HTC One Mini
1st Aug 2013 | 18:16
A little slice of the world's best mobile phone.
Introduction and design
What are you supposed to do when you make the world's best phone? HTC thinks the answer is to make it smaller, shave off a few unnecessary bits and make it a whole lot cheaper.
We're excited about the prospect of the HTC One Mini, as it's a handset with all the best bits of the HTC One without as much of the cost. That's got to be hitting a new segment of the market, right?
A look at the spec list, which admittedly isn't the right way to weigh up a phone's prowess, tells a different story, as it's only coming with half the power of its bigger brother. The HTC One Mini has a dual core Snapdragon 400 processor, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The screen is a 4.3-inch option, running at 720p rather than the Full HD level of the original One.
The reason we've got those elements out of the way early on is that they're rather irrelevant to the review - the internal storage issue aside - as the HTC One Mini does what you'd hope it would. Namely, it makes the One more pocket-friendly, both literally and from a financial perspective.
It still uses BoomSound for amazing audio, the Ultrapixel camera is present and correct and even the underground hit, BlinkFeed, makes a welcome appearance to the mix. And that's before we even get onto the design...
When it comes to making phones look and feel nice, HTC has long had decent credentials. It created something unsurpassable with the One, but with the One Mini it's come up with a decent compromise that doesn't make it feel like you're getting a hand me down phone.
The aluminium back is still present and correct, but is joined by a plastic rim, the same as sported by the HTC One X+. It diminishes the overall effect of the phone, but only slightly; we actually saw someone gasp when they picked up the One Mini, such was the effect of putting that aluminium chassis in the hand.
And that's where HTC has nailed the design - the smoothness of the back is excellent, and makes you feel like you're holding a really premium piece of kit. The plastic is almost invisible when you're holding the phone normally, and the decreased weight (down to 122g from 149g) feels like the correct amount for the smaller screen.
The front facing speakers are smaller than the larger model, which makes sense of course, but they're made of a more coarse metal, making it feel a little less finished and a little more industrial. It's not a bad thing, but does make the One Mini look a little cheaper.
The camera module is exactly the same as the main One, according to HTC, although it's shorn of the optical image stabilisation that we're seeing on top end handsets. In this case, it results in a smaller overall lens, which helps keep the One Mini so compact. The flash has been moved too, but this doesn't seem to change the quality of the photos.
One element we do like over the larger model are the volume keys, as they're now distinct options that make it easier to find and hit them when not looking directly at the phone (perhaps when on a call, or listening to music in the pocket). While on the HTC One Mini they feel a little wobbly and not as premium, we still prefer the layout to the single block on the One.
Other than that, we're massive fans of the design on the HTC One Mini. It's a phone that just wants to be touched, with all the buttons in the right place. The screen, being 4.3-inch rather than the 4.8-inch option on the One, is a real boon to some people (namely, those that want to leave the iPhone 5 but don't want a massive screen) and serves its purpose well.
With a 342ppi pixel density, that Super LCD2 screen (close to that seen in One in terms of technology, although that's the slightly superior Super LCD3) is a great option that works very well in direct sunlight. It's covered by Gorilla Glass 3, which saw nary a scratch during testing, and is the most crisp in its segment.
It certainly makes the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini look underpowered and underspecified by comparison, and does well to come in at the same price point - in short, the screen on the HTC One Mini is a real stunner and should be a consideration point for anyone thinking about buying this phone.
The price of the HTC One Mini is also pretty palatable: while the £330-£380 off contract price is a little steep, it still seems wholly fair for what you're getting. Of course, we'd like to see all this packed into a £100 device, but it's not going to happen. The contract price is around £25-£28, which is also pretty decent, and you're getting far more than 75% of the One for the equivalent cost.
HTC has happily decided to make sure the One Mini is coming with the latest version of its software, with Sense 5.0 plus and Android 4.2.2 on the phone from the outset.
This means a cutting edge version of Google (although sadly not Android 4.3, as you'd expect given that was announced after the phone went on sale) and gives a new level of technology to the handset.
For the uninitiated, the HTC One Mini offers a very simple and intuitive way of getting the information you want in front of your eyeballs - a methodology that has pervaded throughout the company's phone history. BlinkFeed is the main thing most will see when turning the phone on, and this is a portal to get access to all of your news, social networking updates and calendar entries in a fun, tile-based interface.
Unlike other apps, Blinkfeed does require a bit of setting up, but we'd urge you to do such a thing as it gives loads of really nice information sources and does so in an original and offline way. At the start you're asked to choose your preferences, and once achieved the Windows Phone-esque interface will give a load of tiles with the right content in there.
Smattered into the mix are some well-curated updates from your Facebook feed, tweets and retweets from your Twitter account and even calendar entries to let you know when important meetings are scheduled.
