Apple iPhone 12 Mini review: petite yet powerful

Back in October 2020, Apple unveiled its newest line of smartphones within the form of the iPhone 12 sequence. Among them, a reasonably diminutive (by 2020 requirements) iPhone 12 Mini caught my eye. This pint-sized version packs all of the processing energy of its larger brothers, together with the Pro variants, and slips into pockets like one thing out of 2012. Is this the beginning of a comeback for compact smartphones? I’ve been utilizing it to seek out out.

Good

  • Compact dimension
  • A14 Bionic efficiency
  • Pleasing digital camera efficiency
  • The most customisable Apple software program ever

Bad

  • Battery life is the compact compromise
  • Only 12W wi-fi charging
  • Entry-level 64GB mannequin isn’t sufficient storage in 2020

Apple iPhone 12 launch date and worth

The iPhone 12 Mini is, as you’d anticipate, essentially the most reasonably priced of Apple’s flagship smartphone sequence for 2020. Starting at £699 within the UK, the iPhone 12 Mini is positioned precisely halfway between the corporate’s reasonably priced iPhone SE (£399) and the top-of-the-range iPhone 12 Pro (£999).

The iPhone 12 and 12 Mini launch in a complete of 5 colors this yr: white, black, blue, inexperienced, and a particular purple model for which each and every unit bought contributes on to the Global Fund to fight COVID‑19.

The caveat right here, nonetheless, is that the bottom mannequin solely comes with 64GB of inside storage, and that is simply not going to chop it in 2020 when you begin taking a number of photographs and capturing movies. The extra acceptable 128GB mannequin will value you an additional £50, and that is the model I’d suggest if you’re contemplating an iPhone 12 Mini this yr.

 

King of the compacts

In phrases of

design
, the iPhone 12 Mini is only a shrunken model of the common iPhone 12. The similar digital camera bump on the again, the identical notch on the entrance, the identical sq. edges, the identical buttons, the entire package deal. The final iPhone I actually used for any important size of time was the iPhone XS Max, and the brand new iPhone 12 lineup does really feel worlds away from that design language now.

Apple followers looking for a brand new iPhone on the finish of 2020 have gotten a great deal of choices, not simply when it comes to worth but in addition sizes and colors. The iPhone vary has by no means been so vibrant and assorted. The 12 Mini is essentially the most compact of the lot, smaller than even the iPhone SE 2020, regardless of having a bigger show.

NextPit iPhone 12 Mini side
Apple saved the identical show expertise throughout the vary this yr. / © NextPit

The show is just 5.4-inches (the smallest Samsung flagship show you should buy is 6.2 inches) and the iPhone 12 Mini options the identical slim bezels you get on the bigger fashions, making the general footprint of the gadget nearly laughably small in immediately’s market.

And yet, it fully works. Upon choosing up the iPhone 12 Mini for the primary time I used to be reminded of my outdated iPhone 5. The sharp edges, the scale, it was nearly nostalgic. You do lose a little bit of immersion although. It takes time in your eyes to regulate even if you find yourself coming from comparatively small smartphones such because the Google Pixel 5 I used to be utilizing alongside the Apple telephone throughout this assessment course of. Sure, it is not nice for consuming multimedia or enjoying however, to be trustworthy, I actually do not care. It feels good to carry, and that is what counts for a tool we spend our lives holding.

A Super Retina that is not Super Smooth

If you’re searching for a compact iPhone, there are two causes you may go for the iPhone 12 Mini over the iPhone SE 2020. The first is that SoC improve from an A13 Bionic to an A14 Bionic. The a lot larger distinction, for my part, is the show although. Whilst on the iPhone SE you get a Retina IPS LCD show, the iPhone 12 Mini sports activities a correct Super Retina XDR OLED with assist for HDR10. It’s a large soar up in high quality, that you just pay for in fact, but it surely’s additionally an improve on the Liquid Retina IPS LCD we noticed on the most cost effective iPhone 11 final yr. Apple has gone for primarily the identical high quality show throughout all of the iPhone 12 fashions this yr, so there is not any compromise to make should you go for the smaller type issue.

Apple says its new “ceramic shield” protecting the show makes it 4 occasions extra drop-resistant. Quite a lot of tech writers and influencers have been fairly sniffy about this on social media, posting photos of scratched shows after merely stacking a few iPhones on high of one another, however my assessment unit held up properly and, as common readers will know, I deal with trendy smartphones with solely barely extra care than I did my outdated Nokia 3310.

