By Stephen Schenck | October 16, 2012 7:48 AM
It should have been so simple. Once Samsung got the idea in its head, you’d think the design would just follow logically. The Galaxy S III Mini: like the Galaxy S III, but just… not so much of it. Instead of putting the GS3 under a shrink ray, Samsung took a few liberties with the design of the GS3 Mini, and what it came up with just doesn’t make much sense at all.
In case you missed the news last week, Samsung announced the Galaxy S III Mini, arriving with a 4.0-inch WVGA display, a dual-core 1GHz SoC, gigabyte of RAM, and 8GB or 16GB internal storage. If you’re confused what about that sounds like a Galaxy S III, you’re not alone. While we’re already talking about a new “alpha” version of the GS3, let’s concentrate on the hardware we’re already familiar with:
A Galaxy S III either consists of an Exynos 4 Quad with a gig of RAM (the primary, international version) or a 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 with 2GB of RAM (the US, LTE models). If you live in South Korea, you’ve even had access to a 2GB quad version, combining the best of both worlds. The GS3 Mini should have carried over at least some of those specs (and honestly, arriving when it is, should have both 2GB and quad-core). Instead, it’s like Samsung thought up a totally unrelated phone and just slapped the GS3 name on it.
The display is also a travesty. Sure, a smaller phone necessitates a smaller screen, but that’s no excuse for a lower quality component. While the original GS3 had a pixel density of nearly 316 ppi, the Mini only measures-in at 242 ppi; that’s a display with a 23% lower pixel density. Now, I understand that manufacturers don’t fabricate screens in every size and every resolution under the sun, but solving that problem with a screen that recreates the Galaxy S III’s display quality, but at a smaller size, should have been a top focus when engineering a device called the Galaxy S III Mini.
What Went Wrong?
It’s easy to dismiss this all as some poor decisions from Samsung’s marketing department. If the GS3 Mini was simply called something else, I wouldn’t care at all about this underwhelming hardware. Perhaps I’d even champion the phone, so long as it hit the right price points, but now I’m just disappointed. The problem is, a smaller version of the Galaxy S III would be awesome.
I wrote a post last week about an interview Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak recently gave, where he described Apple’s lack of options when it comes to its phone lineup as “arrogant”. Are we seeing a similar situation over in Android-land, where manufacturers don’t seem comfortable releasing top-tier hardware in a compact form factor? Is there a perception that a handset won’t be taken seriously enough if it’s not one of the larger models on the block?
That’s funny to think about, because Apple was happy to keep churning-out 3.5-inch iPhones for years and years, and never got too much flack for being “underpowered”. Yet, even with those legacy iPhones still fresh on our minds, we don’t have much in the way of comparable Androids. Heck, even the GS3 Mini we’re talking about today is larger than some people might want in a phone. What about a 3.7-inch Android with a modern SoC and desirable features? Is it similarly arrogant of Android manufacturers that they’re not releasing such hardware?
Sure, I don’t have the carefully-prepared market research that smartphone manufacturers no doubt spend small fortunes compiling, but I’m willing to bet there’s a sizable market out there for users who want top-tier, high-performance smartphones that don’t have a jumbo-sized display to match.
Of course, I could very much be wrong on that. Case in point: for my money, the best portable console of the past ten years was the Game Boy Micro, with its tiny two-inch display. I loved the screen quality, but more than that, I loved the portability. I could sing the Micro’s praises all day, but that doesn’t change the fact that its sales figures were absolutely abysmal. Of course, this was after the DS had already arrived, so it’s a bit more complicated than just that, but I get why hardware manufacturers may want to keep their distance from miniaturized versions of existing devices.
But man, Samsung, did you ever botch a good thing here. The GS3 was one of the best-received Androids in recent memory, and between all the hardware variants we’ve seen arrive, there are some still-fantastic specs to choose from. Why not just make a smaller Galaxy S III? You know, a quite literal mini Galaxy S III? I’d even let the display issue slide, so long as the best currently-available component was used (does Apple have any old 3.5-inch Retina Displays it wants to offload cheap?), but why the heck scale so far back on everything else? Battery concerns? Sure, that would be something that needs addressing, but every smartphone has its own struggles with power consumption.
Maybe the boat on top-tier sub-four-inch Androids has already sailed. Are larger screens the wave of the future, like it or not, or are manufacturers missing out on a good thing here by not also making their best hardware available in more compact packages?