It's a neat system, and one that has a pleasant 'snick' sound effect when you pull down to update it - plus it automatically will load in a mobile reader mode, instead of showing the full web page and giving loads of unnecessary information.
If you want to read a more in-depth look at Blinkfeed, check out our dedicated page
Beyond Blinkfeed, there's a lot that the novice and active Android user will enjoy, be it the design of HTC's Sense overlay on top of Android, or the pared down method of navigating through the phone.
For instance, you can choose to have a grid of icons in a 4x3 or 5x4 layout, in case you're worried about icon overload. The former seems a bit too boring for our eyes, but on the smaller 4.3-inch screen we can see that this has a lot more purpose, and a number of people we spoke to liked the smaller layout.
One thing many of you will love is the weather and clock widget, as it's pervasive whether you're in Blinkfeed, the app menu or just the homescreen (as a widget). It may sound confusing and annoyingly cluttered, but a) the weather widget is the best out there bar none in terms of a stock offering and b) it actually looks quite nice.
One big change with Android 4.2.2 is the addition of a settings tile icon in the notification area. This area can be accessed by swiping down from the top of the screen, and will give you updates on all manner of things, from messages to emails to app updates and more.
Android 4.2.2 allows you to manage this area more effectively than before, as you can now swipe down on many notifications and see more info; for instance, Gmail messages can now be viewed and instantly replied to, or dismissed by swiping left or right. It's a nice system which makes it easier to see the things you need better than anything else on the market. and destroys Apple's iOS for this functionality.
But back to the settings tile. It's a really nice implementation of an idea from Google, adding a lot of functionality into the mix. You can set the brightness level, turn Wi-Fi on and off, hit up power saver and loads more. On top of that you can choose to go deeper into the settings of each, which means it's a cinch to set up Bluetooth headphones without having to scrabble around the main settings menu.
It might sound like a lot of effort, but in actual practice this is a really neat way of changing things on your phone without having to have a really messy notifications bar, like you'll see on the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini.
The rest of the interface on the HTC One Mini is the kind of fare we're also used to from HTC - meaning all the things you'd be looking for are in logical places. Well, that's not strictly true, as there are some areas that get a little confusing.
For instance, the desire to get rid of as many buttons on the bottom of the phone mean that it's a little sparse on the old hardware front - so you've now only got a Home and Back button to play with, and these are both soft options.
HTC seemed to think this would be OK in the original One, and has sadly carried on the trick with the One Mini. On-screen menus are irritatingly hard to find (look for a group of three dots) and HTC seems to have worked this out, allowing you the option to long press the home button to call up any menu.
It's not ideal, and the Samsung Galaxy range does a much better job of just having the button on the phone. The long press option is a little fiddly, and still results in you scrabbling around, looking for the on-screen option.
But beyond that we're happy with the way HTC has done things. The lockscreen is a great place to control things like Spotify (not supported by all phones) or you can have a selection of widgets or photos scrolling past if you'd rather.
Calling and contacts
The HTC One Mini, like its big brother, is excellent for maintaining contact with the people that matter to you. It easily lets you know which people it thinks should be joined together in social networks, and this gives access to great updates all the time when you check into a contact card.
A really nice trick of the HTC family is the ability to pull in high resolution pictures from Facebook, which is a big plus.
While the others can do so from Google+, they eschew the same thing when it comes to other social networks, which is really annoying when you want the more popular profile pic of your friend to pop up when they call, but don't want it to be hideously blurry.
And to offset the times when there is no high resolution picture on offer, HTC has come up with a fun dotted picture that brings a stylised view to the picture, rather than just showing you a bunch of mashed together pixels.
It's a nice touch that adds to the premium feel - and we like the fact HTC calls them 'big pictures' in the settings menu, where you can select whether these are downloaded over Wi-Fi or mobile data too, in order to save your data when chatting to new chums, with a simple tap all it takes to change the choice of pics.
Navigating through the contacts list is as easy as pie. The tab on the right-hand side of the screen is easy to grab so you can scroll up and down the list to find the letter group you're after, and then all the names and pictures are laid out with the new, clean interface on offer from Sense 5.
We like how the interface has been given the BlinkFeed overhaul, with pictures coming through that punctuate the sea of white words on grey background.
HTC is one of the few brands to still integrate picture albums drawn from Facebook into the contact profile as well, and while it might be a slightly unused feature, it's still a great tool to have.
You might find it a little on the hard side to filter out the plethora of contact accounts at times if you don't make the effort to link everyone together, so be warned you might have to put in the man hours at the start of your new phone.
The good news is it's worth it; once you've gone through Twitter, Google+, Facebook you can then get rid of those options from being visible by tapping the icon in the top left-hand corner and only selecting 'Phone' or 'Google'. Oh, and make sure you tag 'only those with phone numbers' in the settings menu. Trust us on that one.
