- Good general performance
- Responsive capacitive touchscreen
- Low-res screen
- Bigger, better screens available at same price
- Review Price: £119.00
- 3.14in 240x320 pixel screen
- Android 2.2 FroYo OS
- 2GB microSD card included
- 3.2-megapixel camera
- 600MHz processor
The Samsung Galaxy Mini takes over from the Galaxy Europa as the manufacturer’s key budget Android phone. It’s plastic, it’s fairly small and it isn’t going to make your iPhone 4-owning friends feel jealous. It does, however, do an awful lot for not much money.
It runs the Android 2.2 FroYo operating system, giving it access to the full roster of Android apps, now numbering in the hundreds of thousands, and the fully customisable interface of the more expensive Androids. It comes in three different finishes, two black ones with either a green or black trim, and a white model with a silver trim. We looked at this white edition.
It’s 12.1mm thick and weighs 105g – very similar dimensions to Samsung’s previous Europa Android and HTC’s Wildfire. The hardware design is familiar and unremarkable, but this is a phone that defines itself by price rather than bold feature or style claims. On its back is a full-length battery cover, which is covered in dimples. This texture increases grip a bit, and is one of the precious few design choices that save this phone from becoming entirely generic.
On its edges are the standard volume and power buttons, 3.5mm headphone jack, microUSB slot with plastic cover and a similarly-covered microSD slot. There’s no video output and no camera shutter button, both a rarity on budget phones like the Galaxy Mini.
What’s under the surface is similarly perfunctory. There’s a 600MHz processor, 3.14in screen with capacitive touch layer, a 3.2-megapixel camera and Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. The Galaxy Mini has a slightly larger screen and better camera than last year’s Galaxy Europa, but they are essentially devices of the same budget class. The tech trimmings are largely missing here, but crucially everything needed to cultivate the smartphone experience is present – Wi-Fi, 3G and GPS. There’s an FM radio too – missing from some smartphones. BBC radio fans rejoice.
The Samsung Galaxy Mini runs Android 2.2 FroYo. It’s not the latest smartphone version of Google’s OS, but it’s the most recent significant edition for budget phones like this, offering a big speed boost over Android 2.1. 600MHz phones using older versions of Android tend to lag a little in general use and within apps, but there’s hardly any slow down here. It’s obviously not going to be as quick as a dual-core 1GHz phone, but speed is simply not an issue in day-to-day use.
Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface changes the face of Android, but only slightly. It introduces a shortcut dock that sticks to the bottom of the screen while you’re browsing your home screens or the apps menu. Its icons take you the Phone function, contacts book, SMS messages and the apps menu. You can replace all but the last with any other app you like though. You can even pack it with Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio if you’re so inclined.
TouchWiz’s homescreens work just as they do in vanilla Android, acting as blank canvases for you to fill with shortcuts and widgets. The default number of home screens is three, but you can choose any number between one and seven, with a few crafty screen taps.
This edition of TouchWiz doesn’t offer the raft of custom widgets included with higher-end phones like the Samsung Galaxy S 2, but it’s no massive loss when you can make up for this with the Android Market. A few apps aren’t compatible with phones with such low-res screens as the Galaxy Mini’s 240×320-pixel number, but the majority are. And while the Android Market app store may still be a pain to navigate through, it sure does have a lot of apps.
Samsung has also supplied the Galaxy Mini with a secondary app store, the Samsung Apps portal. It’s fairly pointless at present though – at the time of writing just 16 apps are available for this phone, and even once its shelves are filled we’d continue to make the Android Market our first (and probably only) port of call.
Social Hub is a similarly pointless addition. It’s a centralised place to plug-in your social networking logins and check out your latest messages. However, it really just acts as a list of services – clicking on the Facebook entry, for example, takes you to the social network’s web page in the browser. There’s no deeper aggregation of content, so we’d much rather use the official Twitter and Facebook apps, or just head to the browser from the start.
These are only minor criticisms, because the open-ness of Android means you can do precisely that. You can even wipe out TouchWiz altogether by using a desktop replacement app if the mood takes you.
There’s only around 150MB of internal memory available to you, but Android 2.2 lets you install apps to an SD card too (as long as this has been enabled by the developer). A 2GB card is included, room for plenty of apps, if not that many videos and music tracks.
The Samsung Galaxy Mini’s screen is the place where the most conspicuous cuts have been made. It’s a 3.14in model and features a low-res 240×320-pixel display. This is the same size seen in the original HTC Wildfire, and it looks very blocky compared to better-spec’d sceens like the HTC Legend’s and the Orange San Francisco’s.
This makes Android look altogether less attractive and has a big effect on games and video-watching. Here’s a photo comparison of Angry Birds on the 240×320 pixel Galaxy Mini and the 320×480 pixel Legend to demonstrate –
Games look either blurry or blocky and text is not sharp, which affects web browsing significantly. Video suffers too, but then the video player of the Galaxy Mini isn’t much cop anyway. Unlike Samsung’s more expensive Galaxy-series and Wave handsets, it won’t play Divx files, Xvids or MKVs, just the standards H.264 and MP4 formats. And if those are too high-res, it’ll refuse to play them anyway.
