iPhone 12 mini review: the king of small phones

Guardian Technology 19 Nov 2020 07:00
The iPhone 12 mini is the small flagship phone many may have been waiting for, which is easy to hold, use one-handed and pocket. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Apple’s latest smartphone range has a surprise entry in the form of the iPhone 12 mini, which is a genuinely smaller phone with very few compromises.

The phone costs from £699 and is the cheapest of Apple’s new smartphone line sitting below the £799 iPhone 12, the £999 12 Pro and the £1,099 12 Pro Max.

The iPhone 12 mini looks exactly the same as the iPhone 12, only hit with a shrink ray. It looks just as fresh and sharp as its larger sibling, with aluminium sides, a glass back and a new “ceramic shield” covering for the screen that Apple says is four times more drop-resistant.

The modern OLED screen measures 5.4in on the diagonal, which makes it significantly smaller than the 6.1in display on the regular 12 but no less crisp, colourful and brilliant. The screen is the same width as the older 4.7in LCD display on the iPhone SE but is 1.6mm taller to the Face ID notch.

There are many benefits to having a small phone, including being a lot easier to use it one-handed and fit in pockets, but there are also some downsides. It was too small to fit in my car windscreen mount, for instance, and the narrow screen meant my thumbs clashed frequently when typing at speed with two hands.

Top performance, slightly shorter battery life

The iPhone 12 mini has the same A14 Bionic processor and 4GB of RAM as the iPhone 12 and iPad Air, and so has the same class-leading performance, as well as 5G – you are not sacrificing speed or power for the small size.

Apple does not provide an expected lifespan for the iPhone 12 mini’s battery but it can be replaced for £69, while iOS also has a battery optimisation feature that prolongs its lifespan by stopping the battery sitting at 100% charge for a prolonged period. The smartphone is generally repairable with an out-of-warranty service costing £376.44, which includes the screen. It was awarded six out of 10 for repairability by the specialist iFixit.

The iPhone 12 mini ships with iOS 14.2, which runs on all Apple’s smartphones from the iPhone 6S from 2015 and newer. It operates exactly the same as the iPhone 12 including widgets on the home screen, the App Library, new privacy tools and the Apple Translate app.

The iPhone 12 mini has the same dual 12-megapixel camera on the rear and a 12-megapixel selfie camera on the front similar as the iPhone 12 and it performs exactly the same.

  • The iPhone 12 mini is restricted to 12W wireless charging, not the 15W that the other iPhone 12 models are capable of with the MagSafe charger.

  • The cheapest model comes with only 64GB of storage (compared with 128GB for most competitors), which won’t be enough if you shoot lots of photos or videos, play lots of games or download lots of movies or music.

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