The HTC One is a smartphone you can fall in love with. It presents an irresistible mix of sculpted contours, gorgeous display, and fast performance. When the list of best Android phones for 2014 is drawn up, the One will be at or near the top. But the One is also expensive — a premium device at a premium price — and for HTC to thrive it needs to sell millions of phones to millions of people. Even Apple isn’t immune to these market pressures, as evidenced by last year’s introduction of the iPhone 5C as a more affordable way to get new users on board. When it goes on sale in June, the One mini 2 will be the HTC equivalent: a phone for those who want the One experience but not the One price.
HTC already did this once, with mixed results. The 2013 One mini was a cut-down version of that year’s One flagship phone. It had a similar aluminum build, the same camera, and an equally attractive display, but it also used too much plastic to cover up for its tighter budget. Nonetheless, says HTC, it was a success for many carriers because it “hit a good price point.” Now it’s time to do it all over again, with the added benefit of a year’s worth of hindsight and user feedback.
A plastic frame that wraps around the sides of the One mini 2 accounts for most of the lost aluminum. I don’t mind it at all: it’s matte and subtle and integrates well with the phone’s overall design. Still, it’s not the One. The chamfered metal edges at the front of the bigger phone gleam invitingly, reminding the user of the craftsmanship required to perfect them. As Scott Croyle, HTC’s departing chief of design, told me recently, “just by the way the light reflects off that brushed surface, you instantly know that you’re looking at metal.” That’s true when looking at the back of the One mini 2 but not the front.
Placing a One and a One mini 2 in each pocket, I’ve been walking around trying to distinguish a difference between them. There isn’t much. In spite of its name, the new handset isn’t that much smaller nor very much lighter than the 5-inch original. It’s once I pulled the devices out and started using them that the real difference manifested itself. I checked emails quicker, captured photos faster, and made calls more easily on the so-called mini phone — simply by virtue of it being so much more usable with one hand. The curved back of the One has always been a pleasure to hold, but its elongated body makes that awkward and sometimes frustrating. With the One mini 2, you don’t need to stretch your thumb’s tendons before attempting to reach the top-left corner of the screen. You just do it. It’s a small change in size that leads to a big improvement in ergonomics.