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Apple iPhone 12 mini Review: Does it offer better value than the iPhone 12?

How good is the iPhone 12 mini? Is it better than the iPhone 12? This and other questions answered in our Apple iPhone 12 mini review.

December 14, 2020 / 03:55 PM IST

“Hey, Pranav, I am planning to buy a new iPhone and am confused about which one to go for. I am considering the two entry-level iPhone 12 models.. the iPhone 12 and that small iPhone.”

Apple iPhone 12 mini?

“Yes! iPhone 12 mini. I checked the prices online and saw that the iPhone 12 price in India starts at Rs 79,900, and iPhone 12 mini starts at Rs 69,900. Can you tell me the major differences between iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12?”

To tell you the truth, there are only two key differences between the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 - Display size and battery.

“What about it? Is the difference really worth Rs 10,000?”

Close

For my iPhone 12 mini review, I used the device for nearly a week. Prior to this, I reviewed the iPhone 12, so I have an idea of how that device works and can recommend it to people based on their use case.

“So tell me, which iPhone to buy? iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 mini?”

As I said, I can recommend a particular device based on the individual’s use case. With the iPhone 12 and 12 mini, since the difference in terms of specs are not much, it comes down to the preference of form factor.

“Meaning?”

Apple iPhone 12 mini is a compact smartphone. Keep it next to the iPhone 12 and you will notice how tiny the device is. It has the same matte-finished aluminium frame with squared-off edges you get on the iPhone 12 but the size is smaller. Instead of the 12’s 6.1-inch display, iPhone 12 mini gets a 5.4-inch Full HD+ Super Retina XDR display. It also has a notch for the front camera Face ID sensors.

Apple iPhone 12 mini 7 Now because the iPhone 12 mini’s overall form factor is quite compact as compared to iPhone 12, you can easily reach the top of the screen while using your phone with one hand. Not many phones offer that ease of use. I was able to do the same on the iPhone 12 but then it required some effort and adjustment. iPhone 12 is smaller compared to its predecessor and the iPhone 12 mini is slightly bigger than as the iPhone 5s. 

“Interesting… but what about the in-hand feel? Do the sharp edges hurt?”

You can try it yourself. I personally do not find the boxy design to be an issue. Even if I were to, there are cases that you can use. iPhone 12 mini is ridiculously lightweight at 135 grams and is only 7.4mm thick. Using a case would not add a lot of weight. A plus here would be protecting the glossy back from fingerprint smudges. This White iPhone 12 mini serves best for those who don’t want to use a case and also avoid fingerprint marks.

Apple iPhone 12 mini 2

“What about viewing content and typing on this tiny screen?”

It only took me a couple of hours to get used to the 12 mini’s form factor after switching from the iPhone 12. I won’t lie though when it comes to the typing experience. The keys felt a bit cramped for my big hands and I did make several typos. Maybe I should credit my muscle memory that I caught up on my typing speed without hitting backspace on iPhone 12 mini.

Regarding my viewing experience, the iPhone 12 mini’s smaller screen offers the same level of brightness as the iPhone 12. It has a brightness of 625 nits and hits its peak at 1200 nits while playing HDR content. I did not face any issues while using the phone indoors or outdoors. When streaming video content indoors, I relied on the loud, clear dual stereo speaker setup. Some say that the iPhone 12 mini’s speaker is less loud compared to iPhone 12. To be honest, even if it were the case, the difference is not noticeable.

Apple iPhone 12 mini 8Outdoors, the screen is more than bright to use even in direct sunlight. It’s the same as the iPhone 12 but in smaller screen size. Rest of it is the same - True Tone, Ceramic shield for better drop resistance, HDR and P3 colour gamut support, etc. For watching videos and playing games, I would pick the 12 as I prefer bigger screens. If you don’t care about the screen size, you are getting one of the most colour-accurate displays.

“Oh, good you brought up the playing games part. How is the iPhone 12 mini for gaming?”

When it comes to performance, Apple iPhone 12 mini is a pocket rocket. Compact phones in the past have often compromised on performance and have been put forward as a “Lite” version of flagship devices. This is not the case with iPhone 12 mini. The performance unit is exactly the same as the 12. You get a 5nm-based Apple A14 Bionic chip, which is the fastest on any smartphone launched till date. Combine that with 4GB RAM and iOS 14, and you will have a butter-smooth user experience from this performance beast. The hardware and software are well optimised and you are likely to not face any performance issues. 

