The Galaxy S III is one of the best phones you can buy. It's fast, it's beautiful, it's got guts most handsets can only dream of. Which is why it's so disappointing—inexplicable, even—that Samsung's Galaxy S III mini isn't just the same, but smaller. It's a lesser phone in every conceivable way. And that sucks.
The international version of the Galaxy S III has a quad-core processor, a near-retina display, an 8MP rear camera, the works. Here, in contrast, is what you get when you buy a Samsung Galaxy S III mini: a murky 800x480 display, a tiny tugboat of a 1GHz dual-core processor, a wimpy little 5MP rear-facing camera, and no 4G data. In other words, it's just the latest in a succession of underpowered smaller phones.
The mini is unremarkable, in fact, in every way except one: that Galaxy Lineage. The mini's not some ridiculous throw-away Pantech weirdo T-Mobile freebie. It bears the name of the most respected Android clan this side of Nexus. It comes from the only company that consistently has the gumption—and resources—to fight Apple on its own turf. In other words, it was our best hope for a hand-fitting smartphone that didn't trade size for respectability.
Instead? The Galaxy S III mini is like a Rockefeller working at Jamba Juice: just another midrange slacker with a fancy pedigree.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. All the pieces were in place for a smaller form Android phone we could lust after; Jelly Bean (which the mini does, miraculously, launch with) goes toe to toe with iOS, and the iPhone 5 is wonderful but, by now, over-familiar. There's nothing here to woo us, though. Nothing worth a second look. Our fault for setting too high a bar? Maybe. But when Prada announces a smaller handbag you don't expect it to trade calfskin for vinyl.
The very fact a four-inch phone qualifies as "mini" is a chilling comment on our current state of smartphone pocket bulk. We're in an age of smartphones where bigger always equals better, a bizarro endgame for an industry that has always strived towards small. But there's still no sane answer as to why.
We don't reserve our best engines for Hummers. The serving sizes at Le Bernadin are a fraction of a Happy Meal. So why are phones, an item designed to be portable, that we use more than literally any other object in our lives, the place where bulky equals better?
The best Android smartphone maker wants to keep all eyes on its pocket televisions, just like HTC and Motorola and Nokia have before it. Fine. But maybe there's someone still left out there who'll notice that people got excited about the chance for a legitimate, pocketable iPhone alternative. If there is? Please make one.