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iPhone 13 mini after 90 days: Long-term review of the smallest iPhone

NextPit Apple iPhone 13 Mini Ben Review
© NextPit

After several months of using the iPhone 13 mini as a daily driver, it went through quite a lot in my pocket. After snapping 668 photos, shooting 366 videos, going through two flights and countless hours of use, I will now summarize how this 5.4-inch phone performs in everyday life. The compact size of the handset has more positive than negative aspects.

Rating

Good

  • Fantastic size for everyday use
  • Good photo quality
  • Very good video quality
  • High-performance level

Bad

  • Battery life could be better
  • Display stuck at 60 Hertz
  • No memory expansion options
  • Lightning connector is annoying (to me)

iPhone 13 mini in a nutshell

After years of using a phablet, the compact iPhone 13 mini has me wrapped around its little finger! Thanks to the 5.4-inch display, this one finger is also enough to operate the device with just one hand, and comfortably at that. It is really great that Apple packed so much performance into the small chassis. The quality of the camera, the stereo speakers, and also the internal microphones are all first-class.

However, the compact size comes at the expense of battery life. Intensive use of the device often sees it falter before the day is over. The fact that Apple still relies on the Lightning port for charging purposes makes this issue even more problematic for me. Multimedia fans will also not like the tiny 60 Hertz display despite having True Tone and Retina resolution. The lack of memory expansion is typical for Apple but is still annoying for those who dabble heavily in both video and photo media.

Overall, the iPhone 13 mini managed to score 4.5 stars despite its drawbacks. If you are looking for a compact smartphone, you must take a look at the iPhone 13 mini.

Design: Practical and compact

Thanks to its 5.4-inch display, the iPhone 13 mini measures just 131.5 x 64.2 x 7.65 millimeters and tips the scales at a mere 140 grams. The smartphone is also waterproof according to its IP68 certification, featuring the typical iPhone mute button, and comes with a glass back.

What I liked:

  • Handy and space-saving thanks to the mini form factor.
  • Comfortable to use with just one hand.
  • The mute switch is nice to "fidget" with.

What I didn't like:

  • Very slippery without a cover.
  • Microphones are easily covered during hands-free calls.
  • Countless accidental screenshots due to the buttons' positions.

Some time ago, I already penned a rather controversial comment about small smartphones. I still think that small handsets are less prevalent in everyday life. The iPhone is hardly noticeable in the trouser and jacket pockets, always remaining firmly in my grip and can be operated comfortably with only one hand. In addition, the handset is ultra-light at 140 grams.

NextPit Apple iPhone 13 Mini Display Test
Honey, I shrunk the iPhone / © NextPit

Apple seals its phone against water and dust according to the IP68 certification. In other words, the smartphone can survive for up to 30 minutes in water up to 6 meters deep. This means I can indulge in my addiction of shifting the mute button back and forth in my (swimming) pants pocket when I feel bored while swimming. A great fidget spinner replacement thanks to the precise vibration motor!

However, the position of the microphones was always annoying during my long-term review. This is especially so when you use the phone in Apple's silicone case, you will completely mute the other party when you rest the phone on your pinky finger during hands-free calls as it rests on the recesses in the case. I would not recommend using it without a case because of the slippery back either, which leaves us in quite a pickle, doesn't it?

NextPit Apple iPhone 13 Mini Apple
The back is very slippery / © NextPit

Last but not least, Apple's positioning of the buttons is annoying. The big "on" button is the exact opposite of the "volume up" button, and that is Apple's gesture when it comes to capturing screenshots. The result? Almost 50 contentless screenshots of my lock screen, and it keeps on piling up.

Display: High-end with a low refresh rate

As in the basic iPhone 13, Apple installed a Super Retina XDR display that measures exactly 5.4 inches as an all-screen OLED display. The 476ppi resolution is higher than in all other iPhones courtesy of its 2,340 x 1,080 pixels. However, the refresh rate is limited to 60 hertz.

What I liked:

  • Good one-handed operation.
  • Sharpest iPhone display.
  • Great color fidelity thanks to TrueTone.

What I didn't like:

  • Frame rate at only 60 Hertz.
  • Notch design is no longer up to date...
  • ...and is still not software-optimized.
NextPit Apple iPhone 13 Mini Front Camera
The display is very nice, but only offers 60 Hertz / © NextPit

The display of the iPhone 13 mini is a real high-end mini TV. Thanks to HDR support, it achieves a maximum brightness of 1,200 nits, offers an almost infinite contrast level thanks to OLED, and is the sharpest iPhone display on the market at 476 PPI. The display is what I would also like to see in the iPhone SE in the future, which still appeared with an ancient LCD display in 2022.

For photo and video work, the TrueTone support comes in handy which automatically adjusts colors based on the environment. With my rather large fingers, one-handed operation is flawless. At the same time, it is hard to hit certain content precisely, such as when I'm copying text. After all, you automatically cover more content with your fingers on small displays.

Technically, I have to criticize the refresh rate of 60 Hertz compared to Android alternatives at the same price. After finding the display a bit sluggish at first, I quickly got used to it in everyday use, though. In this iPhone, I prefer Apple's power-saving refresh rate. I think 120 Hertz would have made for an even poorer battery life here.

