Last month’s Apple event taught us one simple thing: small is undoubtedly mighty and the iPad Mini 6, iPhone 13 Mini, and iPhone 13 Pro all follow the same model of offering the same key experience as their bigger counterparts, in a smaller more compact form factor.

XDA Recommended Product in 2020 Award Badge
XDA Recommended Product in 2020 Award Badge

The iPhone 13 Pro is undoubtedly the best iPhone you can buy right now, offering the same features as the iPhone 13 Pro Max in a smaller form factor. Normally, this would be at the expense of battery life, but as we discovered in our iPhone 13 Pro review, the bigger battery in the iPhone 13 Pro this year results in a battery life that’s close to the iPhone 12 Pro Max from last year. The result means you can buy the smaller iPhone and save a little money – which could be used to upgrade to the 256GB variant and get the ProRes video at 4k – without compromising on a specific feature or overall longevity.

The iPhone 13 Mini follows the same philosophy as the iPhone 13 Pro: it offers all the features detailed in our iPhone 13 review, but in a much more compact form factor. After spending two weeks with the Mini, I’ll tell you that it’s the best iPhone right now if you don’t need the Pro specs, and it has certainly changed my feelings towards the iPhone 13 Pro. It’s also proven to be good enough for my usage over the past two weeks, good enough that I’m likely keeping the iPhone 13 Mini as my main iPhone going forward, not the iPhone 13 Pro.

    The iPhone 13 mini is the best small phone ever made, and sets the standard that all compact phones must follow. Despite the better features of the iPhone 13 Pro, the size of the iPhone 13 mini means its become my go-to iPhone to grab. It’s the best small Pro phone for all users and most people won’t need the features of the iPhone 13 Pro either.

iPhone 13 Mini: The benchmark for compact flagships

It’s still seriously shocking to me that so few companies cater to the small phone market, especially on the flagship end. Look around at the best phones right now, and there’s only one phone that properly ticks the boxes of being a flagship and yet being compact: the iPhone 13 Mini. That’s not because others haven’t tried; Sony’s Compact phones followed the same model. But most companies who build something smaller compromise on the overall experience, without reducing the price as much.

If you’re looking for a compact phone, Apple does it best

If you’re looking for a compact phone, most companies approach it one specific way: not only will you pay close to flagship pricing for a compact phone, you’ll also be forced to pay for a stripped-down experience. It’s almost as if you’re being penalized for wanting a smaller phone. It’s almost like performance and power cannot co-exist with a small form factor, and we know that that is not entirely true.

Apple, however, takes a very different approach. Knowing that many users of devices like the iPhone 8 or older are used to screens around the 5.5-inch mark or smaller, and may not want to go for a larger screen, it creates two phones that satisfy the compact one-handed form factor: the iPhone 13 Mini and the iPhone SE 2. The latter is basically a carbon copy of the old iPhone 6 with updated internals, while the iPhone 13 Mini is effectively an iPhone SE Pro and offers an upgraded compact experience at a higher price.

Yes, the Mini does still have a 60Hz display — but it is the same as the regular-sized iPhone of this generation, and you’d need to bump up to the Pros to get the 120Hz refresh rate. And because of the nature of iOS and its animations, the difference in experience between 60Hz and 120Hz on an iPhone is not as pronounced as it would be on Android. And yes, there is no fifth core on the A15 Bionic’s GPU; but four cores continue to be overkill anyway. And yes, there is no telephoto or macro capabilities, but these do appear to be limited to the space within the device for more cameras and larger camera setups. Yes, all of these are indeed limitations, but they are limitations on the more overkill territory. You still get a proper flagship experience with the iPhone 13 Mini — just not that of an overkill flagship.

The only real compromises on the iPhone 13 Mini are thanks to physics

The reason the iPhone 13 Mini is easily the best small phone ever made comes down to Apple’s approach. As mentioned, instead of taking an Android manufacturer’s approach of stripping the experience back, the iPhone 13 Mini is basically the same as the iPhone 13, just in a smaller form factor. The smaller body size means a smaller screen size and a physically smaller battery, resulting in slightly lower battery life, but these are all thanks to physics.

