, on paper, be superior to the 20MP module on the One M9. We will, of course, be bringing you a more in-depth look at the camera in the weeks to come.

Software

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One area where HTC have traditionally excelled is the HTC Sense interface, which is regarded as one of the best available on the market. This year’s Sense 7 interface has been optimised further with BlinkFeed gaining some new features and a Theme manager to completely change the look and feel of your One M9.

In comparison, LG’s G UX has traditionally revamped large parts of Google’s OS to provide a custom experience, which – due to the heavy interface and underpowered specs – suffered from lag and stutter. With the G4 UX 4.0, this has all changed as LG has optimised its software to produce a near Nexus-like experience.

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LG and HTC have both worked closely with Google to integrate Google services and both the One M9 and G4 come with 100GB Google Drive storage free for two years. LG have also integrated Google Drive across their apps and designed their own apps to work natively with Android Wear.

HTC Sense 7 is still one of the finest interfaces available on Android but LG’s latest interface offers a fluid experience that’s now able to rival the best on the market. Whether the G4 UX 4.0 suffers from the traditional Android issue of slowing down after a few weeks of use remains to be seen, but we will bring you a closer look at this in the review.

Wrap Up

Overall the LG G4 and HTC One M9 are likely to be high on your list if you’re looking for a new Android smartphone and each offer a premium experience. The G4 has a better display, removable battery and arguably better camera while the One M9 has a nicer build and better interface (although this is a subjective opinion).

It’s too early to determine exactly how much better – or worse – the LG G4 is compared to the One M9 but LG have certainly taken several strides forward since the G3. Rather than revamp the entire handset like Samsung, LG have followed HTC’s lead in creating a handset that’s better than the ones before it.

Stay tuned, as we’ll be bringing you a full review of the LG G4 and a more detailed look at how it compares to the competition in the weeks to come.

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