iPhone 13 mini review: The best small phone just got better

iPhone 13 mini specs

Price: Starting at $699
Display: 5.4-inch Super Retina XDR OLED (2340 x 1080)
CPU: A15 Bionic
Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
Rear cameras: 12MP (f/1.6) main, 12MP (f/2.4) ultrawide
Front camera: 12MP (f/2.2)
Video: Up to 4K 60, 1080p 30 (Cinematic Mode)
Battery life (hrs:min): 8:41
Charging: 20W wired, 15W MagSafe
Size: 5.2 x 2.5 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 4.97 ounces

Small phones aren’t dead yet, with the iPhone 13 mini leading the charge. Don’t let this little guy’s size fool you — it packs a serious punch. With enhanced cameras and improved battery life over its predecessor, the new mini iPhone fulfills the dream for fans of diminutive handsets.

While Apple reserved some of the best features for the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max (like 120Hz displays, telephoto zoom and macro mode), the iPhone 13 mini gets plenty of welcome upgrades. You get a brighter display, fast A15 Bionic processor and compelling new camera features like Cinematic mode for video.

In this iPhone 13 mini review, we’ll take a look at just how the best small phone in the world stacks up to its predecessor and the competition. And be sure to also check out our iPhone 13 Pro Max review, iPhone 13 Pro review, and iPhone 13 review.

iPhone 13 mini review: Price and release date

The iPhone 13 mini has a release date of September 24. The 128GB model starts at $699, with the 256GB jumping to $799 and the top-end 512GB going for $999. Yes, Apple doubled the base storage this year while keeping the price the same. Considering all of the power under the hood, the iPhone 13 mini for $699 is a great deal.

Before you pull the trigger on buying one, I encourage you to check out our best iPhone 13 deals page to make sure you get the best offer. 

iPhone 13 mini review: Design

The iPhone 13 mini looks very similar to its predecessor with one notable change: the notch. It’s about 20% smaller this year, according to Apple, and it’s certainly noticeable. It’s nice to have more screen real estate, even if the notch is still there.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

The iPhone 13 mini features the same squared off edges and the small size is still easily pocketable and I could use it in one hand effortlessly. All the iPhone 13 models are IP68-certified, meaning that the 13 mini can survive up to six meters underwater for 30 minutes.

iphone 13 mini face down in hand with blue chair in background

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

I’m disappointed to see a lack of mask-friendly authentication on the iPhone 13 mini. Apple has failed to adapt Face ID to the mask life many of us still live. I’d like to see Face ID get smarter or for Apple to roll out Touch ID next time.

iPhone 13 mini review: Display

The iPhone 13 mini’s 5.4-inch OLED display is relatively unchanged, but there’s a big boost in brightness this year. 

Thanks to the OLED panel, colors are punchy and vibrant with true, deep blacks. I played Genshin Impact (an interesting experience on such a small phone) and came away impressed with how well the phone rendered the saturated color palette. The iPhone 13 mini also portrayed the section in Blade Runner 2049’s third act well with rich contrast between the orange fog and the shadows.

iphone 13 mini display on laying on desk

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

Here’s the breakdown of our display testing as compared to the Galaxy S21 and iPhone 12 mini. 

iPhone 13 mini Galaxy S21 (Natural) iPhone 12 mini
sRGB (%) 117 110 118
DCI-P3 (%) 83 77 83
Delta-E 0.27 0.29 Not tested
Nits 788 703 505

The iPhone 13 mini compares quite well against the iPhone 12 mini and Galaxy S21, with some slightly stronger saturation than Samsung’s phone. The Delta-E color accuracy score, where 0 is perfect, shows a slight edge over the S21.

iphone 13 mini display on in hand with plants in background

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

And with a max brightness of 788 nits in our testing, the iPhone 13 mini gets plenty bright enough to see outdoors. This is great especially for photography, meaning that you can actually see the photos you took even if you’re standing in direct sunlight.

iPhone 13 mini review: Cameras

The iPhone 13 mini got several camera upgrades this year. The main 12MP camera has a larger sensor that lets in more light, improving photos in poorer lighting conditions. There’s also sensor-shift optical image stabilization, which Apple introduced on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. This should help things stay even more stable than traditional OIS.

iphone 13 mini zoomed in on camera array

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

As for the 12MP ultrawide camera, it also has a larger sensor. There’s autofocus on board now, too, which can make a big difference in ensuring ultrawide shots come out sharp. 

For the following camera comparisons, I brought the Galaxy S21 along so you can see how Samsung’s best compares to Apple’s latest flagship.

In this first outdoor shot, the phones had to capture the blue chairs, vibrant red door, the white wall, and the cloudy sky beyond. The iPhone 13 mini has a much richer image with brighter colors with a stronger sense of depth. The Galaxy S21 looks a bit washed out and flat in comparison. Otherwise, the two images are fairly similar, though I think the iPhone’s is truer to life.

