The battle for supremacy at the top of the smartphone market has driven specs through the roof. We’re talking about fast quad-core processors as standard, and at least 2GB of RAM. Various components are being improved dramatically; look no further than the forthcoming Lumia 1020’s 41-megapixel camera. Resolutions are hitting full 1080p high definition, and our smartphones are getting bigger, but not everyone wants a huge phone or needs cutting edge specs. This trend for displays pushing through the 5-inch barrier and into tablet territory results in unwieldy devices that are tough to operate one-handed and don’t slide into the pocket quite so easily.
Apple has always argued this as a reason that the iPhone display didn’t grow any wider, even if it did get a little taller in the last iteration. HTC and Samsung are also wary of putting customers off by having huge phones, so they’ve both released scaled down versions of their flagships. If you’re shopping for a “normal” sized phone, which one should command your attention – the HTC One Mini or the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini? Let’s take a closer look.
Tale of the tape
The HTC One Mini is 132mm tall, 63mm across, and 9.3mm thick. It weighs 122g.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is 125mm tall, 61mm across, and 8.9mm thick, and it weighs in at just 107g.
There’s no doubt that the Galaxy S4 Mini is noticeably smaller and lighter, but a lot of the weight in the HTC One Mini comes from the beautiful aluminium unibody design which compares favourably with Samsung’s plastic. The One Mini looks and feels more expensive.
Both phones have a 4.3-inch display, but the One Mini uses LCD2 technology, which tends to look brighter and sharper, while the S4 Mini employs Super AMOLED, which offers darker blacks and potentially better battery life. More important than the difference in technology is the resolution. The One Mini is HD, albeit 720 x 1280 pixels, whereas the S4 Mini isn’t, coming in at 540 x 960 pixels. In terms of ppi (pixel per inch) that’s 341 versus 256.
The HTC One Mini has a better display.
There’s a definite gap in the specs, in the S4 Mini’s favour. Both smartphones drop down to dual-core processors. The S4 Mini is rated at 1.7GHz and the One Mini is rated at 1.4GHz. The S4 Mini also has 1.5GB of RAM to the One Mini’s 1GB of RAM. Benchmarks confirm that the S4 Mini is faster, but there isn’t a huge amount in it.
HTC has been trying to educate people by pointing out that there’s more to camera quality than the megapixel count and this is definitely true to a point. The One Mini camera is rated at 4 megapixels, while the S4 Mini has an 8-megapixel camera. Front cameras are 1.6MP versus 1.9MP. In terms of performance the S4 Mini will be able to capture greater detail, but the One Mini is supposed to be better in low light conditions. Both can capture 1080p video.
Out of the box the One Mini wins with 16GB of on-board storage versus the 8GB that the S4 Mini has, especially when you consider only 5GB of that 8GB is usable. However, the S4 Mini has a microSD card slot, so you can add up to an extra 64GB. Although it’s worth pointing out that it’s only good for storing files, because in Android 4.0 and up you can no longer move apps onto your SD card.
They both shipped with Android 4.2.2, but HTC put Sense 5 over the top and Samsung added TouchWiz. Sense 5 is more minimalist, but it adds a few handy features and it looks quite stylish. TouchWiz is packed with unique features and services, but you may feel they are bloatware if you don’t intend to use them. It’s a matter of personal taste really, so read up about both and try to get a hands-on before you decide which you prefer.
The S4 Mini has a slightly bigger battery at 1900mAh compared to the One Mini’s 1800mAh battery. You can also remove the S4 Mini battery, so you could carry a replacement. The One Mini actually claims better battery life according the manufacturer’s stats on talk time, but it really depends on how you use your phone. There isn’t likely to be a major difference between the two.
In terms of connectivity they both have all the features you would expect with support for 4G LTE, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and the rest. The Galaxy S4 Mini claims a victory thanks to the inclusion of NFC and an IR blaster so it can be used as a TV remote. Sadly the One Mini doesn’t have either, however, if sound is important to you it does have better quality, front-facing speakers.
…and the winner is
For looks and touchability the HTC One Mini is a clear winner, but fans of Samsung’s services might be swayed by those extra features. If you want the Samsung apps and you’ll use the NFC and IR blaster then the S4 Mini could be worth going for, if not then it has to be the HTC One Mini. The best way to decide is to get your hands on them and take them for a quick test drive.