iPhone 12 vs. iPhone 12 Mini

A new wave of iPhones hit the market with the release of the iPhone 12 lineup. This year, Apple has added a fourth member to the family update with the iPhone 12 Mini. It’s another indication small phones are making a comeback, and Apple is joining in on the trend. After the release of a refreshed iPhone SE earlier in 2020, the iPhone 12 Mini brings a small option to its flagship line of smartphones.

Two devices are now in the standard tier of the range with the introduction of this smallest handset. It makes for an interesting choice for those who have wanted the latest iPhone but have been uncomfortable with the ever-expanding waistlines of popular choices. The iPhone 12 Mini could be a breath of fresh air for many shoppers.

In the past, compromising on size and cost has meant losing out on something crucial to the user experience. Will buying Apple’s smallest phone shut you out of the manufacturer’s most impressive features? We’ll break down the similarities and differences between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini so you can choose the phone that’s best for you.

Specs

iPhone 12
iPhone 12 Mini
Size 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm (5.78 x 2.82 x 0.29 inches) 131.5 x 64.2 x 7.4 mm (5.18 x 2.53 x 0.29 inches)
Weight 164 grams (5.78 ounces) 135 grams (4.76 ounces)
Screen size 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED 5.4-inch Super Retina XDR OLED
Screen resolution 2532 x 1170 pixels (460 pixels per inch density) 2340 x 1080 pixels (476 ppi)
Operating system iOS 14 iOS 14
Storage space 64GB, 128GB, 256GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Apple Pay Apple Pay
Processor Apple A14 Bionic Apple A14 Bionic
RAM 4GB 4GB
Camera Dual 12MP wide and 12MP ultrawide rear, 12MP front Dual 12MP wide and 12MP ultrawide rear, 12MP front
Video 4K up to 60 frames per second, 1080p up to 240 fps 4K up to 60 fps, 1,080p up to 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports Lightning Lightning
Authenticate Method FaceID FaceID
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery Capacity to be confirmed

20W fast-charging

15W Qi wireless charging

Capacity TBC

20W fast-charging

12W Qi wireless charging

App marketplace  Apple App Store Apple App Store
Network support AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon
Colors White, Black, Blue, Green, PRODUCT (RED) White, Black, Blue, Green, PRODUCT (RED)
Price $799 $699
Buy from Apple, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, Amazon, Best Buy Apple, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, Amazon, Best Buy
Review score 4.5 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Design, display, durability

iPhone 12
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

The 2020 line of iPhones represents the first significant overhaul in hardware design since the iPhone X in 2017. Apple has ditched the curved edges of that phone in favor of a squared-off, industrial approach reflecting its recent iPad Pro and iPad Air refreshes. There’s a glossy finish on the back of the phone while the camera module takes on a matte finish. Flat aluminum rails wrap along the sides to complete the tidy look. It definitely comes off as more premium and modern than last year’s styling. iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini come in the same 5 colors: White, black, blue, green, and (PRODUCT)RED.

Both phones now employ Apple’s Super Retina XDR OLED display, previously reserved for the iPhone Pro models. The improved contrast and brightness from organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays will make the colors and detail in pictures and videos really pop on your phone. While the iPhone 12 has a 6.1-inch screen with a resolution of 2532 x 1170 pixels, the iPhone 12 Mini is a good deal smaller with a 5.4-inch screen and 2340 x 1080-pixel resolution.

A Ceramic Shield screen — as Apple calls it — covers and protects that new display. Apple claims the new screen provides four times better drop protection than last year’s models. An IP68 rating means the two phones are also splash, water, and dust resistant.

You’ll probably never notice the differences in resolution in everyday use, although the iPhone 12 Mini’s smaller landscape could feel cramped if you’ve got bigger hands. Beyond that, these iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini devices are virtually identical in terms of aesthetics and build materials.

Winner: Tie

Performance, battery life, charging

iPhone 12 Mini
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

If your phone can’t handle your everyday use, it doesn’t really matter how great it looks and feels. Fortunately, both of these iPhones deliver on that front as well. They run on the new A14 Bionic chip, Apple’s fastest mobile processor to date. It’ll easily handle any tasks or mobile games you throw at it while optimizing battery life throughout the day.

Excellent battery life has been a mainstay of the iPhone in recent years, but we need to point out an unfortunate surprise. In our review of the iPhone 12 Mini, we saw a not-so-insignificant drop in battery life performance compared to the bigger models. You don’t lose much else when choosing this smallest iPhone 12, but simple physics means there must be a sacrifice somewhere. Fitting all the internal hardware from the bigger iPhone 12 into a smaller form factor likely means a smaller, lower-capacity battery must power it all.

