By Joe Levi | February 21, 2014 7:24 AM
“Mini” smartphones are an odd creation. One definition would have one believe that a “mini” version of a flagship phone is the same as the flagship, only smaller. In reality, a “mini” version generally doesn’t share anything with the flagship, other than its name. Such is the case the the LG G2 Mini.
On first glance, this sounds like a typical case of bait-and-switch, but it’s not. “Mini” versions typically have a smaller screen — or at least screens running a lower resolution — than their flagship counterparts. Because of the reduced amount of pixels to push, the RAM can be reduced, and the GPU and CPU can be downgraded.
If the manufacturer has done its job right, users will experience the same type of speed on the “mini” as they would have on the flagship. Unfortunately, this rarely happens, and “mini” usually means “cut all the corners and make it as cheap as possible” instead.
That brings us to the LG G2 Mini — or, put more accurately, “Minis”.
LG G2 Mini
LG came out with its G2 around the same time as the LG-made Nexus 5 was released. I opted for the latter, and I haven’t been disappointed, but that’s not to disparage the G2. It’s a wonderful phone!
The G2 Mini, however, isn’t a miniature version of the G2. It’s not even a single phone. As far as we can tell, there will be three versions of the G2 Mini. Yes, three. One of them will be an LTE version, powered by a Snapdragon 400. Another will be a 3G dual-SIM version of the phone, running a different version of the Snapdragon 400, and without NFC support. The third phone, also an LTE variant, is being targeted to markets in Latin America. Instead of a Snapdragon, it’s going to run an NVIDIA Tegra 4i. Like its 3G sibling, this version also lacks NFC, but gets a camera upgrade to 13MP.
Confused yet? Good. Me, too.
No, I’m not going to be camped out in line waiting to get one of the G2 Minis, but they’re not being marketed to me — nor should they be. Here’s what’s really exciting about these phones: each variant is being custom crafted to target its own market — probably in separate geographies. On the surface that may not sound very important, but it is. This move acknowledges the fact that LG is acutely aware of different needs in different parts of the world. What’s more, it’s bold enough to make three different versions of the same phone to address those unique requirements. Whether or not this strategy will succeed is anyone’s guess — but I’m hopeful.
Ultimately, that means customers can get a phone that does what they need it to in their particular location, and not pay extra for stuff that they may never use. The other side of this strategy, however, trades off end-user flexibility. I’m reminded of days not long ago when we had to buy different phones for different carriers because of band considerations. Today I can buy a Nexus 5 and it will work on virtually any GSM carrier around the globe. There’s a certain liberating feeling that comes with that, although I’ll probably be on T-Mobile USA for the foreseeable future, so that flexibility is probably for naught.
Back to emerging markets. We talked about this on yesterday’s episode of the Pocketnow Weekly podcast: emerging markets are the next big play concerning mobile technology. There are oodles of people who don’t own a smartphone, and some don’t own a phone at all. Some don’t own a computer or have a network connection either. That’s exactly where an affordable smartphone comes in. All of these otherwise “disconnected” people could immediately be part of the global community (and hopefully subscribe to our YouTube channel!).
Additionally, let’s say a manufacturer sells 100,000 of it’s flagship smartphone and makes $200 profit on each of them (just making numbers up here). For that particular model, the company would have made $20 million in profit, right?
Now let’s say another manufacturer builds a phone for emerging markets, but only makes $10 profit on each device to keep the price down. Because that device is so much more affordable, everyone who couldn’t buy an expensive flagship can still get a decent phone. Now 50 million people can buy that phone, but let’s say half of them do. That’s $250 million profit — significantly more than the $20 million that the other OEM made on their high-margin flagship. And that’s only half the potential of that particular market! It’s brilliant!
Not So Mini
I’m completely sold on the “emerging markets” strategy, and honestly wonder why it’s taken so long for manufacturers to saturate that otherwise untapped market. What confuses me about the LG G2 Mini, is its name — and the fact that it’s not very “mini” at all.
If the specs that we’ve seen hold true, the G2 Mini (all three of them) will have a 4.7-inch screen. Even if it has absolutely no bezel, 4.7-inches isn’t small. Isn’t that what “mini” means? It’s short for “miniature”, right?
1. (esp. of a replica of something) of a much smaller size than normal; very small.
The word “mini” is most certainly being used inappropriately to describe the G2 Mini — but that won’t make its impact on emerging markets any less impressive.