iPhone 13 mini full review

Since the iPhone mini made its debut last year, everyone in the rumour mill has been saying that 1) it won't sell, 2) no one wants it and 3) Apple will pull the plug on it. Now, a year later, here we are with red faces and mouths full of humble pie. I guess there was an iPhone 13 mini. Well, look at that.

Apple is not a company that shies away from shutting down product lines that aren't working. Remember Apple Hi-Fi? It sounded pretentious but loud, the reason being that it was (apparently) tuned to Steve Jobs' ears and taste in music. iPhone 5c? Hand on heart, it was a pretty fun phone, but Apple ruined it with a hideously ugly case that reminded you of something you'd refuse to put on your feet.

But the mini is here to stay, at least for another year - and thankfully so. It's a sharp little phone that will do pretty much anything you throw at it.

In our in-depth iPhone 13 mini review, we put the handset through its paces and help you to work out if this is the phone for you. If you decide to take the plunge, read our guide to where to buy the iPhone 13 mini for the best prices.

Stop moaning about the design

Let's start with the design. Like its big brothers in the iPhone 13 family, this beast is also made of steel and ceramic glass. It looks like a shrunken iPhone 13, in fact.

It has slightly tighter edges than the iPhone 12, but it's definitely the same design language. You can whine that it looks the same as last year's model, or you can adopt the mindset "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" We're in the latter camp, but we know there are plenty of people out there who think Apple should release something cooler - something that's new and revolutionary, like the iPhone once was.

The problem is that phones are on a technology plateau. The first iPhone was a paradigm shift that gave the entire phone industry a much-needed boost. The challenge now is to work out what the next paradigm shift might be.

It's not impossible that smartphones will look like this for the next 30 years, not unlike the way that our landline phones looked more or less the same for 50 years until the advent of the button phone. What we're trying to say is: stop worrying and try to enjoy the situation.

iPhone 13 mini review: Design

Screen could be better

The iPhone 13 mini is dainty and feels tiny after a session with an iPhone Pro Max. But size isn't everything - which brings us to the screen.

The mini has a 5.4in LED screen with a resolution of 2340 x 1080 and a pixel density of 476ppi. What it doesn't have, which feels awfully cheap, is ProMotion. Sure, it's nice to have Dolby Vision support and up to 1,200 nits of brightness, but that falls flat when Android phones at a comparable price point can boast adaptive screen refresh. And hand on heart, when you watch a movie on a 5.4in screen, can you really tell if it supports Dolby Vision or not?

That said, it's still a good screen. But it could have been significantly better.

Cameras

On the back are two diagonally configured 12MP cameras that take better pictures than most other phones - even the ones with more megapixels than I have years in my age. Much thanks here to Apple's Neural Engine, which makes pictures look their best using AI (officially) or black magic (probably).

iPhone 13 mini review: Cameras

A wide-angle and an ultra-wide-angle lens, with the former having an aperture of 1.6 and the latter 2.4, produce really good images with great colour and contrast. We're hard pressed to find anything to complain about. Optical zoom is available up to 2x; after that it becomes digital up to 5x.

In any case, the images produced are good, even very good. Dark images work just fine, as long as your hand is reasonably steady. If you want the images to be warmer or cooler, you can choose from different Photographic Styles. A matter of taste, but we like the default mode. You can always fiddle with colours and contrast in the Photos app later.

The iPhone 13 mini also has Cinematic video mode, which lets you focus back and forth on different objects. It's a fun party feature, but unless you're planning on becoming a filmmaker, it feels more like a gimmick. At least you can record 4K video at 24fps.

That's our verdict following a few days' use, but this review will be updated with in-depth tests of the iPhone 13 mini's photo and video capabilities in due course.

Design

The iPhone mini really does feel "mini" after years of phones getting larger and larger. It almost feels like an iPhone 5, although it has a larger screen (the iPhone 5 had a 5in screen). But it's a matter of habit, after all. As a phone, it sits comfortably in the hand and slips easily into pockets and bags. The physical controls have the same dimensions as the larger phones.

The design is otherwise stylish and gives the same vibes of quality as the iPhone 13 Pro models. Think iPhone 4, but with a slightly larger screen.

A15 Bionic & battery

Although the screens are different, it's almost the same SoC (system on a chip) as in the Pro models: the A15 Bionic. But instead of five graphics cores, the mini's chip has to make do with four.

The results of the benchmark test show that the Pro models are faster in some of the tests, including 3DMark. But when we test the phone by installing War Robots, we find that 1) the graphics flow well, without lag or jerkiness, and 2) the screen is far too small for a multiplayer online battle arena game.

Like all phones in the iPhone 13 series, it has become thicker since last year, and has a bigger battery. According to unofficial sources, there is a 2,438mAh battery in the mini.

According to Apple and with a large pinch of salt, this should be enough for 1.5 hours longer battery life than the 12 mini. Which means 13 hours of streaming video, an improvement of about three hours over the iPhone 12 mini.

Verdict: Clearly better than the SE

For all its limitations, the iPhone 13 mini is for you. Yes, it is - assuming you're on an iPhone with a few years on the clock, tired of lugging around big phones or have an Android and want to experience the bright side.

The iPhone SE has many good qualities, but the 13 mini is preferable. It has better cameras, a better screen and a faster processor, and will last longer than an SE.

With a size that allows it to slip into almost any pocket and the performance to put a flagship Android phone to shame, the iPhone 13 mini is an exemplary little powerhouse.

The cameras are very good and it feels snappy and responsive in use. It also has a couple of hours of battery life on its predecessor, making this fledgling a good entry-level model for those who want to wander into an ecosystem where everything is integrated and (nearly) always works.

This review originally appeared on Macworld Sweden. Translation by David Price. This article will be updated when the UK team gets access to a review sample; the review score will be posted at that point.

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