IPhone 12 Mini Review: small on the outside, big on the inside [análise/vídeo]

O iPhone 12 Mini is the little big launch of Apple in 2020. The device is compact, in fact, but that doesn’t make it a modest iPhone in terms of features. Proof of this is that the powerful A14 Bionic chip is present here and its screen, 5.4 inches, has a Super Retina XDR panel.

In practice, the model is faithful to the proposal of being an iPhone 12 that fits more easily in the palm of the hand or in the pocket. Pocket in the literal sense: in Brazil, the official prices of the iPhone 12 Mini range from R $ 6,999 to R $ 8,499.

Is it worth it to shell out so much money for a tiny smartphone? Is the A14 Bionic all that? Does the smaller battery – the effect of the reduced dimensions – last a whole day of use? How does it feel to use a 5.4 inch screen on iOS? I tested the iPhone 12 Mini last week and tell you all about it from now on.

IPhone 12 Mini video review

Ethics notice

O Tecnoblog is a technology-independent journalistic vehicle that helps people make their next purchase decision since 2005. Our product reviews are opinionated and have no advertising intent. For this reason, we always transparently highlight the positive and negative points of each product.

No company, manufacturer or store has paid the Tecnoblog to produce this content. Our reviews are not reviewed or approved by external agents. The iPhone 12 Mini was provided by Apple on an indefinite loan. The product will be used in future content before being returned to the company.

Design, finish and audio

If in the not too distant past large smartphones were rare, today they dominate the shelves. The problem is that fans of small cell phones have become “orphans”: this category even exists, but it is limited to basic models, with rare exceptions.

The iPhone 12 Mini breaks this hegemony. The model has almost all the features of the “normal” iPhone 12, but takes up less physical space. If you think that, because of this, it is easy to use it with only one hand or to keep it in your pants pocket, you are right.

Rear of iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

It is not just because of the dimensions. Weight also influences. The model is only 135 grams. It is so light that, in the first hours of use, it looks like you are holding a toy cell phone.

iPhone 12 Mini compared to an iPhone XR (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

iPhone 12 Mini compared to an iPhone XR (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

That feeling goes away as soon as we see the finish. Start at the sides, again straight, so you can leave the iPhone 12 Mini standing. The entire frame is made of aluminum. The material has a matte surface that matches the color of the device and is pleasant to the touch.

Side of iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Side of iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

The configuration of the physical buttons has not changed in this generation: on / off button on the right side; volume controls and button for silent mode on the left, with the SIM card drawer appearing below. Since the device is compact, you can reach these buttons very easily, even if you have small hands.

IPhone 12 Mini buttons (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

IPhone 12 Mini buttons (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

At the bottom, the sequence of four holes next to the Lightning port houses a speaker that matches the audio output on the notch. Together, they provide stereo sound, clear and with great volume, although the audio can get a little shrill at the maximum level.

Although the iPhone 12 Mini corresponds, in practice, to a smaller iPhone 12, the reduction in measurements is not proportional in all aspects. Note, for example, that the camera module at the rear is the same size on both models. This also happens with notch.

IPhone 12 Mini speaker and Lightning port (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

IPhone 12 Mini speaker and Lightning port (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

But, going back to the rear, note that, over there, Apple maintained the tradition of applying a layer of glass. The company signals that the component is quite resistant, however. Speaking of which, it should be noted that the device also has IP68 certification (provides water resistance at a maximum depth of 6 meters for up to 30 minutes).

Screen

The iPhone SE (2020) is larger than the iPhone 12 Mini, but has a 4.7 inch screen. The latest model manages to have a larger screen due to the good use of the front space.

They are 5.4 inches complemented with a resolution of 2340 × 1080 pixels. Interestingly, this combination makes the model have the highest pixel density of the entire iPhone 12 line: there are 476 ppi here. But what really matters is the usage experience, right?

Well then. The only possible disadvantage of the Mini version screen is that, in some applications, the content can get “squeezed”. This happened with two shooting apps that I use a lot: ProMovie and Teleprompter. But, see, this type of problem is not frequent and, in general, does little harm to the use of the tool.

IPhone 12 Mini screen (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

IPhone 12 Mini screen (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Apart from this detail, the Super Retina XDR (OLED) panel makes the screen display a level of brightness high enough for you to see the content displayed there even in direct sunlight.