I played Call of Duty Mobile and there was no sign of lag. Because the screen is relatively small, I found it kind of hard to play games on 12 mini. One thing that I noticed was that the iPhone 12 mini got slightly warm after my extended gaming sessions. That would be due to limited room for thermal management but nothing to worry out. I also did not miss a high refresh rate screen, courtesy of the smooth iOS 14 animations. What did bother me though was the average battery life - something that I was already expecting.

Apple iPhone 12 mini 3

“What about battery life?”

iPhone 12 mini is a small phone. While the device is a no-compromise performance flagship in a compact form factor, a smaller chassis also means that you have less space for the battery. Apple claims that the iPhone 12 mini can offer up to 15 hours of video playback. My day-to-day tasks include scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, sending snaps on Snapchat, watching movies, attending video calls, etc. The battery did drain by evening and I got an average screen-on time of four hours. On days when I played a lot of games, the screen-on time was 3.5 hours.

This is just my use case and I use my phone a lot cause my work revolves around it. For someone who does not perform graphics-heavy tasks, they can easily pull the battery life to the end of the day on their iPhone 12 mini.

“How long does iPhone 12 mini take to charge?”

The benefit of a smaller battery is that it charges quickly. iPhone 12 mini took roughly over an hour to charge completely with an 18W charging brick. There is also support for the new MagSafe charger but its charging capacity is limited to 12W compared to 15W on the iPhone 12. I said this in my Apple iPhone 12 review and the same applies for the iPhone 12 mini - MagSafe is a great feature but it can only be used as a secondary charger for your iPhone due to relatively-slow speed. The device does get a bit warm when attached with the MagSafe charger. Keep in mind, none of the iPhone 12 models come with a power adapter and you need to purchase one separately. Same goes for the wired EarPods. Either purchase one separately from Apple or get a pair of earbuds like the AirPods/ AirPods Pro.

“I can do with the average battery life. Considering we are staying at home for some more time, plus I am always around a charging slot when in office, that 4-5 hours of screen time should be manageable.”

I agree. The challenge would be when you are travelling somewhere and shooting photos and videos. The battery will drain a lot quicker when you are shooting content on iPhone 12 mini. Maybe carrying a battery case would be smart during such times.

“iPhone 12 mini has the same camera as the iPhone 12?”

Yes. As I told you earlier, the biggest differences between the 12 mini and 12 are the display size and battery life. Rest of it is the same.

“So how is the camera on the new iPhone?”

My iPhone 12 review covers the camera performance. The 12 mini has the exact same sensor setup. You get a 12MP f/1.6 wide lens and another 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide lens. You get true-to-life, natural colours when you shoot pictures using the iPhone 12 mini. The dynamic range is excellent and so is the sharpness levels. Not many phone cameras give detailed and colour accurate shots with the sun in line with the subject.

apple iPhone 12 mini 12Lowlight too is fantastic, thanks to the f/1.6 wider aperture on the main lens. Like the iPhone 12, the 12 mini suffers from the lens flare issue where you see green dots when you are shooting directly at something with high luminance in line with the subject. This does not happen all the time but can be annoying when you try and adjust the shot to avoid the flare and miss out on the moment.

The front camera too is among the best. The normal “Photo” mode of the 12MP front camera shoots sharp and detailed selfies with true to life colours. The Flickr slideshow below lists some of the photos shot on iPhone 12 mini.

Shot on iPhone 12 mini

I really like the quality of these photos.”

So do I. The iPhone 12 mini manages to get maximum detail and does not oversaturate the colours to make the shot look vibrant.

“Okay, so the main question. Does the iPhone 12 mini offer better value than iPhone 12?

I believe that most people should buy iPhone 12 over the mini. No, iPhone 12 mini is not a bad phone at all. It is just that the 12 mini should be bought by someone who:

1) Is looking for a compact smartphone without compromising on the performance
2) Does not perform a lot of tasks on their smartphones and can deal with the average battery life.
3) Or simply wants the latest iPhone but cannot spend over Rs 70,000.

Don't buy the smartphone just because it is priced lesser. Analyse your use case and then make the purchase decision. If you tick any of the three points, you can expect the iPhone 12 mini to offer more value for your money. 

iPhone 12 mini is an iPhone 12 in a smaller body and battery. It is very ergonomic and will be appreciated by the ones who always wanted a compact, no-performance-compromise smartphone in the era of big, bulky phones.

However, if battery life is your priority, and you want a decently-sized smartphone, pick the iPhone 12.

iphone 12 mini review GFX
Pranav Hegde
first published: Nov 18, 2020 06:11 pm

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