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iPhone 13 mini vs iPhone 12 mini: Should you upgrade?

The iPhone 12 mini was an instant classic: delivering pretty much the same experience as with the larger model in a smaller case. Given how well that phone did, it was no surprise for Apple to unveil its replacement at its California Streaming Event – the iPhone 13 mini.

If you’re wondering if it’s time to ditch your existing mini iPhone for the new one, then you’re in the right place. We’ll take you through everything that you need to know to make the right decision.

Externally, it’s a harder decision to make, as the new phone looks very similar to the old one. It feels more like the days when Apple used to have ‘S’ products the year after a bigger upgrade.

Price 

As with last year, the iPhone 13 mini is the baby of Apple’s line-up, with prices starting at £679. That’s actually £20 cheaper than the iPhone 12 was at launch in 2020.

Pre-orders for the new phone open on Friday, September 17, with units shipping on Friday, September 24.

Camera

Both the iPhone 12 mini and 13 mini have dual cameras on the rear. Both cameras have a 12MP resolution, with one wide camera and one ultrawide camera.

While it doesn’t sound as though there has been much change, the new 13 mini has camera tech similar to that found on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. That means a physically larger sensor with bigger pixels for the wide camera, which should improve low-light performance. The wide camera has an f/1.6 aperture (the same as on the 12 mini). Apple says that the new camera is “capable of gathering 47 percent more light for less noise and brighter results”.

What’s particularly interesting is the sensor-shift stabilisation (called Sensor-shift OIS) on the mini 13, pulled from the 12 Pro Max. This lets the sensor physically move to combat shaky hands and should be particularly effective during low-light photography.

The ultra-wide camera on the 13 mini is otherwise very similar to the one found on the 12 mini.

You get some new modes on the iPhone 13 mini, with Cinematic Mode the stand out feature. This mode will adjust focus automatically to make video more cinematic. For professionals, they’ll be able to adjust focus during and after capture to get the effect that they want.

iPhone 13 and 13 mini cameras

Battery

Apple has often introduced new products with the same battery life as the old ones, but the 13 mini will outlast the 12 mini. Apple claims the new phone will last for up to an hour and a half longer than the old one.

That may not sound like a huge boost, but it’s all about how you use the phone. So, while the iPhone 12 mini would last a day in normal use, the iPhone 13 should last a day even if you use it more intensively. 

Screen

There’s not much to tell the two phones apart in terms of screen size, as both pack in a 5.4-inch OLED display with a Super Retina XDR resolution (that’s 2340 x 1080). Apple has made some adjustments to the newer screen’s phone.

Contrast ratios have been improved, along with a 28% improvement brightness: with the new phone hitting a peak outdoor brightness of 800nits and peak HDR brightness of 1200nits. Impressively, this is achieved while reducing power requirements. Brighter displays should help both for normal use and for making films pop more.

Specs

Finally, the entry-level 64GB model is dead, replaced with a much more useful 128GB model. The iPhone 13 is also available in 256GB and 512GB models, compared to the 13, which had 64GB, 128GB and 256GB configurations.

The main difference is the entry-level iPhone 13 is more useful and usable, so you may be able to save a bit of cash by not having to buy a phone with more storage capacity.

Internally, the new phone is powered by the Apple A15 Bionic, an upgrade on the iPhone 12 mini’s A14. According to Apple, the new A15 Bionic is “up to 50 percent faster than the competition”. It’s a six-core CPU with dual high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores.

While the iPhone 13 mini ships with iOS 15, the iPhone 12 mini will get an upgrade to that operating system for free.

Other upgrades are minor: there’s faster 5G in the iPhone mini 13, and there’s a smaller Face ID notch on the new phone, so it takes up a bit less space at the top of the screen.

iPhone 13 mini vs iPhone 12 mini – early verdict

This year, the iPhone 13 mini is a small improvement over its predecessor. There are some impressive changes, including the lower price and longer battery life, but otherwise, there’s not a huge amount to get excited by. Existing iPhone 12 mini owners will find it better to wait a year and see what comes out then.

If you have an older phone or want something powerful but small, then the iPhone 13 looks set to be a success.

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