Smart dialling, such a key function of any phone in our opinion, is on offer again in the HTC One Mini, making it so much easier to quickly call up the profile and number of the person you want to get hold of simply by typing in the letters that correspond to their name using the T9 predictive text input method.
Each option comes up quickly, although we would like to see the One being a little more intuitive when it comes to deciding which person to show when there are multiple options for the same combination of numbers - if someone is in our 'favourites' list then it should be top here.
The call quality on the HTC One Mini is very good indeed, with great audio quality meaning you can always hear what the person on the other end of the phone is saying even on a windy day.
This is largely helped by the inbuilt amp, but the simplicity is what will impress people here: make a call, be able to hear the person on the other end. All we're looking for, really.
It's not as good when it comes to them hearing you in high wind, but that's the only time we had any issue with anyone trying to have a lovely chat with us. Most of the time the noise cancellation was excellent, meaning that everything was clear on both ends.
Signal strength was average, but we experienced no dropped calls, and even with only a single bar available the phone held on well to the network. 3G and 4G were both consistent in our tests, but we'll expand on that in later sections.
There's not a lot of choice when it comes to in call options, but all you really need is the option to move between Bluetooth and handset calling, and that's right there as an easy to hit option.
Despite the smaller screen, there's not a lot we can fault the HTC One Mini for in terms of messaging prowess. Let's not forget it's still got a bigger screen than the iPhone 5 either, and people still seem to think that's already too big.
There's nothing overly new here, but any way you want to message is laid out in an easy-to-use way. The inboxes are clear to use, the keyboard is very accurate and basically follows the excellence laid down by the HTC One.
Of course you can install a number of other keyboards, and we recommend SwiftKey if you're looking for a good one, but it's important that the stock offering works well, and we noted only a few mistakes during our time with the One Mini.
· The best Android keyboards reviewed and rated
There's also a useful tool that gives the option to calibrate the keyboard by teaching it how fat-fingered you are. HTC was one of the first manufacturers to embed Swype-style tracing of words on its keyboards, and that's a trick that's been repeated here, and it's pretty accurate to use as well (although you will need to enable it in the settings).
One issue that's been sadly brought to the smaller version of this phone is the keyboard language button. You can choose to turn it off after delving through the settings, but for most people they'll find that switching to French or German will happen regularly with a simple mis-tap, and that's going to lead to much consternation when it comes to predictive text.
The messaging system itself is well laid out, especially when it comes to the interface for conversation view. Messages received have a nice white box around them, but those sent from your own fine fingers are greyed into the background. You might think you're writing a load of drafts to start with, but you're not. Move on.
The email client is one of the better ones we've seen on a smartphone, taking on the likes of the Windows Phone brigade in making the whole operation that much simpler.
There are easy checkboxes to hit when you need to choose messages to delete, and all those emails that come in a conversation won't litter your inbox as they group themselves together.
We like this latter feature, but make sure that you don't miss key messages through the grouping - you'll need to stay vigilant, and some will want to switch this off altogether just to be on the safe side.
The smaller screen should make these tasks a little trickier, but in truth it's as easy as on the larger phone thanks to the increased dexterity offered by the smaller screen.
There are loads of other little tricks that you can achieve with the HTC email client, such as being able to set your out of office messages directly from the menu (if you've got things so configured) and having a favourites section that shows you only the messages from the people that matter.
HTC offers the ability to Smart Sync your email, which places it between push notifications and a periodic update, and seems to manage to throw emails at you when you need them - it works out when you're using the phone more and then decides to poll the server, rather than just doing it willy nilly when the HTC One Mini is clearly asleep and email is an unwelcome distraction.
Another key email feature, and one that's come from older HTC Sense iterations, is the ability to use folders with ease to navigate your way around. Tapping the Exchange menu dropdown will show recently used message folders, and you can easily find new ones.
The reason we mention this is many of you will be super-organised and keep your emails in dedicated folders on the desktop – and when you're out and about and need that address suddenly you'll be forced to dig it out.
On some phones this is a real nightmare, but on the HTC One Mini it's a snap to get to your emails, no matter where there are, and if you need to download older ones from the server it's as quick as a flash as well.
The internet browsing on the HTC One is similar to many other phones on the market launched using Ice Cream Sandwich or above - as in it offers you both Google Chrome and the inbuilt internet browser as a method of spreading your digital wings through the sprawling mass of the internet on the go.
However, while Google Chrome is undoubtedly useful in so many ways, such as being able to sync tabs across the desktop and mobile, beyond that we can't see a single reason you'll ever use it when the onboard browser is so much better.
Firstly, it's a lot faster, and we mean blazingly fast. We use that phrase a lot, but give the HTC One the speed to perform, be that over 4G or through a decent whack of Wi-Fi, and it will never let you down in terms of hanging and loading web pages.
