Think Dainty: The iPhone 12 mini Kicks Butt

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

For years, my early childhood only included me and my younger sister. We lived with our parents near Lake Michigan in a small Indiana town. We enjoyed the temperate summers and were buried in snow each winter. It was an idyllic time, nary a care, just us two little kids being adorable.

In the second half of 1958, life morphed in a new direction. My Mom began to expand. She had always been tall, slim and athletic, but now she waddled about with what appeared to be a watermelon hidden beneath her clothes. We learned that Mom was growing babies, not just one, but two. And, as predicted, early the next year, Mom disappeared for a few days and returned with a little brother and a little sister. They were really cute and really small, but they could not do as much as bigger kids.

After a memorable blizzard in late 1960, my father moved us all to California, only 27 miles from Disneyland. We visited the park many, many times. While I could run alone to the Matterhorn bobsled ride, the twins were pushed around in their stroller. When another sister appeared in 1963, she was likewise hampered. While the little ones remained restrained, I was off to "Mister Toad's Wild Ride." I could go everywhere and do anything. My size, agility and speed were my natural advantage. Lesson learned? Bigger was better.

Six months before the first lunar landing, my Dad accepted another job, this time in Houston, Texas. So, we moved again. What a culture shock! As a young outsider from California, I had to quickly adopt the local vernacular if I was ever going to fit in. I began to use words like "Y'all," "Daggum" and "Howdy." My survival instincts dictated that I quickly abandon some West Coast cliches such as "That's beautiful!" and "Far out!" Some words, like "Dainty" were never incorporated into my new Texas lexicon. In fact, until this writing, I don't believe I have ever even typed that word.

Beginning with my first blog for AppleVis in August 2015, I have encouraged people to "Think Small." Sometimes, small can be a huge advantage. For example, computers need not tie you to a secured machine room, an office desk, or fry your lap while sitting in a chair. In my humble opinion, an ideal computer should fit in your pocket, giving you access to the world, providing you with a platform to be creative, and keeping you entertained while waiting out, let's say, a global pandemic.

I discovered my first pocket computer in July 2010 with the iPhone 4. Except for the fact that it took me two weeks to reliably hang up phone calls, I quickly fell in love with the new technology. I almost immediately graduated to the 4S because I saw the utility of having access to Siri. TouchID drove me to the 5S. And then I lost my mind. My next iPhone was the iPhone 6S Plus. I gave up a sleek, lightweight device for a behemoth. Bigger is better, right? The 6S Plus was nice, for a while, until it started baking my chest and constantly dragging down one side of my shirt. Too big and too hot. I finally upgraded and downsized to the iPhone 8, but it was still heftier than I would have preferred. However, even though I understood that the iPhone 8 was still a bit of a beast, I decided that I needed FaceID. I bought the iPhone Xr, a bigger, heavier, hotter monstrosity. With a leather folio case, the Xr extended well above my straining shirt pocket. That made it top heavy, which gave gravity an unfair advantage should I ever bend forward. Was that a problem? Only when I set down a dog bowl on a hard tiled kitchen floor, which occurred many times a day. And, heaven forbid if I tried to balance the expensive slab on my comfy chair's arm rest so as to take the weight and heat off my chest. Do I hate my Xr? Of course not. My Mom used to say, "Hate is too strong a word." However, it is fair to say that this iPhone and I have never grown close.

I really wanted a change.

When I first began to read rumors of the purported iPhone 12 features, I was a bit underwhelmed. Like so many others, I've been in lockdown since March, so the potentially faster cellular speeds meant nothing to me. I have Wi-Fi at home. The multiple fancy cameras would get no more use than a single one. I have taken perhaps three-dozen photos in ten years and never purposefully saved a one. Sharper, more energy efficient displays would not impress me as my screen is always turned off.

The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro appeared too much like my current phone. Massive. The iPhone 12 Pro Max looked like an invitation to herniate myself. Maybe it was worth waiting until the next product cycle. Still, there was one Apple model that stirred my interest.