NextPit Apple iPhone 13 Mini Case
The matching silicone case additionally protects the display / © NextPit

Apple is also technically behind in the placement of its front-facing camera, which takes up a particularly large amount of space because of Face ID. The iconic notch has shrunk by a few millimeters, but it is still clearly visible when viewing videos.

Immediately after the release of the smaller notch, there was ridicule about inappropriate apps like YouTube, where the notch protrudes a few millimeters into the picture when videos are not stretched to full screen. It is annoying that Apple cannot solve this problem even after several iOS updates.

Software: Future-proof & well-integrated

A detailed overview of iOS 15 is available on NextPit if you are interested to dive deeper. The operating system performs very well in everyday use on the iPhone 13 mini. I did not notice any display or scaling errors despite the smaller display. The software support will probably run from six to seven years, and this makes the phone more sustainable with the rather expensive purchase price being considered as a long-term investment.

Those who also use other Apple devices will enjoy the best integration between varied devices on the technology market. You can also seamlessly open browser tabs in Google Chrome on your MacBook when they are open on the smartphone, conveniently scan documents via the iPhone camera with a simple right-click on the desktop, and can also answer calls on macOS.

An integrated ecosystem is Apple's biggest strength and at the same time, a major disadvantage. This is because the so-called "walled garden" makes it difficult for third-party providers to penetrate the closed system. The probability of choosing more Apple devices for this reason is quite high - and it can get rather expensive.

Power: A tiny powerhouse

The iPhone 13 mini uses the A15 Bionic SoC, which is one of the most powerful smartphone processors on the market today. Thanks to improved NPU performance, Apple processes AI functions like "Live Text" or Cinematic Mode directly on the device. While the RAM always remains the same at 4 GB, you can choose from 128 GB to 512 GB of internal storage.

What I liked:

  • Very high-performance level.
  • Never experienced problems with overheating up or thermal throttling.
  • 128 GB of storage in the base model.

What I didn't like:

  • Memory is not expandable.

In our reviews of the iPhones from 2021 and 2022, we continue to repeat the following like a parrot: The A15 Bionic is one of the most powerful smartphone chips on the market. However, that doesn't only make for happy feelings in benchmark tests, but also for the necessary performance boost required in everyday life and at work.

Apple iPhone 13 mini performance benchmarks

Benchmark Apple iPhone 13 mini Apple iPhone SE 2022 Samsung Galaxy S22 Oppo Find X5 Oppo Find X5 Pro Asus Zenfone 8 OnePlus 9 Xiaomi Mi 11
3D Mark Wildlife 9292 at 55,6 fps 9214 at 55,2 fps 735 at 42,10 fps 5830 at 34,9 fps 9300 at 55,7 fps 5753 5683 5702
3D Mark Wildlife stress test (best / worst) 8968 / 7168 8173 / 6762 5581 / 3537 4723 / 3217 9192 / 6069 5825 5716 5697
Geekbench 5 (single / multi) 1742 / 4792 1737 / 4690 1158 / 3414 1097 / 3155 846 / 3324 1124 / 3738 1119 / 3657 1085 / 3490

You can edit 4K videos at 60 frames per second in a buttery smooth manner on the tiny device, edit captured RAW pictures, and enjoy all current mobile games in maximum quality whenever you let your hair down. Apple has not established itself as a house brand for many creatives for nothing, since the manufacturer does not cut corners either. For example, the iPhone 13 mini proved to be a usable voice-over microphone at MWC 2022.

However, it is the company's principles (or pride?) that are annoying when it comes to everyday use. For example, if I want to edit recorded videos, I cannot simply remove a microSD card like in Sony's Xperia Pro-I, but have to connect the phone via cable, import the videos via Photos, and then export them as video files once again through the Photos app. There are just so many hoops to jump through!

NextPit Apple iPhone 13 Mini Side
Even the MacBooks recognized that "Pros" really use SD cards / © NextPit

Even though the missing storage expansion option is not as relevant in terms of storage technology as it is in the iPhone SE 2022, the whole thing is still inconvenient. At the same time, I praise Apple for the decision to let the storage variants start at 128 GB in the iPhone 13 series. This increases the price-to-performance ratio compared to the previous year.

Photos & Videos: A dream for video fans

Apple uses its most powerful dual camera setup in the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13. It consists of a 12MP main camera that includes sensor-shift image stabilization and a fast lens, and a 12MP ultra wide-angle camera. You can record videos using both (!) cameras in 4K and 60 FPS, and selfies are also recorded at 12 MP resolution.

What I liked:

  • Solid image quality with all three cameras (selfie cam included).
  • Very good video quality.
  • Sensible software features (photographic styles, portrait modes and Cinematic Mode).

