iPhone 13 mini review: the small phone that's actually good

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iPhone 13 mini review: the small phone that's actually good
The Apple iPhone 13 mini is, for the time being, the last small iPhone you can buy. It was released in 2021, as a successor to the iPhone 12 mini, then the entire line was axed in favor of the iPhone 14 Plus next year.

The mini still has its devout fans, silently praying that Apple might bring it back in some form of 3-year refresh cycle. For the time being, if you want one, the iPhone 13 mini is your best chance. So, does it still hold up in 2023?

In terms of software, it already has the latest iOS 17 on it, and should continue to get updates until iOS 20. What about other things? Performance, camera, battery life? Here we go:


iPhone 13 mini pros and cons

Pros

  • Compact, light, comfortable to carry
  • Bright and accurate screen
  • Great camera system
  • Fast performance
  • 128GB base storage

Cons

  • 60Hz screen
  • Small screen is not for powerusers - feels cramped
  • Battery life is OK, but still the worst in the lineup

AT&T iPhone 13 mini at Walmart

Deal: The AT&T version of the iPhone 13 mini is available at Walmart. The device is now available for $18.87 a month in 36 installments. The phone comes with 128GB of internal storage. Keep in mind that not all color options are available.
$679 32
$797 87
Buy at Walmart

iPhone 13 mini at AT&T

Apple's iPhone 13 mini with 128GB storage can be yours for just $17.50 at AT&T. Keep in mind that not all color options are available at the moment. Trade-ins are allowed and can help you save on your new iPhone.
$17 50 /mo
Buy at AT&T


iPhone 13 mini review index


iPhone 13 mini everything that’s new:



Don't fix what's not broken is Apple's mantra here and the iPhone 13 mini feels instantly familiar to anyone who's handled the iPhone 12 mini in the past. There are a few new improvements and a couple of things have been shuffled around, but it's mostly the same winning formula from last year.

TL;DR iPhone 13 mini new features


  • Slightly thicker body, camera lenses now in diagonal layout
  • Slightly bigger battery than last year, results in longer battery life
  • Smaller notch on the screen — narrower, but slightly deeper
  • Brighter display
  • Larger sensor on the main camera
  • New photo styles to customize camera output
  • New Cinematic Mode for video
  • Base storage is now 128 GB
  • New Apple A15 Bionic processor

Quick overview



The iPhone 13 mini is basically the same shape and size as the iPhone 12 mini. The slightly added thickness is barely noticeable considering the tiny size of the device, but the added battery life is definitely there. The included Apple A15 Bionic chip is powerful and still very much adequate for late 2022 / early 2023. In fact, it still outperforms most processors in top-tier Android phones.

The OLED screen is 28% brighter than before, and the iPhone 13 mini screen is surprisingly easy to view under direct sunlight — be it for messages, viewfinder use, or video playback.

The glass is still the Ceramic Shield that was introduced in 2021 — great branding, not really scratch-proof. A random speck of sand can still ruin your day.

Also read:

Apple getting generous with storage?


The base storage has been increased to 128 GB, which is a huge deal. The iPhone 13 mini now costs $629 at its base tier, and that 128 GB will be plenty enough for most users. Especially considering that customers that go for the tiny phones aren't usually the "poweruser" kind.


The iPhone 13 mini is a solid camera phone that does well in both well-lit and nighttime scenarios. You don’t get the telephoto lens of the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, so no super zooming or fancy portraits (you can still do Portrait Mode with the wide-angle lens). But you still get to play with the (somewhat iffy) Cinematic Mode for video recording and the new Photographic Styles for photo post-processing, which completely change the camera’s color and contrast calibration.

Yeah, Cinematic Mode was shown off for the iPhone 13 Pro, but the iPhone 13 mini also has some chops with its duo of rear cameras.

Lightning port: the return



No surprise here, the iPhone 13 mini still has a Lightning data port, instead of moving to USB C. And no, there’s no charger in the box, but thankfully we still get the Lightning cable.

Is the iPhone 13 mini worth buying?


In 2023, we are used to phones having 120 Hz screens, triple camera systems, long battery life, and snappy performance. The iPhone 13 mini delivers in... some of those areas.