At first, I mentally dismissed the iPhone 12 mini. Too small. I love my customized four-finger gestures and could not imagine having to swipe or tap without them. I pulled out my retired iPhone 5S and realized that by including the display space used by the old Home button, the 5S was only a bit smaller than the new iPhone 12 mini. And, it appeared that I could perform all the multi-finger gestures I had learned to love. I kept comparing the mock mini to the Xr and found myself very tempted. I began to carry the 5S with me everywhere. I would execute a task with the Xr and then pretend to do the same with the smaller 5S. A few days after iPhone 12 mini online purchases were being accepted, I finally ordered my own in Pacific Blue with 256GB of storage. Small on the outside, packed on the inside.

Two days after that fateful decision, I found a review on TechRadar that referred to the mini as a "dainty delight." Initially, I was concerned that they were going to suggest that the new phone was too delicate or frail. Not so. Overall, they found the iPhone 12 mini to be a very powerful and capable machine. I thought about what "dainty" might mean to me. I remembered my attendance at past wine events, accepting proffered canapés from a server's silver tray. Those were dainty, and those were great.

A new rugged leather folio case from Nomad arrived the same day as my iPhone 12 mini. Unpacking revealed a delightfully dainty phone. So light, so small, so perfect. I slipped my new mini into its case and it felt very classy. I found myself exclaiming, "That's beautiful!" and "Far out!"

Has my new iPhone 12 mini met my expectations? Absolutely. I love the size, weight and responsiveness of the new iPhone 12 mini. It is both powerful and gorgeous. And, it is just plain comfortable to handle and use.

One much noted concern with the iPhone 12 mini is its smaller battery. Will it last as long as the larger iPhone 12 models? Probably not. However, I prefer to carry a pocket friendly phone that may occasionally require a bit more juice. Needed or not, I just top off the battery in the late afternoon at my convenience and don't think about it for the rest of the day. If I were traveling, I'd simply bring one of my portable batteries, just in case.

I am exceedingly pleased with my iPhone choice this year. The iPhone 12 mini is the very device I've been wanting. It's often the small things in life that make us happiest. For the last twenty-five years, my wife and I have enjoyed our home on the top of a Texas hill, surrounded by steep cliffs, large trees and abundant wildlife. I don't think of this house as being particularly big. Bigger is not better if what you have is already perfect.


This is my twenty-sixth blog for AppleVis. Previous contributions include "A Dozen Dozen: Dreaming of iPhone 12 and iOS 14," "Staying Home: Already A Pro," and "Blind Santa: Audible Books from me to me."

Please feel free to share in the comments how your own technology is helping you stay connected during these challenging times. And, dear friends, please stay safe and stay healthy.

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Comments

Submitted by Patrick Smyth on Monday, November 30, 2020

Go small or go home. Thanks for the essay, and glad you're happy with the new model.

Submitted by Mister Kayne on Monday, November 30, 2020

I am now on the SE 2 upgrade it from the SE. had I waited I too would have probably bought the 12 mini, but the price was really discouraging

Submitted by Travis Roth on Monday, November 30, 2020

Club AppleVis Member

Hi,
I too like small devices. I have been hearing that mFI hearing aid connections have been having some issues on the iPhone 12 models so far. What have your experiences been if you're still using mFI? Thanks.

Submitted by Jim D on Monday, November 30, 2020

Morgan:
Thanks for this post, I always enjoy your writing style and thoughtful comments. Like you, I ordered the 12 Mini shortly after it started shipping. I had been using a 10S and was intrigued by the smaller size and faster processor. After receiving the phone and doing all of the setup, I noticed that Face ID wasn't nearly as accurate with the Mini as it was on my 10S. I would have thought that when using a newer phone with a faster processor, Face ID would have been quicker, but the exact opposite was true. I also really liked the ability to wake up my 10S just by flipping open the case. This was not possible with the Mini as Apple doesn't currently sell a folio case for this new phone. So, despite the smaller size and 5G capability, I decided to return the Mini and go back to my 10S.
If you use Face ID with your Mini, how do you find this feature compared to some of your other phones?
Thanks again for the post.
Jim

Submitted by PaulMartz on Monday, November 30, 2020

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Hi Morgan. That iPhone 12 Mini with 5g support tempted me, but ultimately I selected the iPhone SE 2020. The price was an issue. Another issue? After almost two years with the iPhone XR, I found I really wanted a home button with Touch ID.

