moto g mini

2014 will be the year of the mini-me phone

While 2013 had its share of super-sized monstrosities, there was also a countertrend towards teeny tiny versions of flagship devices.

The past year saw the introduction of the HTC One mini and Samsung Galaxy S4 mini, not to mention lower-tier flavors of premier phones in the form of the iPhone 5c and the Moto G.

And the diminutive train shows no sign of slowing down in 2014. A Greek tech site is reporting that LG is preparing a 4.7-inch LG G2 mini (though I am hesitant to refer to the run-of-the-mill LG G2 as a premier phone).

Additionally, SamMobile has confirmed that Samsung will introduce a "lite" flavor of its popular Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Grand 2. The trend will even extend to other form factors in the guise of a lite version of the Galaxy Tab 3 that will cost around $135. These won't necessarily be smaller, but they're part of a trend of bringing high-end brands to low-cost devices.

Is it a small world after all?

Is this wave of mini and lite devices a reaction to the fact that we as a species are shrinking? Nope. The complete opposite appears to be the case!

So, what's the deal?

The deal is my dad has a smartphone now—and he loves it. This was a man who only got his first microwave 10 years ago and chastised me for purchasing my first cell phone back in 2001 as an unnecessary extravagance.

What does a 60+-year-old baby boomer conquering technophobia have to do with smartphone trends? It's symbolic of a much broader trend: Smartphones are everywhere now.

The most important manifestation of this trend is that smartphones are rapidly expanding into the developing world. And manufacturers want a piece of the action, but they will have to create cheaper devices to do it.

Will Phone hello

"If you look at the worldwide smartphone market, you'll notice that a majority of the volume and the growth comes from mid-tier of the market, especially that cost about $200. They are in huge demand" said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner.

The trend towards more approachable price points not only has an effect on hardware, but also on how the software is designed. For example, Google's latest candy-themed OS was specifically engineered to run comfortably on entry-level smartphones that have as little as 512MB of RAM.

During Googlerola's unveiling of the low-cost Moto G, the company made the bold declaration that the $200-ish phone's software-based approach would make it more powerful than the $600 full-sized Galaxy S4.

While we haven't had a chance to test this boast yet, if it proves true, this trend may have a very real effect on smartphones higher up on the food chain.

"When you can provide a high-quality smartphone, it will impact the more expensive Android smartphones in the $400 and $600 price range," said Roger Kay, president and principal at Endpoint Technologies Associates. "Either the quality of the more expensive smartphones will have to improve, or they may fall by the wayside."

For better or worse, 2014 may prove to be the smallest on record.

Reporting from IDGNS contributed to this story.

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