iPhone 15 vs iPhone 13 mini: is it time to drop the mini?

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iPhone 15 vs iPhone 13 mini

Intro


It is no secret that what a "small phone" looks like has changed and is much different by today's standards compared to, let's say, a decade ago. So, something like the iPhone 13 mini from 2021 is without a doubt considered very small compared to something like the iPhone 15 that came out in late 2023.

But there is a reason Apple seized its "mini" series and replaced it with a "Plus" model. There are simply more people who find the longer battery life and larger battery useful, compared to the compactness factor of a phone of that size.

In 2023, the smallest newly released iPhone from Apple is the iPhone 15. Now, yes, it is larger than the iPhone 13 mini, but having held the 15 ourselves, we would venture to say that the transition from the smaller form factor to the slightly larger one can be enjoyable and not as cumbersome as one might expect. Let us explain in more detail in this comparison.

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iPhone 15 vs iPhone 13 mini:
  • 4nm A16 Bionic chip vs 5nm A15
  • Higher peak brightness
  • Dynamic Island replaces the notch
  • 48MP main camera vs 12MP
  • 2X optical-quality zoom
  • Same charging speeds
  • USB-C vs Lightning

Table of Contents:

Design and Display Quality

Slightly different look, besides the obvious size difference


First, let's get the size difference out of the way. Here are the measurements:

Apple iPhone 13 mini
Dimensions

5.18 x 2.53 x 0.3 inches

131.5 x 64.2 x 7.65 mm

Weight

4.97 oz (141 g)

Apple iPhone 15
Dimensions

5.81 x 2.82 x 0.31 inches

147.6 x 71.6 x 7.8 mm

Weight

6.03 oz (171 g)

Apple iPhone 13 mini
Dimensions

5.18 x 2.53 x 0.3 inches

131.5 x 64.2 x 7.65 mm

Weight

4.97 oz (141 g)

Apple iPhone 15
Dimensions

5.81 x 2.82 x 0.31 inches

147.6 x 71.6 x 7.8 mm

Weight

6.03 oz (171 g)

See the full Apple iPhone 13 mini vs Apple iPhone 15 size comparison or compare them to other phones using our Size Comparison tool.


Alright, now that the obvious is out of the way, let's talk about the not so obvious (kind of). Since the iPhone 15 is the first one outside of Apple's Pro models to ditch the notch and replace it with the Dynamic Island, it goes without saying that is one of the more striking design changes.

There is also the fact that the iPhone 15's edges are not as sharp as the ones on the iPhone 13 mini. This makes the phone much more comfortable to hold, more than we initially expected. Of course, the mini does not feel bad in the hand at all, largely thanks to its smaller size, but slight change in design with the 15 makes it feel just as nice in the hand.

Unlike the glossy glass back on the iPhone 13 mini, the iPhone 15 comes with a new matte-textured back panel that feels smooth and is more resistant to fingerprints.

The other, much less noticeable characteristic with the 2023 base iPhone, is the new USB-C charging port, meaning users no longer have to carry different types of cables if they own an iPhone, as most other mobile tech already uses USB-C.


One more small design change related to the new port on the iPhone 15 series are the USB-C to USB-C braided cables that come along with it. These should be more durable compared to the USB-C to Lightning cable that comes with the 13 mini.


It is amazing how big of a screen you can fit in a phone as tiny as the iPhone 13 mini, but no matter how much you shrink those bezels you still won't get a display as large as the one on the iPhone 15. We are talking 5.4" vs 6.1"!

Apart from the size difference, the iPhone 15 comes with a higher 1600 nits peak HDR brightness and 2000 nits peak brightness, whereas the 13 mini maxes out at 1200 nits. If we are to address anything else but the size and brightness, however, the differences come to a halt. All the other display specs are the same, including the 60Hz max screen refresh rate, and a similar resolution.

And yes, if you want a smoother display with higher refresh rate you still have to upgrade to the Pro models.

Display Measurements:



Performance and Software

Improved graphics and better power-efficiency


The iPhone 13 mini is simply amazing when you think of what the A15 Bionic chipset can do inside a body that small. The iPhone 15, on the other hand, comes with the A16 Bionic, which is also featured on the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max.

Now, the A16 is not an upgrade that delivers dramatically different results, at least that is what we found out during our own testing. But it does come with noticeably better graphics, which should come in handy when mobile gaming or using applications that need the extra horsepower.

Some other upgrades that come with the A16 Bionic are the support for Bluetooth 5.3 and a more efficient 5G modem that decreases the power consumption.

The software experience is about the same, with the one difference being all the functionality revolving around the Dynamic Island. That, as well as the fact that the iPhone 15 is two years newer, meaning it will continue getting software updates for two years further into the future, making it a better choice if you are looking for futureproofing yourself.

Otherwise, both the iPhone 15 and iPhone 13 mini utilize all the new quirks and features coming with the iOS 17 update. Apple has really focused on the communication aspect of iOS, doing a long-overdue glow-up of the Messages app, making it much more intuitive and fun to use. Sharing your phone number is  easier too, thanks to a new feature called NameDrop.