Obviously, it's locked at 60 Hz — even the iPhone 15 that was recently launched doesn't get the 120 Hz touch — not unless it has a Pro moniker after the name. Thankfully, iOS is snappy and the iPhone 13 mini's touch response feels quick, so it's not a huge drag.

The camera is OK, but clearly beaten out by today's smartphones. Still, if it isn't your primary interest in a phone, it will do fine.

The performance — even two years post-launch — is solid. We have Apple's custom processors and their headroom and longevity to thank for that.

As for battery life — if you get a fresh unit, it will be solid, easily lasting you a day. However, since the iPhone 13 mini is now that old, it's very possible you will be shopping second-hand or refurbished. That battery better be in good health, else plan for a battery refresh to add to your expenses.

iPhone 13 mini release date


The iPhone 13 mini was announced on the 14th of September, 2021, and began shipping on the 24th of September. It's still being shipped and sold by Apple, so you don't need to worry about scavenging for new-old stock items at 3rd party retailers.

iPhone 13 mini price


Now that the iPhone 14 series is out, the iPhone 13 mini starts at $599 if you buy a carrier model. If you prefer to buy unlocked, add $30 to that for a price of $629. Not sure why Apple insists on that extra $30, but that has been the pricing strategy since 2020.



iPhone 13 mini or iPhone 13?



Is it worth spending an extra $100 on the iPhone 13 when the iPhone 13 mini is already so good? Well, yes, mainly for the screen size, as stated above — the iPhone 13 mini is fantastic but has a tiny, tiny screen. This will be awesome for people that want the most portable experience, for sure.


But if that’s not you; if you want to game, binge-watch YouTube videos, chat a ton, and do stuff like video edits on your phone — you will find that an iPhone mini is pretty hard to double-thumb on and will have you squinting a lot. For the screen size alone, the iPhone 13 is worth it here. Or hey — trick the system — get an iPhone 12 instead.

iPhone 13 mini alternatives


For what it offers, there are not many alternatives for the tiny munchkin. It just happens to be the most powerful small phone.

The Sony Xperia 5 III is kind of, sort of a compact flagship on the Android side, but it’s still very noticeably taller than an iPhone mini.
Sony Xperia 5 III
7.5

Sony Xperia 5 III


The Good

  • Stylish design and premium build quality
  • 6.1-inch 120Hz FHD+ OLED screen, free of eyesores
  • Snappy performance, clean Android
  • Awesome camera system with powerful software underneath
  • MicroSD card slot, 3.5mm audio jack, notification LED, stereo speakers
  • IP65/68 protection
  • Amazing battery life
  • Lightweight and comfortable

The Bad

  • Expensive
  • Gets hot under pressure
  • Fast charging is not that fast
  • No wireless charging
  • Fingerprint reader is a mess
  • Annoying issues across the board

Then, there's the Pixel 5, which sports midrange hardware, but is now a couple of years old.
Google Pixel 5
8.7

Google Pixel 5


The Good

  • Lightweight, elegant design
  • Crisp, bright display
  • Versatile camera & excellent photos
  • Great battery life with wireless charging + power share
  • Clean, fast software

The Bad

  • Midrange chipset on a flagship
  • No optical zoom
  • The Pixel 4a (5G) does most of this for $200 less


The Asus ZenFone 9 is a very unique, comparably tiny Android flagship from 2022.
Asus Zenfone 9

Asus Zenfone 9


View full specs


iPhone 13 mini display



The iPhone 13 mini has an OLED screen with a 5.4-inch diagonal and a 1080 x 2340 pixel resolution. This results in a pixel density of 477 PPI. It’s quite sharp and pleasing to the eye — especially at that size, you won’t be noticing individual pixels.

Now, 5.4 inches may sound huge by old standards, but know that the iPhone 13 mini has an aspect ratio of 19.5:9, which makes the screen much narrower than it would’ve been in the classic 16:9 days. In shape, the iPhone 13 mini is not much bigger than a classic iPhone 5 or a 1st generation iPhone SE.

Notch-inch is perfect


The Face ID-enabling notch over the top of the screen has been slightly redesigned — it’s now narrower, but a hair deeper than before. It does look slightly cleaner than before, but it's still very present. I've never been bothered by the notch, but if you are one of the people that are — this redesign won't do much for you.


