Smartphone technology promises to take a giant leap in 2013, with flagship handsets sporting large 5in full-HD touchscreens, 13Mp cameras, quad-core processors, more efficient battery life, plus dust- and waterproof designs. Getting a head-start on this week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, two of the first examples we've seen are the HTC One, aka HTC M7, and the Sony Xperia Z. So, how do these two high-end Android smartphones compare? (See also: Group test: what's the best smartphone?)
HTC One vs Sony Xperia Z: Price
The Sony Xperia Z lauches this Thursday (28 February), while fans of the HTC One will need to wait another couple of weeks to get their hands on the handset, which launches on 15 March. Both smartphones are available for pre-order now. See Android Advisor and our latest Android phone group test.
Both HTC One and Sony Xperia Z will be available on plans starting at £34 per month from Three, with an upfront cost of £69. Vodafone, meanwhile, is offering the Sony Xperia Z free on plans starting at £42 per month.
If you prefer to buy your smartphone SIM-free, the HTC One has a £519 RRP, according to Amazon, while the Sony Xperia Z is currently available to pre-order through the sales giant for £499 (RRP £549).
HTC One vs Sony Xperia Z: Dimensions
The Sony's larger 5in screen demands a bigger chassis than its 4.7in HTC rival, at 71x139mm versus 68.2x137.4mm. However, thanks to a super-thin skeleton chassis and a few tweaks to the layering of its screen technology, the Xperia Z remains the slimmer of the two, measuring just 7.9mm thick. Not that the HTC One is chunky, at just 9.3mm - it is in fact the lighter of the two: 143g against Sony's 146g.
HTC One vs Sony Xperia Z: Build
Both smartphones are beautifully designed, and feel utterly solid. The HTC One features an all-metal (lightweight aluminium) chassis and is beautifully put together; our only complaint is that its glass screen doesn't stretch from edge to edge.
Meanwhile, the Sony's squareish design is typical for an Xperia handset, although it's far more stylish than 2012's top-end S and T. Its front and back are durable tempered glass, with an anti-shatter film, although we're not keen on the grime-attracting gap between the two.
Sony's Xperia Z is also water-resistant up to 1m (for up to 30 minutes), and dust-proof. Although this means you can use the phone in a variety of conditions, it also demands that ports are covered in flaps that lessen the phone's premium feel. The Xperia Z is available in black, white and purple.
With largely similar weights and dimensions, both smartphones feel good in the hand.
HTC One vs Sony Xperia Z: Screen
HTC's One has the highest pixel density we've ever seen on a smartphone, cramming in a spectacular 468 pixels per inch. This 4.7in panel shows off full-HD content in razor-sharp glory, perfectly rendering details in photo and video even under harsh strip lighting. But while the HTC has the edge on picture resolution, the Sony Xperia Z bests it on screen size and colour.
Also with a full-HD (1920x1080) screen, but here stretched over 5 inches, the Xperia Z boasts an impressive 443ppi pixel density. Sony's Mobile Bravia Engine 2 analyses content and optimises the image sharpness, colour, contrast and noise reduction to suit. Sony dubs its screen 'Reality Display', with quality to match its Bravia HDTVs. It's also made a few tweaks to the screen layering technology, removing a layer of air to reduce reflections and glare, and integrating sensor and lens to improve responsiveness.
HTC One vs Sony Xperia Z: Processor & performance
Both HTC One and Sony Xperia Z pair 2GB of RAM with quad-core Qualcomm chips and Adreno 320 graphics. Sony specifies a powerful Snapdragon S4 Pro chip, clocked at 1.5GHz, while HTC offers the more recent 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600, also seen in the MWC 2013-unveiled Asus Padfone Infinity and LG Optimus G Pro.
Both running on the same Android 4.1 Jelly Bean software, we expect the HTC One to take the lead in performance. However, while we were able to spend some hands-on time with the HTC One at a launch event last week, we haven't yet been able to get it into our lab for full benchmarking. We aim to update our review at the earliest opportunity.
Sony Xperia Z: Video review
Sony Xperia Z video review
HTC One vs Sony Xperia Z: Storage
HTC's One is available with 32- or 64GB of storage, and you can take advantage of 25GB of Dropbox storage free for two years. While the Sony Xperia Z offers a paltry 16GB in comparison, its microSDXC slot means you can very easily add up to 32GB, for a total of 48GB.
HTC One vs Sony Xperia Z: Cameras
It's all but impossible to compare cameras on the specifications alone, and the megapixel count doesn't directly correlate with picture quality. This is something HTC hopes to address with its UltraPixel Camera, which has a 4Mp rear camera with a BSI sensor and f2.0 aperture.
That 4Mp isn't a typo: using ultra- rather than megapixels, this camera is said to let in 300 percent more light than comparable 13Mp cameras. It can shoot full-HD video at 30fps (720p at 60fps), and take 16:9 still images at 2688x1520 pixels. There's also a burst mode that can capture up to 20 stills and a three-second video, making sure you get exactly the shot you wanted. HTC calls this Zoe.
The HTC One also sports a 2.1Mp front-facing camera with HDR capability for full-HD video chat.
Sony's Xperia Z, meanwhile, is the first of many smartphones to enter the market in 2013 with a 13Mp sensor. This snapper uses Sony's Exmor RS BSI sensor to offer very good photos, and it's the first smartphone to support HDR for video as well as still images. There's a 16x digital zoom, the ability to take stills in video mode, and a burst mode that'll capture 9Mp snaps at 10fps until you run out of storage or battery power. Waterproof to 1m, you can capture snaps wherever you are.
Sony uses an Exmor R sensor for its 2Mp (full-HD) front camera for improved picture quality in low light.