There are third-party video apps available, but if you want a phone that’ll let you watch TV episodes on the way to work, you’d be much better off with a larger-screened device like the Orange San Francisco. Or the original Samsung Wave, now available fairly cheaply.
However, although the resolution is about as low as an Android phone can sink, the quality of the display isn’t too bad at all. Contrast is good and at the top brightness setting the display is scorchingly bright. It’s all overshadowed by the pixellated look though.
The camera is another victim of the Galaxy Mini’s price cuts. It’s a 3.2-megapixel model with no flash and no autofocus. In bright sunlight it can take a pleasant picture, but close-ups are flat-out impossible – anything nearby ends up blurry – and the lack of flash makes it useless for evening or night shots. It is a cut above most smartphone cameras of the same specs. But that’s not saying much.
Negative, black & white and sepia effect filters are included, there are eleven scene modes and some fun shooting modes too. Alongside classics like Smile Shot, Panorama and the Continuous shooting mode, there’s Add Me, which lets you take a picture of someone and splice them into another photo. As you might imagine, it doesn’t work very well but provides a few minutes of fun. There’s a 3x digital zoom packed-in, but like any digital zoom it only serves to degrade picture quality – not a good idea when the PQ is mediocre from the off.
Video capture is limited to the very low resolution of 320×240, which is barely worth uploading to YouTube, let alone using to capture precious memories. Vids are saved as MP4 files.
The Samsung Galaxy Mini’s low-res screen makes sure that reading text on the phone’s screen isn’t a joy, but it’s not a bad little web browser. The capacitive touchscreen is multi-touch capable, letting you use the pinch gesture on the screen to zoom in and out of pages. Android 2.2 is super-quick to re-render text too, even with the relatively weak 600MHz processor doing the legwork.
You’ll be using this manoeuvre often as fully zoomed-out websites look terrible – there just aren’t enough pixels to go around. For more pixels at a similar price, look toward the Orange San Francisco, LG Optimus GT540 or INQ Cloud Touch. Text entry is remarkably easy though, given the small size of the screen. The non-widescreen aspect ratio of the 240×320 display means the screen is slightly wider than a 3.2in 320×480-pixel phone. At these dimensions, every millimetre helps.
Like every common Android phone, both Wi-Fi and high-speed 3G connectivity are available, letting you browse at a decent speed. Android apps can be used to mitigate for the screen deficiencies too, with plenty of email, social networking and RSS reader programs on-hand to lessen the load. Unfortunately, Flash 10.1 isn’t supported. It’s a feature of Android 2.2, but is left out here because of the low-end CPU.
The battery life of the Samsung Galaxy Mini is typical of an Android smartphone running FroYo. Switch on 3G, surf the web for a while and indulge in the odd bout of Angry Birds Rio and the battery will run down in a day.
Turn 3G off and use it primarily as a “dumb” phone, without playing video, games or using apps, and it’ll last the best part of a week. This won’t change too much until power management in Android improves, and even then game-playing and 3G will remain significant drains on a battery.
Call quality is reasonable. It’s the budget smartphone standard – not hugely loud and lacking any noise cancelling fancy add-ons, but the loudspeaker is decent and less tinny than many rivals. Perfect for annoying fellow passengers on the bus with the latest N-Dubz jam.
The Samsung Galaxy Mini is mostly a pleasure to use, but its main successes belong to Google, not Samsung. Android 2.2 is so efficient that it doesn’t need a super-powered CPU to run like a dream. For very little extra money though, you could snag yourself an INQ Cloud Touch or Orange San Francisco, both of which have superior screens. The Galaxy Mini is a little smaller, but not enough to make this phone seem truly teeny. If that’s what you’re after, check out the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini, available for around £100 on a pre-pay deal.
Fast, affordable and packed with plenty of app potential, the Samsung Galaxy Mini is another budget Android phone that does Google’s OS proud. However, it’s joining an already-established and highly competitive crowd – and there are better options available for the same money.
Reasonably attractive in a conventional way, the Samsung Galaxy MIni’s downfall is its 240×320 pixel display. It looks blocky spread across 3.14 inches, and the Orange San Francisco, Sony Ericsson Xperia X8 and LG Optimus One offer higher pixel density at the same price.
Here you can see the fixed-focus lens in action. It can’t hone-in on close objects like these flowers, leaving them slightly blurry.
Score in detail
|Operating System||Android OS|
|Screen Size (inches) (Inch)||3.14in|
|Screen Resolution||240 x 320|
|Talk Time (Minute)||540m|
|Standby Time (Hour)||570hr|
|Internal Storage (Gigabyte)||0.16GB|
|Camera (Megapixel)||3.2 Megapixel|
|3.5mm Headphone Jack||Yes|
Processor and Internal Specs
|App Store||Android Market|