NEW Apple iPhone 13 mini review

The Apple iPhone 13 series succeeds the iPhone 12 series - and despite rumours suggesting we wouldn't see the return of the faithful smaller-scale mini in the 2021 line-up, thankfully those rumours were false. Because the mini is back and it's better than ever. 

The iPhone 13 mini is the smallest in the iPhone 13 series - which consists of four devices: the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max - but don't let its smaller screen size fool you into thinking it's a lesser device. Sometimes great things come in small packages and the iPhone 13 mini is indeed a pocket powerhouse.

Compact design

  • Finishes: Midnight, Pink, Blue, Starlight, Product (RED) 
  • Dimensions: 131.5. x 64.2 x 7.65mm / Weight: 141g
  • IP68 water-resistant rating
  • Ceramic Shield front

The Apple iPhone 13 mini takes its design cues straight from its predecessor, the iPhone 12 mini. Those paying close attention will spot a couple of differences, though, including a reduced notch at the top of the display and a larger camera housing - and consequently larger camera lenses - which means any old cases won't fit.

The flat edge design continues from the iPhone 12 mini, albeit a fraction of a millimetre thicker, while aluminium continues to be the material of choice for the frame, with glass handling duties on the rear. The matte finish of the frame isn't as premium looking as the iPhone 13 Pro models, but the size and weight of the mini make it a delight to hold - even one-handed.

The larger camera housing on the rear is certainly more prominent on this smaller iPhone compared to the others. It's because the larger lenses - arranged diagonally for the 2021 design - just stand out much more on the smaller device. That said, you'd be hard-pressed to find a smartphone these days where the rear camera housing isn't a dominating design feature.

Overall, the iPhone 13 mini's compact build is refreshing, the ideal choice for those who don't want a giant-screen phone. It's small, lightweight, and pocketable - but with all the power of the larger option in the range.

Brighter display

  • 5.4-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display
  • 2340 x 1080 resolution (476ppi)
  • 1200nits max brightness (HDR)
  • True Tone, Haptic Touch

The Apple iPhone 13 has a 5.4-inch display, which although isn't the smallest screen in the company's portfolio - the iPhone SE has a 4.7-inch display - it is the smallest device physically. That's thanks to the iPhone 13 mini opting for Face ID at the top of the display, rather than a Touch ID button below it.

We briefly mentioned that the notch had been reduced for the iPhone 13 series, though this reduction is slight. Aside from messing with a few apps like Instagram - which will no doubt be fixed imminently - you probably wouldn't even notice the reduction unless you had the older phone sat alongside the new one. It's a nice gesture but it's not a game-changer overall.

The iPhone 13 mini also has a brighter display than the iPhone 12 mini (from 1000nits to 1200nits for HDR). However, nothing else changes on the display compared to the 2020 model. The resolution stays the same, as does the technology, with True Tone and Haptic Touch both on board. Overall, the screen is vibrant, punchy, and delivers great viewing angles.

Unlike the iPhone 13 Pro models and many other flagship smartphones like Samsung's Galaxy S21 range, the iPhone 13 mini retains a standard 60Hz refresh rate rather than adding Apple's ProMotion technology, which delivers an adaptive refresh rate (from 10Hz up to 120Hz). Will you notice? Perhaps if you had a Pro next to a mini to compare, but in reality, probably not.

Dual cameras

  • Dual rear cameras:
    • Main (26mm): 12-megapixel, f/1.6 aperture, 1.7µm pixel size, sensor-shift stabilisation
    • Wide (13mm): 12MP, f/2.4, 120-degree FOV
  • TrueDepth front camera:
    • 12-megapixel, f/2.2 aperture
  • No LiDAR sensor, no optical zoom lens
  • Night Mode, Cinematic Video, Photographic Styles

One of the best things about the iPhone, as well as devices like Samsung's Galaxy S21 and Google's Pixel 5, is the ability to deliver good camera results without any hassle. Point, shoot, get a decent result. 

Don't get us wrong, though, it's great to also have the option to do more manually to get a slightly more arty shot or video - which is where new features like Cinematic video and Photographic Styles come into play.

The Apple iPhone 13 mini features a dual rear camera, comprised of a 12-megapixel wide and 12-megapixel ultra-wide. The main sensor is said to let in 48 per cent more light than the iPhone 12 mini and it also features the iPhone 12 Pro Max's sensor-shift optical image stabilisation. The ultra-wide camera, meanwhile, is said to offer four times more in the shot. 

