Following up a best selling smartphone must be a lot like being a rock musician trying to produce that all important but oh so difficult second album. Deviate too far from what everyone expects and things get ugly very quickly. Don't innovate enough and you'll end up being forgotten.
So how did HTC do with their pint-sized follow up to the highly regarded HTC One?
Called the HTC One Mini, it is the Mini-Me to the HTC One. Finished in the same alloy/glass combo as its larger sibling, the Mini has a gorgeous build quality and is a dead ringer for the original HTC One.
There are of course a few differences. For a start the Mini is smaller and sports a 4.3" screen plus a wallet pleasing sticker price. The big question however, is what compromises were made to achieve this? And how much do these changes impact on usability?
Look and Feel
With the original HTC One, HTC created a phone that looked great and felt fantastic in the hand. HTC wisely decided to stick with this formula for the Mini which also looks and feels as good as the original HTC One. About the only real difference comes in the form of a slim band of plastic around the sides of the Mini. It isn't all that noticeable but it does provide a softer edge which feels better to hold during extended calls/emailos/surfing.
Smaller, lighter and cheaper usually signal serious compromise, however with the Mini there's also benefits. For a start the Mini is easier to use one handed than its larger counterpart thanks to its soft plastic edges and lighter body. Its smaller screen also means that all of the display is within thumb-reach.
This said, where the original One's display sported a 1080p resolution, HTC downsized the Mini's 4.3" screen to 1280x720 with a pixel density of 341ppi. From a specifications perspective, you'd be forgiven for thinking the Mini's display was a definite step down from the One's 1080p 468ppi screen, but the reality is that it still betters retina and delivers accurate colours, decent contrast levels with solid viewing angles.
One area where HTC have had to cut back in order to give the Mini a competitive sized sticker price is under the hood. With the Mini you get a dual-core 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage (which isn't expandable). While the lack of expandable storage might deter app collectors with large media collections, its lower spec CPU didn't noticeably impact on performance with most day-to-day chores (email, SMS, games) running pretty smoothly.
That said there's still a bunch of features on the Mini's full-sized sibling that are absent. This includes NFC, the infra-red blaster plus optical image stabilization for the Mini's camera. NFC wasn't a biggie given the existing lack of useful NFC apps currently available.
I was also never able to get the IR blaster on the original HTC One to work as its default app has no support for New Zealand (when HTC?). Thankfully some features have been retained. These include 4G connectivity and the rather impressive BoomSound speakers of its larger sibling.
In short there really were only two areas where there were any discernible spec gaps between the Mini and the original HTC One. First up was battery. Where the One's roomy chassis afforded a large 2300mAh battery, less space inside the Mini translates into a smaller 1800mAh battery. Thankfully the Mini still ran a full day without crying for it's charger.
The other area was the Mini's camera. HTC took a risk introducing the UltraPixel image sensor with the original HTC One. Rock solid performance and pin sharp photos (even under low light conditions) saw it garnering a fair amount of praise, even though it offered fewer megapixels than its competitors. Sadly this doesn't appear to be the case with the Mini's camera.
In use, the Mini's camera delivered soft edges and blurred detail. I initially thought the lens might need a clean, but doing so didn't really seem to make much difference. For causal shots to drop onto social media the Mini's camera is going to be more than adequate, but with increasingly capable cameras now the norm on a growing number of smartphones, this is a noticeable omission.
The One Mini isn't a half bad follow-up to the original HTC One, which was always going to be a pretty tough act to follow. Available as a significantly more affordable option than the original HTC One, it has still retained most of the features that really count.
Achieving this is no mean feat either. HTC may have trimmed specs, but have managed to do so without incurring any noticeable performance issues. About the only real give-away (size aside) that the Mini is a budget version of its larger sibling is its smaller battery and camera, other than that the Mini makes the One's design and 4G connectivity available at a compelling sticker price along with a really high end build that delivers flagship like design at a budget sticker price.
RRP (Handset only): $699 (Telecom), $749 (Vodafone)
Connectivity: (2G) 850/900/1800/1900Mhz, (3G) 850/900/1900/2100, (4G) 900/1800/2100/2600
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual band, DLNA
Bluetooth: v4.0 with A2DP
Dimensions: 132 x 63.2 x 9.3 mm 122g
Display: Super LCD2 capacitive touchscreen, 720 x 1280 pixels, 4.3" (342 ppi)
RAM/Storage: 1GB /16 GB
USB: MicroUSB v2.0
Camera: (Rear) 4 MP, (Rear) 1.6 MP
OS: Android OS, v4.2.2
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
CPU: Dual-core 1.4 GHz Krait 200
GPU: Adreno 305
Battery: Non-removable Li-Po 1800 mAh battery