Is a smaller notch better than no notch at all? I think it's the same deal, not sure why this redesign was needed, especially since it doesn't open up any room for more notifications and stats on the top of the screen. We have a feeling the tighter notch was made to open up more room for the main camera's sensor, which is bigger this year. It doesn't look like much was changed in the size of the Face ID array, it was just... reshuffled.

60 Hz screen, again


The other main gripe we have with the screen is the 60 Hz screen refresh ratio. 120 Hz is reserved for the iPhone 13 Pro line, naturally. One might have hoped that the “cheap” iPhone 13 units would at least get 90 Hz, which is still much better than 60 Hz. But nope, Apple stuck to the old refresh rate.

Is the refresh rate a big deal? Once you’ve gotten used to 120 Hz, it kind of is. If you have an iPad Pro and an iPhone 13 mini, you will definitely notice it every time when switching between devices. Hey, on the upside, at least this will make your iPad Pro look super smooth and responsive all over again, every time you switch to it after using the iPhone 13 mini for a prolonged time.


Apple claimed the iPhone 13 mini has a 28% brighter screen than the predecessor. This helps for both daytime operation and for viewing Dolby Vision HDR content with rich contrast on your iPhone 13 mini. And, since the iPhone cameras have been able to record Dolby Vision HDR since last year, it only makes sense that you will want a screen that can view it.

Does it make a difference for the casual user? Not really. And considering the iPhone 13 mini is kind of aimed at the casual users, maybe there isn’t much benefit to be had here. But hey, the screen still looks great under direct sunlight, so that’s there for everybody!

iPhone 13 mini design



Other than the slightly changed notch on the screen, the design is the same cute box we have grown familiar with. Well, the camera system has also been shuffled around a bit, with the lenses placed in a diagonal to one another, instead of being on a vertical line.

It does look a bit weird, doesn’t it? We assumed we'd get used to it, but it's still a matter of personal preference — some people still find the look odd.

Thanks to that rear cameras redesign, the bump has grown by just a bit, which means your old iPhone 12 mini cases won’t fit the iPhone 13 mini. As for MagSafe accessories — they still work and fit as before — wallets, stands, chargers, and clamps should be all good unless otherwise noted by the seller.


The boxy design really works for the iPhone 13 mini — it has that “iPhone 5 but modern” feel to it. The buttons are clicky, with nice tactile feedback for every press. And that signature mute switch is still there — I have to admit, I play around with it like it's a satisfying fidget toy and it never gets old (I have seen some that were broken after long use, so I guess I am not the only one).

iPhone 13 mini camera


The iPhone 13 mini gets some new camera features, which were only available on the iPhone 12 Pro Max the year before. This includes the bigger sensor and the sensor-shift stabilization.

Main sensor is bigger


For one, the sensor’s pixels are now sized at 1.7 µm, bigger than the 12 mini's 1.4 µm. A bigger sensor with bigger pixels means that the iPhone is able to gather more light as you press the shutter button, which allows it to work at faster speeds (reducing blur) and capturing better low-light photos.

The iPhone 13 mini is an impressive little camera phone, though it's already feeling a bit outdated compared to the latest top-tier phones of 2022. Still, for a phone whose function is primarily to be super-compact, we'd say the camera is still pretty good.


Photographic styles change the game


We have to talk about the Photographic Styles. You know how, when we critique phone cameras, we will often explain how one phone’s post-processing makes images colder, another one has rich contrast? Then we make decisions based on personal preference and/or how close one phone's camera was to reality? Well, Apple kind of flips the concept of camera comparisons on its head with the 13 series.


The Photographic Styles option lets you fine-tune the way the iPhone 13 actually processes photos after the snap is taken. Want to get rid of that typical Apple yellow hue? You can do that now. Want rich contrast? OK. Want more warmth? Yeah, you got it.

This is more than applying a filter, this actually changes the phone's image post-processing, and your settings are preserved. So, you can set it and forget it once and just have the same Style every time you open the camera app.

Now that is kind of changing the game on how camera comparisons will be done going forward. Will Apple’s competitors respond with a similar setting in their camera apps?