Compared to the larger Pro models, you miss out on macro mode, the third telephoto lens for optical zoom, and ProRes (which is coming later this year). If you're interested in how the 2021 Pro's camera system performs then head to our iPhone 13 Pro review.

In terms of the iPhone 13 mini, results in good lighting conditions are excellent, with plenty of detail, while low-light performance is also great. Occasionally we noticed a slight delay between tapping the shutter button and Night Mode kicking in to take the shot, but the end result is good nevertheless.

The Cinematic video mode we mentioned enables you to select where you want the focus to be and that object, person or pet will be tracked throughout capture. You can change the focus during the video or you can change it after the fact, so it can be as complicated or simple as you like. It's a fun feature and one that is well worthy of a try - but good lighting is necessary for it to work properly.

On the video front, 4K HDR recording with Dolby Vision is supported at 60fps, with Dolby Vision and HDR kicking in automatically, as was the case with the iPhone 12 mini.

The Photographic Styles feature is another one that runs across the whole of the iPhone 13 series, applying a subtle filter to the image. Although be warned: you can only apply the filter ahead of taking a picture and once taken you can't remove it. Thankfully the results are subtle, so you're not going to end up with a ruinous bleach bypass effect or anything like that. There are four presets - Vibrant, Rich Contrast, Warm, Cool - that can be accessed with a swipe up from the bottom in the camera app that you can opt to use before you press the shutter button. 

Performance and battery

  • Up to 17 hours battery life (2438mAh)
  • 128GB/256GB/512GB storage sizes
  • A15 Bionic processor
  • 5G and Wi-Fi 6

The Apple iPhone 13 mini runs on the A15 Bionic chipset with Neural Engine - and it delivers a very speedy performance in our experience. We moved into the iPhone 13 mini from an iPhone 12 Pro and we were surprised that we noticed a performance boost, especially since the iPhone 12 Pro never felt like it needed one.

Everything loads quickly, the device switches between tasks without any issues, while games and apps run smoothly. The iPhone 13 Pro is slightly more powerful than the mini, despite also using the A15, as it has an additional GPU core (five versus four) for its setup.

In terms of battery performance, the iPhone 13 mini isn't as solid as the larger iPhone 13 - which delivers a much-improved job in this department - but it will just about get you through the day.

The up-to-17-hours of battery life claim is a little optimistic in our experience though - we've been getting between 12 and 14 hours before it needed a top-up. Of course, battery life very much depends on what you do with your phone and what kind of user you are. Start recording 4K video or run 5G all day and you'll see it deplete quickly.

Familiar software 

The Apple iPhone 13 mini runs on iOS 15, which is available for all iPhone devices (from the iPhone 6S and later). There are a few extra features on the 13 that you won't find on older models, however, like the Cinematic video mode and the Photographic Styles in the camera app, but otherwise the experience is a familiar one.

Rather than diving into all the new features that come with the latest software though, you can read our separate iOS 15 feature that offers a deeper breakdown about what's new, what's good, and what's less welcome. 

Verdict

We have so much love for this small-screen iPhone. It delivers performance well beyond its size - matching the iPhone 13 in that regard - and has great cameras, all wrapped into a pocketable and lightweight design that makes for a refreshing change compared to typically larger devices.

No, the iPhone 13 mini's battery life isn't nearly as great as the larger iPhones, and the rear camera housing does stand out a little more on this compact form-factor - but don't let those points put you off entirely, because they're things you'll learn to live within a matter of days.

If you're someone who likes a 6.5-inch or larger display for watching movies, and want better battery stamina, the iPhone 13 mini probably won't be your bag. But for everyone else, you shouldn't underestimate the power of small - as this handset is a pocket powerhouse with massive potential.

 

Also consider

Apple iPhone 13

Offering the same internal hardware specifications but with a bigger battery capacity and a larger display. It'll cost you more, but that might be worth it for your needs.

Apple iPhone 12 mini 

It might be a year older and the design is almost identical, but it's still an excellent device. One to consider if you can find a deal.

Apple iPhone SE (2020)

The smallest screen iPhone. It has older hardware and an older design - opting for Touch ID over Face ID - but it's worth considering if you're after a compact device, aren't fussy about having the latest features, and want to save a bit of cash too.

 

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