iPhone 13 mini vs iPhone 12 mini

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There is a lot to unpack about it, so let’s start with the most important new features. The iPhone 13 Mini brings improvements to some of the key weaknesses of the predecessor with — hooray! — a larger battery. The overall formula however hasn’t changed, as the 13 Mini has the same 5.4-inch screen size, same overall design styling, and a quite similar dual-camera system. Not a revolution as much as an evolution.

Below, we dive deeper in the differences between the iPhone 13 Mini vs 12 mini, but right now, here is a quick summary.

iPhone 13 Mini vs iPhone 12 Mini in a nutshell:

  • Finally, longer battery life! 13 mini lasts 1.5 hours more than 12 mini
  • Nearly identical design and styling, newer phone is a bit thicker and heavier
  • Same 5.4″ screen size, 60Hz on both, but newer phone gets brighter
  • Faster Apple A15 vs A14 on the older model, but same 4GB RAM
  • 128GB base storage vs 64GB on 12 mini
  • Two cameras on both, but upgraded on the 13 mini

Display and Design

The 13 mini brings a brighter screen and a tinier notch

While the new iPhone 13 Pro models are getting the long awaited 120Hz ProMotion function, the regular iPhone 13 and the iPhone 13 Mini stick with 60Hz. On one hand this is disappointing: a 60Hz screen is just not as smooth as a 120Hz one, but on the other hand, especially for the Mini, the higher refresh rate might have negatively affect the already compromised battery life, so there is that consideration.
The 13 mini and 12 mini come with seemingly identical 5.4″ OLED screens, both have great color reproduction and viewing angles, and both feature the same resolution and sharpness. The 13 mini, however, can get quite a bit brighter, as Apple says it gets to 800 nits max brightness vs 625 nits on the 12 mini, making the newer model far easier to use outdoors on a sunny day.

On the design side, these phones look nearly identical. Sure, you have the diagonal camera that is an easy giveaway for the newer model, but no major changes apart from that. Dig a bit deeper and the only thing you can notice is that the 13 mini is a bit thicker at 7.65mm of thickness vs 7.4mm on the 12 mini, and it is also a tiny bit heavier (141 grams vs 135g), but those are things that you probably won’t even notice in real life.

In terms of iPhone colors, you actually get a bit less this time around: the green option that you used to have on the 12 mini is gone, but you have a new pink color on the 13 mini that looks pretty cool, and we know of a few people, who are very much into this new color. Some colors like the blue are also a slightly different hue.

Battery and Charging

Finally, a battery upgrade that puts an end to the misery

All iPhone 13 models receive some form of a battery upgrade, and the iPhone 13 mini is — thankfully! — not an exception.

Apple does not specify the exact battery capacity for the iPhone 13 mini, but teardowns have revealed that the iPhone 13 mini sports a 2,406mAh battery, a nifty upgrade over the 2,227mAh cell on the 12 Mini. That works out to a nearly 10% increase in pure capacity.

Apple says you should expect to see 1.5 hours longer battery life in average use on the 13 mini, which sounds great. Another very interesting number is battery life while streaming video: it’s 13 hours on the iPhone 13 mini compared to just 10 hours on the iPhone 12 mini. What’s mind boggling is that the 13 mini is now rated to last longer in video streaming than the iPhone 12 Pro Max (which was rated at 12 hours)!

Indeed, the newer phone brings a welcome improvement in battery life.

On our lightest of tests, web browsing, the 13 mini scored more than 12 hours, which is more than an hour and a half on top of the 12 mini score. It also got an extra hour of YouTube video streaming, and finally the biggest increase came in gaming where it lasted nearly 30% longer than the older model. This is indeed great news for the mini lovers, who can now confidently use their phone throughout the day without worrying about topping it up mid-day.

On the charger front… well, nothing has changed here. Apple no longer ships a charger in the box, so plan on spending an additional $20-$30 bucks for a fast charger, if you don’t already own one. Unfortunately, Apple’s “fast charger” is not quite as fast as most other phones, only maxing out at 20W. It takes about an hour and a half to fully charge an iPhone 13 mini.

The new Mini also keeps the MagSafe technology for wireless charging at speeds of up to 15W.

Cameras

Upgraded cameras and new software features

The new diagonal arrangement of the cameras is not the only thing that’s changed, as the cameras have undergone an upgrade too.

In terms of hardware, you get a dual-cam setup with a wide plus ultrawide lens on the back:

  • Wide camera: 26mm, f/1.6 aperture on both
  • Ultra-wide camera: 0.5X, 13mm, f/2.4 aperture on both

While there are no changes in aperture, Apple says the 13 mini has a “new wide camera” with a shiny new sensor that now captures 47% more light, plus you get new sensor-shift OIS for better stability. On the ultra-wide camera, the company promises “more detail in the dark areas of your photos.”