Compare that to Chrome, which sometimes stutters when panning around or even loading the mobile version of sites, and you can see why we're favouring the former.
The HTC One internet browser has a really key feature that we want to speak about first: a Flash player that you can toggle on and off. Place in the settings menu, this is invaluable for using a web that still, despite Apple and even Adobe assertions to the contrary, still has a large whack of Flash video dotted around.
So when you run into these problems on something like the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini you'll either have to grin and bear it, or sideload the Flash player on there. In this case you can just enable it if you're desperate and toggle it off to save battery and performance when you're not. We're all about options, and this is a good one.
Another great thing we're happy to see is the fact you can have a number of tabs open; so many that we got to 12 before we couldn't be bothered to open any more. For a firm that once only let you have six tabs open at any one time, it's a real step forward, and helps when you're just opening and shutting web tabs all over the place. You also get a '.com' option on the keyboard.
Bookmarks from Chrome, or simply saved from any other Android phone where you've logged into your Google account, will show up here so you'll always have access to the sites that matter to you.
Compared to the size and sharpness of the HTC One, the One Mini is obviously not in the same league when it comes to looking at a web page completely zoomed out. That's not to say it's not excellent; perhaps it's better to say it's at the other end of the One's league, as the display is sharp enough to discern text even without zoom.
And don't forget that HTC is still the master of making it easy to read the words on a page should you want to get closer to the action: a double tap not only brings you larger letters, but as soon as you pinch to zoom in further, the text will redraw itself to fit the screen without needing the confusing pattern of double taps on something like the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini, and isn't even possible on the iPhone 5.
The HTC One brought a new notion to the smartphone market: it decided to only offer a 4MP sensor, the benefits of which it's struggled to convey to some prospective buyers.
That doesn't mean it's not an excellent camera, as the lower resolution allows for faster snaps, better shutter speed and, most crucially, a massively uprated ability to take pics in low light.
What's impressed us with the HTC One Mini is the fact it's got the same sensor on board, meaning users don't have to think about a compromise when it comes to deciding between the two models. We still wish both had the same specs in a smaller chassis, but things like this do help.
In a move possibly dictated by size constraints, the HTC One Mini does strip out the optical image stabilisation from its bigger brother. This has a slight impact on photo quality as we noted a couple of times where the image was more blurry than we expected, especially compared to the larger model.
Picture saving time was a little lower than expected as well on some occasions, although others showed the retention to be instant, allowing you to take many shots in succession.
The other feature that users will want to coo over on the HTC One Mini is the Zoe functionality. This allows you to take a 3.6-second clip with every photo, meaning you get a snap that's so much richer in information.
Be it a short video that evokes feelings of owning Harry Potter-style photos, or being able to manipulate the results in so many ways (action shots are a particular favourite) the functionality is cool.
On top of that you'll get automatically created short 30-second films based on a date or location, meaning when you go out and take loads of pictures of your mates, or a day out with the dog, you'll get a rather awesome highlights reel to play with.
This will also work with still snaps, but the addition of moving footage really makes the little clip stand out when showing it to your pals.
It also converts your gallery into a moving library, which really brings it to life in a way that the normal static image can never hope to.
We've delved into loads of HTC Zoe detail here – so check it out if you want to know just how good this all-new feature is.
But beyond moving images, the control over the phone is excellent as well, thanks to being able to change exposure, contrast and sharpness and also enable HDR mode through the onscreen menu.
HTC clearly wants you to use the front facing camera too – it's been downgraded to a 1.6MP effort, so not as close to the rear sensor (and without all the Ultrapixel jiggery-pokery) but still takes great snaps.
You simply slide your finger up and down the screen to jump between the two cameras as well as enabling the countdown timer if you so wish - it's not a strongly advertised feature, but when you find it, it's really impressive.
The interface for the camera isn't the easiest to use at times, simply thanks to the fact the buttons to hit are so small and there's a great deal of scrolling to alter the effects. There's no intelligent shot mode like that found on the Sony Xperia Z and LG Optimus G Pro, but the auto mode is so good that it doesn't matter in many situations.
But if you want to fire the text mode (which alters the contrast of the picture) or get a little closer up to stuff using macro, you'll have to scoot through a few menu options.
It's also annoying that you can't use HDR (high dynamic range, where multiple exposures are captured of the same photo and stitched together) mode when shootings Zoes as this really improves the picture quality no end.
Given you can use HDR mode while recording video just fine on the HTC One mini, we're not sure why it's not an option. HDR would really bring out the power of the Zoe, and would use the power of the Ultrapixel to an even greater extent. If the chip can support it, why not make it an option?
HDR is a much better option than it used to be on older HTC phones, as it can manage to process in no time at all now. In fact, we wish it could be enabled by default rather than having to switch it on each time.
