Reviewing Apple’s iPhone 13 Mini, two months later, including camera tests, gaming performance, Display, battery life, and more to see if it’s the best compact smartphone from 2021.
Unlike the larger Android flagships like the Google Pixel 6 and Galaxy S21, Apple’s smaller-sized handset offers a refreshing change. While the camera tech isn’t drastically different from the iPhone 12 generation, it still delivers great photos and videos under favorable conditions.
Gamers can enjoy smooth performance with the A15 chipset, even though the 60Hz refresh rate falls short of some competitors. The OLED screen impresses in most aspects, except for the obnoxious notch. Notably, the 13 Mini boasts impressive battery life, ensuring it lasts all day long. But the question is, is the 13 Mini actually worth that still pretty steep asking price? Well, here’s my full in-depth review.
Design and Durability
Nowadays, small smartphones are very much an endangered species. Sony stopped doing its Xperia Compacts, and the Google Pixel 6 is almost six and a half inches. So, the 13 Mini is by miles one of the more condensed handsets of 2021. I mean, this thing is just adorably teeny to the point where it does almost feel like a kid’s toy. But it will fit in basically any pocket. And at just 140 grams, you certainly won’t even feel it when it’s there.
You’ve got an aluminum frame stretching around at the edges and Apple’s ceramic shield protecting that display. Not even the most superficial of damage can be seen on any bit of that charmingly compact chassis. Even two months on, and on top of that, the iPhone 13 Mini is certified IP68 water and dust-resistant, surviving depths down to six meters. So, no worries if you drop it in your pint on the Statham scale. This endearingly weeny wonder wins itself a full five tough nuts out of five. I mean, it’s basically the Joe Pesci of smartphones. It may be tiny, but don’t even look at it the wrong way.
Software and Features
So, since the launch and several key updates later, Apple’s iOS seems genuinely happy with life. Nothing major has really changed for version 15. This is more a case of refining and tidying up some of the bits that weren’t quite lovely enough in this incarnation. iOS is better than ever, which is what you’d kind of hope for and expect at the very least.
I still really enjoy the control center, which is much the same albeit with a fresh focus tool that I really should make more use of because it’s good at curbing distractions when needed without resorting to a full-on “do not disturb.” As usual, we’ve got a great range of security and privacy features as well, including green light warning when the camera is in use, similar to one of Android 12’s key features.
But, of course, all of the usual iOS irritations are present and correct. For instance, I would prefer an Android-style app drawer that can be accessed from any desktop, not to mention properly implemented gesture controls. I know it’s easy to handle with the warm mitt, but still, it’s kind of a ball to reach up to the top to go back in pretty much every app.
The notifications handling in iOS is still a wee bit cack, especially as there’s subtle space in that status bar for any quick-view icons. And as always, of course, the customization options here are very limited indeed. But at least you can rest assured that the iPhone 13 Mini will be receiving plenty of security and OS updates for the next few years.
Of course, there’s still no sudden microSD support here, but storage mercifully starts at 128 gigs now, so anyone who shoots a shag load of photos and video won’t be frantically deleting stuff after just a month. And if you want to, you can stuff even more cash into Timmy Cook’s G-string for a model with double the storage.
Back on security, and Face ID worked absolutely fine, even generally recognizing me in dim light and when I couldn’t be asked to drag a razor across my face for a good few days. Although, of course, every time I stepped outside with my face mask on, Face ID then doesn’t work. So, you end up having to enter your PIN about several dozen times a day. Please, Apple, Timmy C, I am begging you, mate. Put a sodding fingerprint sensor on your iPhones.
Screen Quality on the iPhone 13 Mini
The iPhone 13 Mini sports a 5.4-inch OLED display, and as far as the tech and the actual output go, there’s not really much difference versus last year’s iPhone 12 Mini. Once again, it’s a full HD+ resolution that’s 2340 by 1080 pixels, which means supremely crisp visuals thanks to that teeny size. You’ve got HDR support for streaming services, and while you’ve got limited control over the color output, I was perfectly happy with what I saw. Photos are naturally reproduced, cinematic fare is simply stunning with sharp contrast, and more vibrant subject matter like Pixar movies really burst from that dinky display. Those rich tones are proper deep-fried sugary goodness for your peepers.
But of course, naturally, I do have some caveats to all of this gushing. So, one, the iPhone 13 Mini’s display is perhaps unsurprisingly quite mini. It’s not exactly the ideal way to take in a really cinematic marvel blockbuster, for instance. It’s certainly doable, and of course, the picture is super, super sharp, which helps, but still not great.
Two, there’s that frankly ludicrous notch, which does intrude on your content quite obnoxiously when you go full screen. It’s bad enough on the enormous Pro Max model, but here on the Mini, it is just baffling how did Apple ever think that this was okay? Why not just do what Sony and others do and have no notch at all?
The iPhone 13 Mini is a tad brighter when you’re outside in very, very bright sunlight, but not to the point where it actually makes any difference to comfort levels and visibility. And by that, I mean the visibility was already very good on the iPhone 12 Mini, and it’s still great here on the 13. However, I would have liked some kind of super dim mode for really comfortable nighttime viewing, like what you get on the Pixels. It’s not quite there on those lower brightness, although at least you do get the Night Shift feature, which helps filter blue light to make things a bit easier on your retinas.
