HTC One mini review

Own identity or undressed One?

HTC One mini review

5 months after the announcement of the HTC One and 2 months after Samsung performed a similar trick with the Galaxy S4, HTC announced the mini version of the One. With this, a new trend seems to have started; that of the little brothers of top models.

We can't really call it 'mini'. It may be narrower than its big brother, but with its 4.3 inch screen it is hardly any smaller in length. Also in terms of weight they do not avoid each other much. On the hardware side, the One mini with a dual core Snapdragon 400 processor, 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of working memory is a bit of a waste.

The most obvious competitor for the HTC One mini is of course the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini. You could also look at the LG Optimus F5. Both alternatives are however significantly cheaper.

What's with the device?

For testing, we sometimes get devices with all the bells and whistles and sometimes, as in this case, it's an undressed package. Next to the device there is only a headset and the adapter for the microUSB cable in the box. The actual USB cable is unfortunately missing. Fortunately, nowadays it is possible to use the charger of almost any other device.

The solid in-ear headset has flat cables and crisp, red Beats Audio accents. Probably the One mini will be one of the last phones from HTC with such a headset as the collaboration with Beats by Dre has recently ended.


Of course the appearance of the One mini clearly shows the 'blood tie' with its big brother. Above and below the screen there is an aluminium surface with in each one a grid for a loudspeaker and at the top also a notification LED light.

But there are also clear differences. The One seemed to be clearly made of a single piece of aluminum. With the One mini it looks more like different parts have been fitted into a plastic outer skeleton. The front back of the unit is held together by a shiny white plastic edge. This makes the device feel a little more pleasant to hold.

Next to the screen is a nice narrow rim but above and below the screen the manufacturer clearly needed more space. Moreover, HTC still chooses to use physical control buttons. These are placed somewhat curiously and lack a button for multi-tasking. The back is almost entirely made of aluminium. At the back, the camera and flash are slightly recessed.


As we are used to from HTC, on top of the unit are the on/off button and on the right the volume buttons. On the left we find the drawer for the microSIM card and at the bottom the connector for the microUSB cable.

The build quality of the One mini is of no concern to us at all. It looks beautiful and feels like a safe. An advantage over our test device at the time of the HTC One. Because the device has had to surrender in terms of size, especially in width, it is very comfortable in the hand and is very easy to operate with one hand.


Because the One mini is also a phone that cannot be opened in any way by the consumer, the battery is hidden in the device. This is a 1.800 mAh copy. This is, certainly compared to the One, rather limited but appears to be sufficient.


Where the One was still quite a challenge to get through 24 hours on one battery charge, that's no problem with his little brother. In general, there is even a number of hours of slack. On an average day, we obviously use the internet the most via WiFi and social networks, so the monitor is turned on a lot. In addition, we make a single phone call. Using the multimedia functions of the One mini does have a considerable impact on stamina.

There is a mode that can extend endurance. This function can be set to activate automatically when the battery has less than 15% capacity left, but can also be found at any time in the window behind the notification bar. For this save mode it can be ticked whether to reduce CPU usage, reduce screen brightness, disable vibration feedback and disable data connection when the screen is off.

Call quality

Just like the One, the One mini features Sense Speech. With the help of a second microphone on the back of the device, this functionality filters out ambient noise so that both you and your conversation partner can be better understood.


In contrast to the One, the One mini seems to function fine. The necessary functionality while calling is also available. The phone part of the One mini is well taken care of anyway and very clear.


The specifications of the screen of the One are not nauseous and we were very happy to discuss it. When a device has to deliver on size and price, there is a big risk that this will be at the expense of the screen. Fortunately this is not the case with the One mini in terms of user experience.

The screen of the One mini is not so much smaller than that of its big brother, but rather narrower. The screen measures diagonally 4.3 inches and the resolution has been reduced to 1280 x 720 pixels. So it is still HD-quality and with a density of 342 pixels per inch, the image quality is more than sufficient. Colors and readability in sunlight are good and the automatic position of the screen brightness also functions properly.


