Hoping for big sales, Samsung goes small with Galaxy S III Mini

Samsung announced a smartphone on Thursday called the Galaxy S III Mini that looks like a smaller version of the company’s flagship phone on the outside, but the internals tell quite a different story. The handset mimics Samsung’s best-selling Galaxy S III smartphone but its specifications indicate it’s clearly aimed at budget conscious consumers. Those hoping for flagship performance in a smaller package will likely be disappointed.

I’d argue that Samsung isn’t targeting performance consumers with the S III Mini. Based on the hardware specifications, I suspect the phone isn’t likely to be sold by a major carrier in the US as the configuration reminds me of phones that launched more than a year ago. Here’s an overview of some specs to illustrate the point:

  • 4-inch Super AMOLED display with 800 x 480 resolution
  • 1 GHz dual-core processor
  • HSPA support up to 14.4 Mbps (theoretical speeds) and no LTE radio
  • 5 megapixel auto focus rear camera, VGA front camera
  • 8- or 16 GB of internal storage with microSD expansion support

The new Mini does keep some of what makes the original Galaxy S III great: Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS/GLONASS location services, and Smart Stay eye tracking to keep the screen from dimming. And the phone launches with Android 4.1(s goog) so buyers won’t need to wait for a software upgrade for the latest Android version.

Although this isn’t a phone I’d personally be interested in, it’s a smart play by Samsung. It can leverage design cues and branding to put a mid-range handset into the reach of those on a budget in emerging markets and other regions around the world where the flagship is either too big, too expensive or both.

This could also be yet another similar strategy to Apple if the phone actually does appear in the U.S. With each new iPhone(s aapl) release,  Apple sells the older, less capable models for a lower price; typically $100 less on contract price compared to the new model. By creating a lower-performing but capable handset that looks like the flagship, Samsung can follow the same pattern going forward and see it creates additional sales.