Beyond the comparison, the iPhone 13 Mini continues to offer the boxy, flat sides design language Apple has introduced across all of its devices. The flat railing around the iPhone 13 Mini is crafted out of aluminum and it has a matte finish. It’s got a 60Hz OLED screen interrupted by a notch. The front side is covered by what Apple calls “Ceramic Shield” technology. Around the back, we have a slightly glossy glass back with a dual-camera system consisting of a 12MP main (wide) lens and a 12MP ultra-wide lens. Both rear cameras’ sensors are new and larger than the iPhone 12 Mini’s sensors. The battery is larger than that of the 12 Mini, and we’ll have more to talk about it in the next section.

The overall iPhone 13 Mini experience is really impressive, though. I’ve got the iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13, and iPhone 13 Mini here and I almost always pick up the iPhone 13 Mini first. It’s the perfect size to be ergonomically friendly for one-handed use, and it’s designed to offer a flagship experience with few compromises along the way.

iPhone 13 Mini Battery: Bigger, better, and more impressive

Much like the rest of the iPhone 13 series, the 13 Mini offers a bigger battery size that results in better battery life. The actual battery life will vary according to your usage, the ambient lighting conditions (which affect the brightness of the display), and your cell signal. The latter is a point to note – like any phone, a bad cell signal will result in poor battery life.

The iPhone 13 Mini battery finally lasts all-day

During an average day of usage, the iPhone 13 Mini is capable of lasting 14-16 hours on a full charge with around 5-6 hours of screen time. This is my first experience with Apple’s mini form factor, but my colleague Sumukh used the iPhone 12 Mini for a year and recently upgraded to the iPhone 13 Mini. He has found that – much like the rest of the iPhone 13 series – the battery on the iPhone 13 Mini lasts about 2 hours longer than the iPhone 12 Mini.

It’s hard for me to judge the iPhone 13 Mini battery life without knowing how it compares to the competition, which is basically last year’s iPhone 12 Mini and the iPhone SE. I used the revamped iPhone SE last year, and the iPhone 13 Mini battery life is definitely better than that. It’s also better than some other phones I’ve used recently including the Galaxy Z Flip 3, and quite comparable to last year’s iPhone 12 which I used extensively.

All this to say – I’m not the target market but the iPhone 13 Mini battery life is good enough for me to consider using it as a daily device despite being a power user, which means it’s more than good enough for most users. As always, your specific mileage with the battery life will vary.

The iPhone 13 Mini is actually the iPhone SE Pro

When Apple unveiled the iPhone SE last year, I fell in love. During the early part of the pandemic especially, where we were all stuck at home next to a charger, things like the smaller battery and the single-camera were less of a problem. Yet, this love affair didn’t last long and within two months, I was back on my iPhone 11 Pro. What I really wanted at the time, was a Pro version of the SE, and this is where the iPhone 13 Mini (and iPhone 12 mini before it) comes in.

If you like the iPhone SE but want a more up-to-date flagship experience, the iPhone 13 Mini is designed for you. It has all the same hallmarks of a great compact phone, except it also adds in all the upgrades you’d want from a Pro version of the SE. Aside from the additional camera lens, 120Hz refresh rate, and a few other tweaks, it also offers most of the iPhone 13 Pro experience in the more compact form factor. Nowhere is this more apparent than the camera.

iPhone 13 Mini Camera: Everything that most users need

The iPhone 13 camera is pretty much good enough for most people, and the iPhone 13 Mini camera is exactly the same. I’ve been fairly impressed by the regular and wide-angle cameras, and the latter also supports the same macro mode features found on the rest of the iPhone 13 series. In particular, images captured on the main camera come out really sharp even in questionable light.

When you’re taking photos outside, they are sharp, well-produced, and good enough for most people.