Another grumble with the Mini model of the iPhone is the fact that it is stuck at 60 hertz full time. Whereas the Pro models scale all the way down from 10 hertz all the way up to 120 hertz, and even a lot of budget Android smartphones at least offer 90 hertz or more these days. So the stinky delight isn’t quite as creamy smooth as its more expensive siblings or Androids about half the price.
Speaker Audio Quality
Technically, the iPhone 13 Mini has a stereo speaker arrangement, but the earpiece speaker isn’t as hot as the bottom blaster. And when you boost the volume, you will be treated to some decidedly tinny audio. You’ll definitely want to stick with a Bluetooth speaker or some Bluetooth headphones when you are streaming some music or watching a bit of Netflix or whatever. And the good news is the Bluetooth wireless connectivity is absolutely perfect on the 13 Mini. Not a single stumble or jutter the entire time I was streaming with this thing.
Performance and Gaming on iPhone 13 Mini
Apple’s A15 chipset once again powers procedures on the iPhone 13 Mini, and it’s an absolute belter. Everyday running is silky smooth, or as smooth as that 60 hertz display will allow. If you’re a gamer, you can blast through any title on that App Store, no worries.
That said, the Apple’s 13 Mini isn’t exactly an ideal gaming device. The only issue with having a phone this small, besides the fact that you’re obscuring a large portion of the screen with your thumbs, is that the handset does heat up rather quickly under duress. Not to a troublesome amount, but I did notice after a good bit of gaming, it got slightly toasty around the back end. Unlike the Pro Max model.
And naturally, you’ve got full 5G support here on the 13 Mini, again as you’d expect at this sort of price point. No big whoop because even Android phones under 200 pounds these days are packing a good bit of 5G action. So, solid performance all rounds.
Battery life on iPhone 13 Mini
And I’ve got to admit, battery life as well, the iPhone 13 Mini absolutely blew my expectations out of the water, although my expectations were lower than the average 80-year-old ball bag. With lots and lots of screen-on time, I really was not expecting this dinky blower to last me a full day, but I didn’t manage to kill it a single time, not once, before I finally staggered into bed.
The only time I came close was when I had a good couple of hours on Genshin Impact. Apart from that, lots of screen-on time using it as a sat nav for an hour or two, plenty of camera play, all that good stuff, it was still generally around 20 to 25 percent at the end of the day. My only complaint with the battery tech is that the iPhone 13 Mini takes a little while to charge up, certainly a game compared to a lot of cheaper Android smartphones. But at least you do have wired and wireless charging.
Now, the camera setup here on the iPhone 13 Mini is pretty straightforward. You’ve got a 12-megapixel primary sensor and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle shooter, although it is different hardware compared to the iPhone 13 Pro models, and not just because of the lack of a zoom lens. It’s also a very similar setup to last year’s iPhone 12 Mini, although the overall experience is slightly changed up.
The megapixel count is quite low compared to many rivals, but I found that my test snaps packed in plenty of detail, so they looked absolutely fine when I did throw them up on a big tele or a monitor. Color accuracy is solid as well, comparable to the likes of Pixel 6 smartphones. Even indoors and in fairly low light, the iPhone can still produce quite natural images with competitive levels of detail. Low-light photography is slightly improved over last year’s Mini, with the same Night Mode to hand when needed. But there is no LiDAR scanner for super-fast autofocus when you are shooting in low-light conditions, unlike the more premium iPhone models. You might have to wait a while to make sure you’ve got your subject in focus before you take the shot.
Apple’s new Photographic Styles feature serves up five different camera settings on auto mode to choose from. I left it on standard for the majority of my testing, as this offers the most natural image capture. But you can also swap to rich contrast, vibrant, warm, and cool options for a different vibe. The end result isn’t vastly different from what you’ll get with simple filter effects on a lot of other smartphones. But generally, the human subjects remain untouched, while the background is what’s actually changed up. It’s quite a neat little effect.
You also have that 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle lens, which can again capture quite natural-looking snaps with a pulled-back viewpoint, although it struggles more in evenings. And unlike the Pro phones, there’s no separate zoom shooter, so you are capped off here at 5 times digital zoom, and even that is a bit lacking.
For movies, you can shoot at up to 4K resolution at up to 60 frames per second for pleasingly natural footage. Apple phones really do excel in this area, again as long as the lighting isn’t working against you. And yes, you’ve got that Cinematic mode, so you can shift focus in a jazzy manner from foreground to background.
The 12-megapixel selfie snapper is perfectly okay, again providing pretty decent results as long as the lighting’s all right. In more dim conditions, you tend to lose a bit of the skin tone accuracy.
Final Thought on iPhone 13 Mini – Should You Buy?
That right there is my full review of the iPhone 13 Mini, a couple of months after using it. Overall, I’ve got to say it’s still my favorite iPhone. It’s still ridiculously expensive, that notch is just plain silly, and it suffers from all the usual premium pitfalls like a lack of microSD expandability and headphone jack action. But the performance is really solid, the battery life absolutely bowled me over, and let’s face it, if you want a compact smartphone from 2021, it pretty much wins by default.
Software and Features7.5
Performance and Gaming8.5