There may be only a handful of top-tier Android phones on the market at one time, but the mid-range market is constancy flooded with handsets. True, most of these devices feature forgettable designs and specs which would do more good at the bottom of a trash can than inside a phone. But the HTC One mini is one of the few mid-range phones that stands out in the crowd. Its design and software features match up nicely with the HTC One, but does the One mini offer enough to make a name for itself in the mid-range crowd?
Since the introduction of the HTC EVO 4G, Android manufacturers have been in a race to produce the largest and most powerful device imaginable. At the time of its introduction, the HTC EVO 4G with its 4.3-inch was massive. While size is an absolute, our perception of size is relative and changes over time. Enter the HTC One mini. As the name implies, the phone is a miniature version of the HTC One, but the phone’s footprint is nearly the same as that of the HTC EVO 4G. The reason HTC can get away with calling this phone a mini is because our perception of large phones has changed. A phone with a 4.3-inch display is relatively small when you consider that the Samsung Galaxy S4 has a 5-inch display, the Note 3 has 5.7-inch display and Sony Xperia Z Ultra pushed the limit of what’s a true phone at 6.3-inches. Throw all these phones in a pile and you’ll easily see that the HTC One mini is, relatively, mini.
To build the HTC One mini, HTC took the design concept of the HTC One and shrunk it down to hold a 4.3-inch display. The HTC One mini used the same premium quality as the HTC One, and the aluminum construction of the device feels superb in the hand.
Unfortunately, the size difference between the HTC One mini and HTC One isn’t immediately noticeable. The main reason for this is due to the phone’s front-facing stereo speakers, which sit above and below the display. The speaker panels are the same heights as those on the HTC One, and the bezel above the One mini’s display is also larger than its full-sized counterpart. All in all, the HTC One mini is only 6.5mm shorter than its big brother.
The HTC One mini comes equipped with a 4.3-inch 720p display (341 PPI), a 1.4 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, an Ultrapixel BSI sensor (pixel size 2.0 µm, sensor size 1/3″) imaging sensor with HTC ImageChip 2, F2.0 aperture and 28 mm lens, 1080p Full HD video recording with HDR Video and a front-facing 1.6 MP camera with BSI sensor and 720p video capture. Other features include a 1800 mAh batery, dual frontal BoomSound stereo speakers with built-in amplifiers with Beats Audio, Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS.
The phone isn’t going to be competing directly with this year’s flagship phones from Samsung, LG or Sony, but it’s specs align nicely with those of the Motorola Droid Mini and the Samsung Galaxy S 4 Mini.
The HTC One mini features a an average sized 1800 mAh battery built into the phone. Proponents of removable batteries may raise a red flag, but we really don’t see too much of an issue. In the two weeks I spent with the HTC One mini, I never felt like the phone was lacking in lasting power. Under regular use, the HTC One mini will easily make it through an entire work day (12-14 hours) without needing to be recharged. Power users who constantly check multiple email accounts, play games and keep a close eye on social media should be able to get 9-10 hours of up time.
HTC wanted to make a statement with the HTC One by introducing Ultrapixel to the world. Since the One mini is considered a “One” phone from HTC, it also includes an Ultrapixel camera. Technically, Ultrapixel is just a marketing term to hide the fact that the HTC One mini’s camera features a 4 megapixel imaging sensor. No, that’s not a typo – the HTC One mini’s main camera is only capable of capturing images at 2688 1520 pixels. That’s half the pixel count of what the HTC One X is capable of and less than a third of the pixels used to capture images on Samsung’s Galaxy S 4.
While the larger Ultrapixels produce amazing low-light images and do an incredible job of freezing time in its tracks, the HTC One mini smaller pixel count does have its down sides. Since there’s less data being captured with each image, there’s less detail to work with if you want to zoom in or crop the image. In most instances, having a smaller picture isn’t a huge deal, because we mostly share our pictures online through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
While the imaging sensor on the HTC One and One mini are the same, the mini does lack optical image stabilization. The lack of OIS wasn’t immediately noticeable when using the One mini to take pictures outdoors, but I’d suggest using burst mode if you want to make sure you capture blur-free indoor images.