NextPit iPhone 12 Mini front camera
The notch is similar dimension as on the bigger fashions. / © NextPit

The elephant within the room right here, and the topic of a lot of the hype-cycle pre-launch, is the absence of a excessive refresh fee such because the 90Hz, 120Hz, and 144Hz show we see all through the Android world. The indisputable fact that ultra-smooth 90Hz

shows
are exhibiting up on Android telephones that value £199 has bought to sting a bit whenever you’ve paid £700 for a brand new iPhone. Apple’s software program and {smooth} animations make up for this when opening and switching apps and navigating across the iPhone 12 Mini typically, however there is no such thing as a method to disguise the sluggishness when scrolling by means of an internet site or social media feed. Yes, you can see and really feel the distinction. Don’t @ me.

iOS 14 is all about customisation

The Apple iPhone 12 Mini ships with

iOS
14.2. For my cash, that is the very best and most pain-free model of Apple’s cell software program to this point. Android and iOS have been shifting nearer and nearer when it comes to options and really feel for a while now. Google pinches concepts from Apple and vice versa in order that each working programs find yourself rapidly catching up if one pulls forward with a killer function.

We’ve been banging on about this since 2018 and iOS 12, and I’m pleased to report that in 2020 the established order stays. The benefit of this growing homogeneity is that switching between Android and iPhone has by no means been simpler. For the primary time ever, you possibly can view all of your apps on iOS in an App Library. It even routinely kinds apps into classes. Sounds acquainted, proper?

By putting in apps like Gmail and Chrome and, for the primary time ever on iOS, having the ability to alter the default browser and mail apps to one thing that is not Apple’s first-party providing, it is comparatively straightforward to create a sort of Google-fied iPhone nowadays. With Apple {hardware} and Google software program, you get the true strengths of each tech giants on the similar time, and that is a uncommon factor of magnificence when it comes off.

For common iOS followers although, Apple made an enormous deal about customisation with the launch of iOS 14. Widgets are an iPhone factor now, and individuals are getting very enthusiastic about it. But in all seriousness, I discovered residing with iOS 14 a lot simpler than I did with, say, iOS 11 or 12. If you are an Android person who’s been tempted by Apple’s {hardware} however has been postpone by the software program, it might be time to take one other look.

We’ve coated iOS 14 intimately on NextPit. You can learn all concerning the new options, and how one can use them, within the devoted articles linked under:

Flagship efficiency

The Apple iPhone 12 Mini has the identical

A14 Bionic
processor as its larger brothers proper as much as the most costly iPhone 12 Pro Max. It’s Apple’s first 5-nanometer chip and, in typical Cupertino type, we’re spared the technical particulars and easily informed this new SoC is “40 per cent faster than the Apple A12 Bionic”. Apple mentioned that the A13 was 20 per cent sooner than A12, so should you do the maths, that makes the iPhone 12’s A14 about 16 per cent sooner than the A13 in final yr’s iPhone 11.

Naturally, there may be loads of rounding of numbers occurring right here and the claims are ambiguous sufficient to easily write off as advertising nonsense. Performance on the iPhone 12 is a bit higher than on the iPhone 11, which in flip was a bit higher than on the iPhone XS, you get how this works.

When my colleague Julia examined the iPhone 12 Pro final month – considerably much less facetiously than I’m doing right here – she was impressed with the efficiency of Apple’s newest chip. There is extra reminiscence within the Pro variations (6GB of LPDDR5 RAM versus 4GB) however the efficiency throughout the entire iPhone 12 vary this yr may be very related.

NextPit iPhone 12 Mini back
The iPhone 12 Mini packs an A14 Bionic. / © NextPit

To come again to the query of compromises it’s a must to make to have a super-compact smartphone in 2020, within the case of the Apple iPhone 12 Mini, efficiency is actually not one in every of them. There can also be assist for mmWave 5G within the smallest iPhone. You may not be utilizing it instantly, however you’d reasonably have it in there than not have it.

A cracking little digital camera

Compromise can also be not essential in relation to the

digital camera
on the iPhone 12 Mini. You get the identical setup as you get on the common iPhone 12. It consists of the next lenses:

  • 12-megapixel extremely.vast: ƒ/2.Four aperture and 120° discipline of view
  • 12-megapixel  vast: ƒ/1.6 aperture

The compromise you make whenever you go for an everyday iPhone 12 and never a Pro mannequin is that you just miss out on the telephoto lens, the LIDAR sensor, and the principle sensor isn’t fairly pretty much as good, however as this is similar deal for each no-Pro fashions, I’m not chalking it down as a compromise for the Mini model.

Images are nonetheless captured in each HEIF and JPEG codecs and all that digital camera tech iPhone customers shall be used to continues to be in there corresponding to Smart HDR Three with Scene Detection, Deep Fusion mode, Night mode, and Portrait mode with superior bokeh and Depth Control.

NextPit iPhone 12 Mini camera
The similar digital camera because the common iPhone 12. / © NextPit

Apple says it has made some enhancements in picture processing this yr due to the brand new A14 Bionic processor, and I used to be pleasantly shocked by the outcomes I used to be capable of seize with the iPhone 12 Mini. There’s extra element in a variety of lighting circumstances this yr, and Apple is constant to construct on the progress it made with its smartphone digital camera system final yr after we noticed the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max makes big strides in catching as much as market leaders Google and Huawei.

