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iPhone 13 mini — what the heck is the point?

iPhone 12 mini was neat but not a great seller
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

There was a time between the late 1990s and early 2000s where the tech world was obsessed with making things smaller yet more capable. MP3 players, notably the iPod, were good examples of this. But when smartphones arrived it wasn’t too long before sizes started to go the other direction. 

My first smartphone was the iPhone 4s with its dinky 3.5-inch display. Now I can’t recall a time when I’ve used a phone that had a display size smaller than 6 inches… stop sniggering at the back. But despite this, Apple decided to come out with the iPhone 12 mini last year. 

While lauded for its neat design, solid capabilities, and for being more inclusive for people with smaller hands, the iPhone 12 mini didn’t sell well. Despite this, the rumors around the iPhone 13 so far suggest there will be another version of the mini when the new phone range supposedly arrives in the fall. And this is a bit baffling to me for a couple of reasons.  

Why bother with an iPhone 13 mini?  

iPhone 12 vs iPhone 13 dummy

(Image credit: Apple Insider)

A new report has claimed that come 2022 there will be no smaller flagship Phone, with the so-called iPhone 14 coming in 6.1- and 6.7-inch sizes. For people after a smaller Apple phone an updated iPhone SE will be released complete with 5G capabilities

So with this in mind, I’m slightly miffed as to why Apple might wait until the iPhone 14 to cut the mini model from its phone lineup; why not just start with the iPhone 13? 

I’ve said before that complexity in phone line-ups is somewhat frustrating, as it’s tricky to find that one product to buy or recommend. And I’m already concerned that Apple might create a fork in the iPhone 13 range by reserving 120Hz LTPO displays for only the Pro handsets. 

So I’d much rather see Apple kill the supposed iPhone 13 mini and use potential manufacturing savings or resources to make the standard iPhone 13 the very best it can be. 

Equally, Apple has reportedly stopped making iPhone 12 mini models, which indicates there’s not a lot of demand for it and Apple has no plans to keep that particular phone around past the fall, as it has with the still-available iPhone 11. While the coronavirus pandemic hasn't seen me get out and about a lot over the past 18 months, I don’t think I've seen anyone use an iPhone 12 mini. So again, I’d wonder why Apple would keep it going for another generation. 

Perhaps the folks at Cupertino want one more bite at the compact phone cherry and don't want to shutter a product that’s only been live for a single generation. That might look like admitting defeat, which isn’t something that fits Apple's external vibe. 

Maybe come the second half of 2022, Apple might have taken the alleged iPhone 13 mini out round the back of One Infinite Loop and quietly dispatch it with a metaphorical shot to the back of the head. Then when it’s time for the iPhone 14 reveal, there’ll be no mention of a smaller fourth handset, with Apple simply not acknowledging it ever existed, as if the mini were a mass hallucination of small-handed Apple fans. 

Move over mini, it’s all about the iPhone SE 3  

iPhone SE 3 concept

(Image credit: Apple Lab)

Now I applaud Apple for making a phone that’s easier for people with smaller hands to use. But if it’s not sold that well, then it doesn't look like there’s that much of a demand for a smaller iPhone. 

Yet for people who want a smaller iPhone, there’s the iPhone SE, a stellar little phone in an affordable package. Granted its design is hardly cutting edge, but its specs and single camera performance are rather impressive for a $399 phone even a year after its release.

And more pertinently, a 5G-ready iPhone SE 3 is supposedly due to arrive early 2022. It’s set to get an improved chipset, either in the form of the A14 Bionic or rumored A15 chip that's slated for this fall's iPhone 13 lineup. (That would be in keeping with Apple's iPhone SE tradition of equipping the phone with the most recent chip to power its flagship devices.) Such a phone could render the expected iPhone 13 mini a little moot, especially if the next mini doesn't get a lot of the upgrades the iPhone 13 Pro is expected to sport. 

In short, the answer to the question I asked at the outset, is there doesn't seem to be much of a point to the iPhone 13 mini other than a way for Apple to save face.

In fact, I’d not be surprised to see Apple release the iPhone 13 without a mini model, with these rumors about its existence proving to be off the mark. With the iPhone 13 range tipped to be revealed in September, there’s not long to wait to see what rumors come to fruition and which have been left to wither and die on the hearsay tree. 

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer is U.K. Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face. 

  • El-Borak1
    I would prefer a smaller phone for several reasons, the foremost being that where I'm not willing to go full luddite, I would like to de-emphasize my phone's presence in my life. So a phone that can more easily fit into a pocket makes more sense for me. However, the iPhone 12 mini just isn't much of an upgrade from my iPhone XS, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to buy one. The XS has been the most future-proof phone I've ever had. Would definitely have gotten a 12 mini pro if they made one. However, I will likely snatch up a 13 mini.
    Reply
  • crunchykitty
    I have small hands and would love a phone that's easier to use one-handed. I'm thrilled with the 13 mini and plan to pre-order. I don't want the spec slashes they'll make to an iphone SE 3, and I'm super excited about the 256GB storage option. And I'm a lifelong android user, but this small size just calls to me.
    Reply