There are plenty of miniature things in this world that are great. Love or hate it, the Mini Cooper S is an incredibly fun car to drive. The iPad mini is a smaller, more affordable version of the iPad Air with just as much power and prowess. Even mini golf is one of my favorite time wasters to partake in when I’m on vacation.
If my opinion on “mini” were instead based on the mobile industry’s meaning of the word, I would hate practically everything with the mini tag. We all would.
Samsung has been doing it for a few years now – throwing the mini tag on the end of its popular Galaxy S brand of smartphones and hinging the success of a smaller look-a-like on the strength of the Galaxy S popularity. And HTC jumped on the miniature bandwagon last year with the One mini, a phone that sort of looked like the flagship HTC One handset and shared its simple branding.
For what it’s worth, most of these smartphones are actually miniature, at least in comparison to their larger, like-named siblings. The HTC One mini is smaller than the HTC One; the Galaxy S 4 mini is smaller than the Galaxy S 4, and they look virtually identical; and the Z1 Compact looks a lot like the Xperia Z1, only smaller.
However, we’ve said it here at Pocketnow more than once, especially on the Weekly. These so-called mini smartphones aren’t actually that small. And they’re a far cry from the flagships they’re named after and designed to strongly resemble.
Let’s take a second to focus on the most recent addition to the mini family: the LG G2 mini.
Yes, the G2 mini is smaller than the G2. And they look practically identical. Aside from the software and device names, that’s where the similarities end.
The G2 has some seriously impressive, top-tier specifications. The G2 mini does not. For example, the G2 has what is considered by many to be the best chipset around, the Snapdragon 800 SoC with a 2.26GHz quad-core Krait 400 CPU and Adreno 330 GPU. The G2 mini has a significant step down from that with the Snapdragon 400, composed of a 1.2GHz dual-core CPU and Adreno 305 GPU. The G2’s 13-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization provides one of the most impressive camera experiences on an Android smartphone to date. The G2 has a gorgeous 5.2-inch 1080p True HD IPS+ LCD display, whereas the G2 mini has a 4.7-inch qHD IPS LCD panel. The G2 has a respectable 3,000mAh battery, yet the G2 mini has a 2,440mAh battery.
Those discrepancies continue down into the nitty gritty details. The problem is not that the G2 mini is just a smaller, lighter, more vanilla version of the G2. In fact, that’s not the case at all. The G2 mini is as much a miniature version of the G2 as house cat is a miniature version of a lion.
Instead of rounding a few corners to cut costs and create a smaller, lighter, more compact version of the same phone, LG took a piece of coarse sandpaper to every last corner, barely leaving a remnant of the original model.
And it’s frustrating for a couple reasons.
The G2 mini isn’t a miniature G2. We’ve established that. It’s not just scaled-down, but also dumbed-down and scaled back. And that’s where the marketing department fails. LG’s “G” brand is supposed to be reserved for high-end handsets – the flagships, like the G2 and G Pro/G Pro 2 models. LG also has an F series, which is designated for lower-end, budget handsets.
The G2 mini resides somewhere in-between those two series as a floater. It’s specs and hardware should land it in the family of F phones, but because it still hangs on to the G branding, consumers likely won’t be able to enjoy those cost savings.
That’s what irks me. Buyers who don’t know any better will be paying top dollar for what is essentially a low-end smartphone, thinking they’re actually getting a smaller version of a high-end flagship which has received stellar reviews. We know that is not the case, but those who don’t do their homework won’t know any better – at least not until it’s too late anyway.
These “mini” phones are predatory. And it’s a dirty use of branding to target uneducated consumers.
But that’s not all.
Since when is a 4.7-inch smartphone mini? For the last three years, large phone have only gotten larger, and so our idea of what miniature is has become skewed. But a 4.7-inch display, like what is found on the G2 mini, is anything but “mini.” That’s the size of the HTC One and just a hair smaller than the Galaxy S III. It’s the size of my Moto X, which by no means is considered a large phone. But it’s certainly not considered a small phone either.
But I distinctly remember a time when a 3.8-inch smartphone was considered to be large and 4.3-inches was absurd.
These “mini” phones are really anything but mini. They’re still too big for those seeking miniature phones, yet too small for those who just want an average smartphone, not something to stretch their pockets.
The fact that more and more of these mini smartphones pop up every few months tells us that people must be buying them, that they’re not a total wash. And that’s unfortunate – not because something is finally working for some OEMs, but because they have to basically fool some customers into buying something they think is much better than it actually is.
The Xperia Z1 Compact and iPad mini with Retina display are the only two recent examples of a proper mini version of a high-end product. Everything else is haphazard and frustrating.