Laptop Mag Verdict
The iPhone 12 mini is a powerful, pocket-sized phone, but battery life is curtailed by its cute, compact chassis.
Tiny but mighty; Beastly performance
Cute and compact
Mediocre battery life
No power adapter
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The iPhone 12 mini is like the tiny, cute puppy you’re impelled to pet, but it lets out a wolf-sized bark that nearly knocks you off your feet. “I’m not cute!” the mini growls back. “I’m a mean, lean, beastly machine!” The iPhone 12 mini is a pocket-sized phone, but don’t let its size fool you — it’s got a lot of bark and bite. Woof woof!
Packed with the A14 Bionic chip, the iPhone 12 mini has a lightning-fast processor that boastfully says “eat my dust!” to its rivals. Even among its higher-priced siblings (i.e. the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max), the mini has a slight lead in performance — it’s that good.
The mini is a godsend for small-handed folk who despise the onslaught of miniature tablets — er, I mean “phones” — that have recently hit the flagship market. However, due to its small form factor, there are a few trade-offs you’ll have to make, mainly battery life.
Still, with the influx of jumbo smartphones invading store shelves, the super-small iPhone 12 mini stands out in a gigantic way.
iPhone 12 mini price and configurations
The iPhone 12 mini has a starting price of $699 and supports AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon networks. The tiny iPhone 12 mini comes with the world’s fastest smartphone CPU, the blisteringly fast A14 Bionic chip. It sports 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.
I’d recommend upgrading the mini to 128GB of storage; it’ll cost you $150 more, but the upgrade provides you with more longevity if you tend to hoard tons of photos and videos on your phone.
My review unit costs $849; this model bumps up the storage to 256GB. The mini comes in five colors: white, black, blue, green and red.
iPhone 12 mini design
“Aw! It’s so friggin’ cute!” I said when I held the iPhone 12 mini for the first time.
The mini is a breath of fresh air for folks who loathe the new trend of massive phones — they’re unhandy, unwieldy and awkward. The mini, on the other hand, is compact, pocket-sized and fairly lightweight.
The mini, unlike the humongous 6.8-inch LG Wing and the 6.9-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, slipped easily into my jean pockets. My dainty fingers comfortably and naturally wrap around the mini, so if you’re part of the I-have-small-hands-and-therefore-I-need-a-small-phone crew, the iPhone 12 mini couldn’t be more of a perfect fit.
The mini’s boxy, squared-off design, which is reminiscent of the iPhone 5, brings back a rush of wistful nostalgia to when phones actually looked like phones — not funky tablets. Its flat-edge, aluminum sides allow it to stand on its own, which is useful if you don’t have a tripod. Ultra-thin bezels surround the 5.4-inch, Super Retina XDR screen, but a hideous notch eats into the OLED display. The back of the mini features a squircle camera module with two 12MP lenses: wide and ultra-wide.
On the left side, you’ll find two volume buttons and the silencer button. On the right side is a button that can be used to wake your device and activate Siri.
I don’t care for the yawn-inducing, boring black finish on my unit, so I’d put on a phone cover on it. It’s a complete 180 from the iPhone 12 Pro’s stunning Pacific Blue chassis. I wouldn’t dare put a cover on the Pro. In the words of Bruno Mars, “you’re amazing just the way you are!”
The iPhone 12 mini (0.29 inches thin, 4.76 ounces) is slimmer and lighter than its rivals: the Google Pixel 5 (0.31 inches thin, 5.3 ounces), the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (0.33 inches thin, 6.7 ounces) and the OnePlus 8T (0.33 inches thin, 6.6 ounces).
iPhone 12 mini display
The iPhone 12 mini has a 5.4-inch, 2340 x 1080 OLED, Super Retina XDR display.
The phone is adorned with a crystal-infused Ceramic Shield screen that, according to Apple, increases drop performance fourfold. I know when a screen is spectacular because my eyes widen with awe, and unfortunately, I didn’t experience this with the mini. Don’t get me wrong — the mini’s display is fine, but it’s not first-rate.