Obviously, watching videos or playing on the iPhone 12 Mini does not provide the same experience as doing it on a big screen. Despite this, consuming visual content in the model is far from a chore. The level of detail, the vividness of colors and the support for HDR, for example, compensate for the strangeness that the small display can cause.

iPhone 12 Mini next to an iPhone XR (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

iPhone 12 Mini next to an iPhone XR (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

The only thing missing was the screen having a frequency of 90 Hz (or more), but, on second thought, Apple did well to keep the 60 Hz here. A higher rate would certainly affect the battery.

Honorable mention for Ceramic Shield protection. I didn’t get the proof, but Apple guarantees that this reinforcement makes the iPhone’s screen up to four times more resistant to drops than the previous generation of the line.

Software (iOS)

The unit tested by Tecnoblog runs iOS 14.2.1, version released shortly after the device was first configured. Not that anyone was expecting the opposite, but the operating system handles the small dimensions of the screen very well.

Note that, as already said, the notch did not decrease in size on the iPhone 12 Mini compared to the model’s brothers. Even so, the clock and icons are displayed correctly in the little space left on the sides of the notch.

As for functional features, Face ID, for example, is fast enough and it seemed more accurate compared to the iPhone XR that I used as a reference, although this is not just a software breakthrough: hardware also weighs in on this.

iOS on iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

iOS on iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

In addition, we find here all the features announced for iOS 14, such as support for widgets, Picture in Picture (PiP) and the Apple Translate application.

A detail that is worth making clear: it is not because the screen of the iPhone 12 Mini is small that the size of the text font has been reduced. Here, iOS maintains the same font size that is found on other iPhones. You can configure this parameter in the screen settings, however.

Cameras

You can configure several parameters in the camera application, but if you leave everything on automatic, you probably won’t be disappointed: the iPhone 12 Mini is very precise in the job of detecting the scene conditions and applying the corresponding adjustment.

This goes for all cameras. The rear has a 12 megapixel main camera and an f / 1.6 aperture accompanied by another 12 megapixel sensor, but with an f / 2.4 aperture and a 120 degree ultrawide lens.

The opening of the main camera has advanced slightly compared to the iPhone 11 (f / 1.8). This improvement may seem discreet, but it helps the camera to make more interesting recordings in low light scenes, for example.

IPhone 12 Mini cameras image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

IPhone 12 Mini cameras image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

This factor, aided by features like Deep Fusion and Smart HDR, make the iPhone 12 Mini record photos with almost nonexistent noise, excellent level of sharpness, neat dynamic range and vivid colors, even in night scenes – it is amazing how, in this generation, the night mode can display details without unbalancing the exposure.

The only thing that bothered me is that, in photos during the day, dark spots may be more saturated than expected. When this happens, the tip is to adjust the exposure in the list of options that appears to the right of the camera app.

All of that goes for both cameras. The difference is that ultrawide tends to generate slightly cooler images under certain circumstances. Ah, according to Apple, the iPhone 12 Mini automatically corrects distortions that are common with this type of lens.

Photo made with the iPhone 12 Mini ultrawide (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo made with the iPhone 12 Mini ultrawide (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo taken with the main camera of the iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo taken with the main camera of the iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo made with the iPhone 12 Mini ultrawide (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo made with the iPhone 12 Mini ultrawide (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo taken with the main camera of the iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo taken with the main camera of the iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo made with the iPhone 12 Mini ultrawide (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo made with the iPhone 12 Mini ultrawide (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo taken with the main camera of the iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo taken with the main camera of the iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo made with the iPhone 12 Mini ultrawide (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo made with the iPhone 12 Mini ultrawide (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo taken with the main camera of the iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo taken with the main camera of the iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo taken with the main camera of the iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo taken with the main camera of the iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo taken with the main camera of the iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo taken with the main camera of the iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo taken with the main camera of the iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo taken with the main camera of the iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo taken with the main camera of the iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Photo taken with the main camera of the iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Portrait mode on iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Portrait mode on iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Night mode on iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Night mode on iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Night mode on iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Night mode on iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

If you like taking selfies, know that the front camera, with 12 megapixels and f / 2.2 aperture, is just as impressive. When lighting conditions help, photos are preserved with details, realistic colors and almost no noise.

When lighting is lacking, the app guides you to hold the iPhone firmly until enough information is captured by the camera and post-processing clears all noise, again, without affecting the sharpness.

