iPhone 13 mini Review: Bigger Battery, Beefier Performance, Better Cameras

One of my most strongly held beliefs is that smartphones are much too big. They’re easy to drop and I can barely reach the top-most corners on their touchscreens without using two hands. Look, I love watching countless TikTok videos as much as anyone else, but my pinky finger can only balance a phone for so long!

© Brandon Carte The Apple iPhone 13 mini is the best small phone money can buy. The small device packs big performance in a sleek, but durable package — all at an affordable price.

I’ve been testing the iPhone 13 mini for about a week now and it’s much more comfortable to grip one-handed. My fingers or wrist never ache while using it, and I’m confident it’ll fit in almost any pocket — something my female friends say is a frustrating problem with today’s smartphones.

With a launch price of $729, the iPhone 13 mini is the least expensive current-generation iPhone you can buy. Despite its small stature, it packs the same advanced dual-camera system as its big brother, the iPhone 13, an identical and equally as capable A15 Bionic chip, and a tough exterior — just in a smaller form factor. It’s a small phone that doesn’t require you to make any compromises.

© apple.com Apple iPhone 13 mini

Key Specs

• 5.4-inch Super Retina XDR display with 476 pixels per inch, True Tone

• A15 Bionic chip with 6-core CPU, 4-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine

• Up to 512GB of storage

• Dual 12MP camera with sensor-shift optical image stabilization; 12MP selfie camera with Face ID

• Built-in stereo speakers

• MagSafe-compatible, fast wired and wireless charging

• IP68 water-resistant

• 5G-, Wi-Fi 6-, Dual-SIM-capable

With the iPhone 13 mini you get the same advanced features as pricier smartphones, but with better ergonomics and a more pocket-friendly design. The iPhone 13 mini proves that bigger isn’t necessarily better. Here’s a breakdown of its design, hardware, performance, and user experience to prove why.

DESIGN

The iPhone 13 mini flaunts an ultra durable glass rear panel, squared-off flat aluminum sides, and a new camera array that’s arranged diagonally. The smartphone comes in pink, blue, midnight, starlight, and (PRODUCT)RED colors. It has a narrower design compared to its competitors, so it feels more natural to extend your thumb across its 5.4-inch display.

© Brandon Carte iphone 13 mini display

While the iPhone 13 mini is likely smaller than the smartphone you’re currently used to, it still has a larger screen than the home-button-equipped iPhones from years past. But, it’s overall body is smaller, making it solid but comfortable to hold. It doesn’t feel comically tiny in the way that holding your old phone from the early 2010s seems.

Like the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro, it’s water-resistant and has earned an IP68 rating. Translation? It can handle complete immersion in up to 6 meters (19 feet) of water for 30 minutes. It also sports the same Ceramic Shield front that’s tougher than any other smartphone’s glass.

In case you’re wondering what the key difference between the 13 mini and iPhone 13 is, the answer is that it’s about 20% smaller and 23% lighter.

DISPLAY

Over the years, Apple has gradually increased the maximum screen size on its smartphones. Today’s largest iPhone has a whopping 6.7-inch display. Many would argue that the larger the screen, the more immersive the device and easier it is to get work done.

Speaking as someone who went from the 5.8-inch iPhone X to the iPhone mini, I promise you, the screen doesn’t seem that tiny. At 5.4 inches diagonal, its display is just a tad smaller than what you’d find on the 5.5-inch iPhone 8 Plus from 2017. The iPhone 13 mini’s OLED screen delivers a highly immersive experience thanks to its superior brightness, amazing contrast ratio, and full-screen design.

That’s not to say I would watch a 2-hour movie with the iPhone 13 mini, but I didn’t mind streaming a 30-minute show while I was on the elliptical at the gym.

© Apple iphone 13 vs iphone 13 mini comparison

The biggest downside to the iPhone 13 mini’s display isn’t its smaller size, it’s the fact that it lacks a higher 120 Hz refresh rate like many Android phones and the more expensive iPhone 13 Pro.

This feature — what Apple calls ProMotion — provides users with smoother, fluid-looking onscreen animations, but at the expense of battery life. Given the fact that the iPhone 13 mini already has a smaller battery because of its size, I think the tradeoff is a reasonable one.

