Apple iPhone 13 Mini review: An impressive device, except for the battery
- Great camera
- Good specs for the size
- A lot of power for a small device
- Not the best battery
- Still expensive for the entry-level model
- Maybe a little too small
|Launch price (RRP)||$1,199|
In 2020, Apple made 2 smaller iPhone plays: the new iPhone SE and the iPhone 12 Mini. Both seemed to be a step in the right direction when it came to offering comparatively cheaper options and smaller sizes. This trend continues with the iPhone 13 Mini. It proves that a lot of great features can be injected into a smaller chassis – but there are still some key question marks hovering above this baby device.
The iPhone 12 range brought substantial design change. The biggest of course was the Mini variant, which remains largely the same for the iPhone 13. It still has the once-new flat-edge design, OLED screen and MagSafe charging.
But there are a couple of small changes. The chassis itself is a little thicker thanks to the beefed-up rear-camera array that sees the lenses now housed diagonally. The notch is 20% smaller but sits firmly at 2340x1080 – the same as last year.
Speaking of which, you won't find the new Pro Motion 120Hz-capable display here. That upgrade is reserved for the iPhone 13 Pro models. But what you do get is the same Super Retina HDR display as last year, but with a bit of extra brightness at 800 nits.
As for the colours, there are 5 on offer: blue, midnight, starlight, red and pink. The latter being a welcome new addition to the line-up.
Overall, the minimal design changes are fine considering last year's upgrades. The main consideration here is whether you like the small form factor afforded by the iPhone 13 Mini.
Those who are upgrading from an iPhone 8 or earlier who find this size familiar are more likely to enjoy it than someone more accustomed to the iPhone sizing options over the last few years.
Personally, I love having smaller handset options, but this is a touch small for my needs. However, I also find the iPhone 13 Pro Max too big. I do a lot of work from my phone and also use it for reading, so much like Goldilocks, I'm looking for something juuuuuust right. For me, that's the regular iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 Pro.
Apple has done something interesting this year by creating 2 variants of its new A15 Bionic chip. Both have 6 CPU cores but differ when it comes to GPU. While the Pro models get 5 GPU cores, the regular iPhone 13 and Mini only have 4.
This means there is likely to be a noticeable difference in performance beyond the impact RAM has each year. While Apple doesn't disclose this particular spec, teardowns always end up revealing them.
Here's how the iPhone 13 Mini performed against other iPhone devices in Geekbench 5's CPU test:
And here's how it went in 3DMark's GPU test:
There is a difference between the iPhone 13 and Mini vs the Pro models in the majority of the above tests. But that gap is far smaller compared to the previous generations. Regardless of which iPhone 13 model you choose, you're going to experience a performance bump.
But most customers who opt for an iPhone 13 Mini aren't likely to be looking for a performance beast. And unless you're using particularly labour-intensive apps, the Mini is going to offer a good experience.
During the testing period, it had no issues running any of my daily apps, streaming services or casual games. In fact, I didn't notice much of a difference between all 4 iPhone 13 models, besides the benefits afforded by the 120Hz refresh rate on the Pro and Pro Max. And to be fair... ProMotion is pretty damn great.
It's also worth noting that the iPhone 13 Mini is 5G capable. And just like last year, the iPhone 13 models us Australians are getting are a little different to those in the US.
Our models are sub-6Ghz capable only, whereas the US versions have a Qualcomm X60 modem with mmWave compatibility. This may not seem like a big deal right now. After all, mmWave is still only rolling out here in Australia. But it does make these devices a little less futureproofed. Considering we're still paying full price (not to mention import taxes and the like), this is a bit annoying.
On the 5G front, due to current lockdown restrictions and living in an LGA of concern, I was unable to adequately test these speeds. Once this changes, I will update this review with the results.
iPhone 13 Mini camera
I was impressed with the iPhone 13 Mini's photography offering last year. This time around, Apple has pushed the envelope even further.
The iPhone 13 Mini comes with a 12MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide and 12MP front-facing cam. What it doesn't have is the additional 12MP telephoto lens bestowed upon the Pro models. It's also missing the new LiDAR scanner and macro photography features. But it still manages to do an incredible job, even in portrait mode and low-light situations.
In fact, in regular point-and-click situations, most regular users may not notice a great deal of difference between the iPhone 13 Mini and its older siblings. That has certainly been the case in my experience so far, which albeit has been limited compared to previous years due to lockdown.
Here are some samples:
While the Pro versions of the iPhone 13 do capture more detail and richness, it's not enough to discount the iPhone 13 Mini here. The same goes for both rear and front-facing portrait shots. While there is some difference between the Pro models and the Mini, it's nothing major.