In this photo of flowers on a tree, a similar thing happened. The iPhone captured a more vibrant image without going too far with the saturation. The worn blue wall to the left and the orange umbrella in the background look realistic. The S21, as is usual with Samsung, has has some oversaturation issues, but it also struggled with the sunlight where the iPhone did not — there’s some lens flare in the S21’s picture.

Heading inside, the iPhone 13 mini captured this scene well. It handled the natural and artificial light while maintaining the contrast and shadows. This image captures the mood and tone of the room and offers an artistic vibe. The Galaxy S21 also produced a good image that’s brighter than the iPhone’s. That said, it boosted the highlights too much and so lost much of the contrast. The final picture looks a bit flat and while it’s brighter, it’s not what that room looked like to my eye.

In this second indoor image, both phones are nearly identical. The iPhone’s shot is a bit warmer and the S21’s is slightly brighter. Both phones captured the vibe of this scene with sharp focus on the tree decoration. However, the red of the books up top on the S21’s image look a tad washed out, while they’re a bright red in the iPhone’s photo.

For portraits, both phones are once again rather similar. The iPhone 13 mini opted for a slightly warmer tone to complement the lighting that day, while the Galaxy S21 cooled things down and brightened the final image. Not only is the green in the iPhone’s picture richer, but the orange car behind me looks striking. The same car in the S21’s portrait looks a bit faded. However, both phones managed near perfect blur radii, even if the S21 applied too much face smoothing.

For the ultrawide test, check out this cool vintage Beetle scrap heap. The focus on the iPhone’s photo is a bit sharper than the S21’s. That’s not to mention the color disparity, with the iPhone looking richer and the S21 having a washed out look. The yellow Beetle looks a bit livelier in the iPhone’s picture, whereas it looks a little too faded in the S21’s. This all comes back around to what I wrote in the outdoor section above.

Night mode proved interesting, as you can see. The Galaxy S21’s attempt at photographing this smoker in the dead of night turned out much brighter than the iPhone 13 mini’s. Not only is the smoker in stronger focus with more details, but you can even see the fence slats in the background better. I expected much better from the iPhone, considering that Apple’s Night mode is usually very good.

Wrapping up with front-facing camera comparisons, the two phones took two very different approaches. The iPhone 13 mini opted for a softer, warmer tone, highlighting the reds in my face and clothes behind me. The Galaxy S21 cooled things down and brightened them significantly, making my eyes brighter, but also applying too much face smoothing. 

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photo of a mural in the standard photographic style

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Rich Contrast

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photo of a mural in the vibrant photographic style

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photo of a mural in the warm photographic style

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photo of a mural in the cool photographic style

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photo of a brick building in the standard photographic style

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photo of a brick building in the rich contrast photographic style

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Rich Contrast

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photo of a brick building in the vibrant photographic style

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photo of a brick building in the warm photographic style

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photo of a brick building in the cool photographic style

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photo of a horse statue in the standard photographic style

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photo of a horse statue in the rich contrast photographic style

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Rich Contrast

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photo of a horse statue in the vibrant photographic style

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photo of a horse statue in the warm photographic style

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photo of a horse statue in the cool photographic style

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New this year is what Apple calls Photographic Styles. You can think of these like real-time filters which come in four presets. You can select something that matches your personal taste and see what it looks like as you’re lining up your shot. You can also tweak things to totally match the style you want. It’s a cool feature that adjusts the camera settings on the fly instead of relying on a filter after the fact.

You can see a sample gallery of the standard option and the different Photographic Styles above.

iPhone 13 mini review: Video

Apple holds the crown for video recording on a smartphone, with the iPhone 13 series continuing that trend. The true star of the show this year is Cinematic mode. Possible thanks to the upgraded Neural Engine in the A15 Bionic, this new feature is portrait video on steroids.

iPhone 13 cinematic mode

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

Not only does Cinematic mode apply a bokeh effect to your video, it can dynamically shift the focus depending on where your subject is in frame or where they’re looking. It’s quite interesting to see in practice, offering a truly artistic and professional way to record video. It tops out at 1080p 30 fps and all the work is done on-device.

The true applications of Cinematic mode for the average person remain a mystery and I don’t think you should rush out to buy an iPhone 13 mini just to get this feature alone. It’s definitely neat and impressive, not to mention a great use of the Neural Engine, but, on its own, it doesn’t sell any of the iPhone 13 models for me. Regular video recording, meanwhile, remains a solid strength for Apple.

iPhone 13 mini review: Performance

With the new A15 Bionic system-on-chip, which includes a quad-core GPU, the iPhone 13 mini is a very powerful little phone. In fact, it destroys the best that Android has to offer, even the best gaming phones.

iphone 13 mini leaning against books

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

The fastest chip that an Android phone can use, the Snapdragon 888, already had a hard time keeping up with the A14 Bionic from last year and the A15 furthers Apple’s lead over its competitors.

