Apple has finally refreshed their “small” smartphone line up with the unveiling of the iPhone 12 mini!
This is the first numbered, small form factor phone in the mainline series since the iPhone 8. The mini has nearly all the same key upgrades found in the 12 series, and with it, unfortunately comes the infamous “Apple Tax.”
For the users who are interested in a small smartphone, are these new features worth the enormous cost of $699?
Let’s compare exactly what the most updated “Mini” phone has over 2017’s gold standard.
|iPhone 8||iPhone 12 mini|
|Screen size||4.7 inches||5.4 inches|
|Height & width||5.4 x 2.6 inches||5.18 x 2.53 inches|
|Depth||.29 inches||.29 inches|
|Weight||5.22 oz||4.76 oz|
|CPU||Apple A11||Apple A14|
|Display type||LCD Retina||OLED Super Retina|
|Resolution and Pixel Density||1334 x 750p, 326 ppi||2340 x 1080, 476 ppi|
|Front-facing camera||7 Megapixel||12 Megapixel|
|Back-facing camera||12 Megapixel||12 Megapixel + 12 Megapixel Ultra Wide|
|Back-facing video||1080P 60FPS||4K 60FPS|
|Battery power||1,821mAh||2,227 mAh|
|Video Playback Time||13 Hours||15 Hours|
|Internal storage||64GB, 128GB, 256GB||64GB, 128GB, 256GB|
|Operating system at release||iOS 11||iOS 14|
|Current Operating System||iOS 14||iOS 14|
|Body||Glass / Aluminum||"Ceramic Shield Glass" / Aluminum|
|Finish||Space Gray, Silver, Gold, PRODUCT(RED)||Blue, Green, Black, White, and (PRODUCT)RED|
|Splash and dust resistant||IP67||IP68|
|Data Speed||4G LTE||5G|
|Starting price, at time of release||$699||$699 with carrier, $729 factory unlocked|
|Current price, new**||$600||$699 with carrier, $729 factory unlocked|
|Current price, pre-owned*||$244||N/A|
Where is the Upgrade?
From the table, we can see that despite being three years apart, the devices have similar exterior hardware and feature sets.
Body size and weight are quite similar. The iPhone 12 mini’s screen is slightly higher in resolution and pixel density, and much bigger in size.
Here are the differences that matter:
Screen Size, CPU, Battery Life, Cameras, and Data Speed
Mini Gets Big
For a phone called “Mini,” it’s hard to come to terms that the smallest phone this time around is bigger than the base model iPhone 8.
For reference, the iPhone 8 comes in at 4.7 inches, and the iPhone 8 Plus has a 5.5 inch screen.
With that in mind, the iPhone 12 mini’s screen at 5.4 inches seems much more like the 8 Plus than the 8.
In terms of technical specifications, the resolution and pixel density in the 12 mini are much higher, but at this size, and for this audience, it’s unlikely that the difference will be visible.
Between the minimum size, which now resembles the iPhone 8 Plus, and the expensive but less than noticeable upgrades in the screen, it’s likely that the iPhone 12 mini is suffering from an identity crisis with the mini name.
CPU - Cutting Edge Tech for Email and iMessage
By and large this will be the most significant difference between the two phones on release.
Three years have passed since Apple’s A11 chip set, and there have been numerous speed and efficiency improvements made along the way.
It’s no doubt that the A14 will be 2020’s most powerful mobile CPU, but where does the extra power go to? We have reached a point in smartphone usage where daily tasks like loading videos, taking photos, playing games, and browsing social media are no longer cumbersome to even mid-ranged phones. The A11 excelled at all of these tasks in 2017 and continues to do so to this day.
Keep in mind the brand identity for these phones is for the people who want some basic functionality; play music, browse socials, and text the family.
We have far surpassed the need for yearly smartphone upgrades. Any phone made in the last 3 years absolutely has enough power for daily tasks.
When considering the target audience on top of this, these technological advancements may be largely wasted.
By looking at the chart, the 12 mini not only has a bigger battery but also longer theoretical usage.
The iPhone 8 has roughly 13 hours of video playback time, versus the 12 mini’s 15 hours video playback.
This is impressive, and thanks to the improved CPU efficiency and battery technology the iPhone 12 mini has an additional 2 hours of theoretical usage.
However, due to background processes and the way apps remain active in the background, I don’t think either phone will last 2 days between charges, even for extremely light users unless additional apps are left uninstalled.
Each phone has a selfie camera and the 12 mini has two front facing cameras.
In this case, the 12 mini’s selfie camera has a more impressive 12 megapixel lens which beats the iPhone 8’s 7 megapixel lens.
For the front facing camera, minor improvements for low light photos have been made in past generations, but the even bigger factor here is that the second lens in iPhone 12 mini’s second camera is for zooming out to get an even wider shot.
This is certainly a win for those who are interested in smartphone photography, but for the average consumer, the additional camera serves as an extra cost factor in the $699 price tag.
5G Data Speed
5G, the next generation cell phone service technology, promises 4 gigabits down and 200 megabits up.
The new iPhone 12 series are the first iPhones to be equipped with technology to receive 5G signal and benefit from its increased download and upload speed.
This is certainly great for the future, but at present not many consumers will be able to access these enhanced antenna bands.
The ability to use this feature is dependent on your carrier and contract. Unless you intend to upgrade to a new service plan and are planning a move to one of the few areas in the US that have 5G currently, this feature does not benefit the average customer.
While the future of 5G looks promising, the early versions of this technology suffer from specific issues such as the cost of the extremely high speed. The areas covered from one broadcast is limited to the size of say, a park, an airport, or a football stadium. The technology has not yet reached a point where consumers will receive the benefits of 5G data while in a car, office building, or at home.
The iPhone 12 mini is an appreciated addition for those of us who prefer the simplicity of iOS and the inter-connectivity of the Apple ecosystem. Often what drives us to the Apple product line is the superior software experience and the way each iPhone interacts with each other.
Unfortunately, Apple’s least expensive and most bare bones option this time around is forced into having features that drive up the total cost of the product.
Typical users arguably only need one camera, and likely won’t see the difference between a Retina and Super Retina display. Especially for those who are interested in the smallest display available on the market, these users are pigeonholed into an even bigger display with no other option.
Because past generations are not struggling at all for the vast majority of users’ demands, the general experience of using an iPhone 12 mini will not significantly differ from that of an iPhone 8.
Specifically, I think a user who has been holding on to an iPhone 6 or 7 for the past five years would get much more value out of the iPhone 8 considering that high quality used devices are selling for about $250, and prices are decreasing every day.
Why pay more? Stay up to date at a discount.
Click the button below to browse high quality, expert inspected iPhone 8’s, certified for resale.