iPhone 12 Mini Review— One Month Later
A former Apple Retail employee on the good, the bad, and the beautiful.
Note: My first job out of college was mobile technician at Apple’s Gran Central store. This post is not sponsored.
In this post I cover my experience on iPhone 12 Mini’s:
- Size & Screen
- Storage Issues with iOS 14.2.1
- Final Thoughts (brief notes on 5G and phone colors)
For context, my previous phone was an iPhone XR. Here’s the Mini by an XR.
There are many concerns about the Mini’s battery life. For me, it’s been great.
I switched from iPhone XR, which has glorious battery life, often lasting me 48 hrs in Low Power Mode with a full charge.
The Mini battery doesn’t last as long, but it lasts me a full day without Low Power Mode enabled.
I charge to full overnight. My typical, daily use:
- Light texting/email
- FaceTime calls (30 min to an hour)
- Take a few pictures/videos
- Read in Kindle or Safari (30 min to 2 hrs depending)
Here’s how I get the most out of my iPhone battery.
1.Optimized Battery Charging: The phone learns your charge routine to preserve battery health.
Settings > Battery > Battery Health > Optimized Battery Charging
2. Low Power Mode: As long as you’re good with fewer notifications and with background apps not refreshing—Low Power Mode is great. But, it will turn off 5G. Add Low Power Mode to your iPhone’s Control Center:
Settings > Control Center > Select Low Power Mode
3. Turn off Background App Refresh: This keeps apps from running while you aren’t using them. Learn more here.
Settings > General > Background App Refresh > Off
4. Reduce Motion: I use this all the time. For me, it’s a better user experience as all the extra animation hurts my eyes.
Settings > Accessibility > Motion > Reduce Motion
Battery Pros: If you’re a regular to light user, it’s plenty.
Battery Cons: It’s probably not great for super heavy users/gamers.
2. Size & Screen
Coming from a larger phone, the size of this phone is the best thing about it. It’s much smaller than it looks in pictures. It’s much easier to use and doesn’t hurt my opponens or adductor pollicis muscles — the “texting” thumb muscles.
Here’s how the iPhone Mini feels for different hand sizes.
- Medium hands: I have average hands for a 5' 7" human. My thumb doesn’t strain at all on the Mini the way it did on my XR. It also doesn’t hurt my pinky when I rest the phone on it. But, I did make lots of typos in the first week while my hands adjusted to the smaller keyboard.
- Small hands: My partner has small hands. The top of the screen (swiping down for Control Center) is a bit of a stretch for her, but it’s much easier to reach than her Samsung S8 or my iPhone XR.
- Large hands: My dad has large hands. He has no issue with reach, but his larger thumbs do make more typos. Autocorrect is handy with this phone.
The Mini has the highest pixel density of any of the iPhone 12 line up at 476 PPI. The OLED display is beautiful, especially in such a small package. Everything looks sharper on the small display when compared to the larger phones (especially if you switch from an LCD display).
Some reviews say the notch is more noticeable at first, because it’s on a smaller display. But, I’m picky about the notch/bezels and it hasn’t bothered me at all.
I love that Apple shrunk the bezels for the Mini. For the first time ever, I got a color other than black because the bezels were so small I hardly notice them.
If seeing the bezel is something that bothers you, I recommend the black phone as the bezel blends with the matte black aluminum sides.
Screen & Size Pros: Pixel density looks very sharp. No sore thumb or pinky. It’s easy to reach the entire screen for humans with medium and large hands.
Screen & Size Cons: Still a stretch for smaller hands. Adjusting to a tiny keyboard causes typos.
I take most of the photos I use in my Medium stories, so I like to have a decent camera. But, I don’t usually buy the iPhone with the highest quality camera.
If you switch from any of the older, non-Pro models, the Mini camera is excellent. I especially love the wide frame and Night Mode shots:
Camera Pros: It’s the same as the 12 and almost as good as the Pro models. If you switch from an 11, XR, or anything earlier, this camera is next level. See filmmaker, Matti Hapooja’s in-depth on the Mini camera.
Camera Cons: It’s not as good as the Pro models. There are also artifacts in some night mode shots (see the extra lights in the above pic).
Honestly, the MagSafe accessories are my favorite part of this year’s phones. The accessory colors are beautiful and fresh. They compliment the colors of the phones.
MagSafe is convenient. I love that I can put my phone on any Qi or MagSafe charger, with the case on. I can also stick it to my magnet car mount and it stays there, even during a sharp turn. My only wish is that MagSafe charging worked through my case and wallet. But, that’s not a big deal for me. The wallets fit perfect on the Mini, but looks a bit swallowed on the other phones. Here’s a wallet on the Pro and Pro Max:
I like a small, thin wallet. I like that this one sticks to the back of my phone as I tend to drop my wallet in cars and airplanes. It’s easy to pull on and off. There’s a window for pushing cards up—which, you’ll appreciate if you’ve ever struggled to pull the right card out of a tiny wallet.
MagSafe Pros: It’s so convenient. The colors are great and you have lots of mix-and-matching available to customize your phone.
MagSafe Cons: Apple Specialists at 2 different stores have told me many MagSafe accessories are sold out. I’ve seen in other reviews that the wallet magnet doesn’t hold as well to the bigger phones as it does to the Mini.
Storage issues with iOS 14.2.1
When I got my Mini, I restored from my XR’s iCloud backup. I noticed Other Storage was around 20gb (that’s not normal). Other Storage in my XR was at 3gb. I thought maybe the Mini was still iClouding, so I ignored it. A few days later, Other Storage was still at 20gb. I did a factory reset, which didn’t work. I did a DFU restore, which also didn’t work.
There’s a Reddit about this issue and several beta testers say that 14.3 fixes it. I’m not a tester, so I can’t confirm. Keep this in mind and if you want the lowest storage at 64gb, maybe wait for iOS 14.3. I recommend the 128gb phone, because it’s only $50 more for double the storage.
UPDATE: iOS 14.3 did fix this issue for me.
- Colors: To me, the bezels and colors of the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini blend better than they have in previous years. The phones look more seamless, and the squared edges add to the seamlessness.
- 5G: I didn’t write a section on 5G because the experience hasn’t been much different for me. Mostly because, COVID, and I’m at home on wifi. I did notice that 5G eats into my monthly data pretty quick when I use Apple Maps or Google Maps.
I recommend holding this phone in person if you can. None of the videos or pics online really capture how small it is. Apple is doing a great job of making sure shopping is safe, you’ll have to book an appointment to shop. If you don’t have an Apple Store nearby, Apple has an extended return policy (it’s typically 2 weeks) during the holiday season.