We ran a few benchmarks, which you’ll find below.

iPhone 13 mini Galaxy S21 iPhone 12 mini
Geekbench 5 (single / multi-core) 1733 / 4643 1048 / 3302 1602 / 4123
Adobe Premiere Rush (Mins:Secs) 0;27 1:03 0:28
3DMark WIld Life Unlimited (Score / FPS) 10231 / 61 5805 / 35 9804 / 54

The iPhone 13 mini is quite a ways ahead of the Snapdragon 888-equipped Galaxy S21. It even beats out the iPhone 12 mini by a slight margin, which is what I’d expect for a next generation chip at this point.

For example, look at the Adobe Premiere Rush benchmark, where a phone transcodes a 4K video file to 1080p as quickly as it can. The iPhone 13 mini managed it in a blistering 27 seconds, where it took the Galaxy S21 more than twice as long to accomplish the same task.

iphone 13 mini display on zoomed in on status bar

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

The other benchmarks stress test the hardware, like the 3DMark Wild Life graphics test. You can see a noticeable jump from the iPhone 12 mini, and a huge leap over the Galaxy S21. Even in Geekbench, which measures CPU performance, the results show a significant difference between Apple and Samsung.

While the Pro models perform better across the board with their bigger GPUs and 50% more RAM, the $699 mini does some serious work and provides the best bang for your buck.

Check out our iPhone 13 benchmarks page to see how the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13 Pro compare to each other and the Android phone competition. 

iPhone 13 mini review: Battery life and charging

Apple doesn’t disclose iPhone battery capacities, but the company did say that it improved the iPhone 13 mini’s battery life by up to one and a half hours over its predecessor. In our testing, that ended up accurate.

iphone 13 mini leaning against vintage shoes

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

In the Tom’s Guide battery life test, we set a phone’s display to 150 nits and task it to endlessly reload web pages over a 5G connection until it dies. Here’s how the iPhone 13 mini compares to the Galaxy S21 and iPhone 12 mini.

iPhone 13 mini Galaxy S21 (Adaptive / 60Hz) iPhone 12 mini
Battery life (Hrs:Mins) 8:54 6:31 / 9:54 7:28
Recharge percentage (15 mins) 29 30 33
Recharge percentage (30 mins) 58 55 60

Year-over-year, you can see an improvement of just over an hour. Still, over eight and a half hours of battery life is better than the iPhone 12 mini’s seven and a half. 

Head over to our iPhone 13 battery life results page to see how the iPhone 13 mini compares to the other new iPhones and the best Android phones. 

Apple once again didn’t include a charger, but that’s no surprise. Neither did the company upgrade the iPhone 13 mini’s charging speed, keeping the new phone at a 20W max wired. MagSafe is still here, which tops out at 15W. I would have liked to see the iPhone 13 mini get more competitive with its charging, especially as other phone makers push the limits of what’s possible. 

iPhone 13 mini review: Software and iOS 15

The iPhone 13 mini debuts with iOS 15, which is a pretty major update. It sports new features like tweaked notifications, Focus mode, FaceTime improvements and upgrades to many core apps such as Safari and Notes. We already have some excellent coverage on iOS 15, which I encourage you to check out so you can see exactly what’s new.

iphone 13 mini display on with plant in background

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

Apple likes to keep the iOS experience as universal across devices as possible. Some of the older devices can’t do some of the new stuff due to hardware limitations, but iOS 15 on the iPhone 13 mini will feel basically the same as it does on the iPhone 12 mini. 

Other than some of the iPhone 13-specific features like Photographic Styles and Cinematic Mode, there’s not a whole lot to say about the software experience on the iPhone 13 mini. 

iPhone 13 mini review: Verdict

The iPhone 13 mini continues the legacy laid down by the 12 mini last year. It’s the best small phone you can possibly buy, outpacing anything Android can offer. Fans of smaller handsets will love this phone, as it fits in many a pocket. I can think of a few people personally who would appreciate that.

iphone 13 mini face down on candy bars

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

Even though the design hasn’t changed much, the iPhone 13 mini is still a pretty device. I appreciate the smaller notch, even if Apple doesn’t take advantage of the extra screen space. 

But what I dislike is the lack of competitive fast charging and biometric authentication that works with masks. The latter is a serious lost opportunity. Despite the iterative improvements made across the board with the iPhone 13 mini, none of them obviate the annoyance of typing in my PIN while in public, and doing so again for Apple Pay.

If you’re on an iPhone 12 mini, I don’t think that the 13 mini is worth an upgrade. But if you’re coming from something older and want a small phone, this is basically the best you can get.

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