Apple has released a truly compact iPhone for the first time in years, the iPhone 12 mini. In this review of the iPhone 12 mini, we share our experiences. Does this model live up to expectations?
There is a group of iPhone users with two wishes: a compact iPhone with the latest specs and an affordable iPhone. Apple responded to that last wish earlier this year with the iPhone SE 2020 . But while the name suggests it was a small iPhone, it was not small enough for many users. Moreover, this iPhone SE does not have the latest design, camera and other recent specs.
The new iPhone 12 mini ( available from € 809 ) jumps into that gap . This model is basically everything that the enthusiast of small iPhones is looking for: a compact design, the latest techniques and a not too absurd price. The small iPhone is back and that makes the iPhone 12 mini immediately interesting for many users. Still, the mini is not for everyone. You can read how that works in this iPhone 12 mini review.
Design : Compact and modern
- Same new design as regular iPhone 12, with flat sides
- Aluminum housing with shiny glass back
- Five colors: blue, green, red, white and black
- Extra compact: 131.5 x 64.2 x 7.4 millimeters
- Lightest iPhone in the line-up: 133 grams
As soon as you take this out of the box and hold it in your hands for the first time, it immediately feels familiar, especially if you come from a first generation iPhone SE or maybe even an iPhone 5s or iPhone 5 . The iPhone 12 mini has the same flat sides, but in the more modern version that you also find with the regular iPhone 12. The edge is made of aluminum and fits comfortably in the hand. We also like the matte finish of the aluminum case better than the glossy edges of the iPhone 12 Pro models. A disadvantage of the design with the glass back is that it is a magnet for fingerprints. We prefer a frosted glass back, as with the recent pro models. That also feels nicer, but unfortunately has Apple also opted for a shiny glass back this year.
The small size of this mobile fits comfortably in the hand. During the first few days we had huge flashbacks to the iPhone 5 while using it. The whole feel of the case combined with the smaller size reminded us a lot of the iPhone from 2012. If you come from a larger iPhone, such as an iPhone X or even an iPhone 8, that takes some getting used to in the beginning. It can sometimes even feel a bit cramped, although you are used to this after a few days. The advantage of such a small iPhone is that you can easily put it in your pocket. The iPhone 12 mini even fits in an average women’s trouser pocket with ease, although it can become a bit tighter with the case.
The iPhone 12 mini also feels very light. This is mainly due to the use of aluminum (instead of stainless steel), but also due to the small size. Compared to the regular iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 mini is about 18% lighter and if you compare it to the iPhone SE 2020 , the difference is about 10%. We actually like that in use, because it makes it easier to take the device out of your pocket or from the table. Fortunately, the iPhone 12 mini is not too light, so you would quickly drop it from your hands. If you find it too light, you can always put a cover on it. In combination with Apple’s silicone MagSafe case , the iPhone 12 mini weighs 158 grams.
Here too, the new colors shine
With the iPhone 12 mini, you can choose from five colors, just like the iPhone 12. We have tested the blue version for this iPhone 12 mini review. We think this is the most beautiful color of the iPhone 12 series and at the same time gives the iPhone 12 mini some cool. We are happy that Apple has not opted for separate and more playful colors for the iPhone 12 mini, because this device is intended for a different audience. Apple treats the iPhone 12 mini just like any other iPhone 12 and that is reflected in the color choice.
The blue color is very different depending on the light. With direct sunlight it seems a lot lighter than late at night, where it tends more towards black. Incidentally, we think it is a pity that the blue aluminum edge does not have the same color as the recent blue Apple Watch Series 6 . There is just a subtle difference in the shade of blue. Why Apple chose this is a mystery to us. It is not disturbing, but we think this is a striking choice.
Incidentally, we have also started to love the green iPhone 12 more and more recently , which we reviewed earlier, although that color may not appeal to everyone.
