If you have big hands, big pockets and a ‘bigger is better’ outlook on life, then the iPhone 12 Mini probably isn’t for you.
This is a smartphone for those who prefer a more subtle and discreet design, where pocket space is at a premium and you’d rather not pull a thumb muscle every time you attempt to write and send a text one-handed.
But, just because it’s been shrunk in the wash, doesn’t mean all its features have been diluted. On paper, you’re looking at virtually all the same ingredients that make the standard iPhone 12 so great, including the OLED screen tech and excellent camera. If the iPhone 12 Mini turns out the same way, we could quite easily be looking at another five-star performer.
The iPhone 12 Mini might not be the cheapest iPhone Apple currently makes (that honour goes to the iPhone SE (2020)) but it is the most affordable handset in the current ‘12’ range.
The iPhone 12 Mini costs £699 ($699, AU$1199) for the 64GB model, and £749 ($749, AU$1479) for the 128GB model, while the range-topping 256GB variant will set you back £849 ($849, AU$1449). This makes it around £100 ($100, AU$150) cheaper than the equivalent iPhone 12.
If you’re used to wielding a standard iPhone 11 or a Pro or Pro Max, the iPhone 12 Mini appears almost toy-like when you take it out of the packaging. It’s the smallest and lightest iPhone in Apple’s current line-up and in your hand, it feels like it.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re looking to downsize or want a premium iPhone experience in a device that won’t take up a huge amount of space, then this could be at the top of your shopping list.
The beauty of the iPhone 12 Mini is that it gets the same flat-edged design as its bigger siblings, such as the standard iPhone 12. This means it not only feels premium, but it’s easy to get a grip of the aerospace-grade aluminium enclosure even if the curved edges of the iPhone 11 sit more comfortably.
Screen size 5.4in
Resolution 2340 x 1080
Operating system iOS 14
Battery life 15hrs video, 50hrs audio
Dimensions (hwd) 13.2 x 6.4 x 0.7cm
Thankfully, the iPhone 12 Mini gives off the same premium impression as the other models in the line-up whether it’s in the black finish of our review sample or the alternative white, blue, green or Product Red options.
The big attraction of the iPhone 12 Mini is the fact that it shares virtually the same features as the standard iPhone 12. This includes the OLED Super Retina XDR display, which measures 5.4in across the diagonal. By contrast, the standard model measures 6.1in.
Looking through the specs, you’ll also see that the 12 Mini is shorter and narrower than the cheaper iPhone SE (2020) but its screen is actually bigger (5.4in versus 4.7in), thanks to black bars encroaching into the top and bottom of the SE’s screen. The SE has to accommodate a Touch ID sensor, while the 12 Mini uses Apple’s Face ID tech, like the rest of the iPhone 12 range.
The resolution of the Mini is 2340 x 1080 with an accompanying pixel density of 476ppi (pixels per inch). This compares to 2532 x 1170 and 460ppi on the iPhone 12. It’s a True Tone and Wide colour display and there’s HDR support for HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG content. As a result, it’s possible for the iPhone 12 Mini to reach a peak brightness of 1200 nits (compared with 625 nits for SDR content).
As is the case with the standard 12, the Mini’s screen also features Apple’s Ceramic Shield front cover, which Apple claims boosts the phone’s durability by making it less likely to crack on impact with hard surfaces. However, it attracts fingerprints and dust, a fact that’s regularly highlighted on the darker finishes.
The iPhone 12 Mini may not have the bulk and heft of the other iPhone 12 models, but it doesn’t sacrifice any power under the hood. It gets Apple’s new A14 Bionic chip and next-gen Neural Engine. We find it provides a wonderfully quick and satisfying user experience in both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Max, and the same can be said for the iPhone 12 Mini.
If you’re familiar with Apple iOS, it won’t take long to get to grips with the Mini. It takes multi-tasking in its stride and never puts up any resistance to having a large number of apps open all at once. Whether you’re opening and streaming from Apple apps, such as Apple Music and Podcasts, or third-party services, including Netflix or Amazon Music, the iPhone 12 Mini fires them all up and gets the ball rolling with minimal fuss.
