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iPhone 12 mini review: This is a revelation

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This is the response of my friends and family whenever I show them the iPhone 12 miniature. This 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini is so tiny that they can’t believe it.

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Truthfully, I didn’t either. Although I love small phones, I’ve become accustomed to the massive size of flagship smartphones. Devices like the 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro, which barely fits in your pocket, and the 6.7-inch Galaxy S20 Plus are now the norm. I feel like the iPhone 12 mini was designed for me.

The iPhone 12 mini isn’t just small, but I love the fact that it is, pound for pound, exactly the same device as the iPhone 12 , which I reviewed previously. The iPhone 12 mini is a premium smartphone that you would expect to have some compromises in. You’ll see that the iPhone 12 mini is just as good as the iPhone 13 and at a lower price. Apple released another as part of the iPhone 13 launch.

The iPhone 12 mini is also a device that best smaller phones as well as best unlocked iPhones will love. To find out if Apple’s latest small phone is right to you, check out our iPhone13 mini review.

iPhone 12 mini review: Prices and availability

 

IPHONE MINI: SPECS

Price:$729 Unlocked; $699 On Contract

OS: iOS 14

Display: OLED 5.4-inch (2340×1080).

CPU: A14 Bionic

Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB

Rear camera: 12MP wide (f/1.6), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.4)

Front camera12MP, f/2.2

Size 5.18 x 2.53x 0.29in

Weight: 4.76 oz

The iPhone 12 mini was launched less than a decade ago for $699. This price is from major carriers such as Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. You’d pay $729 if you were to buy the device without a contract. You’ll get 64GB storage at that price. However, there are 128GB or 256GB versions.

Apple now sells the iPhone 12 Mini for $599 (or $629 if the phone is unlocked). This will make room for the iPhone 13 mini, which retains the original $699 price. The base model of the new mini has 128GB storage.

Apple will give you a discount on your iPhone 12 mini if you trade in your iPhone 8; the iPhone 8 can save you up to $110, while the iPhone 12 mini is eligible for a bigger rebate. This is one of the best iPhone 12 deals that we are tracking.

The iPhone 12 mini doesn’t come with a charging adapter, wired EarPods, or a cable for charging. However, the box will include a Lightning to USB-C cable.

The iPhone 12 mini, like all other iPhone 12 models is designed to support sub-6GHz and millimeter wave 5G (mmWave), on every network. This means that you will get the same 5G band support regardless of which iPhone 12 model you purchase. Any differences in 5G service you experience will be due to each network’s infrastructure and limitations.

iPhone 12 mini review: Design and MagSafe

I didn’t expect Apple to release a handset small to make the iPhoneSE look large, but 2020 was all about subverting my expectations.

The iPhone 12 mini’s 5.4-inch display is almost seamless from edge to edge. A notch only limits the screen’s width. The screen dominates the surface of the iPhone 12 mini, making it far more useful than the 4.7-inch SE. Despite the fact that the iPhone 12 miniature’s footprint is almost three-tenths of an inches shorter and one-tenth wider, the iPhone 12 min’s footprint is almost three-tenths to an inch smaller. This is quite remarkable considering the power-guzzling components and large batteries required for modern smartphones.

It’s almost like you have to learn how to live with a screen and device this small. I noticed my thumbs rubbing against each other when I typed. The adjustment process isn’t difficult and I’m an iPhone 11 Pro owner. However, there’s still a part in me that longs for the 12 mini. It’s so easy to reach all corners of the display by holding it.

The iPhone 12 mini is identical in both aesthetics and structural design to the iPhone 12. It’s just smaller. The iPhone 12 mini features the same matte aluminum design with a mostly-glossy back and flat display. Apple’s Ceramic Shield material promises a 4x increase in shatter resistance. Cupertino also has improved water resistance, with every iPhone 12 being able to withstand submersion up to 20 feet for 30 minutes.

It’s a premium iPhone that looks and feels premium for $700. There are almost no complaints. However, the iPhone 12 mini’s notch is more difficult to miss if I had to force to nitpick. It is almost the same size as on larger models and dominates the smaller display of the iPhone 12 mini. The overall package is stunning.

