Smartphone screens have gotten so big in recent years that we’ve stopped using the awful word “phablet” to describe handsets with nearly tablet-sized screens. Now they’re just called phones.

But there may still be a small market (get it?) for phones with smaller screens. Last year TCL launched the Palm Phone with a 3.3 inch display. And now Japanese company Rakuten is launching its first smartphone — a 3.6 inch phone called the Rakuten Mini.

Rakuten may be best known in the West as an online commerce company that also owns the Kobo eBook brand. But the Japanese company also runs an online bank and recently got into the wireless carrier business with the launch of an MVNO (which is expanding).

The Rakuten Mini smartphone is an unusual device for a first phone… but at least it stands out.

Measuring just 4.2″ x 2.1″ x 0.3″ and weighing about 2.8 ounces, the phone is smaller than a first-gen iPhone, but it’s a modern phone with modern (albeit entry-level) specs, including:

  • 1280 x 720 pixel display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 processor
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB storage
  • Android 9 Pie
  • 1,250 mAh battery
  • 802.11ac WiFi
  • 4G LTE
  • eSIM
  • 16MP rear and 5MP front cameras
  • IPX2/IP5X
  • USB-C (comes with 3.5mm audio adapter)
  • Black, red, and white color options

The phone sells for about $200 in Japan. I doubt it’ll show up in other markets anytime soon. But now there are two modern Android phones with screens smaller than 4 inches for folks who value portability over screen space.

via GizmoChina and Engadget Japanese

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14 Comments

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  1. Looks great in every way possible!
    The only concern is the small battery (couldn’t they risk a 2,000mah instead?), which may mean battery life won’t last you a full day.

    The specs of RAM and SoC are adequate for the display. Heck I’d accept a downgrade to 2GB RAM, as it would be enough for regular light use/non-multitasking. The NAND is just enough for modern AndroidOS, so the microSD slot will always be in use. The IP52 certification is nice to know (it’s not really splash proof), but largely unnecessary.

    I wouldn’t mind if they bumped it up to 64GB NAND, 4GB RAM, QSD 632 SoC, and featured Removable Battery for a little extra ($50 ?) money… but the battery capacity is ofcourse the main concern.

    1. I looked at the spec sheet and unfortunately it doesn’t have any sd card slot so its stuck at 32GB, and it doesn’t support GSM (only CDMA 2G bands). Its not a global travel phone, and those two things are deal breakers for me. Other than that I thought I finnaly found an upgrade from my iPhone 4S (which increasingly unsupported these days). Some other strange things include the USBC being USB2 and no LED flashlight…
      Love the design, size, and headphone jack otherwise. Hope they make a Rakuten Mini Pro!

      1. Actually it does have a LED light just no “LED flash” whatever that means (perhaps super strong LED flash?)

      2. @Brad, apparently it doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack! If one reads the spec more closely it includes a USBC to 3.5mm adapter cable, but no audio jack on the device.

  2. As someone who takes a UMPC around most times, I’d totally buy a tiny smartphone that I’d take with me all the time. Assuming it has great battery life. I’d definitely sacrifice performance for better battery life.

  3. Cute, but too bad we’ll never see this outside of Japan. (Apart from some small-time import scalpers)

  4. Last year I used a 3″ Android phone as a secondary phone for half a year (Soyes XS, 16GB/2GB, 3″ WVGA IPS, USB-C, 800mAh, Android 6). My experinece with that one: good for a secondary device, but forget for main phone. Typing is almost impossible, you can either try to use voice recognition or just do your messaging from another device. Battery life is quite horrible, although that was true for the phone I had, not neccesairly this. It was good to make calls, and to share an internet connection with my notebook, but the fact that it run android turned out to be not important at all, I rarely ever used any apps in it, certainly no navigation, browsing or media consumption. In the end being smaller and cheaper than a Nokia dumb-phone made it a good solution for my use-case, but then again if my main phone had two SIM slots I wouldn’t even need it.

  5. Sounds like a good device for the price. I wonder what the battery life is like. Not that I can buy one (US Verizon) but still interested to read about.

    Typed on a 4 inch screened iPhone SE. Love the headphone jack too.

  6. Well, if you’re going to launch a new phone when there’s a zillion other competitors in the phablet market, it makes sense to look for niches where there’s less competition.
    And they even priced it reasonably!

    1. I remember the Jelly Pro…they’re almost at the price point of being cost-effective tracking devices.

  7. Hooray for a company to buck the trend of bigger screen = better phone! I don’t use my phone as a TV and don’t need FHD resolution so I prefer something small that’s easy to fit in a pocket. 3.3-inch and 3.6-inch screens are quite small. I find 4.0-4.5 inches to be about the perfect balance.