While for the One is rolling out the update to Android 4.3 the One mini runs on Android 4.2.2. It goes without saying that the One mini is also equipped with HTC's Sense shell. This is placed, as it were, over the regular Android to improve the user friendliness and the appearance of the interface. HTC phones thus have a very own and distinctive interface. With the One we were not very pleased with some of the features of Sense 5 but most of the inconveniences we encountered at the time have now been resolved.


However, the number of start screens has not changed. There are still a maximum of four, plus one for Blinkfeed. After you've set up your phone at startup using the wizard, you'll end up with an amazingly full start screen, provided you've added a number of online accounts. You are now in HTC BlinkFeed. This is a social newsreader and HTC's new take on your phone's home screen. It's right in the middle between Facebook Home and Flipboard.

Besides synchronisation for Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Twitter and your calendar, you can also display messages from all kinds of news sources here. You have to do with what HTC has chosen for you and cannot add RSS feeds yourself. It's a nice and well-functioning addition of HTC but not everyone will be waiting for it. Fortunately, you can now remove it.


The application menu consists of a grid of 3 x 3 icons. Actually this is 3 x 4 but the top line is occupied by a large clock and the weather forecast. As far as we are concerned, this is still a big defect in Sense 5. The application menu is meant for apps and not for a clock that is already in the notification bar or a weather forecast for which we can place a widget on a home screen. On the next page of the menu there are icons on the top line.

By pulling down the image on the first page of the menu, a number of buttons appear. This allows you to change the way the menu is sorted and there is a search function and a shortcut to the Play Store. On the far right we see three dots that betray that there are more options. Among them is the possibility to adjust the grid size. With HTC Sense you have to scroll vertically through the menu instead of horizontally as is common practice on other Android phones by now.

The start dock at the bottom of the screen remains visible in the menu, but on the One mini you can find the shortcuts on it in the application menu. New in Sense is that HTC has hidden a menu with switches for all kinds of settings behind the notification screen that appears when you drag the status bar down. Everything shows that Sense 5 feels a little more at home on One mini and that HTC continues to improve.


Nevertheless, some of the working methods and adaptation possibilities of the new Sense will still require some getting used to. For example, when placing a shortcut on a home screen. Then there is the issue with the physical keys. This means that certain functions of Android have to be opened in a different way than is the case with standard Android. Pressing the home button twice quickly opens the multitask window with the last used apps in nine windows. Pressing and holding the home button opens Google's interactive and intelligent Google Now search service.


The telephone book is fully integrated with the other telephone functions of the unit. There are five tabs titled from left to right as follows: Calls, Phone, Favourites, Contacts and Groups. The contacts list has been one of the strengths of HTC telephones for years. Synchronization with online accounts and e-mail is a piece of cake and is almost automatic. Up to high-resolution profile photos from Facebook, everything can be retrieved and linked to the right person.


Although of course it can be very useful to have contacts from all kinds of social networks in one place, you might want to have access to their phone numbers in your phonebook. That's why you can check the settings to only show contacts with a phone number. With smart dial you can then quickly find the right contact.


The SMS options on the One mini are functional and minimalistic. The interface is streamlined and a photo or video but also your location can easily be added. The application may be used less and less nowadays, but the functionality is certainly not stripped down yet.


The mailapp in Sense 5 is very good. Not only does it look sleek and well-organised, it also works more than satisfactorily. The app works fast and messages are grouped neatly. HTC has also worked on the synchronization so that new messages arrive faster when you need them. Multiple accounts can be linked and these can also be grouped together in one inbox.

Despite the narrower screen, typing with the One mini is still very easy, even with two fingers. The keyboard is fast and can be adjusted to your personal preferences via the settings. In any case, it is advisable to go through the settings before use so that the keyboard is tailored to your personal preferences. Unfortunately, the dictionary is somewhat limited in the beginning and lacks the function to insert a space automatically.

It is also possible to enter words by dragging and dropping over the keyboard. To do this, the Follow-keyboard function must be ticked. However, this works better on downloadable keyboard devices such as Swype and SwiftKey.


As mentioned before, behind the notification screen there is a menu hidden with switches for WiFi, Bluetooth, airplane mode and other settings. This makes it very easy to enable or disable one or more connection options.


