Source: Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco
Source: Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco
  • Apple’s $700 iPhone 12 Mini is a smaller-sized version of the iPhone 12 that comes with all of the same features as its bigger sibling, including 5G and an improved camera.
  • The iPhone 12 Mini has a more compact design and a 5.4-inch display, making it more portable and much easier to operate with one hand.
  • The iPhone 12 Mini’s impressive camera also makes it stand out from Apple’s other tiny phone, the iPhone SE, which has a single-lens camera unlike the iPhone 12 lineup.
  • But, the iPhone 12 Mini’s smaller size also means it offers shorter battery life than the iPhone 12.
  • How does iPhone 12 Mini stack up against our top phone recommendations? Here are our picks for the best phones of 2020.

Your phone is probably your lifeline to just about everything — the news, your job, friends and family, and entertainment — so it makes sense that the screens on our mobile devices have only gotten larger.

But, that increase in size also means our phones have become more cumbersome than ever, in some cases making it difficult to fit them in a tight pocket or use them with one hand. 

Apple is looking to change that with the introduction of its $700 iPhone 12 Mini, a smaller-sized version of the iPhone 12 that comes with a 5.4-inch screen compared to the iPhone 12’s 6.1-inch display.

Despite having a larger screen than previous iPhones like the 4.7-inch iPhone SE and iPhone 8, the iPhone 12 Mini is actually more compact in size since it sheds the chunky borders and home button found on those devices. 

The iPhone 12 Mini is otherwise identical to the iPhone 12, from its new design to its A14 Bionic processor, support for 5G, and improved cameras. That’s important because the available options for those who prefer smaller and more pocketable smartphones has significantly dwindled in recent years. 

The reason behind this shift is simple: larger-sized smartphones have become much more popular over the last several years. For example, the market share for devices with screens measuring between 5.5 inches and 6.2 inches in size grew from 21% in 2015 to 44% in 2018, according to NPD Group. During that same period, the amount of smartphone owners using a device with a screen size smaller than 4.7 inches shrunk from 37% to 15%. 

The iPhone 12 Mini is the first iPhone in years that feels like it’s designed to be held all day. But, you’ll have to be alright with compromising on battery life compared to the larger iPhone 12. And, the iPhone 12 Mini is launching at a time when it’s shining attribute — it’s pocket and purse-friendly size —  is less relevant as people are spending most of their days at home.

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Apple iPhone 12 Mini specifications

  • Display: 5.4 inches Super Retina XDR OLED with 2,340 x 1,080 resolution
  • Processor: Apple A14 Bionic
  • Cameras: Dual 12-megapixel wide and ultra-wide-angle
  • Selfie Camera: 12-megapixel
  • Estimated battery life: Up to 15 hours
  • Storage: 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB
  • Biometric authentication: Face ID
  • Network support: 5G (sub-6GHz and mmWave)
  • Durability: IP68 (depth of 6 meters for up to 30 minutes); Display with ceramic shield coating for 4X drop resistance 

Design and display

The iPhone 12 Mini (left) and iPhone 12 (right). Source: Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco
The iPhone 12 Mini (left) and iPhone 12 (right). Source: Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco

After years of using big-screened phones, I’ve come to appreciate holding a phone that fits comfortably in one hand again. 

With its 5.4-inch display, the iPhone 12 Mini falls squarely in between last year’s 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro and the 4.7-inch $400 iPhone SE in terms of size.

It’s the right middle ground for those who don’t want to compromise on modern features like a borderless screen, a dual camera, and Face ID, but also miss the portability of Apple’s older (and smaller) phones. It makes the $400 iPhone SE, which Apple launched earlier this year in April, feel antiquated by comparison — although that’s to be expected given the $300 price difference.

Typing and scrolling on the iPhone 12 Mini feels manageable with one hand yet spacious enough when operating it with two. It’s a bit larger than the iPhone SE in terms of screen size, and the difference is noticeable. For example, I was able to see several more lines of text on the iPhone 12 Mini compared to the iPhone SE when reading news articles. 

