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HTC One Mini vs. Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini: The little brother stand-off

Kris Carlon (translation)
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Following hot on the heels of the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini, HTC has now popped out their own mini version of their flagship device, the HTC One. The comparison is obvious: the best-selling Android smartphone in the world versus the prettiest, both in miniature, both under the microscope.

Samsung wants further success - HTC needs it urgently. Who will win on the mini battleground? Will we see a repeat performance of the battle between their big brothers? Or will there be a new crown prince?

s4 mini one mini
There can be only one: Who is the dwarf king in the realm of Androids? / © HTC/Samsung/AndroidPIT

Two acclaimed smartphones, two contenders for the title of Mini Android Champion. The HTC One mini has the handicap in this race, with the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini having the advantage of starting the race several weeks ago. You know what they say about the rabbit and the hare though. Viewed broadly, both Samsung and HTC have followed the same general formula, so let's get down to it.

Specifications

Here the formula states: smaller form factor, weaker hardware, lower price. In the specs department both devices have their relative strengths and weaknesses. The One mini scores points with a better display, a higher quality build material, more internal memory, and ultimately probably the better price. The S4 mini on the other hand has the more powerful processor, more memory, LTE capability, is microSD expandable, has a (minimally) stronger (and replaceable) battery, has marginally smaller dimensions and is about 20 grams lighter (due to the choice of materials).

Megapixel information about the cameras are not really comparable, since different technologies are used in each. However, it is assumed that HTC is one step ahead of the Samsung, as the One mini uses the exact same camera we already know from it's big brother. The only difference: it lacks the optical image stabilizer of the full-sized One.

one mini s4 mini
© HTC/Samsung/AndroidPIT
  HTC One mini Samsung Galaxy S4 mini
Display 4.3 inch, 1280 x 720 Pixels (341 ppi), Super LCD2 4.3 inch, 960 x 540 Pixels (256 ppi), Super AMOLED
Processor 1.4 GHz Dual-Core, Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 1.7 GHz Dual-Core, Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
RAM 1 GB 1.5 GB
System Android 4.2.2, Sense 5 Android 4.2.2, TouchWiz Nature UX 2.0
Camera 4 MP rear (UltraPixel-Technology), 1,6 MP front 8 MP rear, 1,9 MP front
Connectivity WLAN, HSDPA, Bluetooth 4.0 WLAN, HSDPA, LTE, Bluetooth 4.0
Internal Memory 16 GB, 11 available 8 GB, 5 available, microSD-expansion up to 64 GB
Battery 1,800 mAh, non-replaceable 1,900 mAh, removable
Dimensions 132 x 63 x 9.2 mm 124.0 x 61.3 x 8.9 mm
Weight 128 g 107 g
Price 485USD/375USD (Amazon approx (forecast)) 650USD/500USD (Amazon approx)

Software

Both devices come with the corresponding manufacturer's current UI: TouchWiz and Sense. The advantages and disadvantages of each of these we have discussed in detail elsewhere. UI preference remains a question of faith, as has design for that matter. Both interfaces have their friends and enemies. That will not change even with the mini versions because the basic software is the same.

As for extra features, I have the impression that Samsung was more economical here. On the S4 mini, Samsung dropped some of the flagship functions: Air View and Smart Scroll for example. I can not say with absolute certainty yet, but I think the HTC One mini has virtually all the software features that characterized the One: whether it is Zoe, Beats Audio, BoomSound or Blinkfeed, it's in the One mini. In terms of software, HTC apparently feel like they have less to lose than Samsung, and to get it all in a mini version is pretty great. But here we will have to wait for the finished version from the market to make a final judgment.

Design and processing

As always, it is primarily a question of taste as to what is the better material: aluminum or polycarbonate. This debate was the cause of a major difference between the full-sized One and S4, but in their smaller incarnations the design gap between the camps shrinks slightly, because the One mini has received a polycarbonate frame - and a touch of the tacky hi-gloss of the S4.

GalaxyS4 GalaxyS4Mini 3
There's no visual difference between the Galaxy S4 and the S4 mini. / © AndroidPIT

However, while the S4 mini is, in the looks department, a smaller version of its big brother, HTC has had its mini diverge a little more from the One's original look. Whether this is good or bad is ultimately decided by the buyer and what they did or did not like about the full-sized versions.

The replaceable battery is a unilateral advantage of the S4 mini. In my first impression, I found little to be concerned about with the One mini. The non-replaceable battery was the only obvious negative and could, theoretically, have been a singular phenomenon. But add to this the switch from aluminum, which many users will always have in the forefront of their minds when they think about the HTC One, to a polycarbonate build material and the chips start to stack in the S4 mini's favor.

DSC 0072
There's more of a difference between the HTC One and the One mini, mostly the shift from aluminum to polycarbonate. / © HTC/AndroidPIT

Price Comparison

A very important point is the price, and here HTC should have a clear nose in front. The MSRP of the S4 mini was a bloodcurdling 650USD. The 8 GB version is currently available on Amazon for around 500USD. If one applies the same price developments to a One mini, where the MSRP is already at 485USD, you might be able to pick one up on Amazon soon enough for a wholesale price of about 375USD. It should also be noted here that the above price of the S4 mini price relates to a device with 8 GB. So, to get 16 GB on an S4 mini, you'd need to add a microSD card, which only widens the price differential.

one mini s4 min design
The radically different design language of the two manufacturers is not to be overlooked. / © AndroidPIT/Weibo.com

The Bottom Line

Unsatisfactory as it is, with two such high-end devices, it is always the same: the smartphone you prefer is always going to be a matter of taste, because no one device clearly has all the advantages on its side. Performance-oriented users who use bare figures to decide will probably go with the S4 mini.

On the other hand, if sheer power is all you're after, why not just get the Galaxy S4? Photo and media enthusiasts are likely to be happier with the One mini, because it is probably better suited to high-resolution photos and definitely has the superior sound.

one mini s4 mini 3
© AndroidPIT

Design fetishists will also probably tend towards the One mini even with its polycarbonate build, although this is, as always, purely a matter of taste. The look of the HTC One, however, was celebrated across the board more clearly than that of the Galaxy S4, and I think that is a correct conclusion. Plus, the HTC One mini will be significantly cheaper than the S4 mini.

But some key advantages stick on the the S4 mini's side, like LTE capability, removable battery and memory expansion possibility. Coupled with the slightly better hardware specs, there are definitely also enough plausible arguments for buying the S4 mini.

So what would you go for on the mini-front? Or would you just stick with the Galaxy S4 or HTC One at full size?

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  • Northernbaygirl Jul 19, 2013 Link

    Such a shame that HTC has stuck with the non-expandable memory as for me this immediately rules it out as a contender to replace my current handset (The Galaxy S3 mini)

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    Kris Carlon Jul 19, 2013 Link

    I agree, when it's very common knowledge that expandable memory and a replaceable battery are things consumers want, and you're fighting an uphill battle to regain market-share, you'd think it'd be a no-brainer to introduce these two things and then HTC would come out very much on top in my opinion.

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