The Samsung S4 Mini
Smartphones of late have been coming out in all sorts of shapes and sizes with big screen heavy hitters such as Samsung’s S4 doing well in a market that was once dominated by Apple’s fixed-size iPhones. In fact, the larger sized five-inch and 5.25-inch display devices have now become mainstream with LG, Sony, Asus and a number of other manufacturers rushing to the market to fill in what is a perceived gap between the iPhones four-inch display and the smaller tablets, which of course aren’t phones at all, that sport a seven-inch display.
Still Samsung, not to be outdone in the market for smaller devices with their four-inch display, released the Samsung S4 mini soon after the S4 launch. This is a phone that features a 4.3-inch screen and fits more conveniently in the palm of your hand than the other larger devices.
Arguably the main battleground was the iPhone market, and Samsung could afford to go this route having covered its bases with its range of larger-screen smart phones. Possibly even more interesting is that Samsung’s S4 Mini is one of the very few Android phones of that size with the space being dominated by iOS devices, namely the iPhone series with the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C being the latest offerings from Apple.
Some would ask if it is a step back to create a smaller version of a popular big screen phone, especially considering how the screen size was one of its redeeming features in the original Samsung S4, but Samsung has managed to capture all the features of the S4 Mini’s big brother and package it into a smaller and sleeker case design.
With the name so similar also you might be forgiven for thinking the S4 Mini is exactly the same as the S4, except for its size, but there have been some changes to the design. The outside though is familiar, with the shape being similar and the choice of colours being black or white for the external casing.
The front of the unit features a 1.9 mega-pixel camera on the top-right corner and a home button at the base of the screen surrounded by two touch keys. The back features an eight mega-pixel camera and LED flash that looks similar to the S4. The camera comes with a large number of filters and modes and a full suite of adjustable settings, including exposure, ISO, white balance and HDR. It will take pictures in 4:3 aspect at full resolution and also in 16:9 aspect at a resolution of six mega-pixels. The rear camera can record video at a maximum resolution of 1080p with a 30 frames per second frame rate and a 17.1 Mb/s bit rate. Other video formats supported are VC-1, H.264, MPEG4, MP43, WMV 7 / 8, H.263, VP8 and Sorenson Spark.
The sides of the phone are also similar to the larger version, with a volume control, power button, headphone socket and micro USB port in familiar places.
The S4 Mini’s overall size is 124.6mm x 61.3mm x 8.9 mm and so it is much easier to handle in one hand than a five-inch or larger device, and it is light, with a total weight of just 107 grams.
For processing, the phone uses a dual core 1.7GHz Snapdragon 400 processor with an Adreno 305 graphics chip, less powerful than that found in the Mini’s big brother. The Mini comes with 8GB or 16GB of internal storage, something that could disappoint some users as the number of applications and their sizes increases all the time.
The LTE version supports bands 3, 7 and 20 (800 / 1800 / 2600), as well as quad-band HSPA+ (850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100) with speeds up to 42 Mbps. GSM / EDGE (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900) is also included. For Wifi there is 802.11a/b/g/n and WiFi Direct.
As for the all-important display, this has been downgraded somewhat to a 960 x 540 resolution which is barely 256 pixels per square inch and is a departure away from the full 1080p standard as seen on most phones that are slightly larger. It means the 4.3-inch screen is less sharp than the larger 5-inch screens are, most of them sporting well over 330 pixels per inch.
The display uses the Super AMOLED technology giving good brightness and quick response time as well as being very power efficient. However this choice of display makes the phone quite expensive compared to its peers, though still in the range of the iPhone prices.
The S4 Mini runs Android 4.2.2, and features the Touch Wiz user interface. Some camera modes are missing on the Mini compared to the larger S4, but with plenty of third-party apps these can easily be replaced.
The phone features a 1900mAh battery that gives up to nine hours of 3G Internet usage, or 11 hours of continuous browsing using Wifi. It will allow for 10 hours of video playback and 49 hours of continuous audio playback. For phone use it boasts 12 hours of talk time and up to 300 hours of standby time.
Built-in sensors include a range of staples namely an Accelerometer, a Gyro, a Light and a Proximity sensor. The phone accepts Micro SD cards up to 64GB and a single SIM card.
Overall this is quite an expensive four-inch phone but it has all of the features of the larger Android handsets. It may be a good alternative if you are seeking something other than the iPhone but are not looking for a larger five-inch handset.