So onto the good stuff: the camera on the HTC One Mini is not only high quality, but it seems to be every bit as good as the snapper on the more expensive phone.
Don't go thinking you can blow up these pictures and use them day to day for new posters or whatever you're into, as they can become full of noise in certain situations (in the same way many phones can).
There's a lot of noise thanks to the lower pixel count at times, but the range of light levels you get to shoot in compared to other camera phones is excellent.
And the photos we took looked stunning at times on the phone screen, which HTC says is where most of them stay - which we agree with to a degree. On the computer screen photography still looks reasonably sharp, although a lot of detail is lost in the lighter areas and zooming in is pretty much a no-go.
You probably won't look at many photos this way, but if you're thinking of uploading them to Facebook, you probably will get some people checking out your efforts at a larger size.
If you really want amazing photos from your phone, then the HTC One Mini isn't probably the device for you. Yes, you've got the full box of tricks in terms of being able to lock autofocus and controlling the individual elements, but in reality you're not going to get world-beating photography.
What you will get is a really broad range of scenes that will be accessible with your camera, thanks to a bright LED flash and the Ultrapixel system working so flawlessly in so many light levels and scenarios.
We will say this: while we didn't think optical image stabilisation was needed here, the fact that so many pictures came out with a slight blur, added to the fact that Zoes were a jumpy mess a lot of the time, made us really miss the technology. You'll definitely need a steady hand for the One Mini.
For most people they'll be overjoyed with the photo quality on the HTC One. The combination of fast shooting, accurate focus, sharp continuous shooting and a nippy HDR mode, combined with photos that look good on the phone screen, will impress many – and that should tick all the boxes for many looking to get a new camera phone.
The HTC One Mini is a phone that's made for media in so many ways. Be it the BoomSound front speakers or the internal headphones amplifier boosting sound from within, audio loves to come out of the One Mini.
Or perhaps we could talk about Beats Audio, a processing algorithm that you've probably heard about by now. It makes things sound a bit bassier, and a bit better if you like to get all processed on your sounds.
It's definitely a large step up from the normal levels we get on mobile phones, and for that you'll be impressed with the HTC One Mini.
To explain further: BoomSound is the combination of the two front facing speakers and the inbuilt amp to help boost the sound through your headphones - and both chuck out fantastic sound. The latter really does boost the volume levels to a give as more even tone to your tunes, while the former is simply amazing when you're showing off videos to friends and loved ones. As you always do, you bore, you.
We never thought that BoomSound would take off with the HTC One, as nobody really cares about speakers on a phone. Or so we thought... there's no doubt that it's a real selling point on HTC's flagship. And it's equally as good on the HTC One Mini.
Also, with the addition of HTC Zoe video highlight reels, you'll find that showing off your work at splicing together pictures is used a lot more often too, and the sound quality really adds to the show. So while it's perhaps not the most important thing in the world to have on a smartphone, BoomSound works.
As we've discussed, the HTC One Mini is a very adept handset when it comes to making your tunes sound good. It's not overly obvious how to actually get to the music you care about, as the Music Hub that was present on previous iterations of this phone is now dead.
It's been replaced with a pre-loaded folder with all your music and media bits in one place, which leads to the lovely and confusing Music and Google Music, both apps denoted by a headphones icon, living side by side.
The basic music player isn't bad at all, and comes with a very nice widget in both the lockscreen and the notifications bar. It's hard to overstate how good this is, especially when it doesn't work properly on some other handsets.
The two options for getting music on your phone aren't bad - the inbuilt music player is perfectly adequate and comes with enough power and functionality to be used day to day.
Google Music is pre-loaded, so we tried to work out if it was possible to use this instead of the onboard storage, thanks to that being a paltry 16GB. If you're willing to put in the time, you can pop 20,000 songs up to the cloud, which will be more than enough for most people.
However, even after the mind numbing wait (it was days) to get the music up there, you really need a data connection at all times to use Google Music. It's possible to cache stuff on the phone for the train tunnels of this world, but that's not really helping with the storage issue. Plus no matter how you try it, Google Music does suck down more battery compared to the inbuilt option.
The HTC Music app doesn't have the cool SoundHound integration that we're used to, although the app is present on the phone. But what it does bring is new visuals and lyrics to songs if they're available (providing the song information is correct and GraceNote can access it).
It's a fun feature for when you're trying to work out the real words but unless you've got aspirations of making it on the professional karaoke circuit, this isn't going to be a lot of use. Good when combined with the BoomSound speakers though.
We've addressed it above, but it's the biggest flaw on the HTC One Mini: the internal memory is too low. We've no idea why HTC has chosen to imbue it with only 16GB and no microSD slot, as while it can get away with it on the larger device with 32GB / 64GB storage, there's just too little here.
