iPhone 12 mini : tiny on the outside, huge on the inside

"Something, only Apple, could do." Those were the words Tim Cook said before opening the box containing the iPhone 12 mini, the most miniature iPhone of the four that make up the company's current catalogue. It is literally a device that has no competition. There is not a single high-end, because the iPhone 12 mini is high-end in capital letters, that offers what the iPhone 12 mini offers: outstanding performance in a small size.

Apple's move was most curious, as the remaining three iPhones were slightly increased in size. Moreover, the launch of this product comes just as smartphones are starting to have diagonals that begin to approach seven inches (with longer aspect ratios, of course). During the heyday of large mobiles, Apple is jumping into the pool of small mobiles. How is the experience with this iPhone 12 mini? Let's take a look.

Design: something tiny

We begin by talking about the main attraction of the iPhone 12 mini: its design and size. For practical purposes, which should be kept in mind when evaluating the device for possible purchase, we are dealing with a miniature iPhone 12. 

So, in our case, we have a back finished in green-coloured glass, although a wide range of colours is available. Unlike the Pro, the iPhone 12 mini does get fingerprints. It's one of the inherent problems with glass, and although the green colour slightly disguises the dirt, the fingerprints are still there. Be that as it may, the hand feel is outstanding. Suppose there's one thing Apple knows how to do. In that case, it's design smartphones, and the iPhone 12 mini, despite its size, feels exceptionally premium. Plus, it barely slips.

a lot of memories of the classic iPhone 5S

The iPhone 12 mini, like its siblings, draws from the iPhone 5 for its aesthetics. After several generations of iPhones with rounded edges, the iPhone 12 again opts for square edges. This is good because they look excellent, but it is also a sacrifice for comfort. The iPhone 11s fits nicely in hand, making the rounded edges easier to hold. The square edges, however, dig in a bit more. This is perhaps more evident in the larger models, but the iPhone 12 mini makes up for its smaller size.

We have the module with the dual camera, LED flash and a microphone on the back. The module is similar to the one we saw on the iPhone 11 and after that. Whether you like it more or less depends on each user; at least, I don't dislike it. It is well integrated with the terminal chassis and has a more polished finish and matte colour. It doesn't stick out as much as the one on the iPhone 11 Pro, but it does, which means that the terminal wobbles if we leave it with the screen facing upward on a table. This and the fingerprint problem is solved with something as simple as a case.

But beyond talking about materials and construction, I think talking about the experience with a small phone is really interesting. And here it is worth making the first nuance: the iPhone 12 mini is not as small as it might seem. My personal phone is an iPhone 11 Pro, and I have not noticed too drastic a change in the daily experience. It's smaller, no question, but the feel is relatively familiar.

However, I must admit that the feeling with the iPhone 12 mini is more similar to what I had with the iPhone SE (2020). It is very comfortable to own, handle and use as a compact phone. If we put the iPhone 12 mini next to an iPhone SE (2020), we will see that the iPhone 12 mini is almost like the latter, but with all screens and a notch. What does that mean? That it's very, very, very easy to use with one hand.

The phone is exceptional. It fits perfectly in my hand, it grips without significant problems, and I have had no issues of any kind during my use. What's more, I haven't even missed a larger screen. Although I still think the iPhone 11 Pro is a perfect size, the iPhone 12 mini can be, and is, a candidate to consider if we want a small phone for its size and weight.

It is undoubtedly one of the significant changes compared to the other models. The iPhone 11 Pro weighs 188 grams, but the iPhone 12 mini weighs 133 grams. It feels much lighter but no less balanced. It is charming to hold during long sessions and in your pocket. You hardly notice that you carry it, even less so if you wear baggy pants. It also helps that it is less thick.

Our compact, lightweight, well-built smartphone feels premium and pleasant. It is a terminal of the highest range in reduced format. As we will see throughout the analysis, it has nothing to envy the rest of its brothers. It is a miniaturized iPhone 12. If we liked the lightness of the iPhone 12, we enjoyed the iPhone 12 mini even more.

