It’s no secret that Apple just released its newest iPhones for all the world to see and although there wasn’t really a whole lot different, particularly in the base models, one notable change this year was the replacement of the compact Mini iPhone with a new, larger iPhone 14 Plus – the same size as the 14 Pro Max.
Analysts have speculated that the main reason for this was poor sales numbers for the 13 Mini, and while that may be true, as someone who’s a huge fan of smaller phones, it was a sad day for me (although, considering how absolutely lackluster the decidedly-not-an-upgrade upgrades were this year, I’m not missing out).
Anyway, in light of that, and the fact that the perfectly excellent iPhone 13 Mini is still for sale directly from Apple, and that it’s even cheaper now, I thought I’d do a review of a phone I’ve come to really enjoy over the past several months.
Apple updated their iPhone design a few years ago with the iPhone 12 series. Moving away from the rounded edges that had been iconic and ubiquitous of every iPhone series from the iPhone 6 all the way though the iPhone 11.
Starting with the 12 series, however, they went with a design no-doubt inspired by the iPhone 5 and 5S with more flat sides and sharper corners. At first I thought it would be uncomfortable but I quickly got used to it and actually really like it.
The Mini has aluminum sides and a glossy glass back which I don’t like as much as the matte glass back of the Pro line mainly because it attracts more fingerprints and the glossy glass is a bit “stickier” when holding it if that makes sense lol. It’s not a big deal in the end, and it does live in a case most of the time so it’s more just something to note.
Other than that, it’s pretty much the same iPhone design we’ve all seen for years – volume buttons and mute switch on the left, power button on the right, with lightning port and speakers on the bottom.
One thing I really love is the color. This blue color is absolutely gorgeous, they nailed it. Did I mention I like blue?
The display on the iPhone 13 Mini is almost exactly the same as the iPhone 12. It’s a 5.4 inch “Super Retina XDR Display” with 476 ppi (pixels per inch) and a 60Hz refresh rate. It retains all the other good stuff as well like True Tone, great colors, and a slightly brighter 800 nits of brightness.
Overall it looks great. I’ve really been quite happy with it. I actually had the 13 Pro for a few months when it first came out and I was a bit worried how I would feel about “downgrading” from an OLED display with a faster refresh rate but it really wasn’t an issue. Sure I noticed it for a couple days, but I got over it really quickly and now I have no problems with it at all.
One cool change which is welcome but not really all that noticeable is that the notch is a bit smaller than the 12. It’s not a huge difference, and you’ll never notice unless you it’s right next to a 12, but it’s a welcome change nonetheless.
I will say that a 60Hz refresh rate would be a bit more of a concern if it were more expensive, but at its current $599 price, that’s solid upper-mid-range territory so I’m not as mad about it. You can also find it for quite a bit cheaper now so do that if you can find one in good shape.
Obviously, one of the biggest questions about the usability of such a small screen is how it’s ok for scrolling websites or reading longer form content. Of course, having a larger screen makes those things easier, but honestly, with the proportions of the 13 Mini and how the apps and websites are rendered on it, it really hasn’t been a problem for me. I like it.
To say the iPhone 13 Mini is fast is a bit of an understatement. Apple has always had top-of-the-line processors for its phones, especially since Apple controls the software on its phones as well. Having both in the same pipeline means Apple can tune the iPhone to be a powerhouse. In fact, the A15 chip in the 13 Mini was so fast that Apple kept it for the new iPhone 14.
Every task I’ve been able to throw at this thing just flies, from gaming to productivity to watching videos, everything is incredibly smooth and responsive. I will say that I don’t do much hardcore gaming on it, but if that’s something you want to do on a phone, you shouldn’t be buying an iPhone 13 Mini.
If you care about the benchmarks, the A15 Bionic still blows past the best Android chips on the market today so this chip will definitely keep humming for years to come. And even though it only has 4GB of RAM, it’s still plenty enough for everything you’ll need it to do, and then some.
I’ll start off by saying that I’m not a photographer, but I do know enough to be able to tell a decent picture from a bad one.
But honestly, I’ve also thought it a bit strange how so much emphasis is put on the camera lately. I mean, the way I look at it, literally every single photo I take with my phone will either end up in a text or message to someone or on social media. I don’t plan on printing them out, selling them, or entering them into an art show or something like that. When looking at it that way, literally every single phone on the market today will take a passable photo so honestly, I don’t really care about exposures and color balance and everything else.
As a parent, and a smartphone customer, really the only thing that matters much to me is that I can quickly pull out my phone, take a picture, and that it will look great, every time. The iPhone 13 Mini fits that bill hands down.
All that being said, photos and videos do look really good on the iPhone 13 Mini. No, they’re not as good as what you’ll get on a 13 Pro or on most Android flagships today, but they’re still really good. The iPhone consistently takes solid pictures and videos that aren’t blown out or too contrasty like Samsung pictures tend to be. Again, I’m not a photographer so if you want an in depth review of the camera, there are plenty of great reviews out there.
Battery life on the iPhone 12 Mini was notoriously bad but it was supposedly improved for the iPhone 13 Mini. For me personally, it’s been perfectly fine. I can get to the end of the day with plenty of juice left, but I’m definitely not a heavy user. I check my email, text, take a few pictures, and occasionally scroll around but that’s about it.
If you’re a power user, you might run it down a bit sooner than I do but honestly for most people I think it’s just fine. Apple notoriously still doesn’t do fast charging on its phones to the fastest you’ll get is 20W which the company says will get you 50% battery in just 30 minutes (you do get wireless charging too which is nice).
The iOS vs. Android debate has been raging ever since Android came out more than a decade ago and it doesn’t show any signs of changing today. There are those who love it and those who don’t. I honestly don’t mind it. Being in the US and most of my friends and family using iPhones, including my wife, it is really a lot easier at times living in the Apple ecosystem.
iMessage is clearly one of the biggest benefits of iOS, but Notes, iCloud, AirDrop, and so many other things make it really useful as well. Yes, I know there plenty of Android alternatives to those things, but having it all in one single place that’s built into the software really makes it helpful.
Ultimately I think it comes down to personal preference as nearly everything you really need to be able to do on a daily basis can be handled swimmingly by either operating system, it really just comes to down to how you prefer to do it.
The iPhone 13 Mini is the best small phone you can find today, there’s really no way around it. There simply isn’t a phone with this screen size that offers the same performance and capabilities as a larger flagship device. And unfortunately there’s really nothing in the Android space that compares. The new Asus Zenfone 9 is really the closest thing there is in the Android world, but it’s hard to come by right now, it’s more expensive, and it’s still larger.
Regardless of whether you’re an iPhone or Android person, there’s no denying that the iPhone 13 Mini does all the things you’d expect a smartphone to do, and it does it really well. The best part is that it does it all in a size that’s comfortable to hold and easy to fit in a pocket.