The iPhone 12 Mini isn’t just the smallest version of the iPhone 12. It’s the tiniest iPhone that Apple sells, period. Not only is it smaller than the 4.7-inch iPhone SE, but it’s shorter, narrower, lighter, and thinner than the older iPhone 11 and iPhone XR too.

Under normal circumstances, the iPhone 12 Mini’s compact design would be a godsend during my morning commute. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve struggled to use a larger-sized device like the iPhone 11 with one hand as I’m gripping the subway pole with the other.

The iPhone 12 Mini (left) and iPhone SE (right). Source: Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco
The iPhone 12 Mini (left) and iPhone SE (right). Source: Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco

Size isn’t the only major physical change coming to the iPhone 12 Mini. Like its larger siblings, the iPhone 12 Mini has an all-new look that includes flat metal edges and new color options that give the iPhone 12 a fresh and distinguished look. 

The downside? Apple’s iPhone 12 family — including the Mini — lack fingerprint sensors, meaning you’ll probably be typing in your passcode a lot whenever you leave the house these days. 

Apple also brought the Super Retina XDR display, which was previously only found on its high-end smartphones, down to its less expensive new iPhones this year as well. That means the iPhone 12 Mini, like its bigger counterpart, offers better contrast and richer black tones compared to the iPhone 11.

Unfortunately, however, the iPhone 12 Mini and the rest of Apple’s iPhones are missing an always-on display, meaning they can’t show information like the time, date, and battery level even when the screen is idle. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s a helpful feature I’ve come to appreciate on Android devices. 


Cameras

The iPhone 12 Mini's dual camera. Source: Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco
The iPhone 12 Mini’s dual camera. Source: Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco

The iPhone 12 Mini comes with the same improved camera system as the iPhone 12, which means its better at capturing photos in the dark compared to the iPhone 11 since it has a wider aperture.

Night mode also works on all of the iPhone’s cameras on the iPhone 12: the wide camera, the ultra-wide-angle camera, and the selfie camera.You’ll also get other new features like the ability to record Dolby Vision video and take time lapse videos in Night Mode.

Compared to Android rivals like the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and Google Pixel 5, I found that the iPhone 12 in some cases took photos that were more colorful and lively, but didn’t perform as well in other situations, such as when taking selfies in low-light scenarios. Check out our original review of the iPhone 12 to learn more about how the iPhone 12’s camera compares to those of the Google Pixel 5 and Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra.  

If you’re upgrading from an older, smaller-sized iPhone like the iPhone 8 or iPhone 7, you’ll notice a substantial difference in camera quality with the iPhone 12 Mini.

Those aging 4.7-inch phones lack newer photography features Night Mode and portrait mode, and only have a single lens camera. Because they only have one lens, they offer less flexibility with fewer shooting modes compared to the iPhone 12.

General image quality has also improved since the iPhone 12 Mini supports the latest version of Apple’s high dynamic range tech and Deep Fusion, the latter of which processes photos at the pixel level to optimize for texture, detail, and noise. 

Trying to decide between the iPhone 12 Mini and Apple’s other recently-launched smaller-sized phone, the iPhone SE? Consider that the iPhone 12 Mini’s higher price tag means it has a lot more to offer when it comes to camera technology.

Unlike the iPhone SE, the iPhone 12 Mini has a dual camera that includes an ultra-wide angle lens for capturing a broader perspective, Night Mode for taking photos in the dark, Deep Fusion, better HDR, and a main camera that’s capable of taking in more light compared to its predecessor.

That might just sound like a lot of photography buzzwords strewn together, but the differences are palpable in the real world. In almost every scenario I tested it in, the iPhone 12 Mini captured photos with considerably richer color than the iPhone SE.

Take a look at the photos below and you’ll notice the red and orange shades in the leaves are much more vibrant in photos taken with the iPhone 12 Mini.

Apple iPhone 12 Mini

Source: Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider
Source: Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider

Apple iPhone SE

Source: Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider
Source: Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider

Here you can see the difference between the iPhone 12 Mini’s ultra-wide-angle camera and the iPhone SE’s standard wide camera. You’ll also notice the sky is a deeper hue of blue in the iPhone 12 Mini’s photo, making the iPhone SE look a bit washed out by comparison.

