The HTC One Mini has everything it should to bear the chic HTC One name: a gorgeously crafted hardware and software design, with solid performance chops to match.
But don't think that "Mini" means you're simply getting a shrunken HTC One. Instead, this only slightly smaller handset steps back the internals across the board -- in video capture resolution, processing brawn, storage capacity, and extra features like the (absent) IR blaster and NFC. Make no mistake, this Mini is a fantastic midtier, midprice choice with enough stamina, speed, and style to go the distance.
The Mini sells exclusively with AT&T for $100 on contract at the full retail price, half the cost of the original One at its full retail price.
HTC One Mini versus HTC One
|Dimensions||5.40''x 2.69''x 0.37''; 5.04 oz.||5.19'' x 2.48'' x 0.36''; 4.52 oz.|
|OS||Android 4.1.2*||Android 4.2.2|
1,920x1,080 pixels; 468ppi
1,280x720 pixels; 341ppi
|Wi-Fi||802.11 a/ac/b/g/n||802.11 a/b/g/n|
|Rear-facing camera||4 UltraPixels;|
1080p full HD video
1080p ful HD video
|Front-facing camera||2.1 megapixels;|
1080p full HD video
720p HD video
|Processor||1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600||1.4GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400|
18 hours talk time (3G)
13.3 hours talk time (3G)
|Carriers||AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint||AT&T|
|Colors||Silver, black, red (Sprint only)||Silver, black|
Credit: Lynn La/CNET
*Upgradable to Android 4.2.2
Design and build
The way HTC presents this phone, you'd think it'd be a fraction of the One's size. In fact, HTC barely shaved down its dimensions. At 5.2 inches tall by 2.5 inches wide by 0.36 inch thick, the Mini loses only 0.2 inch in height and width compared with the One.
When it comes to body style, the Mini and One aren't exactly mirror images, but they're clearly cut from the same cloth. They share the same unibody shape, gently bowed-out back, and finely tooled details. To HTC's credit, the Mini manages to look like a premium stunner despite the introduction of a plastic rim around the face and spines, because it keeps the aluminum back and face plates. Losing some of that heavy metal makes the Mini a lighter phone as well, 4.5 ounces versus the One's 5-ounce weight.
Screen size is a bit smaller, a 4.3-inch 720p display made using Super LCD 2 material instead of a 4.7-inch screen with 1080p resolution and Super LCD 3. Pixel pushers will note the Mini's 340ppi versus the One's pixel density of 468 pixels per inch.
Side by side with the One, the Mini's LCD screen isn't quite as colorful or bright at full brightness levels. The drop in resolution is also noticeable at such a close range, and colors aren't quite as vibrant. On its own, however, Web sites are easy to read, photos and videos look good, and the screen is still visible at lower brightness levels, though it isn't as punched up as it is at full brightness (of course.)
Both typing on the virtual keyboard and tapping icons did feel more cramped with the Mini's relatively smaller 4.3-inch screen, especially compared to the One and to other phones with much larger screens. I have smaller hands and didn't mind the size. For those who do, it helps that HTC will let you increase system font size, and that the virtual keyboard supports word-tracing.
Other changes are evident as well. The flash moves above the camera lens from the side, and the Mini's power button gets a different finish (since the Mini lacks the infrared beam to control the TV.) The volume rocker also splits into two distinct parts that stand out a little more from the surface; I actually prefer this to the One's shallow, ridged bar, though the buttons still weren't quite as easy for me to find with my thumb at first. You just have to know they're there.
While the Mini uses the same main camera as the One -- with a 4-megapixel "UltraPixel" sensor with an LED flash and 1080p HD video recording -- the front-facing camera drops from 2.1 megapixels with 1080p HD recording to 1.6 megapixels with 720p HD video capture.
Beyond these tiny adjustments, the handset's port placement and dual speaker grille proportions remain the same. You'll plug the Micro-USB into the bottom of the phone and the headset jack into the top. As with the One, there's no microSD card slot for extra storage, so you'll need to make do with the Mini's 16GB.
OS and features
When it comes to software, the Mini is happily up-to-date with Android 4.2.2 topped with HTC's Sense 5.0 interface. Yes, BlinkFeed commands the main home screen by default with social networks, news outlets, and other content you set up. You can't turn off BlinkFeed in the settings, but you can shunt it to a secondary or tertiary screen. I don't mind it in as a second screen, myself, but I join my colleague Brian Bennett in wishing I could smoothly scroll through items in the feed rather than jump from group to group.
Otherwise, navigation and customization features remain the same on the Mini as they did on the original One, down to tapping the Home button twice to pull up recent apps and pressing Home to launch Google Now.
Those who are new to Sense from another OS or Android interface will need a little time to adjust to the look and feel, though it's fairly quick to pick up and the layout is extremely easy on the eye. Uncover settings and you can customize a lot, from app arrangement to lock screen style, to the LED notification light. Sense may not have all the gestures and toggles of Samsung or LG phones, but you won't geteither.
You can read more about HTC Sense 5 in CNET's complete.
As part of any modern Android experience, the Mini contains all of Google's apps and services, plus essentials like a clock, a calculator, maps with voice navigation, a music player, and so on. You'll also find an FM radio and a few preinstalled apps (like SoundHound, a personal favorite, and myVPN) that are unobtrusively grouped into folders for music and productivity.
There's an AT&T folder as well, which contains 15 carrier apps for account management and a couple of partner apps. The prearranged folders are great for keeping down clutter and reducing the appearance of bloatware, though you can also hide and disable apps to remove them from the screen.
Like the original, the Mini is blessed with HTC Beats and BoomSound for enhanced audio through the phone's twin external speakers. Music, vocals, and voices all sounded loud and rich, even with volume set midway. To compare the two Ones, I tested them side by side by playing the same song at full volume. Each phone impressively flooded the room. While the One's audio sounded rounder and fuller than the slightly tinnier Mini, the gap between the two was relatively narrow.
Although it's unlikely that the Mini's absent NFC support will turn prospective buyers away, it's a bummer that this now-basic Android feature isn't here.