2013 has been called the year of the phablet. Mainstream phones are getting larger, and the latest phablets are almost as big as tablets, with some looking great for those buying a domain name. This is great if you've been blessed with big hands or prefer the supersized versions of everything, but for many of us the move towards larger phones has been alarming. That small pocket that could previously just about fit our phone is a no-go for the latest models. And you can't even reach some parts of the screen operating the latest phones single handedly.
So when it comes time to upgrade your phone and you don't want to hop abroad the phablet train, what are your options? The two most popular Android smartphones of the year, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One, but have mini versions released for people just like us. Both are respectable devices with good tech specs and decent screens, yet both don't quite match up to their full sized versions. Which is best depends on what phone features you value most.
Both phones follow the same design principles of their larger cousins. The HTC One Mini has a metallic design and takes the shape of a round-cornered rectangle, which the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini opts for plastic with a curved bottom. The HTC One looks the better phone, but looks aren't everything.
Despite the mini moniker, neither of the two phones are exactly tiny. Both devices have 4.3 inch screens, which are larger than even the iPhone 5. When it comes to resolution the HTC One Mini with 720p HD easily beats the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini which only has 540p. However display quality isn't just about pixels and the Super AMOLED panel on the S4 gives better contrast. We'd still call the HTC One the winner here, but only just.
Both devices include superficially similar dual-core Snapdragon 400 chips, but these are clocked to vastly different speeds - 1.7GHz in the S4 compared with just 1.4 GHz in the HTC One. RAM too is better in the Galaxy S4, coming in at 1.5GB compared with 1GB. Both phones have been out long enough for a comprehensive range of benchmarks to be available, with the S4 taking the lead in all of them by between 10% and 40%. When it comes to performance the S4 Mini is the clear winner. When it comes to battery life the S4 manages about an hour longer than the HTC One at both browsing and calling, but this difference is relatively insignificant.
In daylight conditions the S4 is the clear winner when it comes to the camera. This is hardly surprisingly given that the S4 camera is rated at 8 megapixels, double the HTC One's 4 megapixels. Photos and video we took of the same objects and places using both phones show that the S4 is the clear winner. The HTC one has noisier photos even when they are downscaled to the same resolution, although it does have slightly better colour reproduction.
I asked tech blogger Sean Degville from MobilePhones.org.uk which he preferred and why:
The HTC One Mini is the better looking of the phones, with a metallic exterior compared with the chunky plastic on the S4 Mini. It also has the better screen, but if you're not not design conscious then the tech specs of the S4 Mini should be the reason you opt for that device.
He makes a good point, but personally I feel the HTC One Mini is the best all round device even if the S4 Mini has slightly better headline specs. In daily use these shouldn't make much difference, but the better speakers that include Beats audi and microphone on the HTC One combined with the better screen should make this a more usable device.
Greg Richardson is an Edinburgh based Android developer who regularly uses dozens of Android phones while developing educational apps for Android. He still hasn't convinced his wife to switch from her iPhone.