Both devices can charge via Lighting port, wirelessly on a Qi charging pad, or by using the new MagSafe feature. MagSafe charging on the iPhone 12 Mini tops out at 12W as opposed to the 15W output available on the other iPhone 12 models. It’s still a welcome improvement compared to the 5W-7.5W you get out of Qi charging, but another limitation, nonetheless.

If you’re staring at your screen for big chunks of the day or consider yourself a power user, you’ll want to focus on the bigger iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro models. Battery life and charging speeds can be a real source of frustration if they don’t meet the needs of your lifestyle. A bigger battery and full use of MagSafe charging make the iPhone 12 a big winner here.

Winner: iPhone 12

Camera

iPhone 12

The front and back camera modules are identical across both phones. On the front, you’ll get the 12-megapixel TrueDepth camera that enables FaceID. The back features a wide and ultrawide lens with each one shooting 12MP photos. The A14 Bionic processor also powers the addition of Dolby Vision HDR (High Dynamic Range) video on the iPhone 12 lineup. Recording video with the feature turned on allows you to capture a wider range of colors and added detail in the highlights and shadows of your scene. Watching those videos back on an iPhone’s HDR-capable OLED screen is sure to enhance your viewing experience.

Apple has also expanded Night Mode capability this year. The feature kicks on in especially low-light conditions to capture and combine multiple exposures of an image. It’s an impressive way to get great-looking shots at night. It’s now available on the wide, ultrawide, and front-facing cameras. Night Mode appeared only on the wide-angle camera with its introduction last year.

Moving between model sizes traditionally means gaining or losing camera features. This is not the case with these two standard iPhones. Camera hardware and performance will be the exact same. A very welcome tie is in order here.

Winner: Tie

Software and updates

iPhone 12 Mini
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

Both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini are shipping with iOS 14. The recently updated operating system brings a slate of new features to all iPhones, including long-awaited widgets to customize your home screen interface.

Tight integration between hardware and software on the iPhone continues to deliver one of the sharpest and hiccup-free smartphone experiences. Apple’s mobile chips and continued iOS updates have proven to keep iPhones running smoothly for years after purchase. Being a part of the same release cycle, these two phones should be on par with each other today and into the foreseeable future.

Winner: Tie

Special features

iPhone 12 Mini
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

In case you haven’t heard, all the 2020 iPhones now have 5G connectivity. The technology, which continues to be rolled out by major carriers, promises to bring much faster network speeds to mobile devices compared to widely available 4G coverage.

The aforementioned MagSafe feature gives you an alternative way to charge both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini. Magnetic coils near the back of the new phones will keep Apple’s proprietary charger efficiently attached while providing faster charging. It also sets the stage for a growing array of MagSafe accessories.

It’s fairly clear these phones are in a dead heat when it comes to popular and innovative features. We do think there’s something to be said about the iPhone 12 Mini’s compact size, regardless of its battery shortcomings. Being able to comfortably hold, use, and pocket a flagship smartphone in 2020 is legitimately a special feature worth merit. Maybe you have small hands. Maybe you just want to remember what it’s like to have full tactile control of your phone. The iPhone 12 Mini is a real (tiny) gamechanger that still packs a performance punch.

Winner: iPhone 12 Mini

Price and availability

The iPhone 12 Mini starts at $699 for the 64GB model. The 128GB and 256GB models are available for $749 and $849, respectively. For the bigger iPhone 12, the 64GB version comes in at $799, with a 128GB model at $849 and a 256GB model at $949. We should note this is carrier pricing. For SIM-free, unlocked versions of the phones, you’ll need to tack on an extra $30 to each previously provided total. Both varieties of the phones are now available for purchase from Apple and major retailers.

The same range of colors and storage capacities apply to both handsets, so you’re not forced to swing your decision between them based on those factors. The trade-off on the iPhone 12 Mini’s lower prices is the bigger size and improved battery life of the iPhone 12. Regardless of which side you choose, you’re not giving up too much.

Overall winner: iPhone 12

You’ve probably noticed by this point that most of the differences in this comparison have come down to the physical dimensions of each device. It’s primarily the core factor to consider. You will get the same design, build quality, and software experience no matter which device you pick.

Still, we feel the battery life of one of the most important devices in your daily routine is too crucial to ignore. The iPhone 12 Mini simply lags in this respect. That shortcoming plus the limited screen space make the bigger iPhone 12 our clear winner.

You’ll hardly be disappointed springing for the iPhone 12 Mini though. It has all the performance and features you could want from a smartphone in 2020, all at a reasonable price. If owning a smaller handheld outweighs the few practical benefits of a bigger form factor, you’ll love the iPhone 12 Mini.

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