Since most of us always want the biggest and fastest phone, you may be wondering if a device with a 1.4 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and 1GB of RAM is even usable in this day and age. The HTC One mini may not be the fastest smartphone on the block, but the Snapdragon 400 gives the phone just enough power to keep up with the rigorous demands of the average smartphone user.
Those who love to play games on their Android phone will certainly enjoy using the HTC One mini. The phone was able to tear through games like Reaper, Kingdom Rush and Samurai versus Zombies Defense 2 without missing a beat. The HTC One mini was actually able to load up a few games and start game play faster than the HTC One. When it comes to regular use, the HTC One mini is as smooth as silk.
The HTC One mini is not the first phone to feature a 4.3-inch 1280×720 Super LCD3 display (HTC was the first to introduce a 4.3-inch 720p display with the HTC Rezound), but we can confidently say that it puts all other phones with 4.3-inch display to shame. Color tones are perfect and viewing angles are so good, you won’t shudder at the thought of using a phone with an AMOLED display. As much as we’d like to find something bad to say about the HTC One mini’s display, we simply can’t.
As you might expect, the HTC One mini is running on HTC Sense with Android 4.2.2 as a base. While the One mini is not HTC’s flagship phone, it is running newer software than what you can find on the HTC One (at least here in the US). With smooth performance, a great new music app and a customizable app drawer, there’s a lot to like with Sense 5. But if you ask HTC, the main attraction of the latest version of Sense is BlinkFeed – a FlipBoard inspired news and social media aggregator which lives to the left of your phone’s home screen. Technically, there are a few apps on the Play Store that can do what BlinkFeed does, but I found myself using it to keep up with random news and social media updates from Facebook and Instagram; I rarely open those apps unless I am posting a picture.
The second feature worth mentioning is Video Highlights. We all love to capture and share pictures and videos with our smartphones, so HTC thought it would be a great idea to allow users to share multiple pictures and images in a more creative way. Video highlights are 30 second video clips created on the fly using your videos and pictures. Simply open the HTC One’s gallery app, sort images by Events, choose one of the 12 preset themes (you can even add in your own music), and you’re set to go. It’s hard to capture the mood of an event or an afternoon with your kids in the park with a single shot. Video Highlights brings your media to life and makes it extremely easy to share.
Like dozens of its predecessors, the HTC One mini comes with Beats Audio on the back and a few software enhancements, but HTC chose to take the audio experience of the HTC One mini to the next level with hardware. While the vast majority of today’s smartphones feature a single mono speaker on the back, HTC has equipped the One mini amplifier-enhanced front-facing stereo speakers. The BoomSound branding of the speakers is a bit pretentious, but it does capture the essence of the audio experience delivered by the HTC One mini. Watching movie trailers on YouTube or listening to your favorite songs is actually enjoyable with stereo audio on the HTC One mini. The audio experience is so good that we expect other Android OEMs to follow in HTC’s footsteps next year.
At $475 from Negri Electronics for an unlocked HTC One mini or $99.99 from AT&T with a two-year contract, the HTC One mini is certainly not a steal. But due to its design, construction, software and camera features, the HTC One mini easily outclasses the DROID mini and the Samsung Galaxy S 4 Mini. The HTC One has been hailed as one of the best Android phones of 2013, and we think the phone does live up to its name. Yes, the HTC One mini could be a bit smaller and a slightly larger battery would be nice, but those are comments from a nit picky power user. If you’re a power user, we still recommend the HTC One, but the One mini is an incredible option for first-time smartphone buyers or for that elusive consumer who still thinks that the smartphone experience is not enhanced by a larger display.
If you really want a smaller phone, the HTC One mini is currently the best option on the market.