What I didn't like:

  • Fingers appear frequently in ultra wide-angle pictures due to the small size.
  • Cinematic Mode records in Full HD at maximum only.
  • Digital zoom is not particularly convincing.
NextPit Apple iPhone 13 Mini Camera
The dual camera proves to be a very good point and shoot cam in everyday life / © NextPit

Even though Apple's camera setup is not spectacular when one takes a look at the specifications, you do notice some rather interesting details. The main camera not only offers a particularly fast lens at f/1.6, it also boasts image stabilization via sensor shift technology. This was a feature that was reserved for the iPhone 12 Pro Max in the previous generation. The iPhone 13 mini also performed as a camcorder that offers very good quality.

Both cameras at the back can record 4K pictures with 60 frames per second. Even the Pixel 6 Pro, which I compared with the iPhone 13 Pro at the time and was considered one of the best camera phones, switches to Full HD when it comes to the ultra wid-angle lens. So, those who like to shoot videos do not have to deal with quality differences or upscaling.

Provided you are prepared to make do without the Cinematic Mode, which unfortunately only works in Full HD across all models. Apple churns out a deceptively real bokeh effect in videos. The highlight: You can adjust both the focus and the degree of blur in the Photos app afterwards. This might still be too much for the A15 Bionic in 4K. However, the quality loss is especially annoying when mixing normal recordings and Cinematic Mode videos.

Even though the iPhone 13 mini does not have the best phone camera of the year, the quality is very satisfactory in all situations. The phone's compact size makes it perfect for snapshots, which makes it a very good always-on camera. However, it is annoying that your finger quickly slips into the photo when you are not careful when shooting using the ultra wide-angle lens. This is a disadvantage of the small chassis, because you have to touch the phone somewhere to capture a photo.

Battery & Quick-Charging: The only real drawback of the iPhone 13 mini

Even if Apple does not officially confirm it: the iPhone 13 mini has a particularly low capacity battery at 2,406 mAh. Even though Apple ekes many hours of battery life out of the device with the energy-efficient A15 Bionic chipset, the battery life continues to remain at a disadvantage in a small phone. However, fast charging works rather well despite a maximum charging speed of 25 watts.

What I liked:

  • Short charging times thanks to the small battery.
  • MagSafe support (an advantage over the iPhone SE 2022).
  • Wireless charging is also possible without using a proprietary Apple charger.

What I didn't like:

  • Battery life is less than a full day under heavy usage.
  • Lightning connector is becoming increasingly rare.

After several months of use, I have to declare that the battery life of the iPhone 13 mini is its main weakness. However, that was to be expected, as this was already noted in the iPhone 12 mini's review. Personally, I use smartphones for music streaming, surf occasionally, attend to instant messaging programs, check out Instagram, snap photos and make calls, including video telephony, during the day. Battery-guzzling tasks like mobile gaming or Netflix streaming hardly ever happen for me.

Thus, the battery runtime was sufficient for me in most cases. Having some reserve left at the end of the day would still be nice because I had a queasy feeling about leaving Berlin for Freiburg by car with the iPhone 13 mini at the end of January. A route that takes just under 8.5 hours and during which I could not continuously use the smartphone as a navigation device without the help of a car charging cable.

NextPit Apple iPhone 13 Mini USB
Lightning still annoys me with the iPhones! / © NextPit

However, I could not use my charging cable only for the reason that Apple still sticks to its Lightning port in 2022. While the charging port has a slightly tighter fit, it is already quite rare in my household and even in the Apple ecosystem. Most iPads and MacBook models, almost all Android smartphones, and even most headphones can be charged via USB-C. For Apple, making the switch is difficult. After all, all AirPods headphones use the Lightning port, and always thinking about two cable types has to stop at some point, though.

If I continue to use the iPhone 13 mini, I will therefore buy a MagSafe-compatible power bank. This is required since Apple also supports the Qi wireless charging standard despite its own MagSafe standard, and I can, fortunately, fall back to a third-party model.

Final verdict

As an Android user right from the beginning, the iPhone 13 mini has managed to convince me of the iOS ecosystem, at least in parts. Because such a powerful, high-quality, and versatile phone that communicates so cleverly with my MacBook is only available from Apple. In my opinion, the tiny screen size is a plus, especially for those who use their smartphone sparingly, since the phone is hardly disturbing in everyday life and can be used comfortably with just one hand.

NextPit Apple iPhone SE 2022 13 Mini Test
Between the two small iPhones, I choose the 13 mini / © NextPit

However, this will not be possible in 2022 without any compromises. Battery life is below average compared to larger phones due to the mini-sized battery. I am also worried about the battery's longevity in the long run. Because what now lasts a day at most could become a problem after a few hundred charging cycles. Movies and especially mobile games are more fun to enjoy on smartphones with a larger display area.

These may be the reasons why Apple's iPhone 13 mini is selling rather poorly. The smartphone is still a shaky candidate in 2022. And like my teachers back then, I'm not sure if this little brat will make it into next year's refreshed lineup. So the iPhone 13 mini, along with the SE, could be the last chance to buy a small iPhone. So go for it if you see great potential in the small form factor!

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Benjamin Lucks

Benjamin Lucks

Ben has been working in tech journalism since 2018, was a freelancer in the middle of the CoVid-crisis and has been full-time at NextPit since November '20. Since then he has tries to find the right mix between professional competence, humor and fresh perspectives in reviews and texts.

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