Samsung’s Galaxy S III Mini Is a Flagship Smartphone in Name Only

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For some reason, Samsung’s Galaxy S III Mini has become the talk of the tech blogosphere, even though the phone doesn’t look all that special.

Here’s the spec list, straight from Samsung:

  • 4-inch, 800-by-480 resolution display
  • 1 GHz dual-core chip
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 5-megapixel rear camera
  • VGA front-facing camera
  • 16 GB of storage
  • MicroSD card slot
  • 1500 mAh battery
  • HSPA+ network support (no 4G LTE)

It’s not a bad spec list, and it will reportedly come with Android 4.1, the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system. It just doesn’t live up to the “Galaxy S” name, which is typically reserved for Samsung’s high-end phones.

The full-sized Galaxy S III, by comparison, has a quad-core processor in international markets and a 1.5 GHz dual-core S4 chip in the United States. Its 4-inch, 1280-by-720 resolution display has a higher pixel density than the Mini, and it has an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera. The U.S. version also has 2 GB of RAM. On paper, the Mini is more akin to last year’s Galaxy S II–not bad, but not flagship material anymore.

The good news, I suppose, is that mid-range phones are getting better, and Samsung’s getting in on that trend.

Earlier this year, HTC launched the Droid Incredible 4G LTE, which had a 4-inch screen but preserved many of the specs from HTC’s high-end One X. More recently, Motorola came out with the Droid Razr M, which has a 1.5 GHz dual-core chip, an 8-megapixel camera and a design that allowed for a 4.3-inch display in roughly the same physical footprint as Apple’s iPhone 5.

Like the Galaxy S III Mini, those other smaller phones have compromises, too. Motorola’s Razr M has less storage than the larger Razr HD, and the Droid Incredible 4G LTE lacks the powerful image processor found in HTC’s high-end siblings. Still, as far as mid-range phones go, they’re better than what you had to choose from a year ago.

I’m still dreaming of an Android phone with a 4-inch or 4.3-inch display that’s every bit as powerful as today’s larger phones, but the Galaxy S III Mini won’t be it.

MORE: Motorola Sees Room for Smaller, High-End Smartphones