Samsung’s Android devices have made some great advances in the last three years. The original Android-powered Samsung Galaxy was not an especially big hit but it was followed up by the superb Galaxy S, which I credit with kickstarting the Android revolution, at least in the UK. It was followed in 2011 with the superb Galaxy S II and this year, by the Galaxy S III. I’ve owned and appreciated these four devices and if you ask me to pick a favorite it would be between the Galaxy S and the S III. For as much as I love the S III, I find it just a little bit too big for my pocket.
So you can imagine my delight when I had the opportunity to use the new Samsung Galaxy S III Mini for a few days. Here is a Samsung Android smartphone with a beautiful AMOLED screen, a 1.0 GHz dual core processor, MicroSD card slot, 5 MPixel camera and the Nature / TouchWiz user interface, wrapped up in a design that looks very much like a scaled down Galaxy S III. Although the S III Mini isn’t as thin as the full size S III, it’s much more pocket friendly.
I’m not going to concentrate on the hardware specifications because they’re less relevant for a mid-range device, but I will mention that Samsung have given the processor 1 GB of memory, 8 GB of internal storage and it runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Translating this jargon into everyday use, it means the S III Mini is smooth and fluid. Even complicated websites download and render quickly, scrolling is smooth, social media and productivity applications run very well. In short, the S III Mini is great at the everyday stuff that most people will do on their smartphone. I’m only a casual gamer but the S III Mini copes very well with Angry Birds Star Wars, so much so that the editor may have mentioned “deadline” to me a few times!
Samsung have given the S III Mini some great features borrowed from the full size S III, including the power management toggles in the Android notification drop-down menu. You can enable and disable the ringer, WiFi, Bluetooth and the mobile network, amongst other options, from almost anywhere on the handset. Another feature is face recognition; the S III Mini looks into your gallery and recognizes people. As with the S III, this feature isn’t perfect but the more you train it to recognize your friends, the more accurate it is. You can also have it notify your friends if you upload their picture to Facebook.
The camera is a good quality 5 Mpixel unit, which is fast to use but in my casual testing, is nothing special. There’s a front facing camera included too and this worked well with GTalk.
The S III Mini uses a 4.0″ Samsung AMOLED screen. It is not in the same class as the high resolution superphone screens that you’ll find on the HTC One X, Galaxy S III or Sony Xperia T, but it features the vibrant colors and deep blacks typical of AMOLED and a perfectly sensible size.
I’ve only used the S III Mini for a few days and this isn’t enough to properly judge battery life. So far, I’ve found that it will see me between one to two days of my typical use, which makes it better than the Galaxy S and about the same as the Galaxy S III. Samsung have included a power saver mode in the settings menu and when I used this, the device was a little less responsive but I saw marginally better battery life.
There are only two areas where the S III Mini is less than stellar. One is that the MicroSD slot is buried under the battery so it’s impossible to hot-swap the card. The second is that the S III Mini does not have a secondary microphone for noise cancellation on a voice call. I don’t find either of these to be dealbreakers.
To conclude, the S III Mini is exactly what I look for in a mid-range device. It’s a great size, it has reasonable battery life and it can handle all of the normal smartphone apps without breaking a sweat.