Apple iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020)

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Apple iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020): Full comparison

The iPhone 12 event is already in the past (October 13th) and this year Apple unveiled four new phones. That’s right, there’s a mini among them, and fans of compact phones should bask in the joy. What about the iPhone SE (2020) you may ask? Well, it seems like compact phones are returning in one form or another, which means more freedom of choice. Good, right?

Now, let’s say you really like to own a compact phone from Apple but you’re not sure which one. Instead of making rash decisions or staying firmly locked in a technological stalemate, you should take a deep breath and check out our detailed comparison between the two compact phones - the iPhone SE (2020) and the iPhone 12 mini.


Main differences between the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone SE (2020):

  • 5.4" 2340 x 1080 pixels OLED vs 4.7" 1334 x 750 pixels LCD display
  • Apple A14 5nm vs Apple A13 7nm chipset
  • 4GB of RAM vs 3GB of RAM
  • 5G vs 4G LTE modem
  • 12MP main + 12MP ultrawide dual-camera system vs 12MP single camera
  • 2227mAh vs 1,821mAh battery
  • 131.5 x 64.2 x 7.4 mm vs 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm
  • $699 vs $399

Apple iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020) design and display

  • 5.4" 2340 x 1080 pixels OLED vs 4.7" 1334 x 750 pixels LCD display

There’s one striking difference between the two compacts. The display. The iPhone SE (2020) relies on a 4.7" LCD screen and while it’s a bright and overall very pleasant panel, it’s not an OLED, and the PPI is just 326, fairly low by modern standards. The iPhone 12 mini on the other hand hops on the OLED train with a bigger 5.4" panel with an increased pixel count which brings the pixel density to around 476 PPI. That’s a much more respectable result.

The iPhone SE (2020) was criticized for its outdated design, sporting two huge bezels above and below the display. That’s another big difference between the two devices. The iPhone 12 mini uses the notch design that Apple pioneered with the iPhone X, and while it’s a smaller notch than what its bigger siblings have, it's still there. This means that if you want the modern iPhone design, you’re going to be better off with the iPhone mini.

Looking at the display measurements we can see that both displays are quite good and the actual differences come from the technology used - OLED vs LCD. The iPhone SE (2020) can get a little brighter but the mini's OLED panel can switch off black pixels and get darker. The color accuracy of the iPhone SE (2020) is a tad better but the overall color temperature is warmer and more natural on the iPhone 12 mini.

Sizewise, the new iPhone 12 mini is even more compact than the iPhone SE (2020), despite boasting a bigger screen size.

Apple iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020) performance

  • Apple A14 5nm vs Apple A13 7nm chipset
  • 5G vs 4G LTE modem
  • 4GB of RAM vs 3GB of RAM

The A13 Bionic chipset inside the iPhone SE (2020) is a beast, especially considering the display resolution of the phone. Everything just flies and you would think that nobody needs more power in a compact phone. Well, Apple disagrees with you on this one. The iPhone 12 mini uses the state-of-the-art A14 Bionic chipset, just like its bigger siblings. Apple announced the 5nm A14 together with the iPad Air 4 on September 15, and tipped that it is better in every way than the 7nm A13 Bionic that's in the iPhone 11.

There are some numbers coming from the TSMC - the company that manufactures the new chips. According to the fabrication data, this 5nm technology is 15% faster and 30% more energy-efficient than the previous 7nm chips (Snapdragon 865+). According to Apple, the A14 Bionic offers a 30% boost for CPU performance, while using a new four-core graphics architecture for a 30% faster graphics boost, compared against the A12 Bionic used in the iPad Air 3. Against the A13, the benchmarks suggest the A14 offers a 19% improvement in CPU performance and 27% for graphics. In the graphic below you can see how both phones tackled our performance benchmarks.

The iPhone SE (2020) isn’t exactly slow (it’s insanely fast) but if you want the fastest of them all, the iPhone 12 mini is the way to go. The mini also has slightly more RAM than SE (2020) which is another thing to consider.