I watched the Top Gun 2 trailer and I could spot the layer of tears glistening on Jennifer Connelly’s stunning, blue-green eyes as she nervously watched Tom Cruise fly a fighter aircraft. I could even see the tiny beads of sweat populating Miles Teller’s forehead. As a ray of sunlight beamed on his face, Teller’s innumerable pores caught my attention. Visuals on the mini’s display are crisp and defined, but it’s not the sharpest, most colorful screen I’ve seen. Personally, I prefer watching videos on larger displays. With that said, the mini’s panel didn’t blow me away and it won’t win any awards, but it’s decent nonetheless.
The mini, according to our colorimeter, covered only 83% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, which pales in comparison to the average smartphone (107%). The Pixel 5 (91%), Galaxy S20 FE (133%) and OnePlus 8T (120%) knocked the Apple device off its pedestal with their colorful screens.
The mini’s 505-nit display is dimmer than the average smartphone (558 nits). The Apple device is also less bright than the Pixel 5 (610 nits), Galaxy S20 FE (679 nits) and OnePlus 8T (678 nits).
iPhone 12 mini audio
The iPhone 12 mini’s speakers, spiced up with 3D spatial Dolby Atmos support, can be found on the notch and on the bottom edge of the device. Despite its small package, the mini offers shockingly well-amplified audio.
I listened to “Motive” by Ariana Grande and Doja Cat, and the mini’s speakers filled my medium-sized testing room like a newborn with its surprisingly loud wails. The audio perfectly captured the snappy, jazzy beat, Grande’s sultry vocals and Doja Cat’s raspy tone. Although the mini’s speakers are more than satisfactory, it lacks that fluid, honeyed sound you’d hear on a harmonious pair of wireless headphones. I’d recommend the Apple AirPods Pro as a companion to the iPhone 12 mini.
iPhone 12 mini performance
The A14 Bionic chip packed inside iPhone 12 mini is appropriately named due to its Herculean dominance over other smartphone SoCs. Apple boasts that its A14 Bionic chip is the world’s fastest smartphone chip to date. The tech giant talks a big game, and it certainly can back it up.
On the Geekbench 5 overall performance test, the iPhone 12 mini achieved a jaw-dropping score of 4,123, which outpaced the category average (2,977). This is the highest score we’ve recorded from a smartphone to date. The mini, of course, whooped its rivals’ butts: the Pixel 5 (Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G, 1,617), Galaxy S20 FE (Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, 2,928) and OnePlus 8T (Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, 3,203).
On the Jetstream 2.0 web browser test, the iPhone 12 mini served up a mind-blowing score of 196, which defeated the category average (117). The iPhone 12 mini also crushed the Pixel 5 (54), the Galaxy S20 FE (49) and the OnePlus 8T (70).
On the 3DMark Slingshot Extreme test, a demanding graphics benchmark, the iPhone 12 mini served up a score of 5,494, which bypassed the category average (5,064) and the Pixel 5 (3,209). However, the mini couldn’t beat the Galaxy S20 FE (8,134) and the OnePlus 8T (8,128).
In our Adobe Premiere Rush video editing test, the iPhone 12 mini took just 27 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p, flying past the category average (1:21). The Pixel 5 (46 seconds), Galaxy S20 FE (1:24) and the OnePlus 8T (1:38) couldn’t keep up with the iPhone 12 mini’s breakneck speeds.
iPhone 12 mini battery life and charging
The iPhone 12 mini has the smallest battery of all four models (2,227 mAh), as such, its battery life performance is unsurprisingly unimpressive.