CAMERAS

Apple’s smallest iPhone has the same dual-camera system you’ll find in the new iPhone 13. There’s the 12MP wide-angle main camera along with a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera. The sensors are Apple’s largest and most advanced yet. They capture 47% more light than the previous iPhone, which results in better picture quality and images with less noise in darker environments.

© Brandon Carte brandon using iphone 13 mini to take photos of hydrangea

Making things even better, the iPhone offers incredible video-recording capabilities. It shoots in Dolby Vision up to 4K at 60 fps. A new feature, called Cinematic Mode brings a unique and beautiful depth-of-field effect and automatic focus changes to the video. The 13 mini has sensor-shift optical image stabilization on board — a feature that’s typically found in pro-grade DSLR cameras and was previously reserved for the iPhone 12 Pro Max — which helps ensure your shots (for both photos and videos) will be steady.

© Brandon Carte Taken on an iPhone 13 Mini

Besides producing stunning shots nearly every time, the biggest takeaway from my time shooting with the iPhone 13 mini was how easy it is to handle. Given its smaller size, it’s easy to open the camera app one-handed so you can snap quick photos before the moment has passed. I was even able to take crystal-clear pictures with one hand while holding a drink in the other, which isn’t something I can say about most other phones.

The front-facing TrueDepth camera on the iPhone 13 mini also delivered outstanding results for both selfies and for video calls during my tests. I also appreciate that the notch at the top of the iPhone is smaller, too.

PERFORMANCE

The processor that’s included with the iPhone 13 mini is the fastest processor in a phone, full stop. That means zippier performance, more power efficiency, and better, more eye-catching visuals. Not to nerd out on you, but the iPhone 13 mini’s 16-core neural engine is capable of 15.8 trillion operations per second. What does that mean for you? Unique features like Live Text and Auto Translate. The latter truly helps break language barriers.

The fact that the iPhone 13 mini packs cutting-edge components is notable and you can guarantee its A15 Bionic chip will be able to handle software updates for many years to come. I had no issues multitasking with the iPhone and noticed it wasn’t as susceptible to getting warm while playing graphic-intensive games like my iPhone 12 mini did. I also appreciated that the 13 mini comes with twice as much storage (128GB) as its predecessor without experiencing a price increase.

© Brandon Carte iphone 13 mini

As for battery life, Apple says the 13 mini gets an additional 1.5 hours of battery life than its predecessor. I had no issues getting through an entire day using the 13 mini and occasionally had as much as 20% worth of battery life to spare. With my iPhone 12 mini, I was plugging it in around dinnertime. If you’re a heavy user and play lots of games or stream a ton of video on your phone, I think you’d be better off buying the iPhone 13 which has an even bigger battery.

As for me, I’m always around and switching between screens, be it my laptop, a tablet, or TV so I don’t rely as heavily on my smartphone to watch videos and crank out emails. So, overall, I had no qualms about the iPhone 13 mini’s battery.

USER EXPERIENCE

As you’d expect from Apple, the iPhone 13 mini’s user interface is extremely polished and easy to use. The phone runs the new iOS 15 operating system, which offers users improved privacy features, an update to the Maps app, a new design for notifications, and a convenient “Focus” feature that helps reduce distractions.

My favorite changes for iOS 15 are small, but notable ones. For Safari (the internet browser), the address bar is positioned at the bottom of the screen instead of the top, making it even easier to operate your phone one-handed.

There’s also a new Live Text feature, which is used to quickly recognize text that’s in photos you take. That way you can easily select, copy, paste, and look up whatever it is that you took a picture of.

WRAP-UP

Before the iPhone mini came out, if you were shopping for a small phone, you’d have to opt for a budget smartphone with outdated specs and a lower-grade design. As nice as it is having a smaller-sized phone that’s easier to handle and pocket, what I love most about the iPhone 13 mini is that it doesn’t require you to compromise on features or performance.

Personally, I think its small size is more than enough reason to purchase one — especially with how rare small phones are these days. But since the iPhone 13 mini is equipped with the best processor, camera, and a gorgeous OLED display for a price that’s lower than most flagship phones, it’s a no-brainer.

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