Display: don't be fooled by its size

As we said, the iPhone 12 mini is a miniature iPhone 12. This also applies to the screen since we have the same panel as the iPhone 12 but more minor. In this section, it is worth noting that Apple has completely gotten rid of IPS/LCD panels and that all iPhone 12s, including the mini, have OLED panels.

In this case, we find a 5.4-inch screen with Full HD+ resolution (2,340 x 1,080 pixels), translating into more than 400 pixels per inch. Maximum brightness under normal conditions is 625 nits but rises to over a thousand with HDR. Simply put, the display looks great in broad daylight, indoors and outdoors, and at night. OLED displays in iPhones have always stood out for delivering good performance, and the iPhone 12 mini is no exception.

The notch continues to make an appearance and is perhaps more striking on this phone than on its siblings. Why? Because even though the screen is smaller, the notch is still the same size, which makes it stand out even more. Is it aesthetic? No, there are more disguised solutions, as Android phones have shown. Is it symmetrical? No, not at all. Does it bother you? Not at all. It may shock you at first, but you get used to it over time. That does not detract from the fact that it is starting to look a bit "old-fashioned".

The screen, as we say, looks perfect, and its size should not deceive us. 5.4 inches are 5.4 inches; that's not a few. What am I getting at? While it is true that a 6.5-inch mobile gives us a much better experience with a movie or a YouTube video, the iPhone 12 mini does not fall short either. This applies equally to gaming, by the way.

What could be argued is that Apple has fallen behind in the refresh rate. It's about time Apple joined the trend. It's one of those things you don't appreciate until you have it, and it's taken away from you. We have not missed more fluidity when interacting with the iPhone 12 mini. Still, we use another phone with 90 or 120 Hz to realize the experience is much better. Maybe next year will be the time, but we'll have to settle for 60 Hz for now.

Sound: good, but not outstanding

It is not superfluous to finish the multimedia section talking about the sound. The iPhone 12 mini has a slightly smaller speaker than the iPhone 12, but it sounds good. It is possible to listen to music, watch videos or a series with the speaker without significant problems as long as we know that after 70% volume, we notice some distortion. If we stay below this level, we will get a good experience.

Saying that the iPhone 12 mini has no headphone jack is like saying that the sky is blue or that the snow is cold. Apple ultimately got rid of this component years ago; in this case, it's more than justified. There is literally no room to get the headphone jack inside the device. If we want to use headphones, the only option will be to use a USB-type C - jack adapter (which does not come in the box) or wireless headphones.

Performance: big on the inside

Although the iPhone 12 mini is more minor, Apple has not renounced mounting the Engine that carries the rest of the iPhone. We have. Therefore, a five-nanometer Apple A14 Bionic processor A14 Bionic accompanied by 4 GB of RAM and? 64 GB of base storage. The results of the benchmarks can be found below, and, as you can see, iPhone 12 mini sweeps the synthetic tests, but let's go by parts.

About the 4 GB of RAM, it is worth noting that, like the milliamp hours of the battery, Android go on one side and iOS on the other. They are radically opposite operating systems and do not need the same amount of resources, so we are more than served with 4 GB of RAM. We have not missed more power to play, to navigate, or for anything at all. 4 GB of RAM is acceptable, and the Apple A14 Bionic guarantees the future for this year and the years to come.

However, the 64 GB of base storage is already open to criticism. I speak personally: I am a user who has everything in the cloud and barely saves files locally, so I have no problem with 64 GB, but I understand that there are users who receive/ send a lot of files via WhatsApp, who like to download Spotify playlists and who keep storing things in the phone's memory. In that case, 64 GB may come up short, so it is worth going for a version with more storage (128 or 256 GB).

As for the gaming experience, it is what you would expect from a device with a processor like this. It saves the lack of 90 Hz or more, and the appliance can move any title we want, such as 'Call of Duty: Mobile', 'PUBG Mobile', 'Mobile Legends: Bang Bang' or 'Pokémon GO'. We could play without lag, jerks, or frame jumps and without noticing a more worrying heating of the account. However, there was a slight increase in the temperature of the back.

