As I was scrolling through a website that sells vintage watches the other day, a thought came to my mind: how important comfort is for you while using a phone. In fashion, style with comfort is given the utmost importance. But we never talk about “comfort” in the context of the devices we use. Phones, in particular, are getting bigger each year and using them is a pain for people like me. I am sure someone over at Apple has figured out how to design a phone that just fits perfectly in most hands. It is also a phone that can be kept aside, in your pocket or purse, highlighting the fact that a phone does not need to dominate our lives.
Here is my view on the iPhone 13 mini, a phone that touches upon some ignored aspects of our tech lives.
Apple iPhone 13 mini review price in India: Rs 99,900 (as reviewed, 512GB storage)
Apple iPhone 13 mini review: Design and aesthetics
It’s a pity smaller phones no longer exist. Before writing this review, I scanned the internet and was stunned to find not a single premium compact-sized smartphone. It’s unfair on the part of the brands to only sell phones with bigger screens, leaving a broad consumer base with literally no option but to succumb to the market norms.
The iPhone 13 mini breaks this status quo and in a good way. The sequel to the iPhone 12 mini which came out last year, the iPhone 13 mini is compact but not tiny by any means. It is easier to use in one hand, and fits nicely if you are wearing skinny jeans. The advantage of having a compact phone like the iPhone 13 mini is that it is easier to take photos with one hand, especially selfies and recording videos. Using the iPhone 13 mini really feels different, a therapeutic approach that makes you less obsessive about your phone.
The iPhone 13 mini is identical to the predecessor, featuring the same flat edges and display. The differences between the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 12 mini are negligible. The notch is still there and it still houses Face ID but for this year the cut-out at the top is a little bit deeper and narrower — Apple says the notch is 20 per cent smaller than before. Another change is how the cameras are positioned on the back of the phone. This time, the lenses are much bigger and have been repositioned diagonally. Otherwise, the iPhone 13 mini is still the smallest and lightest premium compact smartphone you can buy on the market. It still has the Ceramic Shield that protects the phone from scratches with plenty of colours to choose from and a glossy glass back. The phone has an IP68 waterproof rating, the frame is aluminum, and offers the same MagSafe setup.
Apple iPhone 13 mini review: Display and audio
The display is identical in size and resolution to the iPhone 12 mini, which is a 5.4-inch OLED panel with 2340×1080-pixel resolution. That means this phone has the highest pixel density of any current iPhone with a 467 ppi. This is an OLED, or Organic Light Emitting Diode panel, which means that whites are brighter and blacks are darker. It also has HDR10, Dolby Vision, and TrueTone, which adjusts the white balance on the screen. Apple has increased the brightness level to 800 cd/m2 on the iPhone 13 mini’s screen (jump from 625 cd/m2 on the iPhone 12 mini) and you will feel the difference while texting someone or reading a blog post under direct sunlight. Even if the display lacks a high refresh rate, the iPhone 13 mini’s screen is bright and the contrast is gorgeous.
Coming from the iPhone 12, I did feel slightly odd to use the iPhone 13 mini for a day or two, especially when typing a message on the keyboard. But that notion of using a small phone did not last much and I actually started enjoying the iPhone 13 mini. It’s so much easier to hold and read a news article on TechToSee.com while having morning tea. If you are coming from old iPhone models, say, the iPhone 6 or 8 and think the small phone factor works best for you, the iPhone 13 mini makes a lot more sense. But, of course, the iPhone 13 is also there in case you want a bigger 6.1-inch screen but the price jumps by Rs 10,000.
Whether you get the iPhone 13 mini or iPhone 13, both phones have the same set of stereo speakers and they are loud and clear. The bass on the speakers is detailed and the speakers are good at playing music across genres. Just try listening to Jazz music on the iPhone 13 mini and you will love it. There’s still no headphone jack, but do you even care now?