Apple’s MagSafe system can be found on the back of the iPhone 12 Mini. It can be used to wireless charge or for a variety of accessories like leather wallet attachments and sleeves.

The MagSafe operation on the 12 mini is the same as on other iPhones. Apple has decreased the phone’s peak charging speed to 12 watts over MagSafe, down from 15 Watts on other models. The battery in the 12 mini is smaller than the ones in the other models so charging speeds will likely be even faster.

iPhone 12 mini review: Display

Apple’s Pro and regular iPhone models have been merged with OLED displays. The iPhone 12 mini’s LCD screen will make a significant leap forward if you are upgrading from an LCD-powered iPhone 8 and earlier models, or the iPhone XR models.

An OLED display makes almost everything look richer. OLED displays make colors more vivid and blacks appear deeper and more true-to-life. The trailer for The Kid Detective was on YouTube. I was struck by the mix of reds, yellows, and oranges that adorned the trees in the idyllic autumn suburb where the film is set.

The iPhone 12 mini’s display features are lacking a high refresh rate. The non-Pro iPhone 12 models weren’t likely to have 120Hz panels. However, similar-priced handsets — such as the Google Pixel 5, OnePlus Nord and Samsung’s Galaxy S20 FE — offer screens of 90Hz or 120Hz. The Galaxy S21, which costs $100 less than the iPhone 12 mini, has a display that dynamically adjusts it refresh rate. Although the display of the iPhone 12 mini is vibrant and rich, the user experience with the device is less responsive due to the 60Hz limit.

The iPhone 12 mini’s full-screen brightness was 505 nits according to our light meter. This is far below the highest we have ever seen. The regular iPhone 12 measured 569 nits while the Galaxy S20 FE registered 679 nits. We would guess that the iPhone 12 mini’s peak brightness has been lowered to get the most out of its small battery. It’s still easy to see the display outside on a sunny day.

The iPhone 12 mini was able to reproduce 117.8% of sRGB and 83.4% from the larger DCI-P3 color space. This indicates that the handset has a more realistic color palette, although it may appear a little muted when compared with other handsets. The Galaxy S20 FE, for example, registered 133.3% DCI-P3, which translates into far greater saturation.

iPhone 12 mini review: Camera

A dual-camera system is a benefit for even the smallest iPhone 12, and it’s not just any dual camera system. The same optics are found in the $100 more costly iPhone 12: A 12-megapixel primary lens with an aperture of f/1.6, and paired with an ultrawide 12MP lens with an aperture of f/2.4 and a 120-degree field.

The iPhone 12’s main sensor has seen the greatest improvements. Apple’s fastest ever f/1.6 lens contributed to a 27% improvement in low-light performance. It also features an optical image stabilization system capable of performing 5,000 micro-adjustments per minute. The same sensor can capture 4K HDR video at 60 frames per second or 30 frames per sec if Dolby Vision processing is enabled.

What kind of photos can iPhone 12 miniature owners expect from the new primary camera? I took both the Pixel 5 and Apple’s smallest flagship out for a peaceful autumn day to take a couple of photos of a river. Both were equally impressive. The Pixel 5 colors in more of the river bank, hillside and last leaves. The iPhone 12 mini’s rendering is sharper. The iPhone 12 mini’s image retains more color on the brick wall to its right, even though it is not the focal point.

The Pixel 5 and the iPhone 12 mini do not have telephoto lenses with optical zoom. They both use processing to enhance digital zoom. This was an area in which the iPhones had struggled previously. But Apple has closed the gap with its iPhone 12 range. The biggest difference is related to contrast and color balancing. Google’s phone may still have a slight edge in sharpness due to its Super Res Zoom system. However, the smoke stack is darker and has more red shift, while the iPhone 12 mini picks up specular highlights that bounce off the brick.

The ultrawide lens of the iPhone 12 mini is wider than that of the Pixel 5. This allows you to capture more details. Although there is some distortion around the edges, the iPhone manages it well and produces an image with more contrast and color than the one Google has provided. It’s amazing how Apple’s camera system can focus on small details such as brick texture and window panes. This is something that even the Pixel 5 cannot match.

