When Samsung announces a new Galaxy S phone, the world pays attention. The Korean manufacturer has emerged victorious from the Android battlefield. With few serious challengers left, the heads of various EVOs, Droids, and Optimus handsets now decorate Samsung's battlements. The Galaxy S line represents the cream of Samsung's crop, and every new product is meant to turn heads.
That's why the tech world is instead scratching its collective head after Samsung's latest entry, the Galaxy S III Mini. We were hoping for a handset that would offer the raw power and slick design of the Galaxy S3, only in a smaller body. We got no such thing. Instead, we get a shrunken-down S3 with the guts of a mid-range smartphone.
Samsung was aiming for budget smartphone shoppers with the Galaxy S3 Mini. Though we don't yet know its price, the company is looking to use its familiar Galaxy S branding to further saturate the low end of the market.
Though we aren't looking at two evenly-matched phones, let's put the Galaxy S3 Mini in perspective by comparing it to Apple's latest, the iPhone 5.
Maybe Samsung should have called it the Galaxy S III: Stubby Edition. Though the Mini isn't as long or wide as the standard S3, it's much thicker, with and extra 2.25 mm of depth compared to the iPhone 5.
In fairness, though, the S3 Mini is more of a competitor to the iPhone 4 or 4S, and it's only about half a millimeter thicker than Apple's older models.
Despite its tubbiness, the Galaxy S III Mini is shockingly light. Its plastic build helps it to come in a hair lighter than the aluminum unibody iPhone 5.
The display in the Galaxy S3 Mini would have been solid two years ago. Today it's – at best – in the lower-mid-range. This is the category that most blatantly illustrates Samsung's direction with the S3 Mini. It's is a penny-pinched, budget smartphone.
The display in the iPhone 5, meanwhile, is among the best. For a more fair fight, refer to the iPhone 5 vs. the (full-sized) Galaxy S3.
On paper, this looks closer than it likely is. Apple's A6 (manufactured, ironically, by Samsung) screams. It typically benchmarks higher than devices with quad-core chips, and makes the iPhone 5 one of the zippiest handsets on the market.
Samsung hasn't specified the exact CPU inside of the Galaxy S3 Mini, but we'd be shocked to find something that offers anything approaching breakthrough performance.
Though it won't break records, the S3 Mini should perform reasonably well. Along with its dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM should help keep it running smoothly.
Here's another red flag that says "Budget Phone." Any modern mobile device that comes in an 8GB model is reaching for economy shoppers. We don't know yet about pricing for the Mini, but the 8GB and 16GB models will probably be separated by US$50.
With Apple aboard the LTE bandwagon, there are no remaining high-end smartphones that aren't compatible with the ultra-fast wireless network. This is yet another sign that the S3 Mini is mid-range: it's still living la vida 3G.
Until the Galaxy S3 Mini releases, there's no fair way to compare its battery life to that of the iPhone 5. With a lower resolution display and no LTE, though, it's hard to imagine it struggling.
Nothing special here for the Mini. The 5MP rear camera and VGA front shooter are – again – mid-range specs for a 2012 smartphone.
We could make a long list of the intangibles of the iPhone 5 (especially compared to the S3 Mini), so we'll highlight the App Store. Its selection of quality, well-designed apps its legendary. Is it an advantage over Android's Google Play Store? That's for you to decide.
Despite its middling specs, the Galaxy S3 Mini is shipping with the latest major update for Android, 4.1 Jellybean. Depending when the Mini releases (and when the full-sized S3 gets updated), it may run Jellybean before its flagship big brother does.
This wasn't a fair fight. We could have just as easily compared the full-sized Galaxy S III to the three-year-old iPhone 3GS. Though it disappoints geeks and can't be considered a high-end offering, Samsung will find an audience for the Galaxy S3 Mini. Customers respond to familiar branding, and most shoppers don't care about specs. Those looking for a familiar look and feel – for a (likely) rock-bottom price – may be delighted to own the S3 Mini.