I loved the iPhone 13 mini. So did plenty of others — just not enough of us bought one to make the size viable for the iPhone 14 series. And sadly for small phone fans, all evidence suggests the iPhone 15 lineup won’t include a mini variant.
The beauty of free market economics is if a product doesn’t perform on the raw numbers, something else will come along and take its place. So it went with small phones. As users demand more power, longer battery life and better screens, so the inevitable size of our devices creeps upwards.
I’m not immune to this, either. After a year with the iPhone 13 mini, I was hungry to try out the benefits of an iPhone 14 Pro. I wanted access to that 120Hz ProMotion (albeit, 6.1-inch) OLED screen and craved the idea of snapping pictures with a 48-megapixel camera system. Not to mention the delightful Dynamic Island and a battery life far more capable than my old 13 mini could ever hope to be (despite Apple improving its longevity over the iPhone 12 mini).
But somewhere along the way, those features fell away from lack of use and I felt myself yearning for the simpler, smaller and infinitely less intrusive smaller phone I once had.
I liked being able to use the phone one-handed without having to stretch a thumb to breaking point. And yet, there were two things I truly valued about Apple’s Pro device: the high refresh rate and the uncompromising power from Apple’s top-spec processor. But given Apple isn’t likely to bring these features to a small phone anytime soon, I’m resigned to looking elsewhere when it comes time to upgrade? Conveniently enough for me, the Tom’s Guide best small phones buying guide points the way in the form of 2023’s Zenfone 10 from Asus.
Better than iPhone 15?
When I do decide it’s time to move on from the iPhone 14 Pro, there’s a high chance I’m choosing the Zenfone 10 over anything Apple can tempt me with in the iPhone 15 lineup come September. Asus seems to be providing just about everything I could want for my next device and I’m sorely tempted to jump right in with both feet.
I know I’d be leaving certain plus points behind if I ditched an upgrade to the iPhone 15 Pro in favor of the Zenfone 10, not least the wide accessory market and genuinely useful hardware features like MagSafe and Apple’s W1 chip.
But in return the Zenfone 10 grants me a fair number of things the iPhone lacks: USB-C (although all evidence suggests that’s on the cards for the iPhone 15), a proper 3.5mm headphone jack and a 144Hz refresh rate in a gloriously compact 5.9-inch HDR10 display.
There’s also a few more interesting colors to choose from and, as my colleague Richard Priday pointed out in his Zenfone 10 review, Asus squeezed over 12 hours of screen-on time from the phone’s 4,300mAh battery. That’s a marked improvement over the iPhone 13 mini, which managed just shy of nine hours with a similar testing procedure.
The price is right
All that belies one of the most crucial aspects: the price. I call the U.K. home and on this side of the Atlantic, the entry-level Zenfone 10 costs £749 (it’s $699 in the U.S.) while the iPhone 14 Pro starts at £1,099 ($999) and there’s a rumor the iPhone 15 Pro will be in line for a $200 price hike — further putting it out of reach during a cost of living crisis.
So when the rubber meets the road, ditching the iPhone 15 Pro for the Zenfone 10 will net me the smaller screen I need, with no lack of performance and it’ll save me a fair chunk of cash. Seems like a no-brainer.
And while the future for small phones is admittedly a gloomy one, there are a few cracks of light appearing through the fog. One of the brightest is the new era of flip-style foldables that offer big-screen utility packed down into a small form factor. I’m particularly intrigued by the Motorola Razr+ and its 3.6-inch outer screen. Especially after reading what happened when another of my TG teammates, Tom Pritchard, tried to use it as his main phone for a week.
For now though, I’ll skip the iPhone 15 Pro and, failing the spectacular return of the mini format with an iPhone 16 mini, I think there’s a Zenfone in my future.