Apple iPhone 13 mini review: still the boss of small phones

Mini model trounces competition with great camera and performance, but isn’t the best iPhone for the year

The iPhone 13 mini takes what’s great about the full-size iPhone 13 and squeezes it into a body not much larger than the iPhone 5S without cutting back on features or power.

The smallest of Apple’s 2021 lineup costs £679 ($699/A$1,199), sitting above the £389 iPhone SE and below the £779 iPhone 13.

The 13 mini is only slightly thicker and heavier than last year’s 12 mini, still making it one of the smallest full-blooded smartphones you can buy.

iphone 13 mini review
The notch at the top of the screen takes up less space compared with previous iPhones, but the status bar still shows the same limited information. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The 5.4in OLED screen is superb: crisp, bright and now with a smaller Face ID notch taking up less room at the top. The aluminium and glass body is slim, light and lovely to hold. It fits in pockets easily and works great for messaging and calls.

iphone 13 mini review
Two-thumb typing is awkward, but one-handed use is far easier than with bigger smartphones. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

But it has the same drawbacks from its diminutive size as its predecessor. It is too small to fit in my car windscreen mount, watching video on it is a bit tedious, games are cramped, and you end up scrolling around in documents a lot.

I ended up using the mini less than other smartphones just because of the size, which might be a plus for some.

Specifications

  • Screen: 5.4in Super Retina XDR (OLED) (476ppi)

  • Processor: Apple A15 Bionic

  • RAM: 4GB

  • Storage: 128, 256 or 512GB

  • Operating system: iOS 15

  • Camera: dual 12MP rear cameras with OIS, 12MP front-facing camera

  • Connectivity: 5G, wifi 6, NFC, Bluetooth 5, Lightning, ultra wideband and location

  • Water resistance: IP68 (6 metres for 30 mins)

  • Dimensions: 131.5 x 64.2 x 7.7mm

  • Weight: 141g

Speed, battery life and iOS 15

iphone 13 mini review
The 13 mini takes one hour 43 minutes to fully charge, hitting 80% in 46 minutes, with a 20W USB-C charger (not included in the box). Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The 13 mini has the same A15 Bionic chip as its larger siblings, making it one of the fastest smartphones you can buy, and has the same starting 128GB storage, which is large enough for most things.

The battery doesn’t last quite as long as the bigger phones, however, making it about 38 hours between charges with the screen on for just over four hours during that time. That’s eight hours less than the iPhone 13, but still decent for a phone this small.

The 13 mini runs the same iOS 15 software as the rest of its lineup, including various new features to help process notifications and faster voice recognition. Apple will provide at least five years of software and security updates, and potentially as long as seven years.

Sustainability

iphone 13 mini review
The dark blue coloured glass is a dust and fingerprint magnet. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Apple does not provide an expected lifespan for the iPhone 13 mini’s battery, but it can be replaced for £69. Batteries in similar devices typically maintain at least 80% of their original capacity after 500 full charge cycles. The smartphone is generally repairable, with an out-of-warranty screen replacement costing £216.44.

The iPhone 13 mini uses 98% recycled rare earth metals, 99% recycled tungsten and 35% recycled plastic in various components, plus 100% recycled tin in the solder of its main board and battery management unit. The company breaks down the phone’s environmental impact in its report.

Apple also offers trade-in and free recycling schemes, including for non-Apple products.

Observations

iphone 13 mini review
The 13 mini has the same improved dual-camera system as its larger sibling, making it one of the best you can buy but lacking in optical zoom. For more see the iPhone 13 review. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
  • Wireless charging is restricted to 12W, not the maximum 15W that the other iPhone 13 models are capable of with Apple’s MagSafe charger.

  • Call quality, 5G and wifi reception were solid.

Price

The iPhone 13 mini costs £679 ($699/A$1,199) with 128GB of storage, £779 ($799/A$1,369) for 256GB or £979 ($999/A$1,719) for 512GB.

For comparison, the iPhone SE costs £389, the iPhone 13 costs £779, the iPhone 13 Pro costs £949, the Samsung Galaxy S21 costs £769, the OnePlus 9 costs £629, and the Galaxy Z Flip 3 costs £949.

Verdict

The iPhone 13 mini is without doubt the best small phone you can get. The few competitors that exist are usually cut-down, cheaper models with compromised experiences, where the 13 mini is a full iPhone, just condensed.

It has a great camera, 5G, fast performance, solid battery life, decent storage and long software support.

It isn’t the best Apple phone this year; it’s just too small for many things. But if you’ve been hanging on to an iPhone 5S or 2016 iPhone SE because newer models are too big, or you just long for a smaller smartphone, this is the iPhone for you.

Pros: small and easy to hold, great camera, water-resistant, MagSafe, Face ID, top performance, great screen, 5G, long software support.

Cons: no USB-C, need your own charger, no telephoto camera, screen may be too small for many, not cheap.

iphone 13 mini review
The iPhone 13 mini (left) has a smaller 5.4in screen compared with the 6.1in screen of the iPhone 13 (right). Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Other reviews

Contributor

Samuel Gibbs Consumer technology editor

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