The iPhone 12 mini has seen improvements to Apple’s Night mode and the aforementioned wider aperture. This will allow it to be more effective in harsh conditions. The tiny iPhone managed to navigate this scene which included dark, shadowy areas and bright sources of light from lamps. It was impressive. The iPhone’s shot is warmer and has a more neutral white balance than the Pixel’s. Google’s Night Sight technology does a better job lighting dim areas like the roof and brick in the upper left. Google still has a slight advantage at night, but Apple has done a great job to close the gap.

I took another pair of photos of a river that was almost pitch black to get an idea of the iPhone 12 mini’s low light performance. This time, I compared it with my iPhone 11 Pro. The differences aren’t too significant, but if you pay closer attention, the newer iPhone has a little more sharpness near the camera like the leaves in front and the reflection of a street lamp in water. It’s evident that Apple hasn’t changed Night Mode with the new generation. The differences are very few.

The iPhone 12 mini has the greatest advantage in my opinion: the way it navigates portraits and selfies. Comparable to Google’s efforts, I would be more inclined to upload Apple’s showing here onto my Instagram. The iPhone’s shot is sharper and retains more warmth in my skin tone. It also captures the fine details like the fabric of my winter coat or the texture of the tag at the front. Apple’s Deep Fusion feature is at work here, combining multiple exposures to increase the detail on every scene. You’ll notice that the iPhone is better at isolating my hair from the background bokeh.

iPhone 12 mini review: Performance

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The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12Pro smartphones are among the most powerful we’ve tested at Tom’s Guide. The iPhone 12 mini shares their processor, the A14 Bionic. The iPhone 12 mini is just as fast as larger phones, which is not a common occurrence.

The iPhone 12 mini doesn’t care what you do on it. This device doesn’t sweat a bit, no matter what you do on it, whether you are gaming, scrolling through social media, or using the camera. Asphalt 9 Legends is my favorite graphics-pushing game when testing handsets. This little iPhone still pushes console quality visuals at a stable framerate, which is a rare feat for this title. The smoothness of motion blur was a highlight for me, and really enhanced the feeling of racing on the tiny screen.

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The iPhone 12 mini scored 4,123 points in the system-wide Geekbench 5 multicore test — better than the iPhone 12 with 3,859 points and definitely higher than the Galaxy S20 FE (2.928) and Pixel 5 (1.617). The Galaxy S21 was released months later than the iPhone 12 and has a Snapdragon 888 system on chip. However, it still fell short of the iPhone 12’s result with a score of 3,302.

The iPhone 12 mini took 27 seconds to convert a 4K video clip to 1080p with the Adobe Premiere Rush App and then time it. This is compared to 1 minute and 24 seconds for the Galaxy S20 FE. The A14 beats the older iPhone 11 by 46 seconds.

The iPhone 12 mini’s graphics power was also revealed by 3DMark’s Wild Life benchmark. This test showed that Apple’s device could achieve 39 frames per second, which is identical to the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro. It was also better than the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (25 fps), OnePlus8T (23 fps), and Pixel 5 (7 fps).

iPhone 12 mini review: 5G

Apple has gone all-in on 5G with the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 mini. Although it is not uncommon to find 5G handsets under $700, the iPhone 12 mini offers complete support for next-generation networks in all forms. This makes it a great value for 5G.

Sub-6GHz 5G is supported by most mid-range or inexpensive 5G phones. This allows for long distances and offers slightly faster speeds than LTE. There is also millimeter wave (mmWave), 5G that is reserved for dense urban areas. Multi-gigabit downloads can be achieved by millimeter-wave networks, provided you are close enough to the 5G cell node and have a clear line-of sight view.

This is the 5G version that 5G phones with lower prices don’t support. The iPhone 12 mini supports 5G mmWave on all networks, even if it is unlocked. This, along with Apple’s claim of this phone supporting more 5G bands than any other handset makes it the best choice for a future-proofed 5G phone. This 5G phone is also the smallest5G handset, as 5G phones are generally larger to accommodate bigger batteries.