It's great to see Apple offering a variety of small products to suit every user's need.

Submitted by Khushi on Tuesday, December 1, 2020

your writing style is always amazing.. I love the way you mix personal anecdotes with your tech reviews, giving them something I always love reading a lot of blogs, the personal touch.
I hope apple continues to sell smaller phones till 4-5 years from now because I bought my IPhone 6s last year. my first IPhone ever and am loving it so far.. just the battery will probably last for 2-3 years more as it is quite smaller from my android device which is the only thing I don't like.

Submitted by Morgan Watkins on Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

In reply to by Patrick Smyth

Patrick,

I really do enjoy the new iPhone 12 mini. Many years ago, I decided to do all of my computing tasks with a single device and that happens to be my iPhone. My 30-year career at the University of Texas was all about academic and research computing, so I am reasonably adept with technology, but I hate having to carry around a laptop or be forced to sit at a desk. I keep my Bluetooth keyboards and charging cables at strategic places in the house and car, so I am always able to work or play. The size of the new mini is perfect as it slips so easily into my shirt pocket and has a long enough battery life that I don't find the occasional charging to be intrusive at all.

Thanks for writing. It's great to hear from you.

Happy December,

Morgan

Submitted by Morgan Watkins on Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

In reply to by Mister Kayne

Dear Mister Kayne,

I understand your point. These phones can be a bit costly. I had much the same reaction as you, but finally decided I had saved enough on not eating out for almost nine months, and I knew I would likely get a great deal of pleasure from an iPhone that did not overflow my pocket. I was thinking of waiting until next year, always interested in unknown features that have yet to be announced. But, that strong will crumbled and I got the new mini. However, I was also intrigued by the very model you purchased. Another great buy!

Have a wonderful holiday season,

Morgan

Submitted by Morgan Watkins on Thursday, December 3, 2020

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

In reply to by Travis Roth

Dear Travis,

Yes, I am still a happy MFI hearing aid user. I wear the Oticon Opn S 1 miniRITE hearing aids. Initially, the iPhone 12 iPhones did have a problem with hearing aids, at least with some hearing aid models, and one of those models was mine. However, once Apple introduced iOS 14.2, the worst problem for me, bursts of loud static, went away. I was in touch with Apple accessibility and was very pleased with their communication and interest in fixing the problem. Now, as has been the case since I first started wearing hearing aids, I still get random connectivity drops from one hearing aid or the other, usually reestablishing in seconds. That's nothing new, and I also keep reporting that issue. Is it a major problem for me. Nope. I also frequently get a less than perfect signal to my hearing aids when using a Bluetooth keyboard with my iPhone. I've noticed that problem with multiple iPhones with various iOS versions since I began wearing hearing aids in March 2019. I actually think that problem is substantially better with the latest iOS, but that is a non-scientific observation.

As I type this response, the hearing aids, keyboard and iPhone are perfectly working together, which is becoming more of the norm for me. Now, when I want a stellar iPhone hearing experience, I may also put on some Beats Flex headphones, or my AirPods or AirPod Pros. Since my hearing aids are "receiver in the ear" models, I have found that I can keep my hearing aids in place and still use these other audio devices. This all works very well for me.

Your question was excellent. I was glad that you remembered that I also wore hearing aids. I love them! Until a bit less than two years ago, I had no idea how much hearing I had lost. It really is rather glorious to hear so well now.

Warm wishes,

Morgan

Howdy Jim,

Thanks for your kind note. I enjoyed getting your message. And, I sure do understand the difficulty you had!