In any case, if you leave everything at default, you will be greeted by those warm, slightly yellow-ish pictures that iPhones usually produce — they even seem slightly warmer than previous models. But then again, now that you can tune this, this point may be moot.

Sensor-shift stabilization for everybody


Secondly, the main camera now uses sensor-shift stabilization — an optical image stabilization, which doesn’t move the lens around, but instead moves the sensor. This was also available on the iPhone 12 Pro Max last year and is now on all of the iPhone 13 series. We tried it and tested it against classic OIS solutions and we couldn’t really notice much of an improvement.

Video Thumbnail

That’s not to say that iPhone 13 mini videos aren’t stable — on the contrary. It’s just that they were good with the classic OIS before, too. I wonder if the switch to sensor-shift stabilization isn’t made for another reason — maybe in preparation for periscope lenses in the future.

It would be much easier to make a stabilized super zoom camera if the stabilization came from the sensor itself. And, Apple has been rumored to be dabbling in tech that would rival the 50x zoom and 100x zoom of competitors like Samsung and Huawei.

So, my theory is that sensor-shift is currently being installed in these iPhones so Apple has time to take care of any production or software kinks that need to be ironed out before the periscope lenses hit. When would that be? iPhone 14? Fingers crossed...

Ultra-wide camera is mostly the same


The ultra-wide camera seems to be very much like last year's mini model, at least on the specs sheet. The non-Pro line has skipped camera upgrades to the ultra-wide snapper this year, it seems like.


When looking at daytime photos, it seems they are pretty much similar to what we used to get with the old mini — warm, detailed, with corrected distortion. Not bad ultra-wide shots. Certainly not as crazy on the new Pro models, but still on the top end.

There's a noticeable difference when shooting ultra-wide at night, though — more on that below. The new iPhone 13 mini seems to be much more contrast-y, producing deeper shadows, but it's also sharper. Last year's mini gave us brighter nighttime photos, but with noticeably softer details.


Cinematic Mode won't take your breath away


Video Thumbnail

About the new Cinematic Mode — I can’t say I am hugely impressed. Aside from doing “Portrait Mode, but in video”, this mode also tries to smartly rack focus, which sometimes works well, sure. But a lot of the process is automated, which kind of takes agency away from the creator. Never a good thing, I don’t think.

Cinematic Mode is very hit and miss — the faux bokeh bleeds in over the edges of subjects, the focus racking isn’t always on point, and it’s limited to 1080p at 30 FPS. Not very cinematic there. It feels a bit like a beta, and it’s kind of surprising that Apple rolled it out now. Maybe in a hurry to get ahead of a competitor working on the same feature?

In any case, it's a fun thing that you will probably fire up to play with now and again. But I don't expect any influencers to be popping off with crazy Cinematic Mode videos soon.

Night Mode on every camera



Night Mode makes a return — the slow shutter mode, which automatically activates when it's dark. It can take long exposure from 1 to up to 3 seconds, then stitch all the frames together and make a nice, sharp image. It's sharper and clearer than last year's model and definitely among the best Night Mode solutions out there. Then, there's a real big difference in the ultra-wide camera — the iPhone 13 mini's ultra-wide shots are noticeably darker (but also contrastier and sharper, which I happened to like better).

iPhone 13 mini speakers


Just as before, we have a stereo speaker setup — a bottom-firing driver and an earpiece that can be amped up to work as the second channel.

It gets a good volume out and sounds quite clear — compression has been cleaned up and more instruments come out, even at max volume.


Don't expect miracles, though — tiny phone, tiny acoustic space, tiny speakers. It doesn't have a massive amount of mids or a good bass. It sounds a bit nasally and can be harsh, depending on the song.

Unlike the Pro Max, which sounds quite massive, the 13 mini's speakers are best used for ringtones and alarms.

It can sound OK for YouTube videos and some light, non-exacting song listening (while washing the dishes, for example).

iPhone 13 mini performance and software


Consistently solid — there’s just no other way to say it. The Apple A15 Bionic is, no surprise there, a powerhouse of a chip. But so was the A14 Bionic. The truly impressive part here is the improved energy-efficiency, as the iPhone 13 mini’s has better battery life than last year’s model.

