At Apple’s September 2022 iPhone event, there was a distinct lack of iPhone mini, leading many to speculate (us included) that the small form factor iPhone is well and truly dead. So why did Apple skip the mini this year, and are we forever stuck with bigger iPhones?
iPhone 14 Plus Replaces iPhone 13 mini
In September 2021, Apple announced the iPhone 13 mini alongside the standard iPhone 13, 13 Pro, and 13 Pro Max. This followed the iPhone 12 mini which saw a release in the previous year. For a while, it seemed like iPhone fans who preferred pocket space over battery life would be catered for by the tech giant.
But a report released in January 2022 by industry analysis firm Counterpoint cited disappointing iPhone 13 mini sales numbers in China where only 5% of sales were attributed to the smallest model. Those numbers require a pinch of salt before being extrapolated to the market as a whole, but rumors began to fly that Apple would be pulling the mini in 2022.
So it wasn’t entirely surprising that the iPhone 14 mini never materialized, its absence punctuated by the return of a previous mainstay: the iPhone 14 Plus. The last time Apple rolled out the Plus moniker was in 2018 during the iPhone 8 (and X) event.
Of course, all Pro models (and 2019’s iPhone XS) have seen embiggened “Max” versions, and the iPhone 14 Pro is no different. There’s always been a market for larger devices but for the last few years, these customers have had to shell out big for high-end flagship models.
While the iPhone 13 mini saved customers $100 over the standard version. the iPhone 14 Plus costs $100 more than the standard $799 model for the larger 6.7″ display and around 20% more battery life.
Could the iPhone mini Return in 2023?
The iPhone 14 might be one of the less revolutionary iPhone launches if you’re upgrading from hardware that’s only a year or so old. There aren’t a huge number of big new features that will make you want to upgrade from an iPhone 13, down to the fact that Apple uses the A15 Bionic system-on-chip in both models. That doesn’t make it a disappointing device though, especially if you’ve had your iPhone for a few more years.
Though the iPhone 14 gains an additional GPU core, you shouldn’t expect a revolution in terms of performance or power efficiency over last year’s model. This could be due to a global semiconductor shortage which the world is just beginning to emerge from, or it could also be a sign that Apple is responding to the way many of its customers spend their money.
Consider this: there’s now less reason to upgrade your iPhone (or any smartphone) every year. Manufacturers favor incremental upgrades, slowly rolling out features and refining hardware year-on-year. Many of us are happy to wait until the “right time” to upgrade, whether that’s when our old device fails or feels sluggish, or even when we see something we like that makes our model feel outdated.
Would iPhone 13 (or even 12) mini owners see enough value in an iPhone upgrade if Apple had produced the iPhone 14 mini? Or is Apple betting that these people are content to wait until the next time the company rolls out a smaller model, particularly considering industry reports that suggest that the mini is a niche product anyway?
The same could be said of the Plus models, which could potentially see Apple alternate between Plus and mini to keep its customers happy. There will always be a new iPhone, but there won’t always be a full suite of iPhone models that are perfect for every user.
And then there’s the iPhone SE, Apple’s cut-price offering that happens to be smaller and cheaper than standard models. The iPhone SE may have an up-to-date A15 Bionic chip inside it, but the design feels tired and outdated and is in desperate need of an overhaul. Could this become the new “smaller iPhone” when the time is right?
Last Year’s Model and iPhone SE Are Smaller Options
If you want a smaller iPhone, the good news is that you can still buy one. The iPhone 13 mini is still available for sale on Apple’s website (and so is the iPhone 13, for that matter). It will cost you $200 less than the new iPhone 14 and features a slightly inferior version of the same chip in the latest model.
You’ll also miss out on an improved camera system (with better low light performance), Crash Detection which automatically calls emergency services when it detects a car crash, the new Action mode that stabilizes video as you shoot, and around 20% of the battery life thanks to its smaller size.
Instead, you’ll get a smaller 5.4″ display and a device that’s lighter by 1.1 oz (31.2 g). US models of the iPhone 13 mini will still have a SIM card slot (while the iPhone 14 is going eSIM-only). If the smaller size is really important to you, the drawbacks of going for the slightly-outdated model aren’t huge and you’ll save $200 by doing so.
Your other option is to opt for the third-generation iPhone SE, but that’s a harder sell. The iPhone 13 mini is smaller, lighter, has a much better camera system, better battery life, and the same A15 Bionic system-on-chip at the helm. Despite being smaller, the iPhone 13 mini has a bigger screen that uses the entire front face of the device.
There are other benefits to opting for the mini, like Ceramic Shield glass, better water resistance, a higher base storage capacity, and MagSafe charging and accessories. If you can afford the extra $170 asking price over the $429 Apple is asking for the iPhone SE, you’ll get a more capable device.
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Smaller iPhone, Shorter Battery Life
For many smartphone owners, battery life is a major sticking point. More efficient chips and OLED displays are helping, but the best way of getting more life out of your iPhone is to opt for a larger model. The bigger the chassis, the bigger the battery inside.
While a smaller device might sound great in theory, if you can dedicate the pocket space to a larger iPhone you’ll be able to go longer between charges. That’s not to say there aren’t other reasons to go for the mini, particularly if you have smaller hands or find larger devices cumbersome.
If the smaller iPhone was your device of choice and you can stay put for another generation, it’s probably worth waiting at least a year to see what Apple does next time. It’s also possible that we’ll see a complete iPhone SE refresh that ticks the boxes for those looking for a smaller device.
Catch up on all the big news from Apple’s September 2022 event including Apple’s big plans for satellite emergency communication, the new Apple Watch Ultra, and the changing face of iPhone.
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