Apple iPhone 13 mini review: Performance and battery
Just because the iPhone 13 mini is compact and priced less than the standard iPhone 13 does not mean that Apple has made sacrifices to cut costs. Putting the latest A15 Bionic chip — the same processor that also powers the top-end iPhone 13 Pro Max — in a phone like the iPhone 13 mini shows how Apple has changed under the leadership of CEO Tim Cook. Apple says the A15 Bionic chipset is 50 per cent faster than the competition. More important to me is that it feels fast. I never witnessed any major lag anywhere on the phone while testing it. It does all the basic tasks well like opening apps, playing videos, streaming movies on Netflix, and taking pictures.
I played a lot of high-quality games on the iPhone 13 mini and the performance was comparable to that of the iPhone 13 Pro except that the latter phone has more RAM and the GPU has an extra core. If you’re looking at this phone, the default 128GB of storage will be sufficient. The 256GB option costs Rs 10,000 more, while 512GB costs Rs 30,000 more. iOS 15 runs across all-new iPhone 13 models as well as previous generation phones. It offers major new features, including the ability of FaceTime to make calls to Windows and Android users, more control over notifications, a new Safari redesign, and more.
One of the things that made me a bit worried about the future of compact phones when the iPhone 12 mini made its debut last year was the battery life. The iPhone 12 mini had average battery life, and the phone was not able to last a day on a single charge. Thankfully, Apple has addressed those issues with the iPhone 13 mini. In my testing, the iPhone 13 lasted a full day and that is exactly what I wanted to see from a modern compact iPhone. On the iPhone 13 mini, the battery life increase is around 1.5 hours, Apple says, and that proves with my tests. But you have to acknowledge that the iPhone 13 mini still has shorter battery life compared to other phones in the iPhone 13 lineup.
Apple iPhone 13 mini review: Camera
I loved the cameras on the iPhone 12. It’s dead simple to use the iPhone’s camera app and the photos come natural and true to life. The iPhone 13 mini is packing the same cameras as the iPhone 13. In short, dual 12MP cameras, a regular and an ultrawide with a 120-degree field of view. This time around though, the iPhone 13 mini (it also applies to the iPhone 13) has larger camera modules. The main camera can take in 47 per cent more light, while the ultra-wide-angle lens has a new sensor that reduces noise in low-light photos. Both the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13 also have sensor-shift optical image stabilization, a feature previously reserved for the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
The pictures you get from the iPhone 13 mini are slightly improved when you compare the same shot taken with the iPhone 12, though it’s hard to tell the difference. But if you are coming from the older iPhone models then the difference is visible, with sharper details and punchier colours. The improved wider sensor also helps in taking the natural bokeh effect. As usual, the portrait mode on the iPhone is unmatched. Shooting at night and dusk always excites me. The iPhone 13 mini is impressive in taking low-light shots. The results are balanced, with minimum noise and the phone’s cameras actually capture the essence of the subject.
Apple has also introduced two new features in the iPhone 13 lineup: Photographic Styles, which lets you add different styles to your photos and the second new feature is Cinematic mode, which uses machine learning to shift focus in a scene between two different people. It’s also being called “Portrait mode for video.” As I have mentioned in my review of the iPhone 13 Pro, Cinematic mode is not perfect but it’s a great feature to have. You can change the focus of a shot that was taken in Cinematic Mode, and to me is impressive.
I wish the iPhone 13 cameras had a macro mode, which I enjoyed a lot while testing the iPhone 13 Pro. That being said, the iPhone 13 mini is equally good at taking still photos as well as shooting videos. The 12MP selfie camera has remained the same, and I think Apple really needs to shave up the front cameras on its iPhones.
Apple iPhone 13 mini review: Should you buy it?
If you don’t like carrying jumbo-sized phones, the iPhone 13 mini is worth looking at. This is a regular, fully capable iPhone in a compact size and that to me changes the way you use a phone. The success of the iPhone 13 mini will decide the fate of the future of compact phones and I genuinely want Apple to succeed. The iPhone 13 mini does feel like an iPhone but it’s also different in many ways. Sometimes a small change makes a huge difference in the way we see things in life, and the iPhone 13 mini is a step in that direction.