Best medium-sized Android smartphones for the fall 2012 season

October 12, 2012

best mid size phones

Bigger is not always better! This principle can be applied to almost everything that surrounds us, ranging from houses and cars, to sound systems and TV sets. However, since this is a technology oriented blog, I’m going to limit the discussion to smartphones throughout the rest of this article.

For the past couple of years, big displays have been the trademark of Android smartphones, especially when compared against their main competitor (ecosystem-wise), the Apple iPhone. Unfortunately though, Android smartphone manufacturers don’t release compact flagships anymore. Just take a quick look at the best Android smartphones for the fall 2012 season and you’ll get where I’m going with this (spoiler: the smallest display used on Android flagships these days measures no less than 4.7 inches).

But what can you do when you want a compact high-quality Android smartphone (you know, the kind that is easily pocketable and easy to handle with just one hand)? As it turns out, there still are a few good choices you can make, although the harsh reality is that the top-end specs are generally reserved for the larger Android smartphones.

Now that I’ve disappointed many readers looking for a medium-sized Android smartphone, let’s take a look at the best Android smartphones with a display measuring under 4.3 inches, shall we?

Samsung Galaxy Stellar / Victory

Samsung-Galaxy-Stellar-Verizon

Starting off with the largest smartphone manufacturer in the world (by number of units sold), Samsung is one OEM that went BIG, and, unfortunately, has somehow neglected medium-sized smartphones in the process. While I get it that they’ve basically created a new market with the gargantuan Galaxy Note (by the way, the Note 2 is an even better phablet, as you get 0.2 extra inches across the diagonal while keeping roughly the same footprint as with the original Note), I do not get why they don’t make any blazing-fast medium-sized smartphones anymore.

And that’s basically the end of the Samsung story if you don’t live in the US. If you do, however, there is a pair of decent Samsung smartphones with 4-inch displays on the market that might suit your compact needs: the Galaxy Stellar for Verizon and the Galaxy Victory for Sprint.

The actual differences between the Galaxy Stellar and the Galaxy Victory are actually so negligible that they kinda remind me of all the various Galaxy S versions that surfaced on US carriers a couple of years ago.

Samsung Galaxy Stellar / Victory specs

Display Size and Type: 4 inch TFT LCD
Resolution: 480 x 800 (233 PPI)
Processor: 1.2 Dual-Core Snapdragon S4 Krait
GPU: Adreno 225
RAM: 768 MB / 1 GB
Android Version: Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich
LTE: Yes
Primary Camera: 3.15 MP / 5 MP
Battery Capacity: 2100 mAh

Overall, these two smartphones pack a decent amount of processing power (and battery juice) for the low resolution they are using, meaning they run quite smoothly overall (and last through the day with moderate use of LTE). The displays are, unfortunately, not on par with that of other smartphones on this list, and the cameras have poor resolutions (especially on the Stellar). But if you want a compact Samsung smartphone, this is the South Korean manufacturer’s top offering, take it or leave it! On a personal note, I’d suggest you go for the latter alternative!

Pantech Flex

AT&T Pantech Flex LTE

Ok, so Pantech is not a name you regularly associate with excellent build quality or customer service but if you’re willing to leave these preconceptions aside, the AT&T-bound Pantech Flex is a more than decent mid-sized Android smartphone, especially if you take into consideration that it is priced at $50 on a two-year contract with Ma Bell. In addition, if you ever get the chance to pick a Flex up and analyze the build quality, you are likely to be pleasantly surprised.

Pantech Flex specs

Display Size and Type: 4.3 inch Super AMOLED Advanced
Resolution: 540 x 960
Processor: 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Krait
GPU: Adreno 225
RAM: 1 GB
Android Version: Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich
LTE: Yes
Primary Camera: 8 MP
Battery Capacity: 1830 mAh

The Pantech Flex has about the same internals that you would find inside the Motorola RAZR HD or the HTC One X, so you can imagine that it runs buttery smooth, especially since its display is running at a lower resolution. There’s also a “beginner” UI mode for those that are using Android (or any other smartphone for that matter) for the first time. Overall, the AT&T Pantech Flex is fast, is solid, has a decent display and is priced unbelievably low. If you’re on a budget, get it now!

