Apple’s compact iPhone 13 mini packs tons of improvements where it counts and is among the most powerful smartphones that you can buy in the market. It is the successor to the iPhone 12 mini, a unique proposition, and I’m happy that it exists. The 5.4-inch iPhone 13 mini is an excellent device for people who love compact or, to say, small pocketable phones.
This is the second iteration of the mini device launched by Apple after 2020’s iPhone 12 mini. If you want to buy the new iPhone 13 series, then the iPhone 13 mini is your entry gate for the new iPhones, and it starts at Rs 69,900 for the all-new 128GB storage model. What that means is, compared to the iPhone 12 mini, the iPhone 13 mini offers improved cameras, battery, and double the storage at the same price. Not a bad deal, is it?
To top it off, it packs the same chipset that you get on other iPhone 13 models and is identical to its elder sibling, the iPhone 13, in all ways except the display and battery.
You can read our iPhone 13 review here as well as our reviews for the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max.
But before I dive into whether the iPhone 13 mini has to take on the likes of Android flagships at this price, it’s worth noting that this could very well be the last mini iPhone coming from the house of Apple.
iPhone 13 mini review: Almost the same design, brighter display
The iPhone 13 mini looks identical to the iPhone 12 mini until you notice things closely. The biggest differentiating factors are the smaller notch above the display and the new diagonally placed dual cameras at the back.
Apart from that, if you attended the virtual keynote for Apple’s September event, the company dropped big hints about larger battery units on the new iPhone 13 series. This means that the iPhone 13 mini also packs a bigger battery capacity that translates to a slight increase in the battery capacity and a bump in thickness. All that for extended battery life, and I can’t help but like these subtle changes. The 13 mini weighs 140 grams, is 7 grams heavier than 12 mini, and at 7.65mm, it is slightly thicker than its predecessor.
The good thing is that Apple hasn’t made any other compromises with the mini model, so you get an IP68 rating for splash, water and dust resistance. Same as the 12 mini, the iPhone 13 mini has a back made of glass and aluminium frames for a solid grip.
I wasn’t excited when Apple bumped the screen size to 6.1-inches on the iPhone 12 Pro from 5.8-inches on the iPhone 11 Pro. The issue for me was being too comfortable with the size of the device (iPhone 11 Pro).
On my query last year, one of the Apple executives responded, saying that now they have a more compact mini model that is even more pocket-friendly, while the Pro gets a bigger display. After using the iPhone 13 mini for a few days, I understand that the unit is not only pocket friendly but the only iPhone model this year that can comfortably be used with just one hand, in my opinion. From display to typing to using cameras, I could do it all with just one hand, an incredible experience.
At the front, the mini gets a 20 per cent shorter display notch than previous iPhones with a notch, which means more screen real estate, but that won’t be utilised, so don’t get too excited. Something I even pointed out in my iPhone 13 Pro review. But, anyway, it is nice to have a display that’s slightly bigger. However, since I have used phones with displays that are bigger, the real challenge for me was typing. Typing a message or an email took time initially. Honestly, I was struggling but gradually learned my way.
The back panel now ships with a larger lens, which, to be honest, looks odd on the small iPhone 13 mini. When kept on a flat surface, the iPhone 13 mini tends to wobble, but not the same as the iPhone 13 Pro.
Overall, the iPhone 13 mini is the best small-size phone you can buy in the market that’s comfortable to use.
Coming to the display, the iPhone 13 mini features the same 5.4-inch Super Retina XDR display we saw on the iPhone 12 mini. The real difference is in the brightness. At 800 nits max brightness, the iPhone 13 mini is a more vibrant panel with punchy colours and sharp text. On paper, you can say that the iPhone 13 mini packs a bright panel that matches the iPhone 12 Pro’s display as it also offers a peak of 800 nits of max brightness.
The only thing I probably missed was a higher refresh rate display, which could have sealed the deal for me. Especially after using the ProMotion display, it is hard to get used to the 60Hz refresh rate.
Even the screen resolution is exact at 1080×2340 pixels with 476 PPI pixel density. Outdoors, the iPhone 13 mini is bright and overall offers a panel that you will enjoy for multimedia consumption.
iPhone 13 mini review: Improved cameras
The camera is one department in which the iPhone 13 mini is identical to its bigger sibling, the iPhone 13. It comes with dual 12-megapixel wide and ultra-wide cameras. The wide camera offers an f/1.6 aperture while the ultra-wide f/2.4 aperture. The mini comes with 2x optical zoom and packs features like Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and depth control, Cinematic mode and Photographic Styles. The iPhone 13 mini can also record 4K videos at 24fps, 25fps, 30fps and 60fps. In addition, it comes with Night mode for enhanced low-light shots.