If you throw most of your music collection on this phone, you'll probably have already wiped out 10GB of the available 16GB, as 5GB is already taken up with the OS. That's simply not good enough, as if you're partial to a few Zoes then you'll be close to critical in no time.
And that's even without thinking about watching video on the phone - if you like a quick movie on the go, then you'll be really having to think about storage management - and it's just too far after 2009 to be having such issues on a phone.
The cloud options on offer here, be it Dropbox storage or the aforementioned Google Music, are a good idea, but they're not the solution. HTC might think that the target user for the HTC One Mini will get away with 16GB of space, but we can't help but disagree - if you buy this phone, most people will run out of space at some point during their 24-month term, so get ready to be frugal or connect up to the computer often.
Video on the HTC One Mini actually seems to be a little bit better than on the HTC One, as the brightness levels seem to have been sorted somewhat and this resulted in an overall improved picture.
Watching items downloaded from either the Google Play store or HTC Watch is always going to be tricky as long as the prices remain high, so we spent more time with streaming services and sideloaded content. The former was actually rather good - Netflix was strong on the HTC One Mini's 361PPI screen, and while it's a far cry from the Full HD of the One, we couldn't see a real difference.
The auto brightness does have a little hissy fit every so often, sometimes flickering as it struggles to get the screen at the correct level, and this gets irritating when you're watching anything - this is something that will be fixed in a future software update, we've no doubt of that, but it's annoying when it happens (admittedly sporadically).
When it comes to watching sideloaded video, HTC seems to hate anyone that wants to do such a thing on its phones. Like the larger HTC One, there's no video app on board, so unless you want to wriggle through the Gallery, you're plum out of luck when it comes to watching anything that you've popped on the phone yourself.
There's always the option of downloading one of the myriad excellent video players from the Play Store, so it's not a real barrier, but given the HTC One Mini supports so many decent codecs (DivX aside) we're still utterly perplexed as to why the brand doesn't have a dedicated video app on the Mini.
The battery life when watching video does suffer, as it does on any phone, but the aluminium casing does get a lot hotter than the Samsung Galaxy S4, for instance, when watching movies on the go - whether streaming or watching offline content.
However, storage issues and lack of a player aside, the high-res screen of the HTC One Mini is excellent for watching videos on the go - even the smaller dimensions didn't bother us too much, so we can see this being a big hit for those that like to snack on TV shows especially.
HTC TV was the big fancy app that the Taiwanese brand was talking up for its flagship launch, but that's gone bye-bye as there's no infra red blaster on the One Mini. As such, the TV app has disappeared too, making it a little more difficult to find the programming you're after.
We're sure you'll survive… somehow.
Battery life on the HTC range has always been something of an issue, as the company sought to find a decent balance between the power-hungry skin it placed on top of the native Android OS, and the ability to make its phones do things that make it stand out of the crowd.
The HTC One Mini has been downgraded in terms of battery size to 1800mAh, which is a far cry from the 2300mAh option lobbed into the HTC One. You'd think that with the slower processor, fewer pixels to power and the updated software would give rise to an improvement in the battery.
You'd be wrong.
In the first few days of use, the HTC One Mini performed dreadfully as the Android services (mostly Google apps) seemed stuck on updating, with a double charge needed on the second day. That won't happen in normal use, as every phone needs a couple of battery cycles to get up to full power, but we mention it to allay fear for any new users.
But even in real world use we noted that the battery life wasn't anywhere near stellar. We know HTC has always had a problem with juice seeping out, but the One Mini was an even poorer performer than its bigger brother.
To put that into some real world context: we ran a 90 minute no-HD video from full power, with the One Mini on flight mode and the brightness at around 67% (to mimic the maximum brightness of the Super AMOLED screens on the Samsung phones).
After the video was done, the HTC One Mini was left with 78% battery life. Compare that to the 81% of the HTC One, the 79% of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the 82% of the Galaxy S3, and you can see why the results are disappointing.
We know we're only talking single percentage marks here, but with the connectivity turned on the Mini managed the same test at 73% and with the brightness up full 67%, showing that the screen is quite power hungry, which irks as it's the only way to get a truly impressive video experience.
There is a Power Saving mode on offer that does improve things – flick this on at lunchtime and you'll almost definitely get to the end of the day, but without things like haptic feedback and a fully bright screen.
Sleep mode is also decent, with a drop of only 1-2% overnight with the phone still syncing social networks and emails. So basically if you're frugal with your usage you can easily get away with two days' use on the HTC One Mini – just don't turn the screen on very much.
So to summarise: the camera and watching any video (along with gaming, although this phone isn't set up for such) will harm your battery life the most – and the phone will also get insanely hot during this time as well, so be careful not to overdo things too much when getting excited with your smartphone.
