If Samsung’s Galaxy S4
is more phone than you think you need, the electronics giant has just
offered up the smaller, more midrange, and surely cheaper Galaxy S4
Like a decaffeinated beverage, Samsung is hoping to give
its lighter smartphone much of the same taste with just a little less
oomph. Although the Mini has stepped-down specs compared to its flagship
family, like a lower-resolution screen and a 8-megapixel camera instead
of a 13-megapixel shooter, it’s no slouch when it comes to the Galaxy
S4’s core features, like a built-in TV remote control.
the Galaxy S3 Mini that came before, this version is aimed more at the
mass market as a lower price option than the marquee Galaxy S4 that
doesn’t sacrifice some of the superphone’s more defining features.
I expect that the CNET crew will first get our hands on the smaller smartphone in London at a Samsung June 20 event
and we’ll have more thoughts to share when we do. Until then, here’s
what we know about the phone, and how it should stack up against the
original Galaxy S4.
Design and build
Mini is a wee bit shorter, thicker, and wider than the svelte Galaxy S4,
but clearly cut from the same cloth, with that round-shouldered shape,
metallic rim, and rectangular home button. Like the original, the Mini
also comes in black and white color choices.
global GS4 Mini stands 124.6 millimeters tall (4.9 inches) by 61.3
millimeters wide (2.4 inches) by 8.9 millimeters thick (0.35-inch) and
weighs a lighter 107 grams (3.7 ounces, compared to the GS4’s 4.6-ounce
weight.) A 3G-only, dual SIM version will weight a hair more at 108
The Galaxy S4 Mini has a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen. Inside is a 1.7GHz dual-core processor.
The phone’s screen quality is perhaps the first place you’ll
really notice the hardware differences between the Galaxy S4 and its
little cousin. Don’t expect the S4 Mini’s 4.3 qHD Super AMOLED display
to look as sharp at 960×540 pixels as the Galaxy S4’s 1920×1080-pixel
resolution on its 5-inch screen. For all you pixel-hounds, that a 441
pixel density on the Galaxy S4 compared to 256ppi for the S4 Mini.
screens will support the same colors and use the same OLED display
technology, though it isn’t clear yet if the Mini will share the Galaxy
S4’s ultrasensitive, glove-friendly capabilities.
From the looks
of it, the S4 Mini shares most of the S4 family’s other physical
attributes, including the location and shape of the camera, flash,
sensors, buttons, and ports. It seems that the Mini sports the same
subtle patterning as the GS4’s finish.
OS and features
Importantly, the Galaxy S4 Mini runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
underneath its TouchWiz layer. Custom interfaces like TouchWiz are
notorious for stalling Android update efforts, so starting at such a
current OS build is crucial for keeping a phone like the GS4 Mini from
falling behind the times.
With TouchWiz comes a mountain of
software embellishments, like more one-touch system settings in the
notifications pull-down and settings like Air View, which produces an
on-screen cursor when you wag your finger close to the screen.
hasn’t told us exactly which extras will take root in the Mini, but
it’s safe to assume that it’s an almost identical software build as the
Galaxy S4. Transporting its signature Galaxy-only abilities across
devices is absolutely Samsung’ style.
If software enhancements
are your thing, the presence of these bonus features is one reason to
pick the Mini over a any other midtier device: you won’t have the most
powerful hardware, but you’ll still hold onto features like Group Play,
and Samsung’s built-in apps. (For more on all these, check out this full Samsung Galaxy S4 review.)
most gratified to see the GS4’s IR blaster make its way onto the Mini.
This little hardware bauble turns your phone into a TV remote control
when paired with the WatchOn app. Top phones like the HTC One and LG Optimus G Pro
share this soon-to-be living room staple, but the Galaxy S4 Mini will
be the first of its class to also bail you out when your TV remote falls
behind the couch.
As for connections and communications,
Bluetooth 4.0 keeps the Mini current. NFC, which makes content-sharing
possible with a tap, will make it onto LTE-enabled versions of the Mini.
I’m not sure why Samsung isn’t including NFC in non-LTE Mini handsets,
but it likely has something to do with cost control for different
Cameras and video
Galaxy S4 Mini may not deliver quite the rich detail of the S4’s
13-megapixel camera, Samsung is still gifting the “decaf” device with a
8-megapixel shooter, which is no resolution to sneeze at, especially the
way Samsung typically outfits its camera modules. Expect high-fidelity
images and smooth 1080p HD video.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini’s ports and fixtures show up in the same place as the original S4.
The 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera should also pull its weight for casual self portraits and video chats.
will also get a nice, large helping of Samsung’s photo software,
including panorama and HDR modes (that’s high-dynamic range,) night
mode, burst shot, and several others that help pick the best of the
While the new Sound & Shot mode makes an appearance
(that records an audio clip to narrate the still, but only plays back on
GS4 phones,) Samsung didn’t mention the new dual-shot mode that uses
both front and rear camera captures in a single picture. I’ll fill you
in when Samsung gets back to me on that one.
While it’s tough to guess how well the Galaxy S4 Mini will perform all
around the world, the specs do tell a promising story. First up, there
are up to six bands for global LTE support, plus HSPA+ 42 speeds, and 3G
and 2G failsafes.
LTE-ready builds of the Mini won’t come to
every market, but if you’ve got LTE phones where you live, that’s the
version you should expect to see when and if the handset lands in a
store near you. Otherwise, you’ll get a 3G version of the phone, and, in
some markets, even a dual-SIM device. The double-barrel configuration has its benefits, but don’t hold your breath for a dual-SIM Mini to hit every country (sorry, U.S.)
what about raw computing power? Unlike the superpowered quad-core or
octa-core Galaxy S4, the GS4 Mini will pack a 1.7GHz dual-core processor
under its hood. That’s completely respectable, depending on the
chipset’s make and model, and I’ll guess that most people won’t miss the
Galaxy S4’s high-octane gaming speeds.
phone’s smaller screen size is one explanation for the Mini’s 1,900mAh
battery, which should still keep the phone charged during your peak
hours of the day. Unsurprisingly, there’s a smaller memory bank on this
lighter device — 8GB, with closer to 5GB for the phone owner’s content.
However, a microSD slot holds up to 64GB extra.
In terms of RAM,
The Galaxy S4 Mini splits the difference between the GS4’s 2GB quotient
and midrange device’s 1GB capacity with 1.5GB RAM.
Which to buy: Galaxy S4 or Galaxy S4 Mini?
Without pricing or availability details from Samsung and its global
partners, it’s hard to make a value judgement about which is the better
deal. (I’ll update this Galaxy S4 Mini first take with that information
as soon as Samsung loosens its lips.)
From the looks of it, the
Galaxy S4 Mini has the ingredients to deliver a very solid smartphone
experience at a more affordable price, though the screen quality and
battery life could flag compared to the real S4 deal. More serious
mobile gamers and camera snobs should stick with the fully-loaded Galaxy
That advice also goes for anyone who consumes a large amount
of reading and viewing material from their phone screen, the GS4’s,
while fairly reflective, will still trump the Mini.
you like the sound of a surely less expensive device that keeps most of
its key features and you don’t mind some toned-down specs, hold off for
the moment until more information about the Mini pours in.