Screen and operation: hardly any concessions
- 5.4-inch display
- High resolution OLED display
- Thin screen edges
- HDR display for better colors
- Easier to operate, everything within easy reach
In addition to the compact size, the smaller screen is also one of the most important reasons for choosing the iPhone 12 mini. Apple has included a 5.4-inch OLED display. The smaller display can take some getting used to at first. Everything is just a bit smaller: the icons on your home screen, text in Safari and other buttons in the interface. Still, we think Apple has adapted iOS well for this smaller screen. Text on websites is still easy to read, although we can imagine that it is all just a bit too small for people with worse eyes or large hands.
Keyboard can take some getting used to
Typing on an iPhone 12 mini was the most difficult to get used to. The keyboard feels a bit cramped at first, and we noticed that we miss typing more often than on the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 or the 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro, for example . How much you have to get used to the keyboard also strongly depends on which iPhone you are using now. It is therefore difficult to give a general opinion on this. A user of the first generation iPhone SE will have no trouble at all with the keyboard, while someone who comes from an iPhone XR will have to adapt considerably in the beginning. It is therefore best to experience the screen of the iPhone 12 mini yourself in the store (as soon as that is possible again) or on the device of a friend.
If we look at our personal experiences, we find it a bit too compact in terms of typing. We all like it a bit more pleasant with more space and larger letters. However, iPhone users who found the devices of the last few years far too large will be very satisfied with the iPhone 12 mini.
Enough content on the screen
The iPhone 12 mini shows about as much content on a web page as a 5.8-inch iPhone. If we compare a webpage on an iPhone 12 mini with an iPhone 11 Pro , we can read exactly the same amount of text. You just read a few more lines on an iPhone 12. We don’t find the 5.4-inch screen a problem for reading text, but for some other applications we prefer a larger display.
Consider, for example, watching videos on YouTube and Netflix or playing games. On the larger iPhones that simply looks much more impressive and you are more involved in the action. We therefore find the iPhone 12 mini especially recommended for users who do not watch videos on their iPhone so intensively and only play casual games, for example in portrait mode.
All in all, we are quite satisfied with the screen size of the iPhone 12 mini. With the 4-inch iPhones we find iOS no longer suitable, because you notice that everything is mainly made for larger screens. On the first iPhone SE and iPhone 5s , we therefore find everything too clumsy to use, because sometimes text does not completely fit on the screen or buttons are out of the picture. We have no problems with that at all with the iPhone 12 mini. Apple has scaled iOS well, making it generally workable.
But the screen is by no means for everyone. If you have an iPhone 8 , you may be ready for a slightly larger screen. Compared to the 4.7-inch iPhones, the screen of the iPhone 12 mini is mainly elongated and therefore slightly narrower.
Operation often a lot easier
Another additional advantage of the smaller screen is that operating the iPhone is sometimes a bit easier. Where on larger models you often have to move your hand a bit spasmodically, that is not the case with the iPhone 12 mini. You can easily open the control panel with one hand and you can also tap the top row of apps on your home screen with your thumb without any problems. Normally I regularly use Reachability on larger iPhones , for example to be able to operate a button at the top of the screen with one hand. With the iPhone 12 mini I have noticed that I no longer need that function and that is also very nice. This makes operating and using some apps easier and therefore sometimes faster.
We can be brief about the image quality of the screen of the iPhone 12 mini: it is just as good as with the iPhone 12. Apple uses the same techniques, such as OLED and support for HDR. The number of pixels per inch is higher with the iPhone 12 mini than with other models, but in daily use we do not notice that the screen is necessarily much sharper than that of an iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro . The display of the iPhone 12 series is generally razor-sharp.
The OLED screen really makes a difference from LCD thanks to deeper blacks and nicer colors. HDR videos on YouTube and Netflix splash off the screen. The maximum brightness is not the highest of the line-up at 625 nits, but we have no problems with that at all. The iPhone 12 mini is also easy to read in direct sunlight.
