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The idea of a super-powerful AND super-compact phone has become a bit of a unicorn on the smartphone market in the last few years as phone sizes grew and phone makers saw the opportunity to cram in more tech and larger batteries in those bigger phones, while leaving those craving a tiny phone that you can comfortably use with one hand without much of a choice. And just like that, from just about five years ago when iPhone 5s sized devices were the norm, all of a sudden, the industry flipped a switch and those phones were gone, and I mean completely gone. So yes, some people were disappointed and their voices made it clear that this was a gap that needed to be addressed.
And so we sat on the sidelines and waited. And waited. For years! But nothing came. Instead of making a great small phone, companies were making large and extra large devices. Phones became bigger and heavier, never smaller
So after years of waiting, it became clear that it wasn't the Android ecosystem with its myriads of options that would fill that void. Apart from Sony dipping its toes in the compact phone game a few years ago with the XZ2 Compact
, no other Android phone maker took the risk to create a tiny powerful phone. It was Apple who did it. And while many people love to take jabs at the company for its controversial decisions to remove well-known features and ports, that was a great move.
In our iPhone 12 mini review
we called it "hands down, the one"
for compact phone lovers. Not least because there was no real competition, but an achievement nonetheless.
But nearly five months since its launch, the news is in: the iPhone 12 Mini
is not selling great.
iPhone 12 Mini: the black sheep in iPhone sales
iPhone 12 Mini left, iPhone 12 Pro Max right
We've been hearing reports about poor sales of the iPhone 12
Mini soon after the launch. One of the most knowledgeable people when it comes to Apple, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, let us know early that the Mini was struggling to find an audience
. And various other reports followed up on that.
But it wasn't until late January when Apple itself said it quite explicitly at its earnings call. In a blow-out quarter with record iPhone sales when the company boasted about "17% year over year (growth in iPhones), driven by strong demand for the iPhone 12 family," and also about "customer response to the new iPhone 12 models' unprecedented innovation ... has been enthusiastic," the Mini remained an outlier.
The implication was clear in the words of Apple chief financial officer Luca Maestri:
"We have a -- a fantastic product lineup and we know that, and it's been fantastic to see the customer response for the -- for new models, particularly the Pro models, the Pro and the Pro Max."
"And we've had some level of supply constraints as we went through the quarter, particularly on the Pro and the -- and the Pro Max."
Notice the repeated mention of the Pro models and not a single mention of the Mini iPhone throughout the whole earnings call.
I think at this point, it's safe to agree that the iPhone 12 Mini is not the success Apple hoped it would be.
Can it be fixed?
So here is some color on that: as someone who has eagerly awaited the Mini, I was charmed by this tiny phone when it arrived in the office. Our small sample of people who come and go with the current office restrictions shows that the few people who got to handle it were equally wow-ed. It was "just the right size" for many.
Yet, our initial reaction might have been premature. Using the phone revealed that its battery life is just not sufficient for the average user who would need to top up the phone before the end of the day. And that super compact form factor, might actually be a limitation in real life use so bumping the screen size up just a tiny bit to maybe 5.6" (the Mini has a 5.4" screen) might have allowed the phone to retain the compact phone magic without being too limiting.
So... should Apple just kill the iPhone 12 Mini, and the Mini series in general?
I would say yes! But not just kill it: replace it with something a bit less extreme! Something still compact but with a more reliable battery life and a tiny bit larger screen. Let's keep the small phone magic but get it rid of the compromises currently made.
Kill the iPhone 12 Mini in its current form, resurrect it better
This way, I'm certain that many people who were on the fence about the Mini and went with a different device instead, would finally allow themselves the convenience of a small phone without the compromise.
Unfortunately, I'm afraid the Apple manufacturing machine does not quite work that way, and the earliest we can expect a redesigned Mini will be in 2022 as Apple usually sticks with the same design for at least two years. But then, with slow sales, it might just be too late and slower sales might have pushed Apple into completely killing Mini series. Here's to hoping this doesn't happen.