Apple iPhone 12 Mini

Source: Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider
Source: Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider

Apple iPhone SE

Source: Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider
Source: Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider

5G

The iPhone 12 Mini has a 5.4-inch screen. Source: Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco
The iPhone 12 Mini has a 5.4-inch screen. Source: Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco

All of Apple’s new iPhones support 5G, which is great for future-proofing your device but won’t make a noticeable difference right now. That’s because the version of 5G that’s widely available across the country is only marginally faster than 4G LTE. 

My iPhone 12 Mini achieved average download speeds of 118.8 megabits per second (Mbps) and average upload speeds of  14.72 Mbps on Verizon’s nationwide 5G network. The results are a bit faster than the speeds I’ve experienced on 4G LTE, but not by a whole lot (91.44 Mbps download and 17.45 Mbps upload on average).

That lines up with my experience when testing the standard iPhone 12’s 5G speeds.

Super-speedy 5G networks do exist, but they’re only available in very small areas, like certain street corners in select cities across the United States. That’s because the spectrum these networks operate on a short range and struggles with penetrating structures like buildings.

All told, don’t upgrade to the newest iPhones just for 5G. But, if you’re already thinking of upgrading for other reasons, buying a new phone with 5G is a good way to ensure your device will feel relevant for years to come when 5G networks improve.


MagSafe accessories and battery life

The iPhone 12 on Apple's MagSafe charger. Source: Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider
The iPhone 12 on Apple’s MagSafe charger. Source: Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider

The iPhone 12 line is also compatible with Apple’s MagSafe accessories, which magnetically snap to the back of your iPhone. Among the first of these accessories to become available is the MagSafe wireless charger and cases from Apple.

The $39 MagSafe power pad makes resting your iPhone on its charger slightly more convenient since it clings to your phone instantly, eliminating the need to fiddle with plugging in your phone or placing it in the right spot on your wireless charger. You’ll see a graphic showing your iPhone’s battery level once its connected, just as the Apple Watch does when placed on its charger.

MagSafe compatibility alone isn’t a must-have feature that will determine whether you should upgrade, but it’s a nice bonus that brings additional ease of use to the charging experience. I’m looking forward to seeing what third-party accessories do with the technology moving forward.

The iPhone 12 Mini will probably last all day on a single charge, but don’t expect to get nearly as much usage as you’d experience with the standard iPhone 12.

My iPhone 12 Mini’s battery was at 23% after about 9.5 hours of use, which consisted of streaming video for about 45 minutes, streaming music for 40 minutes, and gaming for about 10 minutes. I also took photos sporadically for an hour while at a nearby park and spent the rest of the day reading  email, checking social media, and web browsing on the device.

The iPhone 12, by comparison, had 34% of its battery left after about 15 hours of use. But, it’s important to remember that battery life will always vary depending on the settings and apps you use on your device, so your experience may not match mine. 


The bottom line

Source: Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco
Source: Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco

The iPhone 12 Mini represents a much-needed return to the smaller-sized smartphone, which has largely disappeared over the last several years. It’s the best choice for iPhone owners that have been holding onto their older device because they’re reluctant to upgrade to today’s large-screened devices.

Apple also sells the cheaper $400 iPhone SE, which has a slightly smaller screen but is generally similar in size. That phone is $300 cheaper but requires you to make some compromises since it’s lacking many modern features that have become staples of today’s phones.

 The iPhone 12 Mini is the right option for Apple fans that want to save a little cash — it’s $100 less expensive than the standard iPhone 12 — and prioritize portability over having a bigger screen. But, for those who find themselves watching movies and TV shows or reading books on their iPhones often, you’ll probably want the extra screen space and longer battery life that the standard iPhone 12 offers.  

Pros: Compact design makes it easy to use with one hand; Excellent camera; Elegant revamped design compared to last year’s iPhones; Sharp and vibrant OLED display; 5G support will keep the iPhone 12 Mini relevant in the future

Cons: Smaller size means you compromise on battery life; No fingerprint sensor; No always-on display; Nationwide 5G networks aren’t much faster than today’s 4G LTE 

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