The device, Android operating system. By comparison, Samsung's flagship Galaxy S3 smartphone has a 4.8-inch screen.The , features a 4-inch screen and the latest version of Google's
Samsung hasn't yet provided details about availability or pricing. We'll update if we get that information.
While many consumers have sought out smartphones with bigger screens, analysts say there's still a big market for smaller devices. Many Apple users, for example, have shunned the larger screen sizes found in Android devices. Thus far, many of the phones with smaller screens have been geared more to the entry level market, not providing the powerful specs found in high-end devices. That means few have given Apple a run for its money.
"Apple has proven quite conclusively that tens of millions of people are happy to have a device they can wrap their hands around," Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart said. "It doesn't mean they don't want powerful processors or high megapixel cameras."
The Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini isn't as powerful as its flagship phone, but the company says the device "can be an optimal choice for consumers who are looking for more practical smartphones."
While Samsung may be counting on the new device to help it compete with Apple, it's not likely to change much in the U.S. without 4G LTE capabilities. Also, the chip used in the Mini is dual core, rather than quad core like the S3. And the camera is only five megapixels instead of eight.
Where the Galaxy S3 Mini could shine, though, is emerging markets, a key area for smartphone growth. And it could also be a strong device for prepaid carriers, which also have started offering older versions of the iPhone.
It also could be a viable rival against the older models of the iPhone, which Apple is still selling through carriers at steep discounts.
"This is something that will compete not with flagship devices from other companies, but their mid-tier," Gartner analyst Jon Erensen said. "It's not competing against the iPhone 5 but against the 4S and 4, in that price range."
Either way, the folks in Cupertino are likely to pay pretty close attention to the new device.
Here are the main specs, courtesy of Samsung:
Updated at 9:30 a.m. PT with additional details about specs and market positioning and again at 11:50 a.m. PT with further analyst comments.