So it’s been a few weeks since Apple released the iPhone 12 Mini, which to me has been the most interesting of this year’s iPhones. This is because it’s exactly like the regular iPhone 12 but just smaller and due to that one difference it creates a very different dynamic with the user especially when it comes to how they use it. And when you watch some of the reviews below, you’ll get why, but today isn’t just about the iPhone 12 Mini, it’s about the giant hole it’s addressing in providing small flagship phones, and how Android really needs to offer up a great competitor here.
Now if you’ve watched the review above you’ve likely noticed the amusing rant form TheVerge’s Elizabeth Lopatto over the need for a small phone. And that’s because phones have honestly gotten a little too big. This isn’t by accident of course; these things are essentially computers now and since we can do more on them we tend to want a bugger interaction space (i.e. the screen) to work on. However even some of those growth patterns have gotten crazy, with phones like the iPhone 12 Pro Max and Galaxy Note 20 ultra really just deserving the name “narrow tablet” now. And while I don’t mind those big power user machines which I could partially replace my laptop with, a lot of people can’t stand them because for starters, they don’t fit in their hands. Big phones take up a lot of space, and while some may say using a phone one handed is a first-world problem being able to even hold the phone with one hand isn’t and a lot of people don’t have really large hands. And even then, I’m fortunate enough to be pretty tall and have pretty large hands, but ironically enough , every time I touch my secondary , old Lumia 540 versus my daily driver LG V30, I actually miss how the Lumia just ….feels right in my hand. And understand, my V30 is a premium glass and metal work of art that is better in pretty much every other way than my plastic-coated Lumia, but still due to it’s size, the Lumia just feels better to hold. This is why a lot of people don’t mind the smaller screen and even smaller battery that come with smaller phones, and that’s why the iPhone 12 Mini will likely be a hit, especially since it doesn’t even have any real Android competition. Sure you could say the Google Pixel 5 sort of competes, but in all honesty that utilitarian little marvel is closer in size to the regular iPhone 12 , and the 4a which is more comparable is a budget phone that would probably turn off any iPhone 12 Mini buyer, which brings me to my title again: I really miss the Samsung Galaxy S10e.
Now in case you didn’t watch the review above, I’ll just give you the basics here: The S10e is Samsung’s slightly cheaper S10 line offering from last year, similar to how Apple made the 12 Mini cheaper this year. But like the 12 Mini, the S10e is just as fast as it’s s10 big brothers , just as powerful, and even had an admirable camera setup and features like reverse wireless charging to boot. Add in everything else that was great about the Galaxy S10 phones (water resistance, a headphone jack, great storage options , fingerprint scanner) and you had a phone that was amazing at a smaller size. Except, it seemingly didn’t sell well, or capture that much hype. In fact the S10e was actually one of our underrated phones of last year, as I even thought it was better than the base iPhone 11, yet it seems most people just skipped over it. Why you may ask? Probably because of it’s launch next to three other big S10 phones and the few features it did lack compared to them: a bigger battery, one extra camera and a curved screen. Not the biggest compromises, in fact one could argue considering how Apple packages the iPhone line now, they don’t matter at all.
However the Android world tends to act a little differently, as specs tend to be a big aspect of people’s buying decisions, which is why more conservative approaches like Google’s Pixel phones can often be overlooked too. It’s a shame however, as the S10e failing to take off is probably what encouraged other Android manufacturers to not bother with smaller phones. Google’s Pixel 5 being a little smaller is more out of just needing to stand out than really cater to fans of smaller phones, while Samsung themselves decided to make the Galaxy S20FE to complement their S20 line this year, and that phone is a completely different approach, as it’s big for starters and a hodgepodge combination of leftover parts from the S20, Note 20 and A series phones. Ironically, it’s at the same price as the iPhone 12 Mini, and honestly, I’m not really a fan of it. It’s more of a scattershot phone to cover that part of the market than a targeted shot at a specific need that customers want. Which means unless you can get the Pixel 5(or the even harder to find Sony Xperia 5 II), you’re out of luck for flagship Android phones that can fit in a smaller hand.
All Hope is not lost though.
Ironically enough however, smaller flagship phones aren’t necessarily a lost cause for Android in the future, and that’s because of Apple and the iPhone 12 Mini. You see, if this phone sells well, which it likely will due to Apple’s marketing and a seemingly warmer reception to it, then chances are Samsung, Sony ,Google and others will double down on smaller phones next year, offering them as either their entry level flagship, or just a fun alternate flagship option , or both like the 12 Mini was. We could be seeing the return of great, smaller Android alternatives like the Sony Z1 Compact, or other impressive devices that can actually give the iPhone 12/ 13 Mini some competition. And to be fair, if you actually find a Galaxy S10e you should probably get one, it’s still plenty fast, pretty powerful and will get software support for the next 3 years, so you can keep it for about as long as an iPhone too. But if that’s not something you prefer, well then, we should all hope the 12 Mini is a hit, so that every Android manufacturer can follow suit.