The iPhone 12 mini: My thoughts and experiences so far

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

In 2020, Apple has given consumers the widest ever selection of iPhones to choose from. From the 2nd generation iPhone SE with its legacy home button design and a 4.7 inch screen, to the four new iPhone 12 models which range from 5.4 inches to a massive 6.7 inches, there really should be something in the line up to suit everyone’s preferences.

Why the 12 mini?

I won’t recap all of the ins and outs of the various options here, but I will say that from the earliest rumours through to the actual announcement last month, my interest was very much peaked by the iPhone 12 mini. I’ve been using iPhones since the 3GS back in 2010, with my favourites probably being that 3GS itself, the 5S and the 7. In 2014, intrigued by the idea of a bigger screen, I plumped for the iPhone 6+ with its 5.5 inch display. I can honestly say that it is the only iPhone I have ever owned which I actively disliked. It was just far too big and clunky for my taste, and all but impossible to operate one-handed. It was a blessed relief when I downsized a year later to the 4.7 inch iPhone 6s. I took the leap to the newly designed iPhone X in 2017. While it was marginally larger and noticeably heavier, it was within tolerable levels. The iPhone 11 grew a little more, still very usable but getting into uncomfortable territory, but I did like the full edge to edge display, so a switch to the iPhone SE was never really on the cards for me. I prefer the modern edge to edge displays both because I have some limited sight remaining, and because I find the likes of the status bar and the dock at the top and bottom of the phone easier to locate. This is because essentially, the whole front of the device is screen.

I immediately thought therefore that the iPhone 12 mini offered the chance of a return to the smaller, sleeker design I like, without giving up that modern full screen display. In fact, it’s amazing to think that the mini’s 5.4 inch display is almost as large as the display on that iPhone 6+ I had disliked so much. If you’d asked me a year ago, I’d have told you that I was very unlikely to upgrade again in 2020. This is because there’s simply no real need to upgrade on a yearly basis these days from a performance perspective. Even after the announcement of the mini, as interested as I was, I struggled to make my mind up. In the end though, I found I couldn’t resist.

Early Impressions

My very first impressions as I took the iPhone 12 mini out of its box was to be wowed by just how small, and possibly even more notably, how light it seemed. Of course your perception will vary depending on which phone you’re used to, but for me coming from an iPhone 11, it felt almost like a toy at first. With it’s flat edges and small design, immediately, it reminded me of holding the iPhone 5s, so much so that for the first couple of days I found my thumb automatically searching for a home button. Of course it is larger than the 5S was, but it’s a very familiar feel.

I had some minor niggling doubts for the first few days, but after a week or so of usage, I have gotten used to the new form factor and it no longer feels toy-like. I can honestly say I love it. A decent size screen, which still fits as many icons on screen as my previous phones, but light, comfortable and easy to operate one-handed in most circumstances. Despite being so light, the mini nonetheless feels pretty premium and very modern. The flat edge design too took some getting used to. In some ways it’s an improvement as it is easier to grip, meaning I feel less at risk of dropping it, but it’s possibly not quite as comfortable as the similar size, but rounded edges, of the 2020 iPhone SE.

The Battery

So to the question on everybody’s lips; What about the battery? With a smaller phone comes a smaller battery, and thus some people worry whether the mini will be suitable for them. While I am confident that the other iPhone 12 models will have better battery life, I can honestly say that battery has not been a problem at all for me in my first week or so with the iPhone 12 mini. I recall one day of light to moderate usage, I still had 48% battery when I went to bed at 11:30pm. On Friday, I used the phone more heavily, and had over 20% at 11:30pm, and 6% when I eventually went to bed at 3am. Of course your milage will vary depending on your usage habits, but so far at least, I can say that I have not found the battery to be any worse than my one year old iPhone 11. I suspect that on days of quite heavy usage, I may occasionally need to top it up, but I’m ok with that.

One frustration though is that the iPhone 12 mini is not compatible with the particular wireless charging stand which I have on my nightstand. It is a stand which is designed to charge both a phone and a watch. Unfortunately the mini is not tall enough for the charging coils to align, meaning it doesn’t work. This means I will either have to invest in a new wireless charging solution, or go back to charging via the cable.

Performance

Performance is unsurprisingly great, very snappy, so no complaints at all. I can’t say with any great confidence that it’s perceptively faster than the iPhone 11, but nor would I expect it to be. Year on year, the improvements are relatively small, but if you’re upgrading from an iPhone 7 or 8 for example, I’m sure you will notice a big difference and won’t be disappointed. The only thing missing versus the Pro models really is the LIDAR scanner and the people detection feature it enables. For me though, as interesting as it is, it still looks like quite early technology, so not something I’m particularly worried about right now.