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Performance Benchmarks:


Geekbench 6
SingleHigher is better
Apple iPhone 152595
Apple iPhone 13 mini2285
Geekbench 6
MultiHigher is better
Apple iPhone 156651
Apple iPhone 13 mini5424
3DMark Extreme(High)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 152950
Apple iPhone 13 mini2469
3DMark
Extreme(Low)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 151896
Apple iPhone 13 mini1646

Camera

A whole new world


Like mentioned earlier, the iPhone 15 has a much better 48MP main camera which comes with bigger main sensor. Essentially, this translates to images with much higher levels of detail in all aspects that make a great photo. That means more nuances of shadows, highlights, and midtones, more vivid colors, as well as increased sharpness.

The new 48MP camera also allows for a 2X sensor crop, whereas the iPhone 13 mini is restricted to zooming in on the digital image.

Additionally, Apple has improved the Smart HDR and Night modes to deliver more true-to-life shots. It is the Portrait mode that is getting the biggest update, though. Apple even calls them 'next-generation portraits,' as the iPhone can now use machine learning to turn an image from a regular one to a Portrait after it has been taken. What's more, you can also switch the focus of a portrait photo to a different person after the capture.

Check out all of the photo and video samples:

There is a very noticeable difference in image quality, especially when it comes to the sharpness. And it is not that fake AI/software-enhanced oversharpening. No, it is a natural increase of detail thanks to the higher megapixel count.

The high dynamic range (HDR) also seems to be better on the new vanilla iPhone, which makes sense given Apple's statement of implementing some improvements on that front.

Main Camera - Low-light



Surprisingly, the iPhone 13 mini seems to be quite close to the iPhone 15 when it comes to low light shots with the main camera. However, there is a difference in terms of how the phones handle the shadows and dark areas — the iPhone 15 produces a more natural image, while the 13 mini raises the shadows making the end result look less realistic.


The 2X sensor crop on the iPhone 15 is definitely doing its job here. Zooming in on the text reveals the higher image quality. Not so much with the low-light shots though, maybe because the iPhone 15 dropped down to 12MP shots because it was too dark.

Ultra-wide Camera - Day



The two phones deliver similar results when it comes to shooting during the day with the ultra-wide camera.

Ultra-wide Camera - Low-light



Unlike the day snaps, ultra-wide photos taken in low light definitely look better with the iPhone 15. They are sharper, with more detail in the shadows (without going too far). One thing that is a bit distracting though, is that there is some kind of magenta tint to the image taken by the iPhone 15, making the scene appear not as it did in real life.

Selfies



Selfies look about the same on both phones. The iPhone 15 seems to be doing a little better in low light.

Video Quality


Video Thumbnail

Much of what we saw when comparing the photos, the differences in video lie in the increase in sharpness and detail, as well as the better low-light performance.

Audio Quality and Haptics


Apple's iPhones tend to have great audio quality all throughout each lineup that's been launched during the years. That being said, because of its smaller body, the iPhone 13 mini isn't as good-sounding when placed next to the iPhone 15. A larger phone allows for bigger speakers, hence better and louder sound.

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Haptics, however, are equally good between the two phones. The Taptic Engine is arguably best in class, so it is hard to be mad at the lack of change here.

Battery Life and Charging

Size matters

The iPhone 12 mini had a lot of power for its size, but it had one major flaw and that was its battery life, which was barely manageable. Apple corrected that mistake with the iPhone 13 mini, making it at least last throughout a regular day of use.

Whatever the case, iPhone 13 mini's battery last less time than the iPhone 15's. The reason is mainly due to the phone's size, and therefore the size of the battery that can be fit inside. It's simple physics.

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:


Video Streaming(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 157h 51 min
Apple iPhone 13 mini6h 20 min
Web Browsing(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 1513h 25 min
Apple iPhone 13 mini12h 33 min
3D Gaming(hours)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 158h 24 min
Apple iPhone 13 mini5h 49 min

To be honest, we expected a bit more from the iPhone 15 when it came to its battery life. Nevertheless, it is still considerably better than the 13 mini.

As for charging, the two phones charge at similar speeds both with a cable and a wireless MagSafe charger.

Specs Comparison


Here's an overall look at the differences and similarities between the iPhone 15 and iPhone 13 mini:


Don't forget that we also have an in-depth iPhone 15 vs iPhone 13 mini specs comparison table here where you can learn more about all the smaller details.

Summary and Final Verdict


This is a tough one. After all, we are talking about a significant difference in size here, so it really depends how much value you place into that aspect as a user. If you find it uncomfortable and inconvenient to use a larger phone every day and you want to upgrade to the iPhone 15 coming from the iPhone 13 mini, then you will probably need some time to adjust.

Now, if we were comparing the iPhone 13 mini to something like the iPhone 15 Plus or 15 Pro Max it would be a different story, as the size difference there is drastic and can be a little jarring, but in the case of the base model, the transition shouldn't be too bad.

If we leave the dimensions to one side, spec-wise, the iPhone 15 is technically superior in many ways to the smaller predecessor. You get a larger display to enjoy content on, better graphics performance, but most importantly you get a huge jump in the camera segment as a consequence of that new 48MP main sensor.

So, in other words, if you think you've had your fun using the mini and don't suspect a somewhat larger phone would be too much of a hassle for you, then the iPhone 15 might be a nice upgrade.

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