The only area that will leave you disappointed is the lack of zoom capabilities – Apple bills any zoom as the jump from the ultra-wide-angle to the top zoom capabilities, so while the iPhone 13 mini technically offers 2x zoom, the reality is it’s not a zoom lens. Telephoto is still exclusive to the Pro range, despite rival Android devices in this price point having a triple camera set up, so this represents an area for improvement in the future.

What is great is that the iPhone 13 mini still comes with all of the other camera features found in the Pro – aside from the ProRes that is – including the cinematic video modes. The iPhone is known for being one of the best smartphones for video recording and the entire iPhone 13 series delivers on this trend. We go much more in-depth with the iPhone 13 camera, so do check out our full iPhone 13 review!

Every Android OEM needs to make an iPhone 13 Mini competitor

The iPhone 13 Mini is also unique in that if you’re looking for a small phone and don’t care about which platform it runs on – and honestly, for most people, even if you do have strong feelings about the platform – there’s no other device like it. If you want something compact yet flagship with a screen measuring under 5.5-inches, there are no other real options out there for you to consider. Other options have their own drawbacks, one of the biggest ones being availability: you can’t buy a small flagship as easily as you can buy the iPhone 13 Mini, and OEMs are even more restricted on their marketing budgets to be heavily advertising the small phone. Customer ignorance thus spells doom for the category.

For this reason, every Android manufacturer needs to make an iPhone 13 Mini competitor. Each one needs to follow the same model of offering the flagship experience with as few cutbacks as possible, make it widely available and ensure that they can’t overcharge for it. Sony used to make Compact phones and ended up charging about the same as the flagship iPhone for them, which isn’t going to spur adoption.

In reality, the two companies that seem capable of producing a viable iPhone 13 mini competitor are Samsung and OnePlus. I’ve ruled out Google from this list because it’s highly unlikely they’ll produce a phone that doesn’t have major compromises, and while I’ve included OnePlus, it’s also fairly unlikely that OnePlus will create those devices, although maybe being under the Oppo banner will help.

Which leaves Samsung. I believe it’s time for Samsung to create 4 versions of the Galaxy S22 next year, and basically follow Apple’s lead. Create a small flagship Android phone that is effectively the iPhone 13 mini of the Android world and they’ll have some sales, even though the iPhone 12 Mini counted for just 5% of all the iPhone 12 sales worldwide. It’s a small market, but with phone sizes every increasing, it gains importance.

Forget the Pro, the iPhone 13 Mini is my favorite iPhone this year

Should you buy the iPhone 13 Mini? For most users, it’s absolutely worth buying and you will love it. If you want or need a bigger screen, the iPhone 13 is the one to buy, but I would then spend $200 extra to buy the iPhone 13 Pro and get all the extras that come along. The iPhone 13 Mini is the iPhone that’s good enough for most users and most importantly – for me, at least – it delivers enough of the iPhone 13 Pro experience to be a recommended purchase at a much lower price.

There’s a lot it doesn’t do that its more illustrious siblings do, including having the 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, ProRes camera, telephoto zoom lens, and an arguably better finish. But crucially, it does come with the outstanding A15 Bionic CPU that will beat any other smartphone processor, even though the iPhone 13 Mini and iPhone 13 have one less core than the Pro models. It also has 5G, an outstanding display, and two excellent cameras.

For most people, that’s going to be enough. A lot of people bought the iPhone 12 last year, but very few bought the iPhone 12 Mini. Hopefully, enough people give the iPhone 13 Mini a chance – which certainly seems to be the case based on the general availability of the mini – that Apple won’t kill it next year. Right now, the latest leaks of the iPhone 14 series suggest there won’t be a mini model so if this is the last year that Apple offers the mini, at least it’s going out on the top form.

    Apple iPhone 13 miniApple iPhone 13 mini
    The iPhone 13 mini is the best small phone ever made, and sets the standard that all compact phones must follow. Despite the better features of the iPhone 13 Pro, the size of the iPhone 13 mini means its become my go-to iPhone to grab. It’s the best small Pro phone for all users and most people won’t need the features of the iPhone 13 Pro either.