The portrait mode, on the other hand, may have one or the other defect in the person’s blur, but it makes careful records in most cases.

Selfie with iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Selfie with iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Portrait mode on iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Portrait mode on iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

Hardware and battery

The biggest proof that the iPhone 12 Mini is not a “Lite” smartphone or anything like that is in the processor: the model features the same Apple A14 Bionic chip that equips the other iPhones 12. The basic hardware is completed with 4 GB of RAM and even 256 GB of storage.

We are talking about a 5 nanometer processor and firepower for 11 trillion operations per second. It is not for nothing that everything runs beautiful here. Crashes, commands that take a long time to respond, slow opening of applications? None of this happened.

If you like heavy games, go ahead. With titles like Asphalt 9: Legends and Real Racing 3, I didn’t notice a drop in the frame rate once.

iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

But now comes what appears to be the downside of the iPhone 12 Mini: the battery. With 2,227 mAh, the component can leave you hanging if you are not careful. Pudera: to make this a small phone, Apple had to sacrifice something.

To test the battery, I ran a 2h30min video on Netflix with maximum brightness on the screen, I played Asphalt 9: Legends and Real Racing 3 for 20 minutes each, I used Spotify via speakers for an hour, accessed Safari and social networks for 1h30min and made a 10 minute call.

As I always do, I started the tests in the morning with 100% load. At around 10 pm, the Mini registered just under 30% charge. This suggests that it is possible to keep the device out of the socket all day, as long as you follow the maxim “enjoy in moderation”.

Oh, you already know, but just for the record: just like your brothers, the iPhone 12 Mini does not have a charger in the packaging.

Another detail: the entire iPhone 12 line brings 5G, including the Mini. It was just not possible to evaluate this resource because, in Brazil, networks of this type are still in an embryonic stage.

iPhone 12 Mini: is it worth it?

In Brazil, the iPhone 12 Mini was launched with an initial price of R $ 6,999. It is so high that the choice has to be careful. So I say now: this model should only be purchased by those who really like a smartphone with dimensions smaller than the current average.

If this is your case, the Mini should suit you very well. It has one of the best screens on the market, the finish is robust, the cameras generate neat pictures and the overall performance is so good that it makes the A14 Bionic look like a chip ahead of its time.

iPhone 12 Mini compared to an iPhone XR (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

iPhone 12 Mini compared to an iPhone XR (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

It is true that not everything is perfect. The side effect of a tiny cell phone is the battery with a smaller capacity. It is not an alarming limitation. Most users will be able to keep the iPhone 12 Mini out of the socket all day without worry. However, if you are heavy user, you should consider the possibility of purchasing a larger model or a case with battery, for example.

Also, if you are thinking of buying the Mini just to have a new generation iPhone “less expensive”, be careful. For those who are used to large screens, this model can cause strangeness. The iPhone 12 Mini was designed for those who crave a small and powerful smartphone, not necessarily for those who want to save money.

SIM card drawer for iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

SIM card drawer for iPhone 12 Mini (image: Emerson Alecrim / Tecnoblog)

iPhone 12 Mini

Pros

  • That’s what screen
  • Performance to give and sell
  • Robust and beautiful finish
  • What a beautiful set of cameras
  • That’s the size that was missing

Cons

  • The battery is not there these things
  • Only the price is not mini

Technical specifications

  • Screen: 5.4-inch Super Retina XDR (OLED), 2340 × 1080 pixels, 476 ppi, Ceramic Shield protection
  • Processor: hexa-core Apple A14 Bionic with quad-core GPU
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB, 128 GB or 256 GB
  • Drums: 2,227 mAh with 20 W fast charge and wireless charging (Qi)
  • Rear cameras:
    • Main: 12 megapixel, f / 1.6, optical image stabilization
    • Wide angle: 12 megapixel, f / 2.4, 120 degrees
  • Frontal camera: 12 megapixel, f / 2.2
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, 3G, 4G, 5G, Lightning port, NFC, GPS, Glonass, Galileo, QZSS, dual SIM (nano-SIM and eSIM)
  • Operational system: iOS 14.2
  • Sensors: accelerometer, proximity, gyroscope, facial recognition (Face ID), barometer, compass
  • Dimensions: 131.5 x 64.2 x 7.4 mm
  • Weight: 135 g
  • Colors: black, white, red, green, blue

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