We all know the drill by now; each year, Apple refreshes its smartphone line with fancy new handsets and everyone gets unreasonably excited about things like new screens, faster processors or better cameras.
It’s been the normal order of things for years now, but 2020 was slightly different in that Apple finally decided to service the needs of consumers who aren’t all that fussed about having a gigantic screen in their pockets at all times.
The iPhone 12 Mini is the smallest phone Apple has released in quite some time, bucking the trend of handsets getting ever more monstrous in size. However, unlike its rivals, Apple hasn’t hobbled this pint-sized device with last year’s specs; the iPhone 12 Mini is sporting the same A14 Bionic chipset found in other members of the iPhone 12 family, and the handset even boasts the most up-to-date OLED screen the company offers, too.
Design & Display
With dimensions of 131.5 x 64.2 x 7.4 mm and an overall weight of 135g, the iPhone 12 Mini certainly lives up to its name.
Not since the original iPhone SE have we witnessed a device with such pocket-friendly proportions – and in a rather neat tribute to that particular handset, the iPhone 12 Mini sheds the rounded edges that have typified the iPhone line for years and reverts back to the ‘flat’ edges. It’s retro, but we like it a lot.
From the front, things look a little more traditional, with the edge-to-edge display filling out the face of the device while the oft-criticised ‘notch’ remains resolutely in place.
Apple is once again using Face ID for security – there’s no trace of an in-screen fingerprint scanner here – so you’ll have to use your fizzog to unlock the device, as well as pay for apps or use your phone for contactless payments (the latter is quite a pain in the current age of mask-wearing outdoors).
Everything else is as you’d expect, right down to the glass back (for wireless charging) and the Lightning connector on the base – there’s no place for USB-C for the iPhone in 2020, it seems.
The 1080 x 2340 Super Retina XDR OLED is protected by next-generation scratch-resistant glass and offers fantastic image quality – especially if you’re upgrading from a device which uses an old-school LCD panel.
Brightness is impressive, while colours really pop. Dark areas are afforded superb contrast, and support for HDR10 and Dolby Vision content makes the whole package even more appealing. It’s still a 60hz panel, sadly; Apple hasn’t upgraded to 90 or 120hz just yet.
The A14 Bionic chipset that powers the entire iPhone 12 range is – as you might expect – the fastest one Apple has ever made. This is, of course, what the company says every year, but it’s hard to argue against the fact that Apple’s silicon is industry-leading at the moment, and the iPhone 12 Mini benefits from blistering performance levels.
During normal, day-to-day use, the iPhone 12 Mini runs like a dream. Even when switching between multiple apps or performing demanding activities like shooting 4K video, we didn’t notice the phone stuttering or struggling at any point. Everything moves super-smoothly, and even intense 3D games failed to put the iPhone 12 Mini off its pace.
There were moments when we observed iOS shutting down apps and having to reload them – a combination of the phone’s 4GB of RAM and the strict limitations of Apple’s mobile OS – but for the most part, the iPhone 12 Mini gave us little reason to grumble when it came to processing power.
That’s quite a revelation when you consider that, by and large, most ‘mini’ phones operate well below the power level of their flagship siblings.
Even more of a shock is that Apple has included 5G support in this tiny phone. While coverage remains spotty for UK users, 5G is obviously the future of smartphones, so it’s great that such a small device comes prepared.
We were only able to take advantage of 5G for a few days during our test period, but it outperformed even our home broadband when it came to speed.
The iPhone 12 Mini is available with 64GB of storage, but we’d advise you to perhaps consider opting for the 128GB model as it’s going to be better suited for your needs, and is certainly worth the extra expense.
The days of phones coming with a single snapper are pretty much over, and even the iPhone 12 Mini is packing a pair.
The main 12-megapixel camera comes with dual-pixel autofocus and optical image stabilisation and offers excellent photo and video thanks to the handset’s advanced AI chops. Photos are automatically tinkered with post-shot to really make HDR effects stand out, and the process is so fast you don’t even really notice it.
Even more impressive is the low-light Night Mode shooting system, which demands that you hold the phone perfectly still for a few sections to capture detailed and surprisingly bright images.
Video recording tops out at 4K/60fps, while slow-motion video is also supported at 1080p. Dolby Vision can be applied to your videos too, but naturally, you’ll need a compatibly display to make the most of those.
What really makes the iPhone 12 Mini so appealing when it comes to image capture is the presence of a second ultrawide angle 12-megapixel snapper. This means you can take photos with a wide field of vision, thereby cramming more information into a single shot.
Now we get to the rather more negative section of the review. When you’re cramming so much cutting-edge tech into such a tiny body, something naturally has to give – and in the case of the iPhone 12 Mini, that “something” is battery life.
According to teardowns, the phone comes with a 2227mAh power cell, which is rather weedy when compared to what other 5G-ready phones are shipping with.
As a consequence, stamina isn’t much to write home about; the iPhone 12 Mini can get you through an entire day – indeed, it has done several times for us, without issue – but there’s a very real need to curb your usage to ensure you’re not performing too many intensive tasks each day.
Should you be in an area which is lucky enough to benefit from 5G reception, then you can expect your battery life to get worse. 5G requires more juice to power those amazing download speeds, after all.
It sounds dull to spell it out, but the iPhone 12 Mini really does do what it says on the tin; it offers the iPhone 12 experience in a smaller frame, compared to others in the same set,
You’re not necessarily cutting corners by picking this phone; sure, the battery life is inferior to other devices in the iPhone 12 line, but it’s got the same chipset, the same quality screen, the same amazing build quality and it offers 5G support.
This is a phone aimed squarely at people who don’t want a massive handset in their pocket, yet still want cutting-edge power so they don’t feel like they’re lagging behind the curve just because they don’t possess massive hands.
Starting at £699, it’s decent value for money, too.
Guest article from – Damien McFerran