HTC One S

Since we were on the topic of “medium-sized smartphones that feature the exact same specs as the American version of the HTC One X”, let’s take the time to talk about the HTC One S, the little brother of HTC’s flagship for 2012. Even since it first came out, the HTC One S has positioned itself on the thin line between a mid-range smartphone and a flagship. I must say that the One S has aged beautifully for those that consider 4.3 inches to be the optimum size of a smartphone’s display. In addition, this is the first smartphone on this list that is available internationally!

HTC One S specs

Display Size and Type: 4.3 inch Super AMOLED
Resolution: 540 x 960 (256 PPI)
Processor: 1.5 Dual-Core Snapdragon S4 Krait
GPU: Adreno 225
RAM: 1 GB
Android Version: Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich
LTE: Yes
Primary Camera: 8 MP
Battery Capacity: 1650 mAh

Overall a great smartphone that won’t burn a hole in your pocket, both since it costs less than a flagship smartphone, as well as thanks to its compact form.

Sony Xperia V

If you thought that the HTC One S is a great compact Android smartphone, just wait until Sony releases their Xperia V. The Xperia V is not only using the same Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 SoC as its HTC rival, but is also waterproof and comes with a great display. Check out the spec table, you’re going to be impressed!

Sony Xperia V specs

Display Size and Type: 4 .3 inch TFT LCD
Resolution: 720 x 1280 (342 PPI)
Processor: 1.5 Dual-Core Snapdragon S4 Krait
GPU: Adreno 225
RAM: 1 GB
Android Version: Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich
LTE: Yes
Primary Camera: 13 MP
Battery Capacity: 1750 mAh

The Sony Xperia V’s 4.3 inch display features the highest PPI density out of all the smartphones on this list (with one exception, but we’ll get to that later in the article), although the colors reproduced by TFT screens are somehow washed out when compared against IPS+ or SAMOLED displays. Its 13 MP camera, LTE connectivity, and waterproof / dustproof case make up for that minor flaw though! I’ve said it in previous articles, and I feel forced to repeat myself — Sony seems to have found the perfect recipe for mid-range, mid-size smartphones!

Motorola Droid RAZR M/RAZR i

Historically speaking, Motorola’s non-flagship smartphones aren’t really all that great, but this has changed recently as the US manufacturer (now owned by Google) has released the Motorola Droid RAZR M and its European counterpart, the RAZR i. The difference between the two is the Intel Medfield processor that ticks inside the RAZR i. While specs put them in row with the rest of the pack, the design is what matters with these two compact Android smartphones. One additional note is that Motorola’s new custom UI is very close to vanilla Android (and I know plenty of Android fans that are in love with stock Android).

Motorola Droid RAZR M/RAZR i specs

Display Size and Type: 4 .3 inch Super AMOLED
Resolution: 540 x 960 (256 PPI)
Processor: 1.5 Dual-Core Snapdragon S4 Krait/Single-core 2GHz Intel Atom
GPU: Adreno 225
RAM: 1 GB
Android Version: Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich
LTE: Yes
Primary Camera: 8 MP
Battery Capacity: 2000 mAh

Xiaomi Mi 2

If you’re living in China, the Xiaomi Mi 2 is the compact Android smartphone that I would recommend you wait for until it becomes available (announced for an October release date in China). If you don’t, all you can do is pray to your favorite divinity that Xiaomi releases this beast in other markets as well, although these chances are slim, at best.