AnTuTu is a multi-layered,comprehensive mobile benchmark app that assesses various aspects of a device,including CPU,GPU,RAM,I/O,and UX performance.A higher score means an overall faster device.
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 13 mini
801826
Apple iPhone 12 mini
589838
Google Pixel 5
291663
Sony Xperia 5 III
564932

As for performance in heavy tasks — the iPhone 13 mini has the chops, but when we ran it through a true stress test, it throttled faster than its bigger siblings in the line. Probably due to heat dissipation constraints introduced by the tiny body.


In real life, though, I wouldn't say I felt a drop while running a video editor like Enlight Videoleap or gaming on CoD: Mobile.

There's also the consideration that small phones are usually not marketed towards (or sought by) power users. And I have to admit — I only did video editing and gaming on the small screen because I had to, not because I was enticed to. I'd much rather grab a bigger phone or even a tablet for that task.


Still, the throttling poses the question of how future-proof the iPhone 13 mini and its chipset are. All I can say for now is that the 12 mini has lasted a year so far and had no issues.

As can be expected, it now gets iOS 17 on board and will be receiving updates for at least 3 years more. Here's to iOS 20!

So, the new Contact Posters, which make sharing your contact details fun and easy, iMessage improvements like vocemail transcription, and other quality-of-life improvements have made their way to the good old iPhone 13 mini.

Lastly, Face ID performs much the same. It has really grown since the days of the Apple iPhone X. But for the iPhone 13 line specifically, Apple didn't make any additional improvements to its viewing angle. Though, to be fair, I don't remember when the last time when Face ID gave me any trouble unlocking was.

There haven't been any major issues with software on the iPhone 13 mini. Since the release, we have seen regular updates too: iOS 15.1 added SharePlay for FaceTime (plus it unlocked the ProRes video recording feature on the iPhone 13 Pro series). Shortly after, iOS 15.1.1 fixed call drop issues, and most recently, iOS 15.2 added an App Privacy Report feature where you can see how often apps access your location, camera and other possibly sensitive features.

iPhone 13 mini battery life


On stage, Apple touted a 1.5 hour increase in battery life of the iPhone 13 mini over the iPhone 12 mini. Now, the 12 mini did need improvement in that area, but what does that 1.5 hour mark mean and how does it translate to our real life usage? Do we actually get better battery life on the iPhone 13 mini?

Pretty well, actually. Let’s run it through the tests first.

hoursHigher is better
Apple iPhone 13 mini
12h 33 min
Apple iPhone 12 mini
10h 56 min
Google Pixel 5a
15h 6 min
Sony Xperia 5 III
10h 37 min

First, we have a browsing test — basically opening websites at even intervals with both phones at equal brightness, scrolling through, and moving on to the next site. In this test, the iPhone 13 mini lasted for about 1 hour and 37 minutes more than the iPhone 13 mini.

For YouTube streaming, we just ran an endless binge and watched which phone will die first. Again, the iPhone 13 mini outlasted its predecessor by 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Lastly, for gaming, we had a really impressive result — the iPhone 13 mini scored 1 hour and 34 minutes over the iPhone 12 mini, fulfilling the promise Apple made.

And in real life? Yeah, I wouldn’t say the iPhone 13 mini is a battery champ by any means. But I definitely found myself hitting the Low Power mode much later in the evening. Of course, that is if I spent the day with no wireless charger in my vicinity. Nowadays, a lot of us just have a charging puck on our work desk.

So, for the size and power — I have to give kudos to the iPhone 13 mini. It won’t get you that 2-day battery life, but it definitely can be reliable throughout a regular day.

 *Disclaimer: You may notice review scores have changed on PhoneArena! Since September 20th, we have started using a new scoring system. Learn more about the new PhoneArena Smartphone Review Rating system here.

Pros

  • Compact, light, comfortable to carry
  • Bright and accurate screen
  • Great camera system
  • Fast performance
  • 128 GB base storage

Cons

  • 60 Hz screen
  • Small screen is not for powerusers - feels cramped
  • Battery life is OK, but still the worst in the lineup

PhoneArena Rating:

6.2

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