With 5-inch, 6-inch and even 7-inch variants, high-end smart phones seem to be ballooning out of all proportion. Human evolution is a bit too slow to respond though, meaning we're still left with tiny hands with thumbs that can't stretch across the screen without some kind of invasive surgery.
To help avoid such drastic measures, HTC has shrunk its flagship One smart phone, creating the One Mini. It's gone from 4.7 to a much more manageable 4.3 inches, but still keeps the same luxurious aluminium body. It's a little less high-end, with a 720p display and a dual-core processor, but it does boast 4G connectivity and the same 4-megapixel camera as its big brother.
It'll be going head-to-head with Samsung's Galaxy S4 Mini, which boasts a similar lineup of specs and plastic S4 stylings, and costs about the same.
HTC hasn't yet been able to confirm the price of the phone, but Carphone Warehouse has listed it at £380 SIM-free. Various retailers are offering it for free on deals from £27 per month. It's due to go on sale on 9 August, so expect to hear more detailed pricing nearer the time.
Should I buy the HTC One Mini?
If you've been eyeing up the sleek, metal body of the HTC One but don't fancy stretching your palms out to accommodate its 4.7-inch screen, the One Mini should float your dirigible. Its 4.3-inch size makes it much more comfortable to hold. It still has the gorgeous metal body, making it arguably the closest thing to an Android-powered iPhone you'll get.
Don't think it's just a shrunken HTC One though. Crucially, its processor is dual- rather than quad-core, resulting in much less impressive benchmark results. It also doesn't support many of the more demanding games I tested, though I'm not sure at this point if that's a hardware limitation or a software issue. Even so, if gaming is on your mind, the bigger version is better.
The screen isn't Full HD either, though you'd be hard-pressed to tell. It's much sharper than the Galaxy S4 Mini's display and it handles colours well too. The 4-megapixel camera is identical to the One's -- decent, but not brilliant.
If you're looking for a great all-round Android phone that refuses to toe the 'bigger is better' line, the HTC One Mini is the one to go for. If size (or budget) isn't that important, but you do want sleek style, opt for its £500 big brother. The Galaxy S4 Mini isn't a bad option to consider, but it has a plastic body and a lower screen resolution. The iPhone 5, meanwhile, is considerably more expensive, starting at £529 -- even the 3.5-inch 4S is £449.
At 63mm wide and 132mm long, the One Mini is about 5mm slimmer and shorter than the standard One. That might not seem like much, but it actually makes a significant difference. It's much more comfortable to hold in one hand and I didn't need to stretch my thumbs to tap icons on the far side of the screen. It's 20g lighter than the One as well, which you'll notice if you're holding it up for hours on end trying to earn three stars on every level of Angry Birds.
The family resemblance to the One is immediately noticeable. The Mini has the same aluminium body, which not only looks gorgeous, but feels just as luxurious to hold as the full-sized version did. White plastic inlaid lines break up the back's grey metal at the top and bottom.
The only major difference in the Mini's design -- apart from its size, of course -- is that it now sports a white plastic band wrapping around the edge that gives it a slightly toy-like aesthetic. It's not an unpleasant addition at all and should help give extra protection from knocks.
I found my review model of the One picked up quite a few scuffs and chips on its sharp metal edge over time. The Mini's light grey silver is just as susceptible to dirt and grime as the bigger model, however, so if you want it to keep looking fresh when you're on your way out to a party, give it a quick spit polish.
The Mini will be available in the same black and silver colours as the One. The full sized One is now available in a stunning shade of red too, but HTC wouldn't confirm if the Mini will ever be available in this tintillating hue.
On the front are the same two 'BoomSound' speakers, perched above and below the screen. They honk out a surprisingly loud and full sound for a phone -- they're certainly among the best speakers you'll find on a mobile device. The sound is helped by the fact that they face forwards, directing the sound directly at you when you're watching a video. You'll still want to use headphones or a good speaker when playing music at home, but they're easily good enough to annoy every single person on the bus.
Around the sides is a micro-USB port, a 3.5mm headphone jack and volume and power buttons. The buttons don't sit quite as flush with their surroundings as they do on the One. This makes them much easier to find by feel alone -- the One's volume rocker makes it extremely difficult to quickly turn down your music volume without taking it out of your pocket.
Like the One, there's no slot to pop in a micro-SD card, so you're stuck with the phone's internal storage, and you can't swap out the battery either.
To match its smaller size, the screen's resolution has seen a drop from Full HD down to 720p. In spite of this, the Mini boasts 341 pixels per inch, which is a little more than the iPhone 5's 326ppi and kicks the proverbial of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini's 256ppi.
I found it to be satisfyingly sharp, with no fuzziness around text or icons. Against its Full HD brother, you can notice the difference, but you need to get your nose pretty close to the screen to see it. In everyday use, you're unlikely to feel like you're lacking pixels.
Side by side against the S4 Mini, however, it's a different story. I popped on my favourite test video Art of Flight and was actually quite surprised at the difference in quality. The One Mini's screen was considerably more crisp, showing the flurries of snow and detailed mountain ridges with much greater clarity than the S4 Mini's screen.
Colours were also satisfyingly bold and rich, although the S4 Mini probably had a slight edge in this department, thanks to its customisable colour profiles. The extra clarity on the One Mini certainly makes it a more appealing option, particularly given the similar prices. It's more than good enough for YouTube clips or watching a few episodes of Top Gear on Netflix.
