A common complaint is that phones are just too big, but the iPhone 12 Mini might be just right, able to be used by one hand.
These days, it’s not unusual to hear the odd complaint about phones being too big.
It’s true: they are. They are completely big, and oversized, and while some people have smaller hands than others, phones these days are typically not sized for humans, for hands, for holding or for storing in a pocket.
Rather, phones these days are sized more like mini tablets, with a minimum of 6 inches for screens with a big battery underneath. They’re hardly for hands, and can’t be used without the two of them working together, typically with one hand to hold and the other to use.
Small phones have largely disappeared over the years, and up until the launch of the iPhone 12 Mini, the smallest iPhone you could find was the iPhone SE, Apple’s last phone with a home button at the front, basically using the smaller 4.7 inch size of the iPhone 8 and marrying with both the camera from the iPhone XR and the power of the iPhone 11. It’s a pretty solid little phone, and a great model for what constitutes Apple’s mid-range, if you can even call it that.
But the iPhone 12 Mini manages to get even smaller, and throws in an even bigger screen. In what is basically a small version of the iPhone 12, the Mini delivers what we’ve long been looking for in smartphones: a phone that fits in the hand comfortable, and can be used by one hand almost entirely.
Is Apple’s return to the compact phone exactly what the world needs, or could the iPhone 12 Mini need something more?
Set with an aluminium frame and glossy glass front and back, the iPhone 12 Mini is like its iPhone 12 sibling, but smaller. Much smaller.
The thickness is the same at 7.4mm, but the overall size is much smaller, sporting a width and height more like the 2020 iPhone SE, and yet somehow still smaller.
It’s a remarkable feat when you see it, with Apple building a compact phone for people who miss small phones. They don’t really exist anymore, but Apple has revived them, and we couldn’t be more delighted.
But while small, the iPhone 12 Mini is big at heart, and that’s because it beats with the heart of the iPhone 12 standard.
Inside, you’ll find pretty much an identical run of specs and features to Apple’s other iPhone 12, sporting the Apple A14 Bionic with either 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB storage. Apple’s iOS 14 runs on the iPhone 12 Mini out of the box.
You’ll find the same two rear cameras — 12 megapixels standard wide at F1.6 and 12 megapixels ultra-wide at F2.4 — and the same 12 megapixel F2.2 selfie camera, with 4K video support and Dolby HDR throughout.
And it’s a similar identical story in connections, with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5, GPS, Near-Field Communication (NFC) for Apple Pay, and 5G. Wired connections are slim, just like the iPhone 12 — like every iPhone except for the iPhone SE — with only a Lightning port at the very bottom for charging, data, and headphones, though no headphones are included in the box.
All of this sits below a 5.4 inch screen that takes up most of the front of the phone, much like it does on the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. It’s basically a smaller version of those screens, offering an AMOLED display using a sharp 2340×1080 Full HD+ resolution, and showing well into Apple’s definition of Retina at roughly 476 pixels per inch.
Face ID security technology is found just above the screen in the notch of the screen, and the display is protected by Apple’s ceramic glass technology that aims to help deal with damage from drops.
The Apple iPhone 12 Mini also supports wireless charging through Qi, and is compatible with the MagSafe chargers Apple released with the iPhone 12 range. The phone is water resistant at IP68.
And all of that is pretty much identical to the iPhone 12, save for the screen size. The iPhone 12 Mini is exactly what it says on the name: a mini version of the iPhone 12.
With so much in common with its siblings, you probably won’t be shocked to know that it works just like another flagship iPhone, using your face and Face ID to log you into the phone, and then using iOS 14 to actually use the phone.
It means using the iPhone 12 Mini is a cinch, whether you’ve used an iPhone before or not, though it has one other thing going for it that we’ve not seen in most of Apple’s prior range: it’s made for human hands.
While most phones we see fit in a variety if hands, the miniature iPhone 12 is the first in ages that feels properly suited to more of them, delivering a device that can be unlocked and used one-handed, something you don’t see every day. That means it’s comfortable to hold and operate with your thumb and fingers, and you can open and use the Mini without a whole lot of effort, and certainly while keeping your other hand away.
And sure, some people will naturally prefer a bigger phone than others, and we are by no means disparaging them in the slightest. However the iPhone 12 Mini is perfectly compact and ideal for pockets.
Once you take it out for a spin, though, you find that it’s bigger than the phone initially lets on.
We feel like we’ve done this dance at least once recently, so stop us if this feels familiar: sporting Apple’s latest chip, the A14 Bionic, the iPhone 12 Mini delivers virtually no lag as you use it, and pretty solid 5G speeds if you can find range.
That’s not exactly what we said in our iPhone 12 review, but it’s about the same thing, and it should come as no surprise, because they’re basically the same.