Connectivity and apps
The HTC One comes with a relatively wide range of connectivity on offer, with many of the usual suspects present and correct. GPS is paired with GLONASS (the Russian system) to bring stunningly accurate mapping, and the Wi-Fi is all the way up to 802.11n, with dual channel bonding on offer too.
It doesn't have the new 802.11ac connection that the One does, but that's not really going to matter in the short term – although anyone buying a router in the next year may slightly miss it.
Bluetooth is offered at the low-power 4.0 standard, with apt-X codecs onboard for improved music clarity over Bluetooth (and it really does improve the quality of music streaming compared to a non-apt-X set) and with the advent of Android 4.3, the ability to connect sensors using this lower power level will be much-needed.
Sadly NFC has been scrubbed from the HTC One Mini, which is something of a worry for the contactless technology. Most brands have been placing NFC in their handsets, especially at the lower end, and this kind of decision seems to show there's an apathy developing for the technology.
HTC's MediaLink is available on the HTC One Mini, so if you've got the little box, a simple three finger swipe on any app will connect you up to your TV, which in turn will see your screen mirrored so you can play movies and games and whatnot on the go.
It's not a great experience doing this, especially on the gaming front, as the response between finger and screen is pretty slow, and the picture fairly jumpy at times.
HTC has included DLNA within the phone, so if there are any nearby media servers sharing content you can connect up to those and download content directly to your phone - look for the option in the menu settings in the Gallery to get an idea about what's on offer there.
And finally: HTC Sync is on offer, and has been combined with HTC Setup on the PC. The latter is more interesting, as it means you can set you sound profiles, wallpaper and ringtones from the web, when logged into your HTC account, and from there it will be beamed directly to your phone with the minimum of fuss.
On top of that you've got the fact you can drag and drop the content directly into the heart of the HTC One Mini - if you don't want to fiddle about with the drivers you can just look through the folder system and dump your pictures, music and video in there without needing to worry about installing a million bits and pieces.
Overall connectivity on the HTC One Mini is OK – you've got the main things we'd be looking for, and GPS in particular is a decent option. Wi-Fi hold was strong on a variety of routers, and while we do miss NFC for some speaker pairing, it wasn't a deal breaker.
The infra red port really wasn't missed either, although there was a point where we wanted to turn off a TV in a pool bar. OK, we had a Samsung Galaxy S4 that enabled us to do the same thing, but that's not the point. If you're in the same situation, you probably wouldn't have the same option.
When it comes to the onboard apps, the HTC One Mini is pretty well stocked. There's a host of extras to make it into a more rounded phone, and then on top of that there's the excellent Google Play store to add from.
This is actually a prevalent option in the app menu, making it easy to get to the millions of apps available to download (simply pull down the menu to get access to some 'hidden options') which is what you'll be doing to supplement things like the invisible video player. As you can tell, we're still annoyed about that.
Kid mode is on offer, as it was the big One, and gives the option to set the phone up with programs the kids will like without giving them the keys to buy stuff from the internet or send a picture of poo to your boss. The main interface is pre-loaded with a load of mind-numbing games and activities (can you tell we don't have kids?) but they all seem beautifully colourful and probably contain some educational message.
You can choose other apps to live in there as well, such as Google Maps so they can learn where Scotland is. It's not a simple interface from the outset, but the buttons are big. Plus kids these days can probably enable root access and hack the interface to something they enjoy. The little tykes.
The only annoying thing is you have to enable Kid Mode, where on Windows Phone the service is accessible from the lock screen, which saves you from a child with sticky fingers nabbing your phone.
Evernote integration is also on offer from the HTC One Mini, with the Notes function allowing you to sign into the service. You can also record voice and notes at the same time and see where the match up afterwards - this is an invaluable tool if you're big on transcription, although you'll have to hope you get pretty accurate with that onscreen keyboard.
Polaris office is on offer and will allow you to view and edit a whole host of document types. It's an irritating app in that when you download a PDF it won't show up in the app - but then when you try to open it with Adobe Acrobat (which you have to download) you're presented with an option to open in Polaris, and it does it better than Adobe. Grrrr.
Beyond that, we're into the same territory as before, with the handy flashlight locked deep away in the menu, so make sure you turn it into an app shortcut if you live in darkness or like poking through stuff quietly.
The alarm on the phone is a poor, as the choice of ringtones is limited and none of them really scream 'let's wake you up softly', rather scaring you into consciousness.
Compare that to the Samsung Galaxy range, which has pre-alarms and fairy mist or some odd business to wake you up with (nicer than it sounds, trust us), or the LG Optimii which make you type in a code to prove you're awake, and we think HTC has been a bit lazy here.
We know we're being a bit over the top with the criticism, but given most people now rely on their phone to wake them up in the morning, this is something that really can't be overlooked. Thankfully, again, there are loads of options on the Play Store to sort you out.