The One mini has virtually all possible connection techniques on board. Think of GPS and GLONASS, 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and DLNA. Using HTC Sync in combination with HTC Setup you can adjust and set up your phone the way you want from your PC. Files can also be copied from the PC to the device. Via the media output function, an external device can be used to share images with a suitable television.


For internet use, the HTC One mini has both Google Chrome and its own HTC browser on board. We soon chose to use mainly the HTC browser. Not only because you then have the choice to play Flash content but especially because it is nice and fast. This goes for both loading and zooming on web pages.


In addition, a large number of tabs can be opened simultaneously and bookmarks are synchronized with your Google Account. When zoomed in or out, text boxes are automatically displayed matching the image. Actually, our only consideration is that double-tap zooms in very far. Fortunately, this can also be adjusted in the settings.


Just like its big brother, the One mini has a camera with no less than 4 megapixels, but these are called Ultrapixels. HTC's idea was to exchange megapixels for larger pixels in order to achieve better performance in low-light situations. The camera starts up very quickly and takes a picture almost without noticeable delay. In contrast to the One, the One mini does not have optical image stabilization, which is a shortcoming.

The interface of the camera is clear but quite full. Keys for gallery, video mode, filters, HTC Zoe, flash and settings are all readily available. To switch to the front camera, you can swipe from the edge to the center of the screen. All necessary options are included in the settings. Sometimes the layout of the menu makes it difficult to find the desired function.

The results of the ultrapixel camera on One mini are somewhat erratic. In daylight in outdoor situations, the camera performs well. Colors are displayed well and the details are also well taken care of. Because you have to work with fewer pixels, there is a lot of noise in parts of the photo. In situations with backlight or large contrast differences, it is highly recommended to use the HDR function. When we use the camera indoors or in the evening, we see that the One mini can excel in terms of light sensitivity.

HTC One mini camera samples

Autofocus and printing are still fast and most photos are well exposed. Use of the flash quickly results in severe overexposure of the photo. Leave out zooming in at all times because that generally makes little sense with four megapixels. Even on the small screen of the phone, the quality decreases noticeably.

In addition to shooting ordinary photos and videos, the HTC One mini also has the ability to record Zoe. Simply put, Zoe's are three-second videos that you shoot in photo mode. The photo button slowly turns red to show you the progress. Based on date and location, the One mini can combine the moving and still images into a 30-second movie. The resulting results can be very nice, but the board also misses the plot quite a bit.

Existing programs

HTC Watch is no longer present on the One mini, nor can it be used as a remote control for the television. We do now find the program KeyVPN in the menu. On the HTC One mini the following apps are installed by default.


7digital Music Store, Stock, Calendar, Car, Calculator, Chrome, Contacts, Downloads, Dropbox, Facebook, Flash Player Settings, FM Radio, Gallery, Voice Search, Gmail, Google+, Hangouts, Phone Setup, KeyVPN, Child Mode, Clock, Mail, Maps, Music, Navigation, News and Weather, Notes, Parental Dashboard, PDF Viewer, Play Books, Play Music, Polaris Office, Voice Recording, Tasks, Tips and Help, TuneIn Radio, TV, Twitter, Weather, YouTube and Flashlight.

This is a pretty complete package. Although the presence of one app is easier to understand than another. For example, the need for an extra music store will be limited and although KinderModus is a nice app when you want to share your phone with children, it is not necessary for everyone. Parental Dashboard can be used to set things up. The app can be downloaded for free from the Play Store.


The One mini retains the advantages of its big brother and even knows how to make minor improvements here and there. This delivers similar functionality and user experience in a smaller package and with a smaller price tag. The price tag of a number of competitors is even smaller but they have a less luxurious look and build quality. The camera is just as good or bad as the one on the One, depending on the situation.

The future resilience of the One mini is a bit of a question mark. Past experience teaches us that devices that are not the absolute top model are skipped faster than desirable when new versions of Android are released. The 16 GB storage and 1 GB working memory may also prove to be on the tight side in the long run. As things stand now, the HTC One mini is a very nice 'phone call' as far as we are concerned.

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