Samsung announced the release of the Galaxy S III mini -- a smaller version of its flagship Galaxy S III phone. (Courtesy of Samsung/Courtesy of Samsung)

Samsung announced a smaller version of its flagship Galaxy S III smartphone Thursday, a product likely aimed at Apple’s newest iPhone.

The phone, called the Galaxy S III mini, has a 4-inch screen — smaller than the massive 4.8-inch screen on its to smartphone but the same size as the display on the iPhone 5.

But that’s not the only difference between this phone and its larger, 4.8-inch sibling. According to a specifications sheet from Samsung, the mini smartphone has a 5 MP camera instead of the 8 MP sensor on the larger phone, and it will also not operate on high-speed 4G LTE networks. That decision makes the device more of a mid-range phone, since many customers expect premium smartphones to connect to the fastest networks.

Still, the S III mini’s sharp Super AMOLED screen and general design pulls a lot from the company’s top-selling smartphone. It has a 1GHZ dual-core processor and will run the latest version of Google’s Android system, Jelly Bean.

Samsung did not announce when the phone will launch in the U.S. or what the price will be.

The decision to introduce a 4-inch phone — and to call it a “mini” — ups the ante in the smartphone battle between Apple and Samsung. Together, the companies make up over one-half of the U.S. smartphone market and ship over one-half of the world’s smartphones.

Apple’s decision to pump the iPhone’s screen up to 4 inches, from 3.5 inches in previous versions, was a major feature of the company’s latest annual smartphone release. Samsung, which releases several phones in a year, has the ability to put out devices of varying sizes and features without the pressure to have a single phone model sell the astronomical numbers expected of the iPhone.

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