Apple iPhone 12 mini Review: The one that feels like home

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Over the last few weeks, we have reviewed the Apple iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. This year, the iPhone 12 series does not differ much going up aside from display size, camera and battery. This makes it great for consumers, who can have the same performance on the iPhone 12 mini at a slightly more affordable Dh2,999 price tag. But are there any hidden sacrifices to the iPhone 12 mini or is it the perfect candidate for someone looking for a high-end compact smartphone?

Design and build quality

If you were to take the iPhone 12 and shrink it proportionally, you get the iPhone 12 mini. Every aspect of its design and build quality is borrowed here, whether it is its aluminium frame, squared of sides or notch. One aspect about the smartphone that is different is distribution and weight. The iPhone 12 mini is only 135g and comes in at 7.4mm thin.

The iPhone 12 mini is just a shrunken down version of Apple’s highest end offering, without the matte finish

For someone with smaller hands, the build and design is perfect. It allows for a firm grip over the smartphone, with it also fitting into your pocket with ease. Contrary to the bulky and large flagship smartphones we see these days, this is a refreshing change which makes the iPhone 12 mini feel like what a smartphone should feel like. And it comes without any sacrifices. You still retain Apple’s handy mute button, IP68 certification for the smartphone, rear Gorilla Glass protection and the same dual-camera setup from the iPhone 12.

Display and multimedia

With a smaller form factor, the most obvious change comes with the iPhone 12 mini display. On the front, you find a 5.4-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display, which supports HDR10 playback. This display features a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and a 2,340 x 1,080 pixel resolution, the same found on the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. The compact display makes the iPhone 12 mini’s bezels and notch on the display more prominent but this is something that you may have to learn to adjust to. As for the rest of your experience, you will be able to do everything you can typically do on a scaled down experience. But while this is great for browsing feeds, you may miss a larger display for multimedia consumption.

With its OLED panel, multimedia is great although sometimes, things may feel a bit smaller to look at

We often found ourselves squinting a bit when watching a movie or a TV show, so that is a drawback of the display size. The lack of a 120Hz refresh rate also hurts, but this is a feature of the iPhone 12 series in general. What this means is that gaming too will be less than pleasant on the iPhone 12 mini, despite its capable processing power. To couple with its display though, the iPhone 12 mini boasts some good stereo speakers so as far as audio is concerned, you should not have to worry.

Performance

As we have mentioned earlier, the iPhone 12 mini does not skimp out when it comes to performance. You get Apple’s latest 5nm A14 Bionic CPU to keep up with your demands at all times. On the base version of the device, you find 64GB of usable storage. We would have liked to have seen the base variant come with 128GB of storage like the iPhone 12 Pro series, but this means you will have to be a bit more conservative with what you store on your smartphone given the lack of microSD card expansion.

The storage pairs up with 4GB of RAM, which on iOS 14 is plenty for multitasking, browsing and social media use. If not for the small display size, the power on-board is capable of a good gaming experience too. However, up until iOS 14.3, there were instances of gaming resulting in dropped frames or overheating of the smartphone. But that seems to be more or less fixed with more recent updates.

There are no complaints with performance on the iPhone 12 mini given the A14 Bionic CPU

With the iPhone 12 mini’s smaller display, you will also notice a cramped up user interface. We think iOS 14 was designed keeping in mind larger displays, especially if you have a look at how visually rich the widgets are. But if you are someone who likes to keep a lot of widgets on your screen, the smaller display size may be a bit restrictive. But otherwise, nothing about the smartphone feels different to any other iPhone 12, and you can read more about our experience in our other reviews.

Camera technology

On the iPhone 12 mini, you find three cameras. Firstly, there is a 12MP selfie shooter which also doubles as Face ID alongside a dual 12MP camera setup on the rear of the smartphone. The rear setup is identical to the iPhone 12 which we learnt is capable enough to compete with the iPhone 12 Pro as well.

Photos taken with the iPhone 12 mini will be identical to those taken with the iPhone 12

The lack of a telephoto lens should not bother you too much, unless you are someone who is reliant on zoom photography. This does not mean zooming in up to 10x and beyond, but if you are someone who regularly uses the 2x telephoto lens on your smartphone, this may be a problem. For anyone else, coming from smartphone models older than a few years, this should not be a major deal breaker.

We have taken some pictures with the iPhone 12 mini above, the first image being a regular photo indoors. Following this, we have an ultra-wide angle and portrait sample. Notice when taking the portrait, edge detection is a bit flawed, which is due to the lack of a dedicated telephoto/LiDar sensor. The next 5x zoom sample is also poor due to the phone having no optical zoom whereas the last image is sample of the smartphone’s night mode capabilities. The biggest aspect of high-end photography that is missing on the iPhone 12 mini is the LiDar sensor. With this, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is able to capture better portrait images, deliver a better augmented reality (AR) experience and produce more detail in low-light situations. However, unless you are an avid user of any of these features, the iPhone 12 mini’s photography suite should be plenty.

For avid videographers, the iPhone 12 mini is ideal too. It not only shows great video stabilisation but can also record at up to 4K 60fps using all of its cameras. Plus, up to 4K 30fps, it takes advantage of Dolby Vision for richer content especially in scenes with greater dynamic range.

Battery life

If there is one aspect about the iPhone 12 mini that is unreliable, it is its battery backup. On paper, its 2,227mAh battery may seem extremely tiny yet on good days, it tends to last the whole day and more. Sometimes, we found ourselves with 15-20 per-cent battery remaining by the end of the day. However, if there is even one instance where the smartphone needs to push itself throughout the day, the battery on it may not be enough. For example, if you have to rely on navigation or if you play a lot of games. Like every smartphone from the iPhone 12 series, there is no charging brick provided out of the box. But if you were to use Apple’s Type-C to Lightning cable and its 20W charging brick, you can top up your iPhone 12 mini up to 50 per-cent in just 30 minutes. Wireless charging on the iPhone 12 mini is also present, allowing for 12W charging speeds when done through Apple’s MagSafe charging technology.

Conclusion

It is easy to sum up the Apple iPhone 12 mini as the perfect smartphone for anyone wanting a compact device. It makes not sacrifices when it comes to functionality and what seem like sacrifices on paper will not bother you too much. For instance, the lack of a telephoto camera or a LiDar sensor does not take away much from the imaging experience. The biggest sacrifice does not even come with the smartphone’s smaller display, because anyone wanting a small smartphone makes that choice. Plus, the compact nature makes the smartphone feel homely. But if you are someone who values battery life, the battery inconsistencies found on the iPhone 12 mini might get to you in the long run.

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