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May 30, 2013

Samsung's New S4 Mini: Too Little Too Late for What Might Have Been

We’ve been on record for some time now with our belief that had Samsung first come out with a Galaxy S4 format that was closer to the iPhone 5 in size – rather than the much larger format it came out with - that it might have truly given Apple major nightmares. Our view of it, as detailed in our early analysis of a mini S4, is that no matter how much marketing and hype there is around the S4 and its near five-inch screen, that many Apple iPhone 4 and 4S users who are finally getting out of their contracts and ready to move to a new smartphone might very well have taken a substantial look at a smaller flagship Galaxy S4.

Instead these Apple users will remain loyal iPhone users and simply gravitate to either the iPhone 5 or whatever the next iPhone iteration proves to be – whether an iPhone 5S or an iPhone 6 – or perhaps an entirely new iPhone. It’s Samsung’s loss – and potentially a significant loss – to have not challenged the iPhone on its own smaller terms first.

Now Samsung has followed through on recent rumors and has delivered the smaller Galaxy S4 – making the same use of the “mini” name as Apple does in the process (though fortunately this cannot spin off a trademark lawsuit). In a nutshell, it is simply too little, too late to make any impact on Apple users. That is a damn shame as we would have truly loved to see the iPhone 5 have to go directly up against a similar-sized flagship device.

Samsung, of course, isn’t thinking about the S4 Mini in this way. For Samsung, it is simply delivering yet another in an endless collection of smartphone formats to fill yet another smartphone niche. In this case Samsung is delivering a scaled down S4 that will also be much lower in cost – although we don’t yet know the actual cost - than the flagship large format Galaxy S4. Real first hands-on looks of the S4 mini will be made available at an upcoming Samsung event being held in London on June 20, 2013. Perhaps we’ll learn more about a price point then as well. Samsung will also deliver much more on its Windows Phone-based ATIV smartphones.

We must first understand some distinctions here – though the new device may share the “Galaxy S4” name, in no way does it share the same specifications. It is a cheaper entity all around with downgraded specifications. Here are the essentials:

  • 4.3 inch qHD Super AMOLED display
  • 107 gram weight
  • 1.7GHz dual core processor 
  • Eight megapixel rear-facing camera
  • 1.9-megapixel HD front-facing camera
  • Available in two colors - White Frost and Black Mist
  • Support for either 4G LTE, or 3G HSPA+ or 3G Dual SIM (market dependent)

The following graphic provides a visual overview:

Yes, there will be a collection of similar Galaxy S4 “S Apps” and camera capabilities available, but don’t expect the full complement of Galaxy S4 features. Hand and finger hovering and eye tracking? Well…no. The bottom line is that the “mini” refers not only to size but to features as well.

Apple won’t be losing any sleep over the S4 mini. On the other hand Nokia - which just lost its own market share lead in Finland to Samsung, may have a few nightmares about the S4 mini. We’ll know more when the device is officially launched in London, but until then we’ll keep our eyes focused instead on Apple’s upcoming World Wide Developers’ Conference, which will take place just before the Samsung London event.

Edited by Jamie Epstein

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