Anyone who has watched Ben Stiller’s now classic comedy movie Zoolander will know that one of the central jokes is that the main character has a preposterously small mobile phone. Back in 2001 when the film was released this was a relevant satire of the fact that manufacturers were still pushing to produce ever-smaller handsets.
Smash cut to 2013 and it looks like everyone has decided that bigger is definitely better, with five inch titans like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Sony Xperia Z forcing people to buy bigger bags or deal with monolithic smartphones bulging out of their pockets throughout the day.
Thankfully a new wave of mobiles are returning to the idea that being compact is actually an asset in certain circumstances and we have already heard official information about the Galaxy S4 Mini from Samsung, which promises to squeeze the best bits of its full-sized namesake into something a little more portable.
It is also rumoured that HTC is working on a mini version of its flagship One handset, while Apple is reported to be developing a budget iPhone Mini release for the next few months.
All three of these devices will be competing for a slice of the same market, so here we have tried to establish which one is in with the best shot of taking the top spot.
It is worth pointing out before we get into the nitty gritty that official word has only gone out on the Galaxy S4 Mini, so the info on the other devices is based on current industry speculation. Expect things to change between now and their official unveilings, as is always the case.
Design and display
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini looks very much like its big brother, albeit with a smaller 4.3 inch screen rather than a full five inch panel. It is thin and finished with chrome elements around the edge of the phone, along with a polycarbon back plate, which in layman’s terms means it is basically high quality plastic.
The HTC One Mini will also echo the style of its larger sibling, with a 4.3 inch 720p display giving it the edge over the Galaxy S4 Mini when it comes to clarity. Leaked images imply that it will have metallic elements to the chassis, although there could be a bit more plastic in this dinkier device to keep costs down.
The iPhone Mini is likely to be the smallest of the bunch, with a 3.5 inch Retina Display on the cards and an array of different plastic shells also set for this range so that buyers can pick from a number of different colours.
A dual core 1.7GHz processor an 1.5GB of RAM should give the Galaxy S4 Mini enough performance poke to feel fast. It is not going to outdo the quad core flagship devices out there, but it is faster than 2011′s Galaxy S2.
The One Mini should also be a dual core phone, this time with a slightly slower 1.4GHz clock speed but a beefier 2GB of RAM, which means it should still hold its own if you are comparing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini vs HTC One Mini on the basis of performance alone.
Apple always takes a different tact for its devices and has not been getting into the same arms race as its rivals with the flagship iPhone, but the Mini variant should still be dual core and might be nearly identical to the iPhone 4S in the hardware department.
These may all be mid-range mobiles, but they shouldn’t feel too compromised when you put them through their paces.
Both the Galaxy S4 Mini and One Mini will run the Android operating system, each with their own unique user interfaces onboard to help them stand out.
Samsung’s TouchWiz and HTC’s Sense have both come a long way in recent years, with the latest iterations of each taking a much more mature approach to the look and feel of things. That means cleaner lines, sharper fonts and new features aplenty.
The rumoured budget iPhone Mini release will presumably arrive with the freshly designed iOS 7 software installed. As Apple’s recently unveiled mobile operating system, iOS 7 has undergone a major makeover of its own. With a colourful, flatter aesthetic style to the icons, it might take a little getting used to but is a welcomed change for the better.
Siri has been updated with a new voice and a wider range of voice-controlled capabilities and even the lock screen has been adapted, making it a little more like the Windows Phone equivalent.
With the budget iPhone Mini release likely to occur in the late summer or early autumn, at a point when both Samsung and HTC should have had a chance to establish their own small, affordable phones, Apple looks like it is on the back foot and racing to catch up with its rivals.
Of course the word ‘small’ is all relative, because with 3.5-4.3 inch screens none of these phones come close to matching the preposterous compactness of the fictional phone used in Zoolander over a decade ago. Despite the mini tag, many of these budget smartphone releases outsize the smartphones of the late noughties.
So there’s a mini round up of the smartphones we’re anticipating this 2013. Which device would you choose?