HTC Finally Outs The Slightly Smaller One Mini, We Go Hands-On

At long last, HTC finally confirmed what we all already knew to be true — the HTC One mini is a real mid-range smartphone, and it’s going to start hitting store shelves across the globe shortly.

Given HTC’s track record with this sort of thing so far, it’s no shock to see that images of the device leaked one last time before HTC made its official announcement. The company was still cagey on when exactly the device would launch and where — as usual, it’s leaving those proclamations up to the carriers, but HTC plans to launch the One mini in a handful of markets in August with a more widespread launch to follow in September. Fortunately for U.S. One fans, that last batch of photos very clearly indicates that AT&T will carry the device when it makes it to our neck of the woods.

But all this commotion raises an important question — what is it like using the One mini? I spent some time with the device earlier this week, and came away impressed considering its mid-range aspirations.

First things first: for a device that bears the “mini” moniker, the One mini isn’t all that much smaller than the flagship phone that preceded it. It’s just a few millimeters shorter and narrower than the full-sized One, and almost exactly as thick. The end result is a phone somehow manages to feel nicer in the hand than its slightly larger counterpart — the first One wasn’t unwieldy by any stretch, but its little brother fit more comfortably in my hefty mitts.

In case you were concerned that HTC had to cut corners when it came to design, well, don’t be. The aluminum unibody design that wowed fans of the original One has only been slightly tweaked for the One mini — perhaps the most notable physical differences are the lack of trim around the camera lens and the inclusion of a sort of polycarbonate bezel that runs around the mini’s face. Different, sure, but I doubt anyone but the most persnickety phone addict would take issue with these changes.

But aesthetics only account for part of the package. As you’d expect from a smaller (and almost definitely cheaper) device meant to appeal to the masses, HTC has had to dial back on some of the niceties that garnered the original One so many fans. Most of the goodies are still there — the BoomSound speakers remain, as does the Ultrapixel camera (albeit without optical image stabilization) around the back, but HTC needed to compromise on horsepower. Rather than running with a power hungry quad-core chip, the company instead chose to load up the One mini with a 1.4GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400 and 1GB of RAM.

It’s a modest spec sheet by today’s standards, but I didn’t notice any lag or slowdown as I put the (admittedly non-final) phone through its paces. If anything, the most worrisome change is that there’s only 16GB of internal storage available to users, an issue that’s compounded by the now-expected lack of a microSD card slot. Naturally, the screen had to be downsized as well — the One mini sports a 4.3-inch display running at 720p, which is an adequate (if mildly underwhelming) replacement for the 1080p panel that graced the original One.

And of course, HTC’s Sense 5 UI is back, only this time it runs atop Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. Minor bugfixes and improvements have been added to the overlay for its next big (or small, I guess) outing, so don’t expect anything shockingly new on the software front if you take the plunge.

I’m waiting to get my hands on some final hardware before passing judgment, but so far the One mini seems like a worthy little brother to one of the great Android devices of our time. HTC clearly hopes that this thing will be able to penetrate markets in a way that its flagship One can’t, but only time will tell if the company finally has a mass market hit on its hands.