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Hands on: iPhone 13 mini review

A modest upgrade of Apple’s smallest iPhone

What is a hands on review?
iPhone 13 mini
(Image: © TechRadar)

Early Verdict

The iPhone 13 mini hasn’t changed a great deal compared to the iPhone 12 mini, but if it performs anything like the iPhone 13 in real-world use we’re expecting some big improvements under the hood.

For

  • Small but premium design
  • Promising battery life

Against

  • No 120Hz screen
  • Same design as iPhone 12 mini

Apple’s miniature iPhone is back for 2021, with the iPhone mini 13 packing the same specs as the standard iPhone 13, but in a smaller package that’s better suited to those who want a diminutive phone.

It’s not actually that small compared to the regular model, but it features a 5.4-inch screen in a more compact design than the other new iPhones introduced in 2021.

If you’re looking for premium specs, but you also don’t want a 6.1-inch iPhone 13, the iPhone 13 mini may be the handset you should consider.

iPhone 13 mini release date and price 

Apple announced the new iPhone 13 mini on September 14, 2021, and it's available to buy online or in-person already. There are some great iPhone 13 mini deals already, despite its newness.

iPhone 13 mini

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The iPhone 13 mini price starts at $699 / £679 / AU$1,199 for the model with 128GB of storage – the 64GB days are, thankfully, gone, and the new iPhone 13 series starts with 128GB as standard.

You can also get the iPhone 13 mini with 256GB of storage for $799 / £779 / AU$1,369, or a 512GB model for $999 / £979 / AU$1,719.

Design and display 

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iPhone 13 mini

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iPhone 13 mini

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iPhone 13 mini

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iPhone 13 mini

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The iPhone 13 mini is built to be premium, but with a smaller body screen. It’s designed for those who want a smaller device, with Apple’s smartphones having increased in size over the last five years.

It features a 5.4-inch screen with a resolution of 1080 x 2340 – that means it has the highest pixels per inch figure – 476ppi to be exact – of the entire iPhone 13 range.

As the screen is smaller it’s harder to appreciate this higher resolution, but it’s a top-tier Super Retina XRDR OLED display with strong brightness levels; you’re getting all the same screen tech as the iPhone 13 here, but with a little less real estate.

The phone sits comfortably in the hand, and it’s easy to use with just one hand as well. We found that we were able to easily type on the handset and reach all areas of the keyboard with our thumb.

The power button is on the right edge of the phone, while the left edge is home to the silence switch, volume buttons and SIM tray. There’s a Lightning port between the phone’s speakers on the bottom of the handset.

Apple has again included a screen notch on the iPhone 13 mini, and the rest of the iPhone 13 range – the company clearly wasn’t ready to go with an under-display camera on its phones this year – but the notch here is 20% smaller than on the iPhone 12 mini

We can’t say we’ve really noticed the difference during our testing time, but it does give you a slight increase in screen area.

The display has the ‘standard’ 60Hz refresh rate, as on last year’s mini. That means you won’t get the more fluid experience you’ll enjoy on the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max with their 120Hz screens, but it’s unlikely to be something you notice unless you move from a smartphone with a high-refresh-rate display.

Camera and battery 

iPhone 13 mini

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Apple has included two cameras on the iPhone 13 mini – a 12MP f/1.6 wide camera with 1.7µm pixels for better low light performance, and a 12MP f/2.4 ultra-wide camera with 120-degree field of view.

We’ve yet to properly put these cameras through their paces, but they’re exactly the same as the cameras on the iPhone 13, which we’ve tested pretty extensively – you can read the camera section of our full iPhone 13 review to see our in-depth findings, but the short version is that you won’t have any complaints with the image quality the cameras can produce

Battery life is improved on the iPhone 13 mini, according to Apple. We can’t verify that claim yet as we haven’t tested the smartphone for long enough, but we have found that the battery life on the iPhone 13 is dramatically improved compared to the iPhone 12.

That’s thanks in part to improved optimizations of the chipset, while leaked information has also suggested that Apple has increased the size of the battery cells in every iPhone 13 model compared to its previous handsets.

We’ll bring you our full verdict on the iPhone 13 mini’s battery life in our full review. The iPhone 12 mini fell down in our estimation because of its poorer battery life (likely because it has a smaller cell inside), so we’re hoping for a big improvement here.

Specs and performance 

iPhone 13 mini

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The iPhone 13 mini is powered by Apple’s own A15 Bionic chipset. That’s the same processor as in the rest of the 2021 iPhones, and in the iPhone 13 we’ve found it to be seriously powerful, and easily capable of loading and running multiple apps.

We expect the chip to perform similarly well in the iPhone 13 mini, although again we haven’t yet had enough time with the phone to test this thoroughly – check back for our full review to read our considered verdict on the phone’s power and performance.

Your storage options here are 128GB, 256GB or 512GB. If you want more storage than that you’ll need to opt for the 1TB iPhone 13 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro Max.

5G connectivity has also returned on the iPhone 13 mini, so you’ll be able to easily connect to next-gen networks as long as your carrier and plan support them and you’re in an area with 5G coverage.

Early verdict 

iPhone 13 mini

(Image credit: TechRadar)

We can’t yet make a final call on some of the iPhone 13 mini’s features, but our experience with the iPhone 13 suggests that Apple’s smaller iPhone will be a capable and powerful handset with strong battery life.

If you’re after an iPhone with a smaller screen, the improvement in battery life that we’re expecting to see over the iPhone 12 mini may be the thing that sways you towards this handset.

We’re looking forward to testing this phone more extensively, but going on what we’ve seen so far, Apple’s smallest 2021 iPhone is shaping up to be another small wonder. 

James Peckham

James is Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He has also worked on other leading tech brands, such as T3 and Gizmodo UK, as well as appearing as an expert on TV and radio for the BBC and other publications. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all the latest smartphone news.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.