And you actually can see that processing energy do its factor. I’ve usually discovered iPhone photographs to be a bit bland and nearly too natural-looking. On the opposite finish of the dimensions, the much-lauded Huawei P and Mate sequence telephones have all the time produced photos which were hammered by AI processing to the purpose the place they seemed a bit of too polished for my tastes. Google, for me personally, was a contented medium between these two when it comes to how aggressive its post-processing was.

iphone pixel day
Top: Apple iPhone 12 Mini. Bottom: Google Pixel 5. / © NextPit

When evaluating the iPhone 12 Mini to my Google Pixel 5 although, I used to be shocked with the outcomes. In the scene captured above, it is the iPhone shot on high that lets the blues of the sky shine by means of, and the colors of the buildings pop. The Pixel 5 picture right here appears to be like like how I used to explain iPhone pictures – simply sort of gray and uninteresting. Similarly within the picture under, it is the iPhone shot on the left that appears extra processed, extra saturated, and extra putting because of this. 

iphone pixel day2
Left: iPhone 12 Mini. Right: Google Pixel 5. / © NextPit

I used to be an enormous fan of Google’s Night Sight when it launched and have all the time saved a Pixel telephone on me largely for that reason, however Apple has closed the hole considerably and we’re on the level now the place each evening modes are greater than able to producing actually pleasing outcomes. The Mate 40 Pro has each Apple and Google’s flagships crushed on this division, however the Huawei flagship comes with a complete host of different caveats that you possibly can examine in our full assessment.

iphone pixel night mode
Left: iPhone 12 Mini. Right: Google Pixel 5. Both pictures have been taken at round 21:00 at evening. / © NextPit

Shorter battery life

Battery life

is often
the greatest compromise it’s a must to make if you wish to have a smaller smartphone. A smaller telephone means a smaller battery, and a smaller battery means shorter battery life. This is a trade-off we have been making for years whether or not we’re shopping for iPhones or Android telephones. If you go for a
Samsung Galaxy S20, you settle for that the battery life shall be worse than on the
Galaxy S20 Plus, for instance.

So what occurs to battery life whenever you make your smallest telephone actually small, refuse to downgrade the Super Retina OLED show, pack a 5G modem in there, and equip it with essentially the most powerful processor you have got? Well, principally precisely what you’d think about!

Apple nonetheless does not checklist the precise mAh of the batteries in its iPhones – as a substitute providing pseudo-real-world benchmarks corresponding to ‘as much as 15 hours of video playback’, and ‘as much as 50 hours of audio playback’ – which makes attempting to work out how good the battery life shall be with out utilizing one nearly unimaginable for shoppers. During my time with the gadget, the iPhone 12 Mini was largely getting me by means of the day on a single cost, however solely simply, and never on daily basis.

NextPit iPhone 12 Mini usb
You higher get used to plugging in your iPhone 12 Mini steadily. / © NextPit

I usually do not wrestle to get by means of the day even with telephones which have unhealthy battery life although – I used the Google Pixel Four for 100 days for god’s sake – and I reviewed this iPhone below lockdown circumstances the place loads of the smartphone duties I would usually perform on the go will be accomplished on my laptop computer. I think that for heavy customers who rack up six or extra hours of display time a day, the iPhone 12 Mini would want charging twice over a 24-hour interval. As I say, small telephone means worse battery life, and there is simply no getting away from that.

When it involves charging, issues are fairly quick although. A full cost takes about 100 minutes, with 50 per cent of that coming within the first 25 minutes. Those numbers are achieved with an Apple 20W USB-C charger which doesn’t come within the field and prices an additional £19. You do get a USB-C to Lightning cable although, so should you already personal a current fast-charger from Apple, Google, or Samsung for instance, you’re golden. Charging speeds with the brand new MagSafe charger are slower on the Mini than on the opposite iPhone 12 fashions, with a full cost taking greater than three hours.

Final verdict

The Apple iPhone 12 Mini was, for me, a actual throwback to the times of compact smartphones earlier than we referred to as them compact, and for many individuals in and round my technology whose first smartphones have been the iPhone 3, 4, and 5, the scale of the brand new 12 Mini shall be sufficient of a draw by itself.

The purpose it is really easy for me to suggest this as a smart buy for anybody even remotely jaded by the huge flagship gadgets available on the market immediately isn’t solely because of its type issue although. Apple has managed to attenuate not solely the general dimension of this telephone, but in addition the compromises you usually need to make whenever you go compact.

There’s no compromise on efficiency, there is not any compromise on digital camera high quality (between the non-Pro fashions), and there is not any compromise on the show expertise. Battery life is the one space the place do you have got settle for second finest, however I really feel like its a tablet many shall be very happy to swallow with a purpose to lastly have a flagship telephone with flagship efficiency and an amazing digital camera that matches in your pocket and feels this good in your hand.

The iPhone 12 Mini isn’t the very best iPhone you should buy in 2020, but it surely may simply be the most well-liked. It’s the one I’d purchase.

Apple iPhone 12

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