Hardware and performance: not inferior to the rest
- Fast A14 Bionic chip, same as in all other iPhone 12 models
- Next Generation Neural Engine
- 64GB, 128GB or 256GB storage
- Water resistance of IP68: 6 meters deep for 30 minutes
- Face ID facial recognition
- Support for 5G
The fact that the iPhone 12 mini is small in screen and size, fortunately does not mean that Apple skimped on hardware and performance. It contains exactly the same chip as in the other iPhone 12 models, so you benefit from lightning-fast operation of everything on the iPhone. In our test we did not notice any hiccups or delays, not even with heavier apps and games. You have absolutely no idea that you are dealing with a discard. The iPhone 12 mini leaves competing smartphones far behind and it is great that such a compact device has so much power in it.
You will also find a new Neural Engine in this model, which makes all kinds of smart techniques possible. This mainly produces better photos with techniques such as Smart HDR 3 and movies with Dolby Vision.
The iPhone 12 mini, like all other models from the iPhone 12 series, has support for 5G. In the Netherlands, this is the limited version of 5G, because the mmWave frequencies do not support this model and are not yet offered by Dutch providers. That means that you only get a limited benefit from the arrival of 5G. In terms of speed, you will hardly see any improvements. Thanks to 5G FaceTime in 1080p is possible, and you can finally download and install software updates via your mobile data.
With regard to storage, you can choose between 64GB, 128GB and 256GB with the iPhone 12 mini. Those are the same storage capacities as with the regular iPhone 12 . For part of the target group, 64GB will be enough, but for € 50 extra you can already get the 128GB model. If you are now on the edge of 64GB, choose safe and buy the model with 128GB.
All other hardware aspects are the same with the iPhone 12 mini as the iPhone 12. Better water resistance, Face ID and the Ceramic Shield are all present. According to Apple, the latter ensures a firmer screen if you drop your iPhone. With the iPhone 12 mini, this may come in handy if the device slips out of your hands due to its small size. We have not tested this, but a scratch test of the iPhone 12 shows that the screen scratches just as quickly. The improvements would therefore mainly be in the fact that the screen is less likely to crack if you drop it.
- Two lenses: 12-megapixel wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle lens
- Night mode for all lenses
- Filming in HDR Dolby Vision
This mobile has exactly the same camera and lenses as the iPhone 12. You benefit from the dual camera with improved wide-angle lens. The ultra-wide-angle lens is a great lens for taking beautiful landscape photos. We are satisfied with the results of the camera. You take beautifully detailed photos with this device and you can go in all kinds of directions thanks to the combination of the wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle lens. The quality of the photos with the iPhone 12 mini are identical to those we took with the iPhone 12. For even more photos, check out our previous review of the iPhone 12 .
Functions such as Smart HDR 3 ensure the best results in terms of exposure. The function is enabled by default and we recommend that you leave it that way. We haven’t had a picture that would have been more beautiful without this setting. Behind the scenes, Apple applies all kinds of other tricks that make your photos more beautiful, such as Deep Fusion. Every year, Apple takes new steps with the camera and fortunately the iPhone 12 mini fully complies with all other models.
You still take the best photos with the pro models, partly because you also have a telephoto lens at your disposal there. But to be honest, we don’t miss it, because in most situations the regular wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle lens will suffice. Another feature that the pro models will soon be getting is Apple ProRAW . This again has all kinds of advantages, especially when editing photos, but for the target group of the iPhone 12 (mini), that function is not really necessary.
This mobile is also suitable for night photos. With all kinds of smart techniques and the power of the A14 Bionic chip and the Neural Engine, the iPhone 12 mini ensures that the lighting is beautiful, even when it is pitch dark outside. The night photos capture the atmosphere of the nightlife well, even if there is a lot of street lighting. Another new feature is that you can now take night photos with the selfie camera. It is important that you keep your device still for a few seconds. That can be a bit awkward with a selfie, but in general the result is quite good.
