Gloomy reports of lacklustre sales might have suggested otherwise, but Apple isn’t quite ready to give up on the iPhone mini just yet. Unveiled during its all-singing and all-dancing annual launch event on 14 September, the iPhone 13 mini has returned, and yet again it’s a smaller (and cheaper) alternative that looks to be just as capable as the rest of the range.
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Tiny in size but hardly lacking in power, the iPhone 13 mini’s first big change for 2021 is that it shares the same brand-new A15 Bionic processor as the regular iPhone 13, Pro and Pro Max models. This is a 5nm, six-core CPU which, according to Apple, is 50% faster than “the leading competition” (presumably the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888) and 40% faster when it comes to graphics processing.
The biggest drawback with last year’s version, of course, was its less-than-stellar battery life – barely reaching 15 hours in our tests – but Apple seems to have (slightly) addressed the stamina issue by adding a larger capacity battery. Apple says that the iPhone 13 mini lasts 1.5 hours longer than last year’s model and storage options have also been tweaked, with 128GB now offered as standard, along with 256GB and 512GB of non-expandable internal space.
Despite measuring a mere 5.4in across, the iPhone 13 mini’s screen is packed with the same display tech as the more expensive iPhone 13. It’s an AMOLED panel, with support for HDR10+, HLG and Dolby Vision playback and a refresh rate of 60Hz. It lacks the adaptive 120Hz setting of the Pro and Pro Max models, but at this price, you can’t grumble too much.
In terms of design, very little has changed. Every physical feature is in exactly the same place as before, but the dual rear cameras are now arranged diagonally, rather than sitting above one another. The sharp-edged, all-metal frame also returns, although the pesky screen-eating notch has slightly reduced in size and it comes in a different choice of colours: Pink, Blue, Midnight, Starlight and Product RED.
There’s a bit of a difference when it comes to the iPhone 13 mini’s cameras as well. The primary 12MP (f/1.6) camera gathers 47% more light than before, and it also comes with Apple’s excellent sensor shift optical image stabilisation, which was previously exclusive to Apple’s high-priced iPhone 12 Pro Max last year.
There’s also the 12MP (f/2.4) ultra-wide camera with a 120-degree field of view. A new recording mode, called “Cinematic mode”, provides a rack focus-like recording experience, enabling you to automatically transition between various focus points in real time.
The iPhone 13 mini starts at $699 for the 128GB model. It’s available to preorder today, with a release date of 24 September and you’ll be able to read our full verdict shortly, as soon as we receive a handset for review.