Apple iPhone 12 Mini review: A pocket rocket
Introduction, design, features, and display
Note: This review was first published on 10 Nov 2020 and it's republished now because the phone goes on sale today.
The iPhone goes small
Holding the iPhone 12 Mini is an otherworldly feeling. Not since the iPhone 5S have we had an iPhone that is as small. It feels as if I’m holding a TV remote rather than a state-of-the-art smartphone.
The iPhone 12 Mini is the latest addition to the iPhone lineup. Since 2018, Apple’s lineup consists of a single “standard” phone and two “top-of-the-line” or “Pro” phones. Now, there’s a compact version. And it’s not just compact, it’s the smallest phone Apple makes now – even smaller than the second-generation iPhone SE. That’s remarkable, not just because the iPhone SE is already a very small phone, but also because of the market’s fixation on phones with ultra-large displays. Look at the current crop of flagship Android phones, none of have displays smaller than 6.5 inches. And even if you expand the scope to entry-level and mid-range phones, there are very few are smaller than 6 inches – off the top of my mind, I can only think of Google’s Pixel 4a.
Now, on paper, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini have identical specs – save for the smaller display and battery. So this review is going to focus on the user experience of the iPhone 12 Mini. If you are completely new to the new iPhones, I suggest you read my review of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro first.
Design & features
The iPhone 12 Mini is aesthetically similar to the iPhone 12. It’s just smaller. I’ve already spoken about the new design at length in my iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro review so I'll move on to other aspects like handling and comparisons.
But the gist of it is that the iPhone 12 Mini has squared-off edges with flat sides that is reminiscent of the old iPhone 5. This is subjective but I love the look. It’s distinctively different from older iPhones and also from just about any other phone in the market.
The iPhone 12 Mini has all the other features that the iPhone 12 does and here are the highlights:
- Aluminium chassis
- Glass front and back
- Front glass is Ceramic Shield
- Water-resistant up to six metres of water for up to 30 minutes
- Lightning port
- Wireless charging
- Dual camera system
- Dolby Vision HDR video recording
To give you a better sense of scale, here’s how the iPhone 12 Mini looks next to the iPhone SE, iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max.
It’s a diminutive phone (by 2020 standards) and I suspect most people will need some time to adjust the smaller body and display. I have been using the iPhone SE for the past couple of months so I got used to the iPhone 12 Mini easily. Typing, in particular, could be a little tricky mainly because the keys are quite small. But persevere and you should get the hang of it quickly in a day or two.
The upside, of course, is that iPhone 12 Mini can be used quite comfortably with one hand. Depending on how you hold your phone, it's still a bit of stretch to reach the top of the screen with your thumb. But, by and large, I could operate the phone with a single hand with just my thumb. If you have always felt that phones were too big to be used easily with one hand, the iPhone 12 Mini could be for you.
Display & sound
The iPhone 12 Mini has an OLED display just like the iPhone 12, which Apple calls Super Retina XDR. Size is down from 6.1 inches to 5.4 inches but a resolution of 2,340 x 1,080 pixels results in more or less the same pixel density count (476 PPI). Contrast ratio and brightness figures are identical.
Apart from the obvious size disparity, the iPhone 12 Mini’s display is every bit as fantastic as the iPhone 12’s. It’s wonderfully sharp, gets eye-searingly bright, and colours are vivid and punchy. The only downside is that it isn’t a high refresh rate display so refresh rates are limited to 60Hz. Against flagship Android devices, the differences in fluidity are quite apparent. But even so, it is easily one of the best displays on a smartphone.
If you like phones with expansive displays, then obviously the iPhone 12 Mini isn’t for you. Given a choice, I would rather watch videos and read on the iPhone 12’s or iPhone 12 Pro Max’s larger screens. But if you put aside pleasure, the iPhone 12 Mini’s smaller 5.4-inch display is entirely functional and usable. But for pleasure, bigger is always better.
Despite the smaller body, the iPhone 12 Mini's stereo speakers still sound mighty. It doesn't play as loud as the larger iPhone 12 but it's totally usable for playing music, videos, or podcasts in the background. I play music through the speakers whenever I'm doing the dishes.