The release of the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini last month has come with speculation over the quality of its features when directly compared with the model’s big brother, the Samsung Galaxy S3.
While it is easy to make these obvious comparisons between the two models, it is clear that the Galaxy S3 Mini should be considered in a separate category altogether; it is not simply a dwarfed version of its relative, but a smaller, less expensive phone marketed at an entirely different audience. With that said, the S3 Mini delivers many, if not all of the same features, apps and user settings as any other smartphone in the market.
Read on to discover exactly what makes the S3 Mini stand out of the crowd.
As the name denotes, it is smaller than the original Samsung Galaxy S3. The screen measures 4 inches compared to a 4.8 inch screen on the original design, though this does, by no means, appear inadequate. The screen makes up the majority of the phone’s fascia, which adds to the sleekness of its design. The screen size makes this model more comparable with the iPhone 5, though the thinness of the S3 mini makes this a sleeker and somewhat less clumsy phone to use.
The quality of the screen is also very impressive, with a sensitive touch-screen which boasts a 233 ppi pixel density. Though this comes in lower than that of the mini’s big brother model, the display remains high quality.
Where the S3 Mini really fits into a different category to the original model is evidently in its size. The Mini fits well in your hand and is not as bulky looking as the GS3. The phone weighs 111.5g compared with the original S3’s 131g, and this is owed largely to its thinness of only 9.9mm. The body itself measures 121.6 mm x 63 mm, and fits into the palm of your hand perfectly.
However, the back case does feels a little thin and flimsy, but this largely contributes to the phone’s ultra-sleek and light design. Furthermore, an advantage of the S3 Mini when compared to Apple phones is the ease with which you can remove and replace both the battery and SIM card. There is also a slot under the battery to house a mini SD card in order to increase the memory capabilities of the phone.
The S3 Mini is a Quad-band model, similarly to the original S3 original. Though the Mini model sports a dual core processor of 1 GHz which, compared to the original S3’s 1.4GHz, is still impressive considering the size of the S3 Mini, and I found that transactions could be made very rapidly. For instance, to wake and unlock the phone takes less than one second, and switching from application to application has immediate effect.
The model comes with a built-in memory of 8 GB, which is half that of the S3 Mini’s big brother. However, the phone also features an internal memory SD slot beneath the battery, which is easy to insert and remove and will allow you to store an unlimited amount of items.
Being an Android smartphone, the S3 Mini uses Google’s operating system, preloaded with Jelly Bean 4.1.1, which, to date, is the latest Android version. This, compared with the previous operating system Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), has various additional features, including improved voice search and shortcuts which allow you to easily rearrange and resize apps or widgets on your home screens.
The operating system of the S3 Mini really does stand out when compared to similarly sized and priced models in its range. For example, the HTC Desire C is preloaded with the slightly older ICS system, which is not upgradable to Jelly Bean 4.1.
I was really impressed with the Galaxy S3 Mini’s audio quality, both with and without the headphones. The volume turns up really high which makes it easy to listen to music or even watch films and TV programs without straining to hear. The headphones that accompany the phone are also of a high quality; there are volume controls on the headphones themselves, and there are also three different sized buds that can be changed according to the user.
The phone comes with many apps already installed, though there are many more available from both the Samsung App store and Google Play Store. I really liked the Navigation app, which is more of a Sat-Nav app than a Google Maps application which most smartphones tend to have. The app uses voice recognition to find a destination and talks you through the journey in a step-by-step manner. The voice recognition on the phone is excellent and can be used to operate most applications on the phone, including calling contacts, sending messages and accessing your emails.
I also really enjoyed the Google Play Book app, which allowed me to download a variety of books to read on the daily commute without having to rely on a tablet or Kindle device. The 4” screen was an adequate size to read from, especially with the rotating screen feature available.
Furthermore, there is a Suggest feature accessible by simply swiping through two screens which suggests popular applications that you can download. This is useful with users wanting to keep up-to-date with the latest trends.
Whilst there were no games automatically downloaded on the S3 Mini, I found it incredibly easy to download games from a vast selection without needing to be connected to a Wi-Fi connection, making it easy do on the go. Because of the phone’s high quality screen resolution and audio (considering the size of the handset, anyway), the gaming quality was good. Although the Google Play app store has to be connected to an email address, at no point does the Samsung ask for any credit card details, like the iPhone, which makes you rest assured when installing free games and apps.
Aside from being impressed by the large array of apps on offer through the Google Play Store and Samsung App store, I found that the S3 Mini allows the user to manage different applications with ease. Apps are easy to find and you simply drag them onto one of your five available screens depending on how frequently you use them. This is a feature which set the S3 Mini apart from other phones that I have used such as the Blackberry Curve, which only allows you to store a limited number of apps on the home screen.
It is also possible to set different images as your Home Screen and Lock Screen, and the phone can be unlocked very easily by swiping the screen with your finger.
The S3 Mini offers a 5 MP camera and outputs with a 2592x1944 pixel resolution, which is somewhat lower than the majority of other smartphones on the market, including the original Galaxy S3 which has an 8 MP camera.
With that said, the photographs taken with the camera were of a fairly high quality, though I felt that some brightly coloured shots did not transpire as sharply as they could have, and would require further editing to enhance their quality. That said, the overall rating of the camera is increased by the amount of features that the S3 Mini offers. For example, by touching one icon you can switch from a Single Shot, Continuous, and Panoramic views, as well as choosing from the Buddy Photo Share (using face detection), Smile Shot and Cartoon options.
Like many other phones, the S3 Mini comes with the usual effects; change the colour of photos to black and white, sepia or negative, a self –timer, an LED flash, and scene mode for sunsets, sports and landscapes. It is very easy to apply a mirror image to the camera in order to take photographs of yourself, and it takes a matter of seconds from start up to taking a photograph, and around a 2 seconds delay between taking photos. Moreover, it is easy to take photographs on the go as the S3 Mini captures images quickly, and copes well with movement.
There is a 4 x zoom on the S3 Mini which I was quite impressed with. Although photographs taken at the maximum zoom were a little blurrier than the originals, as expected, the range in which the camera could magnify objects was good.
Video recording is done via 720p at 30 frames per second and has stereo sound recording and video stabilisation. I also liked the fact that you can take still shots while you are recording a video, which means that you don’t have to keep switching between the video and the camera. Saying that, I found changing from photo mode to video mode was very fast, taking less than a second with one swipe of a finger.
In order to test the battery life on the S3 Mini, I used it extensively for a couple of days, watching videos, TV programs, and playing on games and apps. The battery survived for approximately 48 hours before I had to recharge it.
The battery lasted admirably when used only minimally during the day to send texts and emails. There is also a power-saver mode which can easily be selected in order to extend the battery life of the phone. Another useful feature is that the device tells you what percentage the phone is charged to which stops over-charging.