As I mentioned in my initial iPhone 13 shootout post, the Mini backs off the portrait subject more than its larger siblings. The focus is also just a smidge slower, but this is only really noticeable if you're looking for it.
The bokeh effect on the iPhone 13 Mini is fine but is more blurry than the Pro and Pro Max. Still, the subjects look great, with the rear camera in particular maintaining a lovely amount of detail.
The night mode on the iPhone 13 Mini is similarly impressive. While the previous generation did a decent job, there was noticeable smoothness and muddiness with low-light shots. That has been improved upon this year, even without the fancy LiDAR sensor that helps the Pro models with this form of photography.
A lot of light is drawn in by the Mini in Night Mode and the detail retention is surprisingly good.
Here are some low-light samples:
When it comes to photography, the iPhone 13 Mini's biggest weakness is zoom. Like last year's model, it caps out at 5x zoom, but you don't want to bother with that:
As you can see, the image goes to hell, especially when you compare it to the Pro and Pro Max results which can be viewed in our iPhone 13 shootout post.
But if you're like me and don't care about zoom, this isn't a deal-breaker. Considering it is rocking 1 less lens and is missing some of the features enjoyed by the Pro models, the camera on the iPhone 13 Mini is excellent.
It's also worth mentioning cinematic mode. It's a new feature that isn't just reserved for the Pro models. It allows you to swap between subjects while shooting video and can also detect a subject on screen while producing a bokeh effect on the background.
And if, for whatever reason, the wrong thing is in focus while recording, you can fix it in post from the iPhone itself.
I was sceptical about how this would go on the Mini, but it did a really good job – even with cats that like to move around a lot.
iPhone 13 Mini battery
The biggest downfall of the iPhone 13 Mini was the battery life. And little has changed a year later.
Apple doesn't disclose its iPhone battery sizes, but iFixit's teardown places the iPhone 13 Mini at 2,406mAh vs 2,227mAh in the 12 Mini.
Sure, Apple has promised an extra 1.5 hours of juice compared to the previous generation, but that hasn't equated to much in practice.
The first indication of this was our standard battery rundown test – streaming a 1080p video at max brightness and medium volume for an hour from a full battery. What we're looking for here is at least 90% battery remaining. Anything below that tends to indicate that a device won't last an entire day.
Here's how the iPhone 13 Mini fared against other Apple devices:
85% is not a great result and my own personal usage aligns with this figure. Now to be fair, I have only been using the Mini for a week, and more testing is always preferable. But in general, I haven't been super impressed so far. The Mini has been sitting at around 15% or lower when I head to bed.
However, it's worth noting that I am a high-volume user. In addition to being a tech journalist, I spend a lot of time on my phone browsing the web, on email, on various social media apps, streaming video and gaming.
If you are less of a slave to technology, you will probably get a better result and perhaps the iPhone 13 Mini is better suited to your needs than mine.
Still, for a modern handset that starts at $1,199, I want it to offer a bit more here.
Should you buy the iPhone 13 Mini?
- Buy it if you want a powerful device in a small package
- Don't buy it if If you value battery life above all else
I'm a big advocate for smaller device options. The trend towards gigantic phones and tablets over the past few years has not been the most comfortable experience for those of us with small hands and pockets.
And this is why I am disappointed to still not be entirely sold on the iPhone 13 Mini. Don't get me wrong, the camera and general performance are incredible. But like with the iPhone 12 Mini, I just can't quite get past the battery life limitations.
So if you can afford to spend a little more, I'd recommend opting for the regular iPhone 13. You get all of the same great features as the Mini but with a bigger battery. You also get more screen real estate in a way that doesn't feel monstrously large.
If you don't care about all the latest bells and whistles but love the smaller form factor, you might want to consider the 2020 iPhone SE. It's significantly cheaper and still has some ripper features for a mid-range phone.
Alternatively, if you're also considering Android options, the Google Pixel 6 has an RRP of just $999 and has an incredible camera, battery and specs. It is even on our best Android phones of the year list. You can read our full review of the Google Pixel 6 here.
iPhone 13 Mini pricing and availability
Compare Apple iPhone 13 Mini plans
You can also purchase the Apple iPhone 13 Mini on a handset repayment plan from Telstra or Optus. This will split the cost of your new phone over 12, 24 or 36 months, and you'll get a mobile plan with it too.
Power, storage and battery
How we test
The iPhone 13 Mini was tested extensively over the course of a week and was directly compared with the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max. All of the review units were provided by Apple.
It was used for Internet browsing, daily admin, streaming, social media and photography. It was also benchmarked using professional tools.
The author has been reviewing phones for over five years.
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