Battery life of iPhone 12 mini: The biggest compromise
- Up to 15 hours of video playback, 50 hours of audio listening
- Suitable for fast charging , wireless charging and MagSafe
- Supplied without charger
The small housing of this mobile has many advantages, but the biggest disadvantage is the battery life. Of all iPhone 12 models, the iPhone 12 mini has the shortest battery life and you will notice that in practice. The difference with the regular iPhone 12 is about 2 hours when watching video and when listening to audio as much as 15 hours. But what does this mean in practice?
In our test, we had no problem using the iPhone 12 mini for a day , but we did see a clear difference in the percentage before going to sleep. Where this was often 30% or more with the iPhone 12, we get a message with the iPhone 12 mini a little earlier in the evening that the battery is only 20% full. While the iPhone 12 mini will probably last longer than your current iPhone fresh out of the box, that’s something to keep in mind. You will get through the day, but if you have to FaceTime a lot and are active on 5G, it can suddenly go very quickly.
Also with more intensive tasks such as gaming or heavier apps for photography, we notice that the battery drains faster. But we suspect that those who are interested in this mobile use their device in a different way. With lots of WhatsApp, surfing, checking social media and other light-hearted apps, the battery life is sufficient. If you still want to get more out of your iPhone, we still recommend looking further at, for example, the iPhone 12.
Also keep in mind that we are currently much more at home for our test and therefore use the iPhone differently than, say, a year ago. Because of working from home, a MacBook or iPad is much sooner within reach. The constant WiFi range also ensures that use is less of a drain on the battery life. The more we pull out, the differently we start using the iPhone. That can add an extra boost to battery life, so keep that in mind.
Who is the iPhone 12 mini for?
We can give a clear answer to this question: are you looking for a new iPhone with the latest technologies, but in a format that is as compact as possible? Have you always dreamed of an iPhone that resembles the first iPhone SE or the iPhone 5s , but according to today’s standard? Then this iPhone is the model you should have. Even if you come from an iPhone 8 , this mobile is definitely worth considering, especially if you don’t want to make the step to a larger model.
Are you devoted to iPhones with a 5.8-inch screen (such as the iPhone X), both in terms of display size and device dimensions? Then we still recommend looking at the regular iPhone 12. That model is probably more up your alley. And when in doubt, we strongly recommend holding the device. You will soon notice whether the format is for you.
Due to the shorter battery life, the iPhone 12 mini is also suitable for people who only use their iPhone to send messages, check social media, surf the web and play simple games. If the compact size is the most important thing for you, the iPhone 12 mini is the best choice.
Conclusion iPhone 12 mini
Small but beautiful is a very popular statement. But this statement does the iPhone 12 mini short, as it suggests that small is a negative aspect. With the iPhone 12 mini, the compact size is the strength, even if it does not appeal to everyone equally. Lovers of the first iPhone SE or the iPhone 5 series will undoubtedly please themselves with the iPhone 12 mini. The format immediately feels familiar, but you hardly compromise on performance and functions. Compared to the regular iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 mini has everything you want from a modern iPhone : from Face ID to the borderless design and the beautiful cameras. Due to the format, operating the iPhone is suddenly a lot easier in some areas.
But that does not mean that the iPhone 12 mini is suitable for everyone. The compact model mainly serves the target group that wants small, while the small size may be too small for fans of the 5.8-inch iPhones. For people who are visually impaired or have larger hands, the iPhone 12 mini is probably on the small side. It is therefore important to experience the iPhone 12 mini yourself, because only then can you really appreciate the model.
Pros of iPhone 12 mini
- The perfect size for fans of small iPhones
- Operation easier due to smaller screen
- iOS well optimized for 5.4-inch display
- Great camera
- Format is easy to handle
Cons of iPhone 12 mini
- Battery life is disappointing
- Format not ideal for everyone
- Screen just too small for some applications, such as watching movies or playing games