Armed with this information, let’s take a look at the actual photos and inspect the differences, shall we?

During the day, you really have to be eagle-eyed to spot much of a difference. In the more than a dozen shots above, most of them look identical, if not exactly the same. Yes, you could spot a few shots where there is a bit of a distinction in color reproduction, but apart from that, the photos look quite similar with both the wide and ultra-wide cameras.

In low light, however, the changes are actually visible. The iPhone 13 mini doesn’t aggressively go for just a brighter picture, but tends to get the white balance less warm (correctly), plus it controls brighter lights much better and generally looks cleaner.

And while the front camera has the same 12-megapixel sensor, it now has better dynamic range and selfies actually do look better on the 13 mini.

There are a couple of new software features too:

  • Cinematic Mode — similar to Portrait mode, but for video. The new iPhone will analyze video footage in real time and blurs the background for a so called bokeh effect, leaving only the subject in focus. It will also automatically switch focus between faces when appropriate, for example, if you are in focus and turn away, it will move the focus automatically on the next person in the frame.
  • Photographic Styles — way more powerful than traditional filters. These new AI filters allow you to fine tune the way the camera captures images and once you set them, the camera app remembers them and will use them until any further change. This means that you can easily customize the colors and overall styling of your photos. Awesome! Keep in mind that once you select a photographic style you cannot change on a photo that you have already captured.
The zoom lens, LiDAR scanner and macro mode remain exclusive features for the Pro models and are not available on the iPhone 13 mini or 12 mini.

Performance: the new Apple A15 Bionic

Slightly faster processor and even more importantly, double the storage!

In the past few years, Apple has had the fastest chips in the industry, and the new Apple A15 Bionic chip only extends its lead. The Apple A15 is built on the same 5nm technology as last year, but it has more transistors — 15 billion vs 11.8 billion transistors on the A14.

While it delivers modest improvements to single-core CPU performance, it brings bigger gains in multi-core performance thanks to using a wider cache and it has one extra GPU core and faster graphics performance.

Below, you can find benchmarks comparing these two:

There is a slight improvement in speed, and analysts have pointed out that it is probably due to Apple bumping CPU speed for better single-core scores and increasing the cache that helps with multi-core results.

iPhone 13 mini GPU tested

Results above are from the 3D Mark Wildlife Extreme Stress Test, which runs a game simulation for 20 minutes straight and is a great tool to understand GPU performance over a period of time and whether you have throttling. Both the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 12 mini start with a burst of performance but quickly throttle down after just 1 or 2 minute of running the test. Most other iPhones are able to maintain that performance for the whole duration of the test, but the minis can hold on to this for only about 10 minutes, before experiencing another quite significant drop in performance. Interestingly, we have the very same behavior on both minis, and that leads us to think that even the newer and more efficient A15 has to throttle because of the smaller space, which makes it easier for the phones to heat up. Still, if we were to measure the average increase in GPU performance that the new 13 mini brings, that would be to the tune of 15% to 20%, which is actually quite good.

One thing the iPhone 13 mini does not get is a RAM upgrade as it is still running with the same 4GB RAM as its predecessor.

Apple does have an unexpected, but super welcome upgrade which is the 128GB base storage in the 13 mini! Previously, the 12 mini base model started at 64GB of storage, which was — let’s face it — quite insufficient for most users. Having double the storage at the same price is great.

If you care about connectivity, you should know that both phones support 5G bands with mmWave support in the United States. The 13 mini comes with a brand new Qualcomm X60 modem (it’s also used in Android flagship phones like the Galaxy S21 series). It replaces the X55 modem used in the iPhone 12 series, and the main advantage its brings is that it gets rid of one limitation of the previous modem. While the X55 modem bundled 5G downlink with 4G uplink, the newer X60 combines 5G downlink and 5G uplink and this helps achieve lower latency.

iPhone 13 Mini vs iPhone 12 Mini: Specs Comparison

And here is a detailed specs comparison between the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 12 mini.

The iPhone 13 Mini was released on Friday, September 24th, at the same $730 starting price as last year’s model.

And… that’s the iPhone 13 mini: finally, the better battery life everyone hoped for in the same lovely form factor. Plus new colors, faster chip and double the storage, but not quite the dramatic changes in the camera department or the fancy 120Hz you can get on the Pros.

So, would you get the iPhone 13 mini this year before the “mini” idea disappears altogether, as rumors say? And what do you think about the upgrade?

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