Apple has also squeezed in the exact same camera set-up on the Mini as on the standard 12. That means a 12MP dual-lens set-up on the back that’s perfect for those who want to point and shoot high good quality pictures with minimal fuss in both decent and sub-optimal lighting conditions. The iPhone 12 Mini can also record video in Dolby Vision at 30 frames per second, which gives the phone an extra string to its bow for those who do the occasional bout of vlogging.
So far, it’s been pretty much plain sailing for the iPhone 12 Mini, but there is one drawback to this tiny iPhone. To get that smaller, more pocketable design, Apple has had to sacrifice battery life. Apple refrains from quoting the actual size of its batteries, but a quick look at its website reveals a drop in both video playback (15 hours versus 17 hours) and audio playback (50 hours versus 65 hours) compared with the iPhone 12.
On an average day, using a mix of video streaming, audio streaming, web browsing and taking calls, the battery regularly drops below the level of our iPhone 12. Though never in danger of running out completely, it’s worth bearing in mind that regular charging will be required.
A dedicated charger could come in handy here but, disappointingly, Apple ships its latest iPhones with just a USB-C to Lightning cable. There are no Earpods in the box, either, which is at least a good excuse to check out our guide to the best wireless headphones.
We play Stranger Things Season 3 and, as the Soviet scientists try to open a gate to the Upside Down, their laboratory is lit up as their mighty machinery spins into life. As all the components start to move, the iPhone’s screen bursts bright with huge sparks of bright white electricity that contrast nicely against the darkness of the dingy-looking lab.
As the Soviet general watches on, the iPhone 12 Mini manages to dig out plenty of detail in his face and uniform, from his pock-marked skin to the fine stitching on his uniform. The balance the iPhone strikes makes video inviting and watchable. The picture mimics that of the iPhone 12 and, despite the slight drop in resolution, the increased pixel density means you never feel as though you’re missing out on detail.
As the episode shifts location to the Starcourt Mall with its neon exterior and brightly lit interior, the iPhone 12 Mini treats this burst of colour confidently and fairly. Colours burst into view as the camera pans through the mall, but they’re also perfectly judged, whether it's the striking shade of blue that dominates the Scoops Ahoy sign or the colourful 80s clothing worn by the hoards of shoppers.
Unsurprisingly, the Mini sounds like a slightly smaller-scale version of the iPhone 12. The balance is similar – you don’t notice any real reduction in quality or tone apart from a slight drop in solidity and weight. It also starts to sound stressed a little sooner when you start to ramp up the volume. What you get, though, is still a perfectly listenable performance by smartphone standards.
During the Stranger Things scene in the Russian lab, as the machine whirs and spins into life, the mechanics sound crisp and there’s a good sense of detail and spread of sound. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand and the phone will easily dispatch an episode of your favourite Netflix series or a quick Spotify stream without issue.
Hook up a pair of wireless headphones and the Mini sounds mighty. We start with a Tidal stream of Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy and the bassline and drums stomp along with power and intent. But it also captures the delicacy and fine detail from Eilish's vocals. The claps and clicks are crisp and refined too. We tend to find iPhones talented when it comes to timing and following rhythms and the 12 Mini is no different.
Switching to Dual Of The Fates from Star Wars The Phantom Menace soundtrack, the iPhone handles its speed and sprightly nature with confidence and composure. All the different orchestral elements can be picked apart, but the listener can also bask in the music as all the strands come together as a wonderfully cohesive whole.
The phone has multiple changes of pace to contend with and also sudden shifts in dynamics from quiet moments to huge crescendos, but none of these fluster the iPhone 12 Mini.
If a super-sized handset is out of the equation, but you still want a premium Apple experience, the iPhone 12 Mini could be the smartphone for you. It offers all the top features of the iPhone 12, but in a smaller, more pocket-friendly package.
It is smooth and speedy to use, camera quality is great and picture and sound performance are both excellent for the money. The battery life takes a small hit, but that doesn’t really detract from this hugely talented tiny iPhone.
Review sample supplied by Vodafone
- Screen 5
- Sound 5
- Features 4
Read our guide to the best smartphones
Read our Apple iPhone 12 review
Read our Apple iPhone SE (2020) review