However, you shouldn’t expect to get superfast speeds, especially on low-band networks that are sub-6GHz. In eatsern Pennsylvania, I saw download speeds hovering at 50Mbps over AT&T 5G. LTE Advanced networks are five times faster than state-of-the art LTE. This means that even though your iPhone has a 5G indicator, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get download speeds five times faster.

Smart Data Mode is another new feature on the iPhone 12. 5G can also consume a lot power. SmartData Mode is enabled by default. This mode drops the device to LTE to use less power. It is most useful when background processes or data streams are being streamed, or when the screen is turned off. Smart Data Mode can cause slow downloads, or a delay in accessing faster data speeds. You could turn it off, but given the circumstances it operates under, it’s unlikely.

iPhone 12 mini review: Battery life, charging

The iPhone 12’s small size means that it can’t be compared to its siblings in terms of battery life. Apple does not publish battery life numbers — we will have to wait until teardowns reveal this information — but we know that the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro packs 2,815-mAh units.

In our battery test, the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 lasts 8 hours and 25 mins. This is because it loads web pages over mobile data (in this instance, AT&T 5G), while the screen brightness is set to 150 nits. On the other hand, the iPhone 12 mini averaged 7 hours 28 minutes over the same network.

Our test result of less than 8 hours was not ideal. The Pixel 5 lasted for two hours on 5G while the Pixel 5 lasted for eight hours. This is likely due to the significantly larger 4,000-mAh battery. During my testing of the Pixel 12, I streamed video and briefly played for three hours straight, at which point the battery life dropped to half. For users who need to be able to use their phone for as long as possible, this is not the right device.

Although the iPhone 12 mini does not come with a charger, we were able to see 60% within 30 minutes using Apple’s 20-watt brick. The new MagSafe charging system offers a peak speed of 15 W, but only provides 12 W for the iPhone 12 miniature. The mini’s battery is smaller so 12 watts should be faster than the larger iPhone 12 models. However, it is important to note.

iPhone 12 mini review: iOS 14

All iPhone 12 models were launched with iOS 14, the most recent version of Apple’s mobile operating software. This update contains a lot of significant changes and improvements over iOS 13. The most notable change is the addition of support for colorful and informative widgets that can now be placed on any homescreen. Also, the App Library, which organizes your apps in folders according to type, has been introduced.

Notifications are now smaller, less visible on the screen. Maps and messages have been redesigned to provide additional functionality. There’s also a picture-in–picture mode, which allows you to view or listen to video regardless of what app you’re using. Our iOS 14.5 review provides a more detailed look at all the features of iOS 14.

Expect an easy upgrade to your iPhone 12 mini when iOS15 arrives Sept. 24. Here’s a list of top iOS 15 features that will be available to all iPhones.

iPhone 12 mini review: Verdict

I love the iPhone 12 mini. It is exactly what I want more phone manufacturers to make. Apple has done it with the iPhone 13 mini, which offers more storage, faster chipsets, and improved camera capabilities.

The iPhone 12 mini was, in a way the most impressive iPhone 12 model. It does all the same things as the bigger, more expensive models, but it is so small that it seems impossible to hold everything.

The arrival of 5G has made it necessary to make compromises when buying phones, as I stated in the announcement for the iPhone 12 mini. They have had to be significantly larger to fit more batteries and all antennas and modems required to support the next-generation networks, especially the mmWave. To offset the rising costs of new technologies and components, they have also been made more expensive.

The iPhone 12 mini may not be as good a deal as you might think. It’s now $599 on contract but the price is likely to be lower than most consumers would like. Most shoppers will choose the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 which also saw a price drop to $699.

This will be the iPhone that discerning buyers have been waiting for at an affordable price. The iPhone 12 mini responds to customers’ desire for a premium, small iPhone and rockets to the top small phones. This device is a feat of packaging and has no true rival, apart from the iPhone 13 mini. The iPhone 12 mini is a phone that’s in a different class, provided you’re willing to take a small hit in battery life and aren’t using Apple’s latest compact smartphone.

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