Conclusion

All in all this is a phone which I didn’t need, but really wanted, and I am very happy with the purchase. It is light, comfortable and easy to operate one-handed, while still having a nice 5.4 inch edge to edge screen. Oh and I was able to get it in blue, my favourite colour, even if it is more of a navy-blue!

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Comments

Submitted by Mister Kayne on Sunday, November 22, 2020

The 12 mini is a tree for the small phone lovers had I waited I would have not bought the SE 2020 but appreciate the home button on it.

Loved reading your honest and detailed review

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Sunday, November 22, 2020

I do feel the twinge of envy at your excellent review. I went for the 12 Pro and feel that the £300 difference between that and the mini may not be quite worth the extra battery, base memory and LIDAR. Another aspect to consider is the cases. In reviews I've seen that the leather wallet actually works quite nicely with the mini because it is the same size.

I'm really interested to hear that the battery isn't too bad. I think my fear was that it was going to be as bad as the iPhone 8 from which I was coming.

Either way, I've chosen, still... I do like the idea of something so dinky.

Submitted by Jeff on Sunday, November 22, 2020

In reply to by Oliver Kennett

My concern is that the iPhone 12 Mini's battery life isn't as *good* as the iPhone 8. I'm surprised you think the iPhone 8 has poor battery life. Now that I'm using my iPhone 8 as my audiobook player as well as for phone calls, texting and a daily scan through Facebook, I usually have between 40% and 60% battery left at the end of the day if I've taken it off the charger that morning. I can usually get 2 days out of a full charge.

I've been reading so many comments about the iPhone SE and iPhone 12 Mini having dismal battery life that I began to wonder if they'd be worse than my iPhone 8. If either or both the SE and the 12 Mini have a battery life as good as or better than the iPhone 8, I'd be quite satisfied.

Submitted by gailisaiah on Monday, November 23, 2020

Hi Dave82, Thanks for the review. I am thinking about upgrading to this phone from my iPhone 8.

Submitted by Pepper Fox on Monday, November 23, 2020

Glad you're enjoying your new phone. The entire 12 lineup seems really nice, and it's good that the battery isn't as big a concern as I thought. Guess that a14 SoC is just really, really efficient.

Submitted by Dave Nason on Saturday, November 28, 2020

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Thanks all. Yes, another week on and I'm still very happy. Of course if battery is a major concern for you, you may want to read a few more reviews alongside mine, but as I said a week ago, my own experience is that the battery is good enough for me, and seems to be lasting as long as my iPhone 11 did.
I would be surprised if the battery was any smaller than in the iPhone 8 or 2020 SE, and with the up to date A14 chip, it should be more efficient. But I don't know for certain as I haven't tested them.
By the way, I'm considering getting a case for it, so if anyone can recommend a good slim fit case, that would be great ☺️

Submitted by Berlief on Monday, November 30, 2020

I am a newly registered user, but follow this forum for quite a while. I recall a thread here comparing macbooks and iPhones. A remarkable thing was that a bigger screen is rather a disadvantage for a low-vision and especially for a blind person.

Submitted by Clare Page on Monday, November 30, 2020

Hi! Having bought the iPhone SE 2020 in the spring of this year when the battery of my ageing iPhone 6 threatened to give up the ghost, I obviously have no need to upgrade to the iPhone 12 Mini when it was recently released. However, I was pleased to read in the review above that the iPhone 12 Mini is a good phone, one that I would have enjoyed using if I'd bought it. Since I have small hands and prefer smaller iPhones, I might well have considered buying this model if I hadn't badly needed a new phone when the SE was released. Now that the Mini has joined the iPhone line-up, I hope that an equivalent-sized model will exist for many years to come, even if Apple releases updated versions of it in the future. I don't suppose I'm the only person out there who prefers smaller iPhones, and it's good to see that Apple has released two models this year whose screens are less than six inches. Of course, there's plenty of demand for big iPhone screens, I don't deny that, they're just not for me. May Apple continue to give us such a wide choice of sizes, from the mini to the max, for a long time to come!

Hi Clare. Yes, I completely agree. There's definitely a market out there for the smaller phones, so here's hoping they're here to stay. A month on now, I can definitely say I still love the phone, one of my favourite phones ever.
I have just got the MagSafe charger too, and it works very well, though it is a shame that my old Belkin stand didn't fit this phone.

Submitted by WellF on Saturday, December 19, 2020

In reply to by Berlief

Not for everyone. If you have good muscle memory you won't be disapointed with an ipad or a bigger iphone. It's just a matter of weeks until you learn where stuff should be on the screen.

Submitted by Jo Billard on Saturday, December 19, 2020

In reply to by Berlief

Not true. I have an 8+, my first phone, and the reason I got a larger screen was so it might be less difficult to make mistakes, and I'm glad I did. Now I'm ready for a smaller screen, but I don't think one would have worked for me two years ago.