The One Mini will come running Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean -- the last but one version of Google's mobile operating system. Given Google has only just announced version 4.3, which is hardly any different, I'm perfectly happy with the slightly older version of Android on board. The full-sized One has only just received its update to version 4.2.2, so I'd expect to see it on the Mini from launch, but don't expect an update to 4.3 any time soon.
Like its big brother, it's been loaded up with HTC's Sense 5 software. You won't find any difference between the Mini's software and the larger model, but it looks very different from other Jelly Bean phones you might have used. You'll still have the usual multiple home screens to fill up with apps and live widgets, but the app menu is a scrolling list of minimalist tiles. A combined clock and weather widget sits at the top of the apps too.
You're able to arrange the apps alphabetically, by most recently downloaded, or in a custom order. You're also able to hide apps from view if you don't want the stocks and 'Tips' apps cluttering up your screen. There's no option to arrange by most used, so you have to manually move your favourite apps to the top for quick access.
To the left of the homescreens is what HTC calls BlinkFeed. It's essentially a news and social network aggregator that shows headlines and your friends' status updates in a cascading feed on large tiles. It's very similar to Flipboard, which you might have used on other phones. It's a nice idea, but it's far from perfect.
For one, you can't subscribe to your own news sources. Instead, you have to choose from the few publications HTC has chosen for you -- thankfully, this does at least include CNET. But if you want to get important headlines from the BBC, for example, you'll just have to use your browser, or another widget.
Most annoyingly, you can't get rid of it. While you can select a different homescreen as the default one (or replace Sense with another launcher app), BlinkFeed will always be there, taking up a panel. If you've never been bothered about Flipboard, expect to be a little frustrated that you can't remove it.
Generally though, HTC's interface is attractive and thanks to its quite basic layout, is simple enough for new Android converts to get to grips with. The S4 Mini by comparison, is packed full of extra software and a settings menu so dense it's had to be split into four categories.
Processor and performance
Stuffed inside the Mini is a dual-core Qualcomm processor clocked at 1.4GHz. That's no patch on the mighty quad-core chip found in its big brother, so I wasn't surprised to see a significant reduction in performance.
On the Geekbench test, The Mini returned a score of 1,388 -- a far cry from the 2,668 achieved by the regular One. Similarly, on the Quadrant test, the Mini achieved 6,026, against its sibling's 11,777.
Some of the more demanding games are not compatible with the Mini, which might be due to its lesser power. Titles such as Real Racing 3, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and N.O.V.A 3 would not install, whereas more lightweight games such as Riptide GP would -- and played perfectly well. I'm not able to officially confirm whether this is definitely due to it being not powerful enough, but it seems a likely reason at this point. Fingers crossed HTC can optimise the phone to play these games -- until it does, gaming fans might want to steer clear.
Even with a dual-core chip, don't expect the phone to be sluggish. I found swiping around the interface to be enjoyably swift, with no annoying lag when opening menus and apps. Editing photos in Snapseed was well within the phone's capabilities. The Mini certainly doesn't have the raw power of its full-sized rivals, but it has more than enough for essential tasks and won't leave you feeling like it's slowing you down.
The back of the Mini is home to a 4-megapixel camera. That might seem a laughable number against the S4's 13 megapixels, but HTC reckons each individual pixel is physically bigger, allowing them to capture more light, resulting in better photos -- at least, that's the theory.
It's exactly the same camera sensor used in its big brother. While I was reasonably impressed with its shots, it didn't offer much competition to the iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S4 or the Nokia Lumia 920.
The Mini's camera gave almost identical results -- unsurprising, given that the hardware is the same. On my first shot of the London Eye, it did a decent job of exposing for the scene, but its lower quality resulted in purple fringing around the detail on the wheel and noticeable image noise on the darker parts of the sky. For a Facebook snap, it's acceptable, but it's not going to win you any photography awards.
The Mini struggles with high dynamic range (HDR) images in the same way as its larger sibling too. This test shot taken on normal mode has both an overexposed sky, while the dark areas under the bridge are lost in darkness. By combining multiple exposures an HDR photo should be able to bring both under control.
While both the One and One Mini were able to rescue some of the darker areas, its efforts in darkening the bright sky are bizarre and I certainly wouldn't want to post them anywhere. The mini does still have the Zoe cam software though that lets you take multiple photos at once to be able to select the best from a moving scene or combine into an action sequence.
The Mini's smaller body means that there's less room to pop in a big battery. As such, it packs a 1,800mAh cell, rather than the 2,300mAh battery in the One. It's not a bad size for a smaller phone and the dual-core processor should be less demanding than its quad-core sibling.
Indeed, I found the battery life to be pretty good. With fairly careful usage, you shouldn't struggle to squeeze a whole day of use out of the phone -- perhaps a little more if you keep a very close eye on what you're up to. HTC reckons you can get up to 13 hours of talk time over 3G. That's quite an impressive figure, but one I'd say is fairly accurate.
As with all phones though, how much life you'll get depends completely on how you use it. If you keep the brightness on max and spend your time streaming Netflix videos or playing games, you'll probably need to give it a juice in the afternoon. Keep the screen turned down and avoid demanding tasks until you're near a plug and you shouldn't need to worry too much about it conking out whilst you're using it to navigate your way to a date.
The HTC One Mini takes the sleek, metal design of the One and scales it down so it's a little easier on your thumbs. The camera still isn't brilliant and BlinkFeed still gets in the way, but it's a great phone if you're happy to sacrifice blistering speed for comfort and pocket space.