To top it off, the iPhone 13 mini can also record HDR video with Dolby Vision up to 4K at 60fps. Incredible for the small phone.
Moreover, the iPhone 13 mini also comes with sensor-shift optical image stabilisation, a feature that you typically get on premium DSLR cameras and is there on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Alright, enough with the features.
But, how well do these features make the iPhone 13 mini perform in the real world? Well, the results are surprisingly good. In daylight, the iPhone 13 mini can click some stunning images with great details and natural colours. Even the low-light samples turned out to be impressive.
The new Cinematic mode can prompt you to try some interesting video sequences, considering it smartly switches from one person to another when you have multiple people around. The implementation is smart and neat. More importantly, it is a fun video feature that will be appreciated by anyone and everyone who loves to record videos.
Again, I have to point out that the compact design helped me click shots that are usually tough to manage with just one hand. While using the iPhone 13 mini, I could click photos, record videos, tweak camera settings, and go back to using the camera, absolutely no need to use both my hands.
I also liked the Photographic Styles as it tends to add a new dimension to your images. There are four styles to choose from – Vibrant, Rich Contrast, Warm, and Cool. There are some massive improvements in the low-light shots, which have more details now and amazing colour performance. However, I noticed lens flare in videos taken during low-light, something Apple needs to fix.
The selfie camera is also improved over the iPhone 12 series, something I noticed on the iPhone 13 Pro. Selfies on the iPhone 13 mini maintain natural skin tones and have enough details. Even the low-light selfies are decent.
You can see camera samples below:
iPhone 13 mini review: Solid as it can get in terms of performance, decent battery backup
If there’s one department that absolutely has no difference compared to the bigger sibling, the iPhone 13, then it has to be the performance. The iPhone 13 mini packs the all-new A15 Bionic chip that we got on the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. Technically, the Pro models this year pack a five-core GPU compared to the four-core GPU on the 13 and 13 mini. But that’s something you will hardly notice.
In real-world usage, the iPhone 13 mini is snappy. Be it for launching apps or games or shuffling between multiple apps. During the review, the iPhone 13 mini impresses with its speed across different tasks – launching webpages or Safari or switching between different camera modes to shoot.
I can’t help it, but I miss the higher refresh rate on the 13 mini. Something, I guess, will keep the iPhone 13 mini down on a list of phones around that price. The point to mention here is there are phones available at as low as Rs 20,000 that offer up to 120Hz refresh rate. Considering the iPhone 13 mini is priced at almost 3x, this could affect the buying decision of some people apart from the compact size.
The speakers are clear and loud for a single person’s use. If you choose to skip your truly wireless earbuds and watch a show on speakers of the 13 mini, you won’t be disappointed. The calling experience was smooth, and the phone is excellent at latching on to mobile network zones indoors or outdoors, which even some flagship Android devices struggle with.
iOS 15 brings some much-needed additions, like improved FaceTime, a new Focus mode, Live text, Photo Memories, and a new Safari UI. In addition, there are more minor tweaks that improve the overall experience, like the Weather app, Messages, and new Siri enhancements. You can read my iOS 15 experience here.
From performance to the battery.
The battery will be the most noticeable difference you will experience while using the iPhone 13 mini. Apple, during the keynote, said that the 13 mini could last one and a half hours more than its predecessor. While I didn’t compare it to the 12 mini, in general, the improvements are easily noticeable.
In my video loop test, the iPhone 13 mini lasted for around eight hours of video playback until the phone died on me. During the review, I got roughly six hours of screen time, while the phone lasted for about 13-16 hours, depending on tasks. This overall battery backup took a hit when I used cameras or played games extensively for a couple of hours.
The iPhone 13 mini supports 20W fast charging that can charge the device up to 50 per cent in 30 minutes. Compared to the current-gen smartphones at around Rs 70,000 price tag, the iPhone 13 mini supports the slowest fast-charging standard. It’s about time that Apple now bumps the fast charging on its iPhones.
iPhone 13 mini review: Verdict
The iPhone 13 mini may be small in size, but it’s big on features. It offers plenty of features that you won’t find in modern-day Android premium phones. Features like Cinematic mode and Photographic Styles add zing to the overall camera experience. The bright display addition is excellent, though a higher refresh rate panel would have been great.
Overall, it is one of the best phones that offer fantastic single-hand use. The lightweight design provides excellent aesthetics for almost any task. However, in terms of battery, the iPhone 13 mini is still far from an ideal device that can last a full day of use, so get used to carrying a power bank if you’re a power user.
At a starting price of Rs 69,900, you now get the 128GB storage base model, which is double the storage size that 12 mini shipped with at the same price.
If you want the new iPhones, you can also look at the iPhone 13, which is Rs 10,000 a costlier than the 13 mini but will be a better overall deal.