Do you remember how appalling it was 6 years ago for a smartphone to have a 4.3-inch display? How everybody said it was too big, and that such a large device would never succeed? In my mind I’m picturing the release of the HTC EVO 4G, and remember saying the exact same thing myself. The phone was a “huge” deal because it was the “first” 4G phone, but it was also a very large device. There are even a couple of reviews up that claim that’s right in between “a very large smartphone and a small tablet” – if only we had known where we’d be in a few years!
Today, sizes of smartphone displays can vary. The most popular devices seem to have screens that range from 4.7 inches to 5.5 inches, flagship or not; that just seems to be the sweet spot for most people. However, occasionally we will see devices that have larger displays, and also devices that have smaller ones. Recently it would seem that there has been an increased interest from consumers for more phones to have a smaller display, to which some companies have already obliged.
Sony, for example, usually has at least one “compact” model of their (now retired) Xperia Z lineup. However, with the unveiling of the Xperia X a compact variant has yet to make an appearance. In more recent news, Apple brought back its beloved 4-inch smartphone variant with the iPhone SE, cutting very few corners when it comes to performance and specs. Lenovo (and Motorola) have the Moto E, which is a budget device with a 4.5-inch display, and on the Windows Phone front you have a couple of Lumias to choose from.
All in all, when it comes to compact or mini devices, there are slim pickings. Once upon a time it seemed like manufacturers with popular flagships would make “mini” devices a regular thing: both HTC and Samsung had a couple of years where they released mini versions of their flagships, like the HTC One Mini and HTC One Mini 2, and Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Mini and Galaxy S5 Mini. The problems with these flagships was that, for the most part, they were only mini versions in design and name rather than performance. Contrary to the Sony and Apple approach, both HTC and Samsung cut a lot of corners spec-wise to make their minis, while also being quite expensive for what the consumer ended up receiving.
Both HTC and Samsung skipped mini versions in 2015, and understandably so; I can’t imagine either mini making much money at the end of the day if they took that same approach again. However, I don’t think they were unpopular due to their size. I think if HTC and Samsung took the Apple or Sony approach, they could both have viable second and third size options available for consumers.
I’m inclined to say I don’t expect a mini from Samsung. Although at one point there was rumor that an S6 mini might make an appearance, the S7 has since been released with no word on an S6 mini, so that ship has sailed. Aside from that, Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge don’t really focus on size so much as design differences; it’s different from companies like HTC, Apple, and Sony, all of who do (or have) offered variants in different sizes. A mini is still possible, of course, it just doesn’t seem as likely.
HTC, on the other hand, could stand to benefit greatly from a mini. Samsung pretty much dominated headlines since the announcement of the S7 over the past couple of months, so I imagine that they’ll keep sailing on that exposure for a while. HTC on the other hand, while having a seemingly great product this year with the 10, could still use all of the help it can get. I think that if HTC came out with a mini that has matching specs – or closely matching, at least – then they could have a somewhat successful outcome. The iPhone SE seems very popular with iOS users, but if you don’t want to use iOS then the size means nothing. Sony’s Xperia Z5 Compact is still relevant and not what I would consider outdated, but it is not exactly the most accessible compact device here stateside. We could still use an Android mini that both performs well and is easily accessible.
And in my opinion, HTC and Samsung probably have the best shot at making this happen, if they wanted to – LG probably could too, if they could make a smaller version of the V10. I hope at least one of these companies makes a good mini flagship. I always liked the idea of minis, but I was never too impressed with their performance or their price.