The following spec list clearly shows that the Xiaomi Mi 2 is the best compact Android smartphone announced thus far. Much like the Oppo Find 5 is the best Android smartphone of the fall 2012 season, the surprising winner in our compact smartphone challenge comes from China. Unfortunately, only few of our readers will be able to get this baby in their Android loving hands. Read and weep:

Xiaomi Mi 2 specs

Display Size and Type: 4.3 inch IPS LCD

Resolution: 720 x 1280 (342 PPI)
Processor: 1.5 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
GPU: Adreno 320
RAM: 2 GB
Android Version: 4.1 Jelly Bean
LTE: No
Primary Camera: 8 MP
Battery Capacity: 2000 mAh

Poll: best mid-sized Android phone

So there you have it, these are the best Android smartphones with a mid-sized display available this fall. Which one tickles your fancy? Help us decide in the poll below, then drop us a comment and explain your decision in the section below!

Which is the best mid-size Android smartphones of this season?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Comments

  • MasterMuffin

    The razr i would be cool because of the 2Ghz (!) Intel :) but xiaomi is really amazing, 4,3″ flagship phone, chinese really make incredible phones!

    • http://twitter.com/George_av George av

      yeah Chinese make incredibly shitty phones. specs might pop but it’s not about specs..

      • MasterMuffin

        I know but it’s weird that only chinese try to make best specs as possible. Maybe it would be a good move for htc to to cooperate with thesechinese because they make great quality phones, those specs with htc build quality would be really awesome!

    • NicholasMicallef

      Not to mention it’s using MIUI

  • John A

    Good lord, that Xiaomi offering is my perfect phone based on the specs. It is just the right size, but with top end specs! Why don’t the main companies do phones this size anymore? Im sure I am not the only one who wants a top 4.3 inch handset…

    • Marvin R

      I’m crying out for a 4.3 inch handset. I’m in the market for a new phone at the mo, and find the S3 too big (along with the One X and just about all the flagship phones on the market at the moment). Was hoping that the S3 mini would be a smaller version with a similar spec. Any advice for someone who is happy with the size of his HTC Desire, but is due an upgrade? Whichever phone I choose needs a MicroSD slot, which sadly rules out the HTC One S…………and I’d prefer to stay with Android.

      Looks like the RAZR i could be the phone I was looking for.

      • jdj

        Htc one s has a special edition with more space. You might wana check that out

  • jaysann22

    I never realized how impressive the Xperia V was… I may consider an Xperia phone in the future. :D

  • Bruce Gavin Ward

    excuse me, but for those of us who are using gray hair dye on a regular basis, big is definitely ‘better'; ‘big’ = longer arms! [the ability to actually read the thing!]

  • http://www.noypigeeks.com/ NoypiGeeks

    Xiaomi Mi 2 FTW!

  • NicholasMicallef

    Xiaomi Mi running MIUI would be awesome, still, that Oppo Find 5 is looking even better. It’s a huge pity but I doubt most of us will ever see either of them :(.

  • Kassim

    Xperia V will shoot Sony right up amongst the ‘big’ boys…exposure-wise at least.

    Revenue-wise? I hope it doesn’t suffer the fate of HTC and begin a slow march towards the way of the Dodo…

  • Anonymous

    Why is it all manufactur’s are copying each other?? Why have they all gone for 100% touchscreen?
    I want a hybrid phone, that has aboth touch screen and a keyboard / traditional phone dial pad.
    The other I was walking, needed to pick up my voicemail. It said press 3 to delete. In my old phone, as the keyboard was physical, I could press 3, as I knew where the numbers were without looking. With these touchscreens, I have to move the phone from my ear, look at the screen and then press 3 (to delete message).
    The phone manufacturer’s needed to go to the design board. 100% touch screen is not for everyone. I have tried the Xperia pro series, but I had the slidedout keyboard.
    The best phone was the Sony Ericson P800, P910, P990i… they had both a phone dial pad, a flip out keyboard and touchscreen (for use with stylus). Sony needs to go back to this phone and make an Android version.

  • http://twitter.com/user911i Hades

    â–˛ Pantech cell phone Problems http://youtu.be/WvCp1mcDQ9I