Biometrics: Face ID continues to convince

That the iPhone 12 mini has that notch is no coincidence, as Apple continues to bet on Face ID as its default biometric security system. Without being the fastest system on the market, we did notice an improvement in detection speed. Face ID works ideally without light, using infrared rays to map our face. It is also very well integrated with the ecosystem of apps available on iOS.

The detection angle is wide, similar to that of the iPhone 11. That is good news for unlocking the phone in less natural positions. However, we don't have a fingerprint reader, so we must lift the phone to access it or enter the unlock code. As we said before, having a fingerprint reader under the screen or on the side wouldn't hurt, but what we have is what we have. Fortunately, it works well except in this type of situation.

Regarding the use of Face ID with masks, it doesn't work at all. IOS displays the screen faster to enter the unlock code, and that's it. You can try some tricks to "cheat" Face ID and make it work with the mask, but that means sacrificing its security and can become counterproductive.

Battery: being small comes at a price

And so we come to the most controversial point of the iPhone 12 mini: the battery. Apple has a bad habit of not publishing the milliamp hours of its battery. Still, thanks to the iFixit exploded view, we know the device has 2,227 mAh. It is slightly more than the iPhone SE (2020), but it is not an excessively high figure. In fact, it would be enough to see the number in Android to know that we will possibly have autonomy problems. Still, we said before that the mAh in iOS follows its own path.

Likewise, the iPhone 12 mini has less battery than its siblings, so we have a shorter battery life. It is not that it is complicated to reach the end of the day if we do not ask much. Still, if we use the account more intensively by late afternoon, the device will likely ask us charger. For example, on a day of heavier use, we arrived at 17:00 with just under 30% battery life.

With moderate use (watching a movie, using social networks, taking some photos and playing a game), we have achieved an average of 5:30 hours of active screen time. To give us a rough idea of the consumption, one hour of Netflix swallowed 11% of the battery and 15 minutes of the camera, recording videos and taking pictures, 3%. It is not the highest autonomy on the market; it is clear.

Not including a charger in the iPhone sparks controversy again

Speaking of the charger, we can't overlook Apple's controversial decision not to include it with its new iPhones. The iPhone 12 mini has 18W fast charging. Still, you need to have a suitable charger (which costs no more than 25 euros if you want it official) or another compatible charger (probably cheaper).

You can use any charger we have at home, but we will find another problem. Although Apple does not include a charger, it does include the USB Type C - Lightning cable. Still, most chargers are USB A (USB of all life), so we can not use the line in the box. So, we have three possible solutions:

  1. Buy an 18W USB Type-C charger to use the cable in the box and fast charging.
  2. Buy a USB A - Lightning cable to use a charger we have at home, whether it supports fast charging or not.
  3. Go for wireless charging half-heartedly.

Camera: a miniature iPhone 12

We are approaching the end, but not before discussing the photographic section. Throughout this analysis, we have repeatedly repeated that the iPhone 12 mini is a miniature iPhone 12. This also applies to the cameras, as we have precisely the same set of cameras as its big brother. There are no changes: they are literally the same sensors, of the same size and capabilities, for better and for worse.

On the one hand, we have a primary camera composed of two 12-megapixel sensors. The main one is a standard wide-angle with an f/1.6 aperture and optical image stabilization. In contrast, the second one has an f/2.4 aperture and no OIS but automatic stabilization. The front camera, meanwhile, has a resolution of 12 megapixels with f/2.2 aperture.

Where are the new features? With the cold data, it does not seem there are, but there are some. The main ones are that now the wide-angle and front camera support night mode and Deep Fusion. The rear camera records Dolby Vision video (a.k.a. HDR video). But we were also saying that there are points to note: the iPhone 12 mini, like the iPhone 12, drops the telephoto.

Unlike the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, the iPhone 12 mini has no telephoto with optical zoom. Still, we have a digital zoom of up to five times, something that a terminal of this category seems insufficient. We can not get closer to a distant element, but also because the portrait mode can only be done with the x1 zoom, offering a less natural result. Nor is it compatible with the new Apple Pro Raw format, which promises strong emotions.

I think that's it for today's article on the iPhone 12 mini specs and everything related. Every choice is in our own hands, whether this smartphone is the right choice or not.

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