When I first got the iPhone 12 mini, I initially was a bit disappointed with FaceID, experiencing much of what you described. For me, I quickly found a way to get considerably better FaceID response and it is now noticeably faster than FaceID on my old iPhone Xr. First, I began to think that maybe the FaceID camera did not have quite as wide of view of my face. I began to hold the phone ever so slightly different when I wanted to be identified and that seemed to work much better. I also set up an alternative FaceID, one of the options you have when setting up FaceID, believing that if one FaceID attempt fails, then perhaps the alternative view of my same face will work. I have read absolutely nothing that says this is a reasonable strategy, but my iPhone 12 mini has been very responsive and significantly faster, so I choose to believe my efforts were possibly correct. If I am fooling myself, it would not be the first time.

Jim, like you, I am a huge folio case fan. I bought one early so that I would have it when my phone arrived, and it made it! I had my new iPhone in its case within minutes.. Folio cases make me happy.

Thanks for writing. Great hearing from you.

Stay well and please stay healthy,

Morgan

Dear Paul,

It is always a treat to hear from you.

I agree with both your points. The iPhone 12 mini is a bit expensive and I, too, appreciate the utility of Touch ID. What I continue to hope for is an iPhone that has both FaceID and TouchID embeded under the display glass. That would be a phone I would likely buy, if it were small enough.

It sounds like you have a great new phone with exactly what you need.

By the way, Paul, I really enjoy your writing for AppleVis. I read everything you author. Your work is fun, informative and well written. Thank you for all those efforts.

Warm wishes to you and your family,

Morgan

Dear Khushi,

It's really great to hear from you again. And, I am glad you joined us in the Apple ecosystem.

Thanks for your kind feedback on my writing. That was very nice. I love the latest technology, but I also like story telling, so writing for AppleVis lets me do the two things I enjoy most when putting words together.

The hardest part of composing a story is keeping it trimmed down. A lot of detail has to be abandoned. For instance, we did not just live in three homes by the time we finally moved to Texas, that was my ninth home. However, the story would have been considerably longer had I included all of the other places we lived. Some day, I will write more about the years we lived in what became Silicon Valley.

Thank you for writing. It is always a pleasure hearing from you,

Morgan

Submitted by fatih on Monday, December 7, 2020

Isn't the iPhone 12 mini as big as iPhone 7 or 8 plus? How can it be so small? Or is it the size of iPhone se 2020? The screen sizes say that iPhone 7plus, for example, is 5.5 inch and iPhone 12 mini is 5.4 inch. And iPhone se 2020 is 4.7 inch, I believe.

Dear Fatih,

Your question is one that I initially had as well. I hope this helps.

Generally, when you look up screen sizes on iPhones, you are seeing the size of the display where you can see the illuminated area and perform gestures. So, if you have a Home button, you loose a bunch of visible display space at the bottom of the screen. So, a SE2020 has a smaller screen size, than the iPhone 12 mini, but the entire SE2020 device is slightly larger. That's because you have a Home button taking up real estate. Of course, if you prefer TouchID in a smaller footprint, the SE2020 sounds like a great iPhone. You mentioned both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 plus. Although the 8 plus had a larger area for gestures than the 12 mini, it was considerably larger and heavier for carrying in a pocket or a purse. The iPhone 7 had a smaller screen for viewing and gestures, but it was also larger than the iPhone 12 mini. The iPhone 12 mini is slightly larger in overall size than a phone like the old iPhone 5S, but the mini has considerably more real display space for gestures and viewing . My last iPhone was the iPhone Xr, which is a really nice device, but it was just too large and heavy. The iPhone 12 mini does have a smaller display, but the same number of icons still appear on the Home screen and it is considerably smaller and lighter. And, although I have relatively large hands, I am having no problem with my four-finger gestures. I rather like FaceID, in part, because I like the entire display being available for gestures. As a totally blind user, the smaller footprint of the iPhone 12 mini makes it perfect for me.

I'm not a wizard on all the tech specs, but I did check the Web and was able to verify what I've shared here. If you make some other discovery or I am in error on some of this, please let me know.

Best wishes,

Morgan