Apple iPhone 12 mini early impressions: absolutely adorable

I recently reached out to Visible, the budget-oriented carrier from Verizon that gives you unlimited data for a fraction of the price, about doing a review of their network now that they have 5G. They were down to collaborate, so they sent out an iPhone 12 mini for me to use during my review process.

The review of Visible will be coming in a few weeks, and while I evaluate the company’s service, I’ll also be reviewing the 12 mini since I have yet to publish any reviews featuring a member of the iPhone 12 lineup.

When Apple announced the iPhone 12 mini, I was both excited and a bit worried. I’ve been an advocate for smaller phones for years, but it’s rare for a company to make one that offers a truly flagship experience in a smaller package.

That’s where the excitement came from. Finally, Apple made a phone with its best chip, some of its greatest cameras, and an OLED screen in a form factor that’s nothing short of compact. However, when it comes to smaller iPhones, Apple is notorious for including small batteries, and this is where the worrying began.

I read that the iPhone 12 mini had a 2,227mAh battery which is incredibly small by today’s standards. I get that the mini has an extremely small footprint, but Apple always plays battery size conservatively with its phones. The iPhone 12 Pro Max, for example, has a 3,678mAh cell, whereas its most popular competitors have 4,500+mAh batteries.

My impressions from afar were pretty mixed, and now that I’m getting to actually use the phone, I’m beginning to realize that my original feelings are likely correct.

Here are some of my early impressions of the iPhone 12 mini.

It’s absolutely adorable

When the Pixel 5 came out, I said it had the absolute perfect size for a phone. The 6-inch bezel-less screen created a body that was perfectly manageable in one hand while still giving you plenty of surface area for watching videos and playing games.

For months, that’s been my definition of a compact phone, but I’m now realizing that it sits second to the iPhone 12 mini.

When you pick up the 12 mini for the first time, you really don’t anticipate just how small it is. I can show you all the comparison photos you want, but none of them will give you the clearest idea of just how petite this device is.

With its flat sides, short height, slim width, and incredible lightness, the iPhone 12 mini is perhaps the most comfortable phone I’ve held during my 5+ years of reviewing phones. It fits in your hand incredible well and lets you access virtually every aspect of the screen with just your thumb – no Phone Shimmy required.

No doubt about it, the iPhone 12 mini is the most adorable phone I’ve ever seen. It literally looks like Apple took a PNG of the iPhone 12 and grabbed a corner and shrunk it. The only thing that stayed the same is the camera housing.

Bright, colorful photos

Speaking of which, I’ve been impressed with the early photos I’ve taken with the iPhone 12 mini’s main sensor and ultra-wide lens. I’ve never used an iPhone with an ultra-wide camera, and I’m happy to be carrying one for the first time. I have yet to dig into video quality, but stay tuned because I’ll be doing so in the full review.

Beautiful screen

The iPhone 12 mini’s smaller-than-usual 5.4-inch Super Retina XDR display is beautiful. It has a resolution of 2340×1080 which gives it a 476ppi, the sharpest of any iPhone to date. It’s bright, it’s clear, and it’s colorful.

I have noticed, though, that it’s obviously not the best canvas for videos. Everything is just smaller on this phone, which is a given, sure, but it makes the experience feel like it’s missing something. I guess if you’re buying such a small phone, you’re not consuming a ton of content on your phone anyway.

Speedy performance and great speakers

Two other areas that I’ll go into depth with when I publish my full iPhone 12 mini review are performance and speaker quality. So far, I’m enjoying both. The A14 Bionic is as fast as everyone’s told you it is, while the speakers sound fantastic for being such a tiny phone.

Battery life

Okay, here we go.

I’ve only had a few days with the iPhone 12 mini as my daily driver, but I can already tell the battery life is gonna be a pain point for me. I’m not a crazy heavy user where I expect to get a least seven hours of screen-on time with my phone, but I do average about three hours per day, and so far, the 12 mini isn’t cutting it.

At the end of the day, my phone is basically dead, which sucks. If I’m gonna have a longer day out than I usually do, I’ll have to sit near a charger for a half hour to make sure I have enough charge. I may tweak my usage during my review process to accommodate for this shortcoming, but I doubt I will.

Obviously, I’ll have more to say on this later.

This review should be fun

I was fully expecting Visible to send over a standard iPhone 12, but instead I got the mini, and I’m kind of happy. It gives me something interesting to review in the meantime.

I’m very intrigued by the idea of the iPhone 12 mini. It’s the first flagship compact phone we’ve gotten in a while, and I”m excited to see if I’m serious about my desire for smaller phones or if I’m just complaining about the crazy sizes phones come in nowadays.

I’ll have much more to say about this phone in the future. For now, follow me on Twitter for updates during my review process.