On the Laptop Mag battery test (continuous web surfing at 150 nits on AT&T’s network), the mini survived for 7 hours and 21 minutes, which trails the category average (9:48). The Pixel 5 (9:53), the Galaxy S20 FE (8:58) and the OnePlus 8T (9:58) all lasted longer than the mini while the iPhone 12 (8:24) and iPhone 12 Pro (8:15) lasted about an hour longer than their smaller sibling. The iPhone 12 Pro Max (10:53) lasted almost four hours longer than the mini.
Apple introduced a new way of charging the iPhone 12 mini: MagSafe. The MagSafe wireless charging pad, sold separately, snaps on to the circular magnets inside the mini. Using the MagSafe charger, the iPhone 12 mini charged to 33% in 15 minutes and 60% in 30 minutes.
Like the other three models, the iPhone 12 mini does not ship with a power adapter. Apple does, however, provide a USB-C-to-lightning cable. For both the Lightning cable and the MagSafe charger, you’ll need to use a USB-C power adapter to charge the iPhone 12 mini. You can also opt for a Qi charging pad. I’m still fuming over Apple’s power-adapter banishment, but I’m sure the tech giant doesn’t give a rat’s behind about my grievances — after all, it has a loyal consumer base that will gladly bend to its whims.
iPhone 12 mini cameras
The iPhone 12 mini has the same cameras as the standard iPhone 12, but it lacks the LiDAR scanner and telephoto lens that are featured on the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max.
The mini has two 12-megapixel rear cameras: a wide camera with the fastest aperture in iPhone history, seizing 27% more light, and a 120-degree ultra-wide lens that captures four times more than its predecessor. The mini also has a 12MP, front-facing TrueDepth camera. All lenses now feature Night Mode (the iPhone 11 only had Night Mode on its wide camera).
The f/1.6 aperture, 1.4µm primary wide-camera lens sports dual-pixel phase detection autofocus (PDAF) and optical image stabilization (OIS). I took it for a spin at a local park.
I took a picture of a jogging duo at a Long Island park filled with rich autumn ambiance. Even though the joggers were about 50 feet ahead, the wide lens accurately captured the plum-purple and bright-red puffer vests on the couple.
The Mini's wide lens renders color well and captures sufficient detail to reproduce gritty textures such as the cracked concrete and the rough bark supporting a beautiful array of yellow-green leaves.
I also took a picture of an island in the park. What caught my eye the most in this photo is the two men working to keep the Long Island park clean. Although they're quite far away, the wide lens is able to pick up their bright orange and yellow garments. I could even spot a backpack leaf blower on one of the gentlemen's backs.
Once again, the Mini's wide lens captured a true-to-life image of the Long Island park. From the gloomy skies to the wet concrete, the camera took a perfect snapshot of the autumn-draped, drizzling park.
The f/2.4 ultra-wide lens with a 120-degree field of view is a better choice for capturing wide-reaching, scenic landscapes.
Using the ultra-wide lens, I took a photo of the same couple above. Although I didn't move an inch, the ultra-wide lens makes it seem like I was yanked back another 30 feet. The ultra-wide lens redirects its focus from the jogging couple to a wide-ranging shot that captures everything from the lake to the vegetation-filled fences.
Quality and saturation drops a tinge on the ultra-wide lens, but it's a useful tool for group shots, cityscape photos and scenic travel pictures.
With this shot, I could still see the two gentlemen working in the distance, but their prominence in the photo drops as the ultra-wide lens expands its scope to include the perfectly manicured bushes on the far left and two cars on the far right.
The ultra-wide lens isn't as sharp and detailed as the wide lens, but it does a great job at capturing the fall vibes of the park, including the crunchy brown leaves on the ground, the yellow-orange foliage and the menacing clouds above.
The 12MP front-facing, TrueDepth camera kicks your selfies up a notch with Apple’s Lens Correction functionality, which can intelligently auto-correct the edges of your photos for more true-to-life results. The mini’s selfie camera will capture every nook, cranny and crevice of your face, tattling on all of your bad habits — the all-nighter you pulled to finish an assignment, your poor diet and the aftermath of pandemic-induced stress.
