I come here not to bury the iPhone mini but to praise it. If reports are true, the iPhone 13 mini will be the last of its line, replaced by a larger iPhone 14 Max this fall. And as someone who owns and loves an iPhone 13 mini, this makes me sad—sad enough to hold onto my iPhone 13 mini for another year.
It seems that not enough people share my love for the iPhone 13 mini for Apple to update it for the iPhone 14 generation. No matter: The iPhone 13 mini is a great device. So great, in fact, that I suspect we haven’t seen the end of its design yet.
In praise of the little guy
There’s no denying it: people love big phones. The iPhone went on a huge growth tear the moment Apple made it larger with the iPhone 6 generation. Sales figures seem to bear it out. I won’t deny that my love of smaller phones makes me a niche iPhone buyer.
But… do people really love big phones? I think they love big screens showing more information and playing bigger movies. I’m not sure they love the extra weight, the extra volume, the extra amount of bulk in the pocket–but it’s worth the trade-off for that big, bright screen.
Every year I have the privilege of using all of Apple’s iPhones as part of the process of reviewing them. And for the past two years, I’ve kept coming back to the iPhone mini design.
First off, it’s a non-Pro iPhone. And while reasonable people can differ, I think that in the iPhone 12 and 13 generations, Apple’s iPhone Pro design is worse than that of the non-Pro models. From the bright colors on the back of the devices to the gorgeous anodized aluminum frame, give me the iPhone 13 mini over a duller iPhone 13 Pro any day.
At 5.2 inches tall and 2.5 inches wide, it’s small–meaning it fits well in my hand and my pocket–and yet has a 5.4-inch display that’s perfectly capable of giving apps plenty of room to stretch out. It’s a look that harkens back to the iPhone 5 era, my favorite era of iPhone design. But the iPhone mini’s screen is vastly larger than that on the iPhone 5, thanks to its use of Face ID.
And while battery life on the iPhone mini is undoubtedly less than on other iPhones, I need to point out that Apple did a great job boosting the battery life on the iPhone 13 models. The iPhone 12 mini’s battery life was a little sketchy, honestly. The iPhone 13 mini? Not a problem.
Yes, if you use an iPhone mini, you will miss out on some key features of the iPhone Pro models. I’m currently using an iPhone 13 Pro with a beta of iOS 16, and I’m constantly reminded that the cheaper phones don’t have ProMotion or that extra camera on the back. And yet, whenever I hold the larger phone in my hand or put it in my pocket, I am turned off by its size. Why carry a brick in your pocket if you don’t have to?
It’s dead, Jim
But this is beside the point, right? The iPhone 14 mini is, apparently, not a product that will exist. Now that I’ve praised the mini, I need to bury it. But… will I?
First, let’s consider the report that the iPhone 14 line will only feature a new A16 processor on the Pro phone models. So not only would the regular iPhone 14 models not get access to rumored innovations like an always-on display, they might not be any faster than the current-year models!
I’m sure Apple will make a few upgrades to the iPhone 14 models that will push them slightly past the iPhone 13 in terms of specs, but on the low end, this is potentially the least impressive iPhone upgrade in years. And it means that the iPhone 13 mini will get another year where it’s more or less a current phone. I’ll take it.
And then there’s the inevitable future: I really do believe the iPhone mini design will be back. One possibility is for Apple to simply alternate between iPhone models so that the mini appears one year and the Max the next. It’s also not impossible that Apple might just bring the mini design back every few years since it obviously has a following–just not a big one.
Then there’s the iPhone SE, which was recently updated to a third-generation model. Using the iPhone mini as the basis of a new iPhone SE would make sense, as the iPhone mini is superior to the current SE in every way. Even though it’s slightly smaller, it’s got a bigger screen, support for Face ID, and a second rear camera.
The truth is, the iPhone mini is just too good a product–and a size–for Apple to ignore completely. I’m still sad that it’s apparently not popular enough to merit a new version every year, but I can’t believe it’s gone for good. In the meantime, I’ll be holding on to my iPhone 13 mini–and waiting on the mini’s inevitable return.