There was once a time when smartphone screens simply weren’t big enough, and everyone wanted a larger, higher resolution display, understandable when typical phones had 3.5in 640×800 displays. However as handsets grew to almost unmanageable proportions for those with small hands, tight trousers, or smaller budgets, manufacturers introduced ‘mini’ versions of their flagship phones. Basking in the refelcted glory of their larger siblings, such lesser versions include this HTC One Mini (based on the original HTC One), which went head-to-head with theSamsung Galaxy S4 Mini.
While we appreciate smartphones with huge, high-resolution screens, we’re also fans of smaller displays. Smaller screens mean smaller handsets which are easier to slip into your pocket, are more comfortable to hold when talking and are much easier to use one-handed.
However, we were worried that mini phones would also have mini specifications, leading to handsets that are pale shadows of their award-winning bigger brothers. Fortunately, while the cheaper HTC One Mini has some corners cut compared to the Ultimate award-winning One, it’s still a seriously impressive phone in its own right.
The One Mini is a good-looking phone. We like the silver chassis and white sides, and even the plus-sized speaker grilles at the top and bottom of the phone work with the design, making it look pleasingly skinny. It also has a metal rear, which we prefer to the plastic of Samsung’s S4 Mini.
The screen has 1,280×720 pixels, which is plenty for its 4.3in size. The display has a pixel density of 341ppi, which is significantly higher than the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini’s 275ppi and is even slightly sharper than the iPhone 5’s 325ppi.
The screen’s high pixel density makes text sharp and clear, and means the One Mini is fantastic for web browsing. It’s possible to read text on web pages when fully zoomed out, which is not really possible on the S4 Mini without squinting. We were also impressed with the image quality from the LCD screen. Whites are pure and blacks are deep, and there’s little sign of graininess. This is in contrast to the Galaxy S4 Mini’s screen, which has a blue tinge and visible grain.
Despite being slower in our benchmarks, the HTC One Mini felt significantly faster than the Galaxy S4 Mini in normal use. The app tray feels smoother and more responsive, and there’s a big difference in web browsing performance. When looking at a complicated web page, such as the Guardian desktop site with comments turned on, the One Mini can scroll up and down smoothly without missing a beat, while the S4 Mini jumps and jerks. The difference was less noticeable when we switched to Chrome, but the HTC One Mini still had the edge for smoothness.
HTC’s software appears to be very well optimised, but there’s one snag. The One Mini comes with HTC’s Sense interface, which is one of the most far-reaching Android customisations there is. If you’re used to stock or mildly-customised versions of Android, such as those on Sony and Motorola handsets, you may find it all a bit much. By default, the main homescreen is a tiled feed showing stories and updates from news sites and your social networks; you can show updates from Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter, and news from sources such as the Guardian, FT and various music and entertainment sites. The HTC One Mini has been updated to Android 4.4 KitKat since launch, though this isn’t that noticeable given the HTC re-skinning of the operating system.
This is a useful news digest, but you may prefer the usual Android mix of icons and widgets. It’s easy enough to fix, though, as the other four homescreens are standard Android versions, and you can set one of those as the default rather than the news feed. We’re not so keen that the app tray’s icons are so widely spaced that only nine can be shown on-screen at the same time, as this leads to plenty of scrolling if you have lots of apps installed.