In the selfie I took with the mini, I could spot every wayward strand on my scruffy eyebrows. The texture of my skin is highly detailed and crisp; everything from easy-to-spot smile lines to subtle wrinkles under my eyes were captured on the selfie. I could see every frizz from my curls poking out without a care in the world. The polyester fabric of my cheongsam-style dress popped — you could “see” how the dress would feel just by looking at it.
Thankfully, there is Portrait Mode that offers six effects that can soften the harshness of the high-definition camera: Natural Light, Studio Light, Contour Light, Stage Light, Stage Light Mono and High-Key Mono. My favorite, hands down, is Natural Light. Unlike the other lighting effects, Natural Light doesn’t overexpose my face, stripping my complexion of its natural skin tone. Instead, it luxuriates my face with beautiful natural lighting while blurring the background behind me. Check out the gallery below to see the mini’s Portrait Mode shots.
Portrait Mode: Natural Light Effect
Portrait Mode: Studio Light Effect
Portrait Mode: Stage Light Mono
The selfie camera also features Face ID, which works like a charm. But as I mentioned in my iPhone 12 Pro review, I wished Apple provided a fingerprint sensor. If you’re out and about often, needing to frequently yank down your mask to unlock your phone can become a pain in the rear.
Thanks to the new aperture in the wide-lens camera, Night Mode is much better on the iPhone 12 series. I experimented with wide-lens Night Mode on a beautiful framed piece of art that hangs in my dining room.
The iPhone 12 took only three seconds to capture the Night Mode photo of my painting in a poorly lit environment. The colors are slightly off and the quality drops a bit, but overall, the results are impressive considering how dark it was when I took the photo. From the ornate, gold frame to the glossy, tactile surface of the artwork, the wide lens captured the textures of the painting quite well.
iPhone 12 mini software: iOS 14
The security features on the iPhone 12 mini will ease your concerns about unwanted infiltrators. Apps must request your permission to access sensitive information such as your photo album, location, nearby devices on your local network and more. Thanks to Apple’s color-coded dot system, iOS 14 can also tell you when an app is using your camera and microphone: a green dot means your camera is in use and an amber one means your mic is being utilized.
Some malicious apps will tap into your camera, microphone, photo albums, Wi-Fi, and even your clipboard history to track you, but thankfully, iOS 14 has put the power back into users’ hands to regain control over who has access to their information.
With features such as picture-in-picture mode, you can become a multitasking master. For example, you can FaceTime or watch Netflix while interacting with other apps. My only gripe with iOS 14 is that Siri still sucks; she’s much dumber than Google Assistant, often sending me links to websites rather than answering my questions herself.
The iPhone 12 mini is a pocket-sized powerhouse, packed inside a cute, compact chassis, that shocked me with its beastly performance. In the same way you wouldn’t expect the frail, rail-thin underdog to take down its Goliath rival, I had my doubts about the puny-looking iPhone 12 due to its incy-wincy form factor.
Boy, did the mini prove me wrong! The little firecracker kicked some serious butt.
So who is the iPhone 12 mini for? The petite phone is for small-handed folks who’ve been begging for smartphone giants to make a device that fits in the palm of their hands. The mini is also for nostalgic Apple fans who are elated over the return of the candy-bar shaped, iPhone 5-esque design. Lastly, the mini is for budget-conscious shoppers who want to own a top-of-the-line Apple device without breaking the bank.
I’m not crazy about the mini’s display nor its below-average battery life, but with its super-small footprint, trade-offs are a given. If you want a phone with an ultra-bright, vivid screen and 10 hours of battery life, the OnePlus 8T is the best option within the mini’s price range, but you’ll have to deal with its large, 6.5-inch form factor.
The iPhone 12 mini’s display and battery endurance may fall short, but the mini is a bite-sized beast with an industry-leading processor that outperforms every single smartphone we’ve tested to date.
Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!