It doesn’t take a keen eye to see that the top-tier Android smartphone market is moving in a direction where all flagship devices feature large displays. With the passage of time, smartphones became lighter, thinner, and came with narrower bezels – while the size of the screen continued to increase. This puts flagship Android phones in a rather odd position, as some people simply prefer to own smaller devices. These customers have been left with only two options: adapt to the new trend, or look for answers in the mid-range market.
But then came Samsung and the announcement of a “Mini” version of the Samsung Galaxy S3. Sadly though, the S3 Mini was merely borrowing the design and name-tag of its larger sibling, while the hardware specs were not up to par with the flagship alternative. Regardless, this gave other manufacturers the idea of creating smaller spinoffs of their most powerful handsets. Last year, Samsung released the SGS4 Mini, while HTC launched the HTC One Mini. Both devices used the same formula, meaning that they offered mid-range specifications, wrapped up in a more premium case.
Chances are that this year, smartphone makers will continue to release “mini” alternatives of their upcoming top-tier gadgets – but the game might change, mainly due to Sony’s take on this particular market segment. The Japanese manufacturer recently unveiled a strong contender, dubbed the “Xperia Z1 Compact.” As you may have already noticed, Sony has decided against using the “mini” moniker, and for good reasons. Let’s see how these three smartphones compare to one another.
As expected, all three devices feature smaller displays, and interestingly enough, they all measure 4.3 inches in diagonal. Nevertheless, the Galaxy S4 Mini is being overshadowed by its competitors, as it features a resolution of 540 x 960 and a pixel density of 256 ppi. Both the HTC One Mini and the Xperia Z1 Compact offer a resolution of 720 x 1280, resulting in a pixel density of 342 ppi.
As for the type of display, the Compact comes with a TFT panel and the One Mini offers an LCD2, while Samsung continued its tradition and fitted the S4 Mini with a Super AMOLED screen.
Internal Hardware – CPU, GPU, RAM, Storage and Connectivity
While the Xperia Z1 Compact isn’t really differentiating itself from the other two devices in terms of display, the handset in question is by far the most powerful of the bunch. It borrows the same high-end specifications from its larger sibling (the Xperia Z1), including a Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor clocked at 2.2 GHz, an Adreno 330 graphics chip and 2 GB of RAM.
Meanwhile, both the S4 Mini and the HTC One Mini come with a Snapdragon 400 dual-core unit and an Adreno 305 GPU. Nevertheless, HTC’s chip runs at a frequency of 1.4 GHz, whereas the S4 Mini takes advantage of a higher CPU frequency: 1.7 GHz. The One Mini also packs 1 GB of RAM, which is 500 MB less than what Samsung’s gadget has to offer.
As far as storage goes, the Z1 Compact has the upper hand once again. It comes with 16 GB and allows the user to expand it by up to an additional 64 GB via microSD. The HTC One Mini also features 16 GB of on-board storage, but it lacks an expansion slot. Lastly, there’s the Galaxy S4 Mini which offers 8 GB of storage and a microSD card slot, same as the Compact.
Lastly there’s the question of connectivity. In short, all three smartphones take advantage of 4G LTE capabilities, GPS and GLONAS, as well as Bluetooth 4.0. Unfortunately for HTC enthusiasts, the One Mini lacks NFC.
Back when the HTC One Mini was released, one of the device’s main selling points was the fact that it featured the same camera as the one found on the full-fledged HTC One – a 4 MP UltraPixel unit with larger pixels, allowing for high quality low-light photos. The unit is capable of 1080p recording, it has a 1/3″ sensor size, and is accompanied by an LED flash and a 720p 1.6 MP front-facing sensor.
Unsurprisingly, Sony fitted its Z1 Compact with an identical 20.7 MP Exmor RS camera as the one found on the 5-inch flagship device. It features a 1/2.3″ inch sensor size, an LED flash and video stabilization. There’s also a 2 MP camera on the front panel, and both sensors are capable of 1080p video recording.
Lastly, there’s the Galaxy S4 Mini, packing an average 8 MP camera with 1080p video recording capabilities, an LED flash, and a 1.9 MP front sensor.
Conclusion: the Z1 Compact made no compromises in the camera department, and it dwarfs its competitors.
Dimensions, Weight and Battery Capacity
For “Mini” or “Compact” versions of the flagship smartphones they represent, the size and weight of these three gadgets is probably more important than ever. In this department, Sony had to make some compromises, as the Z1 Compact is the thickest and the heaviest device of the three. It measures 127 x 64.9 x 9.5 mm and weighs 137 grams. This is mainly due to the top-tier hardware it packs, and mostly because of its larger 2,300 mAh battery. On the other hand, the Z1 Compact is the only device that is IP58 certified for dust and water resistance.
Next up is the HTC One Mini, featuring a 1,800 mAh battery, measuring 132 x 63.2 x 9.3 mm and weighing 122 grams. The crown however, goes to the SGS4 Mini, which measures only 124.6 x 61.3 x 8.9 mm. The 1,900 mAh battery and the rest of its components are wrapped up in a body that weighs merely 107 grams, making it one of the lightest smartphones available – even lighter than the iPhone 5s, which weighs 112 grams.
Operating System, Connectivity and Final Thoughts
Finally, while all three smartphones come with Android Jelly Bean out of the box, the Xperia Z1 Compact is the newer device and is already planned for an Android 4.4.2 KitKat update. The HTC One Mini comes with Android 4.4.2, whereas the SGS4 Mini was launched with the same version of Android but is now upgradable to 4.3 Jelly Bean.
Regardless, all three smartphones have been heavily customized and come with their proprietary user interfaces. Sony has sprinkled the vanilla OS with the latest version of its UI, the S4 Mini heavily relies on TouchWiz, and HTC launched the One Mini with Sense 5.0 preinstalled, offering new features such as Blinkfeed.
In conclusion, the Xperia Z1 Compact is the more powerful smartphone, and from a feature standpoint, it’s definitely the more appealing choice. Nevertheless, the arrival of the Z1 Compact has not made the other two smartphones obsolete. Both the One Mini and the S4 Mini have their appeal, mostly because they also carry a smaller price tag. Sony’s alternative is impressive, and it shows that “mini” Android smartphones can be as powerful as their larger counterparts. Nevertheless, all those benefits come at a higher price.
Which one of these three smartphones do you own, or would you buy, and why? What is the perfect “mini” smartphone in your opinion? Feel free to share your thoughts below.