And finally, the HTC Weather widget. How we love you. How very, very much. While Sense 5 has stripped away the temperature graph of old (boooo) and replaced it with a list of temperatures for each hour, it's still light years ahead of the competition, which push you onto a mobile site to just see how cold or hot it's going to be later that day.
Again, a small feature, but a key one for a lot of people.
Google Maps looks fantastic on the pin-sharp screen, with instant connection over 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi to show just how fast you can get the information you want.
Many people are adjusting to the new Google Maps, but we love it. Things look so much better, and using the HTC One Mini as a standalone sat-nav device is a dream, with the smaller screen providing more than enough information for driving on the go.
Gaming is less exciting, as we noted a number of high-power games that can't be used on the HTC One Mini. We tried to download both Grand Theft Auto III and Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, but both were blocked on Google Play.
On the plus side, you can't fill the nominal storage with massive games, nor melt the battery with large and fast full screen gaming in the ways you'd want, but we're annoyed that this has happened when the Adreno 305 GPU on board is clearly powerful enough to run the titles.
This may get fixed in a software update, but we won't hold our breath.
Hands on photos
It's hard to rate phones sometimes, especially when they offer something new. How will the market take it? Is it something that we've been sorely lacking, or just a gimmick to put on adverts? (*cough*SmartScroll*cough*).
But it's actually harder to rate a phone like the HTC One Mini when it's trying to follow something that is dominating the smartphone world (at least critically) in the shape of the HTC One.
In order to make something mini these days, it invariably seems to mean you have to make it lower power. It doesn't matter that there's a genuine clamour for smaller screens with the same grunt that we get with the HTC One; no, if you want smaller you have to accept less.
It does help with the price though, as the One Mini is significantly cheaper than its bigger brother, and that's never something to be sniffed at in these still-austere times.
If you hold both the One and the One Mini, you'll struggle to tell the difference, apart from the fact one is smaller than the other (obviously). The aluminium build quality pervades, and it's hard to believe that you're not holding one of the premium devices on the market.
Even the polycarbonate band that runs around the edge of the phone is unobtrusive, which means you get a distinctive design that doesn't impact on the way the One Mini sits in the hand.
We love that the functionality of the One Mini isn't compromised from its larger relative, with the likes of UltraPixels and BoomSound all involved without being watered down. HTC has been very clever in the design of this phone by bringing nearly every great element of the One to the smaller version, and packaging it in a way that still makes it very attractive.
We noticed no slowdown during use of the phone, and even the animations of flicking between apps was great. To say we were impressed would be an understatement.
We'll mention the price here, as we think it still qualifies as a positive. It's a long way from being the cheapest phone on the market, but the value you're getting is excellent indeed.
Sadly, the overall impression we got of the HTC One Mini was one of a phone that didn't quite match up to the One in terms of spec or performance, even taking into account the lower price tag.
Battery life is once again our biggest concern here, as while it's not atrocious there's still a lot to be desired. We can see a number of people nervously checking the battery meter during use, worriedly watching as the percentage points trickle down to nothing even with medium-weight use.
And we're sorry HTC, but that 16GB of storage space simply isn't going to cut it. You can tell us until we're blue in the face that most users don't need any more than that, and that cloud storage is a perfectly viable alternative - but it's not.
If you want to pop some music on there, a movie or two or just not have to worry about constantly siphoning off your camera handiwork to a PC, then you'll have to start thinking about deleting some items after a few months.
And let's not forget that some games don't work on this device - we're not sure why, but the more powerful titles can't be used on the HTC One Mini. Is that the core audience? Probably not, but it's all about freedom on handsets like this, and the HTC One Mini is a little lacking here.
The photos from the camera are often sharp and clear, but we noted too many times that they would come out fuzzy, especially in areas of high lighting levels.
And we'll save it until last: where's the goddamn video player for when you want to watch a movie without having to reach for a third party option through the Google Play store?
Would we recommend the HTC One Mini? Absolutely - the mid-range market renaissance is something we didn't expect, but is an area that HTC is intent on winning - and we think it's managed that with the One Mini.
We really love the aluminium shell, the UltraPixel camera and BoomSound on board, plus we get to play with the latest version of Android as well as all the cool apps like the Music Player, which show lyrics to songs as they're playing. Actually, we're just happy to have the headphone-boosting amplifier on board - as long as our songs are nicely audible, we don't really care.
The issues with the battery and storage do rankle somewhat, and do detract from an otherwise flawless performance from one of HTC's best phones out there.
But they're more caveats on an otherwise top-end phone rather than reasons not to buy it, and placing it two price tiers below the HTC One is a great move indeed.
So if you're looking for a cutting edge smartphone that takes all the great elements from the world's best handset and crams them into a smaller frame, you should really check out the HTC One Mini. We promise you won't be disappointed.