The closing paragraph of our review on the Samsung Galaxy S3 mini says it all. “By emulating the fabulous Galaxy S3 in design terms, Samsung may have shot itself in the foot. The handset looks like it should be a smaller version of a great phone, but in fact it is cut down not just in size and that’s bound to disappoint many people.”
Samsung didn’t have to try hard to get things seemingly right. After all, it borrowed many features from the award winning Galaxy S3 including its name. So where did it all go wrong? Well the phone is expensive at around £280 SIM Free (or £15.50 on a pay monthly plan) and has some shockingly mainstream components, so much so that we’ve found it fairly easy to come up with a list of alternative handsets to the S3 mini. Note that some of them are on PAYG but can be unlocked for a small fee.
How can a £99.99 handset (plus an extra £10 top-up) match the S3 mini? Well, it’s thanks to Orange’s decision to clear an existing stock of the San Diego, which is exclusive to the network operator. When we reviewed it back in August, we identified a number of shortcomings, all of which have now been solved while the price has been more than halved. The San Diego now comes with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, it can be unlocked and there are ways of getting the onboard microSD card slot to work. For the rest, it matches and surpasses the S3 mini on most accounts, from the screen resolution (60 per cent more pixels) to the amount of onboard storage (16GB vs 8GB).
If purchasing an operator-labelled handset doesn’t cut it for you, check out the Sony Xperia P which is on sale at Chitterchatter, a T-Mobile reseller, for £149.99 which includes a £10 top-up. Spare a thought, though, for those who have purchased the handset when it was sold at full price, around £329. The high price, especially compared to its bigger brother, the Xperia S, was highlighted when we reviewed the Xperia P in July. Like the Galaxy S3, it comes with an ST-Ericsson Novathor SoC clocked at 1GHz, has 1GB of RAM and a 4in display. However, like the Orange San Diego, it has a higher screen resolution and 16GB, rather than 8GB of onboard storage.
The launch of the Google Nexus 4 changed the Android smartphone market forever. Not since the Apple iPhone went on sale have we seen such a buying frenzy, one that is leaving many customers utterly frustrated as Google only says “We are out of inventory. Please check back soon.” Compared to the S3 mini which costs more, the Nexus 4 is in another league, except for two things; the latter has a microSD card slot and is much smaller. From the quad-core system-on-chip, 2GB of RAM, a WXGA resolution and Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, Google’s latest smartphone is way better, at least on paper, compared to the little brother of the Samsung Galaxy S3. Check out our review of the Google Nexus 4.
There are a number of similarities between the Sony Xperia U and the Samsung Galaxy S3 mini. Both of them come with the same 1GHz system-on-chip and 8GB onboard storage. However, Sony’s handset has half the onboard system memory and its rear camera has a lower pixel count. However, Asda sells it for £119, locked to O2, a price that includes a £50 Asda voucher, that essentially brings down the price of the smartphone to £69; that’s right, £69 – less than a quarter of the price of the S3 mini. The phone also received an Ice Cream Sandwich update in October 2012. Check out the review of the Sony Xperia U when the handset cost more than £200.