How’s that for a clickbait-y headline? Apologies, but if I’m honest, that’s how I feel. Let me explain...
In the early days of the iPhone, every new release felt brand new. Like you were getting a new shiny iPhone with new shiny features, not just an upgrade. Ok, the S versions of the iPhones were always the ‘speed’ upgrades, but you knew that was the case and you knew it was every other year.
The latest significant change to the iPhone was the iPhone X when we lost the home button and went full screen. It was a fantastic upgrade; not just physically, but the way iOS was updated with gestures and UI was a real triumph. It was different for a reason.
Except for the iPhone X, iPhone upgrades have been getting less significant. It isn’t just iPhones either; it is the whole smartphone industry. It turns out there’s only so much you can do with a screen and some cameras.
That’s fine though, but it does mean phone makers are struggling to find the next significant feature to add on. Apple is investing in AR which, while effective, is still very niche. Everyone’s adding 5G which they’re selling as the second coming when it’s barely useable. Samsung and others are trying foldables which are incredibly cumbersome and really just polished prototypes.
Camera upgrades are always welcome; portrait mode means the average user can produce beautiful pictures of loved ones, for example.
But we’re now in the realm of pro-photographers. The average user isn’t going to feel much of a difference, one phone to the next.
The iPhone 12 Pro is the S upgrade we would generally expect. If not for the new design, it’s not vastly different from the 11 Pro.
We’re at the point where a new iPhone every year doesn’t wow as much. New iPhones lack some of that ‘excitement of the new’. They are not really life-changing anymore.
Except, yes they are. The iPhone 12 Mini is just that phone.
the iPhone 12 Mini has helped change how I’m using my iPhone.
Over the last year, and particularly during COVID times, my device usage has evolved. I got the latest iPad Pro with the magic keyboard. It is now my personal computer. I still use a Mac for work, but all my browsing, emailing, and writing is all done on the iPad. I also use it for all most of my reading; reading my RSS feeds, reading longer newsletters, reading the ‘newspaper’. Any gaming I do is usually on the iPad, Apple TV or Nintendo Switch.
My iPhone 11 Pro was being used more and more as a communication device for messaging, quick emails, quick news headline reading and Twitter. While I take a fair share of pictures, they’re very casual, and I edit on my iPad. The need for a bigger screen was less and less. This is one of the reasons the Mini is changing my life.
Firstly, the weight. At 133 grams it is less than 3/4 the weight of the 12 Pro. That in itself is an incredible gain. No more finger ache from propping the bottom up while I use it.
Then the size. As well as being incredibly cute, I feel it’s also the size a phone should be. I appreciate that some people love a large phone, but now we carry our phones with us like an extra limb it’s so crucial to our health that they are more used for communication than entertainment or a constant distraction. Sure, we all love a good game, but when you can’t easily separate necessary communication like messaging and phone calls from social media, gaming and Netflix that’s not good for you.
This size device makes me focus on communication more than consumption. That can be done on my iPad when I can properly devote time to it.
This size of the device is also a joy to use. After a day or so getting used to a smaller keyboard I now love picking it up, sending a quick message with one hand and then putting it away. It’s natural and fun. Oh, and it’s so nice to be able to reach the Control Centre with one hand! Apple’s worst UI decision was to move ‘handy’ actions and preferences to a very much ‘non-handy’ part of the screen. Terrible.
The new iPad Pro design looks beautiful on the 12 Pro. I honestly think it’s the best visual design they’ve ever made. Unfortunately, it’s functional design is not so great. While others hate it a lot more than me, it does not feel so comfortable in hand after about 5 minutes.
On the Mini though, it’s perfect. It feels comfortable, which I’m guessing is due to it’s smaller width in hand. Unlike the Pros, which have shiny, finger print-magnet sides, the Mini (and standard size non-Pro) have matt sides. I have the black one, and it looks gorgeous. There’s a certain enjoyable symmetry to the shiny screen and shiny back with a matt side divider.
The word ‘Mini’ almost does it an injustice by suggesting it’s ‘less than’.
Battery life is obviously less, but after using it for several days without charging during the day, it ended the evening on 10/15%. I have it on a charging stand during the day while I work so the battery shouldn’t be an issue at all for me, but if you don’t, I think you’ll still be fine. Again, if you’re using it in the same ‘communication mode’ I do. If you’re gaming a lot, then you’ll flame out earlier.
The only downside to me so far is the absence of the telephoto lens. Not being able to do a 2x zoom has taken some getting used to and when we’re eventually let outside again, and I want to take pictures I’m sure I will miss it. Hopefully, this is added to next year’s Mini.
So why is this the best iPhone? Well - and it should always be noted that reviews are opinions, not fact - this iPhone succeeds the most at what it’s trying to be with the least trade-offs, compared to other iPhones.
It’s trying to be a more handy, focused device. One that is it’s own size for a reason, not just because it can be.
It’s either for those that just want an excellent phone, mainly to communicate and take good pictures.
Or it’s for those like myself. Those that use multiple devices all day long. Who want to have more control of what they do, when and how, as well as become less dependant/addicted to the device they always have in their pocket.
It does all this with two trade-offs - a smaller battery and fewer cameras. The former wasn’t an issue for me; the latter won’t bother many. That means there’s not a slower processor. The screen is still a glorious OLED. The beautiful new design is present and even feels better to hold.
Instead of just ramping up the specs as they do every year, Apple has sat down and thought about a new model. They’ve thought about why they would make it, what it should do, who should use it and they’ve done it all with zero compromises.
It’s a new type of iPhone, not just a scaled-down, cheaper version of the regular ones. The word ‘Mini’ almost does it an injustice by suggesting it’s ‘less than’.
It really isn’t, and I love it.