Another big difference is the 5G support. You know, that crazy network speed everybody’s talking about. The 5G modem inside the iPhone 12 mini supports both Verizon's mmWave network, and the low- to mid-bands of the other 5G-ready carriers. It’s a huge benefit and makes the iPhone 12 mini future-proof. The iPhone SE (2020), on the other hand, sports only a 4G LTE modem, which means slower network speeds.

Apple iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020) cameras

  • 12MP main + 12MP ultrawide dual-camera system vs 12MP single camera 
  • 7P vs 5P lenses
  • Bigger sensor/pixels for better low-light shots
  • Larger F/1.6 vs F/2.4 ultrawide angle lens aperture

The iPhone SE (2020) has a 12MP main camera on the back and it features optical image stabilization, while on the software side it supports the Smart HDR option for rich colors in photos. It’s an old-school approach when smartphones try to slap as many cameras as they can on their backs. Apple calls it “the best single-camera system ever in an iPhone” and it produces some decent images. The iPhone 12 mini has a dual-camera system on the back which is a substantial upgrade.

Furthermore, Apple has decided to switch to 7-layer lenses (7P) in the iPhone 12 series and the iPhone 12 mini now has one of those too. It sports two 12-megapixel shooters on its back: a 12MP wide-angle main camera, and a 12MP ultra-wide-angle snapper. No matter how good is the single-camera of the iPhone SE (2020) is, it safe to expect better performance and flexibility from the dual-camera system of the iPhone 12 mini. The telephoto camera and the LiDAR sensor are reserved for the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max models, so no zooming and laser love here, sadly. You can check the camera comparison between the iPhone 12 mini and its bigger siblings here.

Camera comparisons are subjective to some extent, so we'll let you browse through the samples and decide for yourselves which photos you like better.

Apple iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020) battery life

  •  2,227mAh vs 1,821mAh battery

The iPhone SE (2020) received heavy criticism for its modest battery capacity. It has a 1,821mAh battery and when you factor in the new A13 beast of a chipset, battery life concerns start to emerge. Our iPhone SE (2020) battery test confirmed these worries with battery life ranging from just okay to simply bad.

The iPhone 12 mini, on the other hand, sports a 2,227mAh battery which is a significant increase over the SE (2020). Apple kept the actual size of the battery a secret but a leaked document from the Brazilian certification agency ANATEL shed light on the mystery. What’s more, the OLED display in the iPhone 12 mini is more efficient than the LCD found in the SE (2020). The new A14 chipset power efficiency should also contribute to a better battery life results from the iPhone 12 mini.

PhoneArena Battery Test Results

Video StreamingHigher is betterWeb Browsing(hours)Higher is better3D Gaming(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 12 mini5h 10 min
10h 56 min
5h 10 min
Apple iPhone SE(2020)4h 45 min
9h 5 min
4h 59 min

The battery tests we ran on the iPhone 12 mini confirmed our predictions. The new compact offering from Apple performs slightly better than the iPhone SE (2020). It seems that the larger battery and the OLED panel, combined with the A14 chipset's efficiency, produce satisfying results. The gaming test result deviates a lot and it seems that the A14 has some kind of optimization issue with our testing procedure, so at the moment this (quite poor) result should be placed under an asterisk. All in all, the new iPhone 12 mini is a winner in this category, despite its faster chipset.

Apple iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020) price

  • $699 ($729) vs $399

If you feel that the iPhone SE (2020) is losing in this comparison up to this point, you may well be right. The iPhone 12 mini is shaping up to be the perfect compact phone - powerful, even smaller than the SE (2020), with an OLED display, better camera system, more RAM, newer chipset, etc. However, there’s one area where the iPhone SE (2020) strikes back hard, and it’s the price.

At $399 the iPhone SE (2020) is your cheapest A13 Bionic option out there. You can have an amazingly fast phone for a great price, really. The iPhone 12 mini was marketed at $699 which is substantially more expensive. Things get a little sketchy as well with the iPhone 12 mini's price, because the $699 price tag turns out to be for carried-locked devices. The baseline SIM-free version of the iPhone 12 mini costs $729 and that's way too much, especially compared to the iPhone SE (2020).

 If you like compact phones and want a no-compromise Apple device, though, with a modern design, a better display, a bigger battery, and the fastest chipset out there, the iPhone 12 mini is the one to get.

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