By Stephen Schenck | February 19, 2013 7:02 AM
Last October, a little over five months after Samsung first unveiled the powerhouse Galaxy S III, the company introduced the Galaxy S III Mini (above), calling it “a compact version of the flagship.” Well, compact, certainly, but a worthy phone to hold the name “Galaxy S III?” You may remember that I had my doubts at the time about Samsung’s choices when deciding on the GS3 Mini’s hardware, including a dual-core 1GHz SoC that might have been better suited in a phone released a year prior. Now, as we start to inch-up on the expected Galaxy S IV launch, I’m thinking about Samsung’s next Mini, and what the company needs to do in order to make the Galaxy S IV Mini the smartphone it deserves to be.
While this is very much the stuff of capital-r Rumors (the smartphone kind, not the Neil Simon variety), there’s been talk lately that the Galaxy S IV Mini, along with the Galaxy S IV itself and a new Samsung smartwatch, could all be under development under the umbrella of the company’s “Project J.” If the so-called Project J Mini really is the GS4 Mini (and what else would it be), and the rumors about its timetable are accurate, the GS4 Mini could be in stores by the end of May. Since we’re probably looking at April retail availability for the GS4 proper, even more so than with the GS3 and its Mini – thanks to the lengthy delay between them – smartphone consumers are going to be directly comparing these two models quite carefully. As a result, the Mini really needs to bring its A-game.
One problem with talking about the GS4 Mini at this early date is that we still don’t have a solid grasp on just what the Galaxy S IV’s hardware will be. While we’d like to see it with an Exynos SoC, for instance, rumors of it featuring one of Samsung’s new octa-core chips may be a pipe dream, and a number of benchmark results (it they’re to be trusted) have suggested that the GS4′s hardware could be just as fragmented as the GS3′s, with some models arriving with Qualcomm chips, instead.
Even still, there’s a general sense of what kind of power the GS4 at least SHOULD have, so I’m going to work from there to put together what I’d like to see from the GS4 Mini.
Let’s talk screens. One of my biggest problems with the GS3 Mini was its display, a 4.0-inch WVGA component. Small is fine, but the big drop in resolution meant going from a pixel density of 306ppi to 235ppi – a figure nearly 25% lower. While there may not be 720p screens that size readily available, does the GS4 Mini really need to be the same size as the GS3 Mini? After all, we’re expecting the GS4 itself to grow to a five-inch screen, so why can’t the Mini grow, too? What about giving the phone something like a 4.3-inch 720p display, like HTC used on the Rezound? Sure, LCD and AMOLED are apples and slightly-higher-contrast apples, and are fabricated differently, but I’m just spitballing here – Samsung needs to aim for the smallest 720p screen in can make. For the GS4 Mini, WVGA isn’t good enough.
How about the SoC? I could live with a Snapdragon S4 Pro, but why not mirror the GS3 and go with an Exynos 4 Quad? It needn’t even be Note-II-fast, and 1.4GHz should be more than adequate.
RAM’s a no-brainer; in this day and age, there’s no excuse for a decent Android not to have 2GB. As for flash, I’d sure like to see 16GB, but considering how good Samsung’s been about microSD support, 8GB wouldn’t be a deal breaker.
The battery’s trickier business. This has the potential to be a big problem with smaller phones – even with smaller screens drawing less juice – with the kind of other specs I’m talking here. I don’t think it would necessarily have to be a problem for the GS4 Mini, especially if we’re moving up into the 4.2-to-4.3-inch range and can be comfortable with a phone pushing 10mm thick. I hesitate to name a precise figure, but the farther north of 1500mAh, the better. 1800 would be lovely.
A five-megapixel camera like the GS3 Mini’s might work in a pinch, but let’s push for eight megapixels. I don’t think I even need to mention WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and all, and while NFC is still a bit of a luxury, if there’s room, let’s do it. We’ve already heard the GS4 Mini might not support wireless charging, which is a shame, but I can live without it.
So, what do you think of what I’m laying out here? Is this an Android you’d be interested in carrying around? Are you just going to get the bigger Galaxy S IV no matter what the specs for the Mini look like? Any guesses on what Samsung might end up doing differently?