From the specs to the camera system to the feature set almost entirely, the iPhone 12 Mini is a small iPhone 12. It’s the small iPhone 12, and so is hardly a surprise that it performs like one.
It’s not just the performance that is spot on like the iPhone 12, but also the camera, meaning you get Apple’s rather solid two camera setup in the pocket-sized iPhone 12 Mini, delivering excellent results in the right hands, and pretty great images for everyone else.
Yes, you get same great dual camera system from the iPhone 12, and while that’s just a standard wide and ultra wide, it’s a high-and camera the likes of which we’ve not seen on a small phone before. Remember that small phones hardly even exist, and Apple’s previous small phone, the 2020 iPhone SE, only gets one camera.
The iPhone 12 Mini is physically smaller, and manages the two. Stunning.
As to how it performs, again you’ll find an excellent delivery of day and night, the former delivering sharp and clear images, while the latter handles itself very well also.
A wide-angle portrait mode gets those people-focused shots nicely, and while you don’t get the low-light portraits from the iPhone 12 Pro, they fact that a phone this size throws in a dual-lens portrait mode feels like a win all the same.
Video on those cameras is captured in Dolby HDR, an effect you can even see in the Live Photo video when you watch the highlights appear HDR in video, while the front sports that the same 12 megapixel selfie camera, too,
All up, it’s the same great camera system as the iPhone 12, just made small.
But if there’s one area that can fall short, it’s the battery life, which ranges between 13 hours of life if you use the screen and camera through the day, and closer to 24 hours if you don’t.
You see it’s not the same battery from the iPhone 12, because there was no way Apple would be able to stuff the same battery from one
Our test showed that closer to 3 hours of time with the screen on saw the 13 hour mark, making it barely a work day phone, while using the phone far less through a work day and having the screen on closer to over an hour managed the longer battery life.
A full day of battery life is possible for iPhone 12 Mini, but you have to use the phone far less than you might expect. Our tests showed that in the pandemic work from home world, it was possible to handle a full 24 hours of battery life by using the phone, but also having the screen on for not much more than an hour over the day. However that’s not a life everyone will be able to achieve, simply because you have to use the iPhone for much less time than you might expect.
Here’s the rub, though: while it’s not the best battery life in the world, given the size of the phone, we’re hardly surprised. This is a small phone with a comparatively high resolution screen, 5G, and a couple of capable cameras, and that’s not a combination you see every day. There’s only so much room for a battery, and that’s one of the things losing out here.
Basically, you may want to keep a charger nearby, because like the iPhone SE, the battery life might get you through the day, but the more you use it, the more you’re likely to see it won’t deliver that at all.
Fortunately, the price is right for a new flagship iPhone, with the iPhone 12 Mini nabbing the best of the iPhone 12 prices you can find around.
At $1198, the iPhone 12 Mini is the best value iPhone, delivering the feature set of the marginally more pricey $1349 for about $150 less.
Let’s get this clear: beyond the battery and size, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini are the same phone, and that means it’s possible to get a less expensive iPhone 12 if you don’t mind a smaller device with potentially less battery life.
What needs work?
But the battery life is a sore point, and one that will likely mean a charge is needed nightly, if not sooner.
It’s the one major part of the iPhone 12 Mini review where you’d be hard pressed to argue with, and really represents a frustrating issue.
Like the iPhone 12, there’s no telephoto or support for the ProRAW format, even though the iPhone 12 Pro gets both. Frankly at this size, we’re not bothered by either. We just want better battery life.
Final thoughts on the iPhone 12 Mini (TLDR)
After spending a few days with the iPhone 12 Mini, there’s plenty to like about Apple’s smallest smartphone, a model that delivers a hand-sized phone made for humans.
It’s just so nice to come back to this style of phone: small. We love it, as it delivers everything that was great about the iPhone 12, but in a smaller and more compact size. Between the power and the cameras and overall feature set, the iPhone 12 Mini is mostly a win. It really is pint-sized versatility save for the battery.
The battery is more or less Apple’s biggest conundrum with the iPhone 12 Mini, delivering an otherwise excellent and tiny phone, but with a battery that will likely need a charge before the day is done.
If you’re working from home in this WFH pandemic-led era, the iPhone 12 Mini can survive the day before needing a charge at night. But if you’re making your way out and about, you may find Apple’s tiny iPhone needs charging halfway through the day, especially if you’re to survive a train ride home.
That is perhaps the most frustrating part about the iPhone 12 Mini. If you can somehow live with the battery life, the iPhone 12 Mini is a sheer delight to have in your life. Despite the battery concerns, we love this phone more than we expected, as it feels more like it’s made for humans than most phones we’ve seen prior.
The small phone is back, and it’s most welcome. Recommended.