A 'Mini' war is unfolding between Apple and Samsung even as reports suggest that the two titans will wage a scaled-down version of their increasingly fierce product competition this year.
A few months from now, the two companies are believed to unleash new handsets that are geared for the wider mass-market audience. Apple will rollout the iPhone Mini by June or July, analysts said, while Samsung will intro the Galaxy S4 Mini on May.
The idea, at least for Apple, is to break new ground in China, India and other emerging markets. The tech giant had belatedly realised that there is money in market segments where consumers look for powerful handsets but are unwilling to surrender too much cash.
Samsung knew that all along and is out to defend its turf. Already, the two firms are engaged in a long-drawn war of attrition, painfully waiting which one will first implode. With the Mini battle brewing, witnessing which one will emerge as victorious or the vanquished promises a major spectacle.
Defining the battlefront
When Apple launched the iPad Mini, it clearly emphasised that the gadget is a scaled-down version of its 9.7-inch slate. It remains capable of delivering full Apple experience and consumers will not be short-changed, the tech giant stressed.
While keeping its silence on the subject of iPhone Mini, analysts remained convinced that Apple will opt for the inevitable - release the 'budget phone' in order preserve its profitably in light of the declining sales of the regular iPhone.
The smaller iPhone, according to KGI Securities, will not exactly shrink in size but Apple will cut considerable corners to realise a price point that that will appeal to buyers in regions where the company's smartphone is considered unreachable.
As a result, the iPhone Mini will slightly scrimp on material build, shedding its metal-protected body for plastic casing that will flash six attractive colour options. But the gut remains an Apple masterpiece - hardwares that were painstakingly assembled to work smoothly with iOS and apps designed for the environment.
It appears that Apple is scampering to adjust and work with the prevalent market dynamics but such in not the case with Samsung. The S4 Mini is a familiar territory for the Asian tech giant owing to its years of experience in pushing out the mid-range and low-end Galaxy smartphones.
An upgrade of the Galaxy S3 Mini released in Q4 2012, the S4 Mini will simply improve on the strengths of its predecessor while serving new come-ons like 720p HD screen and wider range of connectivity options such as NFC, LTE or even wireless charging capability.
In short, the Samsung Mini take is an extension of its proven onslaught that provides variety to accommodate differing tastes. This time though, the formula is laced with the Galaxy S pedigree - now a premium name to contend with in the general smartphone arena.
The battlefront for both Apple and Samsung is the price-sensitive market. They will have to convince buyers in this sprawling segment that iPhone and Galaxy S can be enjoyed without breaking the bank.
Apple is sexy but will it be affordable? The lowest price that Apple can get on the iPhone Mini, based on KGI Securities' projection, is $US350. Analysts believe that for the tech giant to woo new believers, it needs to push down further, possibly between $US150 and $US250.
That sticker price sitting on a device with the Apple logo will definitely warrant a second look considering that cheap Android handsets still sell for as high as $300. In fact, the Galaxy S3 Mini retails for as high as $400 in key Asian markets like the Philippines.
No word yet from Samsung on the cash setback to own the Galaxy S4 Mini. But if Apple is willing to sell dirt-cheap then Samsung will toss around a more irresistible proposition, the company mining its years of ground-zero know-how in markets like China and the South East Asia region - the same territories that now occupy Apple's crosshair.
It looks like that the iPhone Mini and the Galaxy S4 Mini will serve as precursors to an era wherein big bucks is not a prerequisite for the average consumers to crash into the high-end smartphone environment, thanks to Apple and Samsung bruising it out.