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Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini

When you start beating the most valuable company in the world (clue: it’s a fruit) at something it’s very good at, you know you’re really on a roll. And right now, Samsung is riding the wave of its unprecedented success in the phone arena, thanks to its massively popular Galaxy line of smartphones. And just when you think you have seen every possible Galaxy iteration, a new one comes along. Ladies and gents, meet the Galaxy S3 Mini.

I’ve already written a short preview about the Mini when it was first announced, and recently I was able to test it firsthand. Sadly, it made a quite disappointing impression up close. While it’s essentially a shrunken version of the flagship S3, the Mini looks and feels considerably cheaper. That doesn’t really come as a surprise since it’s for a different market although I would’ve appreciated some more love from Sammy hardware-wise. The 4-inch screen is bright and punchy, though, and is adequate for a midranger.

As I wrote before in the preview, the S3’s 8MP camera has been downgraded to a 5MP snapper in the Mini and the performance is right about what you’d expect: not spectacular. Every flagship smartphone nowadays features at least an 8MP camera, and if you’ve used one for any amount of time, the camera sported by the Mini will certainly be underwhelming. That said, it takes decent pictures in a well-lit area and will be able to provide you with clear snaps for Facebook. But when you go indoors, better use your point-and-shoot instead.

On a brighter note, the Mini runs Jelly Bean out of the box which is really nice since even some flagship models from other companies still have Ice Cream Sandwich. Operation is zippy enough across menus and apps, but the 1GHz processor with 1GB of RAM will drag you down once you start even moderate multitasking. I’ve also encountered quite a number of force closes and needed to restart the phone several times though I’d like to think this is due to me trying to use it as I do other, more powerful phones (mobile habits die hard). Aside from that, you’d actually forget that you’re using a relatively cheaper phone in normal, day-to-day functions (calling, sending email, messaging) mainly because of Jelly Bean.

One glaring bit, however, is its horrendous battery life. It’s unfair to expect anything miraculous out of the 1,500 mAh battery, but the Mini has a significantly smaller screen than the S3, so the battery should’ve lasted longer. I started with 100 percent battery when I went out of the house at 7 AM. I used it for browsing (via 3G, no LTE here) for two to three hours, playing light games (Angry Birds) for 30 minutes, making a few calls, texting, and playing a little with the settings. By 5 PM it was already below 15 percent and gasping for air. By comparison, my HTC One S went through a similar day and had at least 25 percent by day’s end. And I actually hate the One S battery life.

The Mini is a fine midranger for its price. It has the requisites of a modern smartphone but unfortunately none of the standout features of its pricier sibling. It will probably appeal to those who still want a small form factor with great functionality. Despite almost all manufacturers opting for a bigger screen for their top-of-the-line phones, one of them still produces a flagship with the same size as the Mini: Apple. Still, not a lot of Filipinos can afford an iPhone 5 so the Mini has the potential to be a hit. Just don’t expect it to be of the same caliber as the S3 because while they may share the same name, there’s a lot missing from the Mini.

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