Submitted by Mister Kayne on Monday, December 28, 2020

Most of the planet loves the 12 Mini; but is disappointed with the battery life

I had similar feedback when I was planning to buy the SE 2020; however, with my personal experience it does a fair enough job in lasting me for a day. Since I am at home, I indulge a bit more on social media applications including watching any notifications I receive from YouTube. At around 6PM depending on how much of social media and video watching I have done; my battery hits low power mode at 40%

Somethings I always wondered was when I had my SE first edition; I felt that it's the best phone I have owned and I wouldn't want to trade it for the world. Then I was tempted by the SE 2020 and the A13 Bionic chip. With a battery health of 86% on my SE what I was planning to do was even if the battery dropped, replace it and continue with the same phone. Temptation had the best of me and here I am today, with the SE 2020 64GB variant and saying the same thing to myself; best phone to own and I don't think I will upgrade.

May be the half eaten logo of apple has something to do with leading me into temptation again; the 12 Mini has me awed for it's features but the price even for the smallest 64GB variant is going to get me killed! I just bought the SE 2020 and it's just too early for me to succumb to this temptation. I am curious though about these things:

1. How do you take a screen shot now that you don't have a home button?
2. How do you access stuff like the home screen; app. switcher? I assume getting to notifications and control panel is by using the same gesture.
3. How do you do a reset to clear phone RAM/ cache memory? earlier done by pressing the power button and when the option for Power Off comes on the screen, press the home button until you are asked to enter the pass code
4. Now that there is no home button; how do you get VoiceOver to turn on/ off without the triple clicking of the home button? related under accessibility settings you can currently choose any accessibility shortcut for the home button. What now?
5. No home button means no need to press and hold for Siri; so Hey Siri should be kept on always, will that not kill battery good?

Thank you for the realistic review of the 12 Mini; wishing you and all the members of the applevis team a merry Christmas and a great year ahead!

Submitted by Brian Giles on Monday, December 28, 2020

I got a 128GB 12 mini for Christmas and can't wait to start using it. Still using my XR for now as I can't get past the activation screen on the mini. So I have to make a Best Buy run later this week to see if they can help since Apple stores here are still closed and I don't have iTunes to connect it to. Who plugs their phone into iTunes even in the weirdness that is 2020? lol

I don't miss the home button at all. to answer some of the previous poster's questions:

Home screen and app switcher are accessed by dragging up from the bottom of the phone toward the middle. You let go when you hear the tone you want. First is for home screen, second is for the app switcher. Control center/notification center work the same way by dragging down from the top of the screen. These took me a while to get used to, but I got the hang of it after having my XR for a couple days, much like when I first started using VO on iOS.

I think you press and release the power button and one of the volume buttons to take a scren showt.

Quickly toggle accessibility shortcut triple click the power button.

Access Siri manually: hold the power button till you hear the siri chime.

Not sure if you can clear the ram though. I usually just reboot my phone if I notice it being sluggish.

Submitted by kool_turk on Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Who plugs their phone into iTunes?

I do, because I prefer my backups on my pc.

And if something were to go wrong, as far as I know, iOS doesn't have an internet recovery option.

Thanks for answering some of those questions by the way, I was going to do it, but it was taking me too long to write up a response.

Clearing the ram requires you to have assistive touch turned on.

I have mine asigned to one of the back tap options, but you can ask Siri to turn it on or off.

You'll need it to have access to a virtual home button, since you no longer have one, then it's a matter of pressing volume up, followed by volume down, then hold the power/side button until the power off screen comes up.

Then you find your assistive touch menu, double tap on that, find your home button, triple tap, and you're done.

Note, you need to press the volume up, then volume down in a reasonable amount of time, if you take too long, it simply won't work.

I am not sure if you know; but when setting up the new phone; you will get a prompt asking to bring your old phone near to the new phone and it will set everything up to your new phone just as it was on your old phone. I also always recommend that you back up your data on iCloud instead of your PC there are 2 advantages of doing that; moving data between phones is easily possible and you can access your data anytime from anywhere, you do not have to depend on your computer.

I also wanted to reply to this statement in the review: fits as many icons on screen as my previous phones
This is something we should not worry about at all with the IOS 14.3 update. The applications that you need the most can be on your home screen and the others go to the app. library. I have only one page of applications on my home screen. This is really a very clean experience because I can glance the screen to see any badge notifications for those apps. The rest of them I do not have to worry about much.

One thing I am not liking about the app. library is that when you get to that screen, search the app. launch it and try getting back to the home screen you need to go back from that app. library screen 2 times to get to your home screen. In my world I imagined pressing the home button once should get you back to the home screen