The iPhone 12 mini: Easy to hold, easier to love

The iPhone 12 mini's design is familiar but also refreshed with more choices of colour. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni
The iPhone 12 mini's design is familiar but also refreshed with more choices of colour. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — “It's just the iPhone 5, isn't it?” The telco staffer helping me transfer my eSIM said when he saw the iPhone 12 mini in my hand.

I wouldn't know. Hanging on to the iPhone 4 I'd won in a lucky draw all those years ago, I'd skipped the iPhone 5 and 5S.

After years of phones that were large enough for the big mitts I call my hands it felt odd to play with something that fit right inside my palm, within the space between my fingers and wrist.

Old memories

I'd cajoled a friend out to dinner by a lakeside joint and I remembered what I'd liked about my old iPhone SE — how easy it was to take a selfie.

Large phones are nice for wefies but to take closeups or the ordinary selfie, there's something nice about a small phone like the iPhone 12 mini.


The aluminum chassis is different from the older models; the (first) iPhone SE didn't feel like this. My test unit was a pretty light shade, almost but not quite, apple green.

It was a pity I'd given away all my tiny handbags because they just couldn't fit any of my phones because here was a tiny device that would be the exact right size.

Small enough for a jeans pocket. Easy enough to grip; there were times when leaning over the railing that I was afraid my hands would slip on the other bigger models I was testing.

Phones used to be small, didn't they, once upon a time?

A lot in a small package

For all its tiny size, the iPhone 12 mini does have good specs. It has the same A14 Bionic chip running on the other iPhone 12 models as well as the iPad Air.

There's a tinier 5.4-inch OLED display but smaller doesn't mean mediocre; it's a lovely, glossy screen that's as bright and high-resolution as the other three models.

You could do anything you could do with the more expensive Pro models, except for the fancier aspects of the latter's camera that comes with a LIDAR sensor and optical zoom.

Though it's only 5.4-inches, the OLED display on the iPhone 12 mini is still pretty good as is the Portrait mode. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni
Though it's only 5.4-inches, the OLED display on the iPhone 12 mini is still pretty good as is the Portrait mode. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni

The iPhone mini like the iPhone 12 only comes with a digital zoom but in all honesty you could live without the zoom as the Pro models only have a max of 2x (iPhone 12 Pro) and 2.5x (iPhone 12 Pro Max).

You still get most of the best features of iPhone cameras — you get night mode and Apple's special Deep Fusion feature on both the rear and front cameras, as well as portrait mode and even HDR movie recording. The latter is perhaps not the reason you'd get an iPhone 12 mini, but it's a nice bonus.

iPhones aren't the phones for you if you want lots of zoom but for portraits and perhaps the most accurate skin tones on smartphone cameras I think the phones work.

After all, as the Insta-fluencers will demonstrate, you can always tell if a selfie was shot with an iPhone or some other phone. #ShotoniPhone is more than a hashtag; there's a certain kind of look iPhone photos have and it's one of the things that keep iPhone users tethered.

Maybe, almost perfect

What niggles I find on the phone are ones shared with the 12 series. Perhaps it's the processor, maybe it's the iOS or a weird combo of both but the phone heats up. Not as fast as its biggest sibling the iPhone 12 Pro Max (more on that another time) but still concerning.

The display also froze at times, a problem rectified once I updated to the latest version of iOS and since then, the phone hasn't displayed any other quirks.

As for the battery life, alas, the smaller the phone, the shorter the battery life. Battery tech hasn't evolved much in the last decade and while Apple and other manufacturers have tweaked processors and operating systems, you still likely will need to charge the phone in around eight to 10 hours. That will depend entirely on your phone usage.

What's also rough is the pricing. The 64GB model is RM3,399 with the 256GB going up to RM4,099 so while it's mini in size, the price tag isn't.

Still, the RM3-4k range is no longer unusual for flagship phones and you will get one of the best phone cameras out this year, a super-fast processor and the likelihood it will last through at least four iOS updates.

The hardest choice you will probably have to make with the iPhone 12 mini is which colour — black, white, blue, green or red.

If I didn't prefer the 12 Pro Max's camera the slightest bit more, this would be my favourite iPhone of the year. Maybe even in the last few years.

Yes, if you've been waiting for the return of the tiny iPhone, this is your hopes and dreams with maybe some icing on the top. The cherry sprinkles would have been better optical zoom but alas, maybe that will take more wishing and another decade.

The iPhone 12 mini is already available at all Apple resellers and on the online Apple store.

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