Hold that mini closer, tiny handers. Apple might be kicking your lot to the curb.
When CEO Tim Cook eventually reveals the iPhone 14 (or whatever the company decides to call it) on Sept. 7, Apple analysts, like Ming-Chi Kuo, say that there will be four phones in total: two 6.1-inch models and two 6.7-inch models. That means the 5.4-inch iPhone mini model that graced the iPhone 12 and 13 product lines might be gone forever. Done. Kaput. If rumors are to be believed, Apple is going in the total opposite direction, turning the dial all the way from mini to “Max” with a 6.7-inch replacement for the diminutive phone.
Why would Apple do this to us small-phone lovers? And do we still have a future in the iPhone ecosystem?
A tiny history
A tiny phone for tiny hands.
Credit: Zlata Ivleva / Mashable
The iPhone 12 mini, released in 2020, was Apple’s first mini model. With a starting price of $700, it saved consumers a mere $100 as compared to the cost of the full-sized iPhone 12. It had the exact guts of a 6.1-inch iPhone 12, but with a 5.4-inch display that kept it relatively compact. Everything else, from the A14 Bionic chipset inside to its 4GB RAM and dual-camera setup on the back, was the same between both models.
And it was great! Our reviewer Brenda Stolyar loved the way it felt in her hands and that it had the same (at the time) cutting-edge chipset as its bigger siblings. That said, she did feel that the phone was “too damn tiny” for her tastes when it came to serious smartphone usage.
Allow me to explain: I rely on my phone a lot throughout the day and night, whether that’s for watching Netflix, texting friends in never-ending group chats, or scrolling through social media. So, not only was it frustrating to have to constantly stare at or navigate such a small display for long periods of time, but when typing with both hands, my fingers felt squished while resting on the back of the phone.
Look, I’m not proud of my excessive smartphone usage, but it’s made me realize how crucial a large display is for me.
Still, there were people who did ultimately prefer the smaller size. The folks who bothered to buy one seemed to agree that it’s one of the most comfortable iPhones to hold.
Apple followed that up with the iPhone 13 mini a year later and didn’t stray from the formula: same iPhone 13 specs, different screen size. Apple event kept the screen dimensions and pricing unchanged from year to year while upgrading the chipset. So, if the mini got two chances at success, why is that idea not getting a third?
Why would Apple kill off the iPhone mini?
One word: Sales.
According to market research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, the iPhone 13 mini made up a mere 3 percent of total iPhone sales in the first quarter of 2022. That’s…not good.
The iPhone 13 (left) and iPhone 13 mini (right).
Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable
For whatever reason, the market demand Apple must’ve seen for a smaller flagship iPhone just hasn’t borne out since the launch of the first mini in 2020. According to Annette Zimmerman, a VP analyst at the research firm Gartner, the iPhone mini became “somewhat of a niche” in our new COVID-driven world, where smartphones are more important than ever.
“The pandemic enabled an acceleration of the critical role of the smartphone, for example doing tasks via mobile apps on the go or remotely, making the smartphone more indispensable than ever,” Zimmerman said. “This dynamic is better served by larger standard displays versus more compact designs, so acceptance for larger handsets has become standard and is increasing.”
The iPhone mini’s price probably didn’t help either. Perhaps iPhone fanatics wanted a bigger discount for sacrificing so much screen space. It also had a light, toy-like feel, but not a toy-like price. But even if the iPhone mini is dead, that doesn’t mean Apple is totally done with the idea of a smaller, cheaper but just as capable iPhone.
The real mini iPhone was here all along
The 2022 iPhone SE.
Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable
The rumored death of the iPhone mini may seem sad on the surface, but if you dig deeper, it’s not so bad. You see, Apple already sells an even more miniature iPhone with most of the same specs you’d get from an iPhone 13 mini. It’s called the iPhone SE.
With a 4.7-inch display, the same A15 Bionic chip and 4GB RAM as the iPhone 13 mini, and a much more agreeable $429 starting price, the latest iPhone SE can do most of the same things as an iPhone mini but for a lot less money. Sure, you only get one 12-megapixel rear camera lens, but that’s the biggest compromise.
Well, aside from the fact that if you like the SE, you’ll have to practice some patience. Apple doesn’t upgrade the iPhone SE annually. The line’s three past models were released in 2016, 2020, and 2022. So you may have to wait a few years between upgrades. That’s not so bad, though!
And while the mini failed to find a strong audience, that’s not necessarily true of the SE. Runar Bjørhovde, an analyst at research firm Canalys, said you shouldn’t be concerned about Apple killing off the SE line much like how it might kill the mini because it has an important role in Apple’s portfolio.
“It actually serves as an opening for people who can’t necessarily pay that much for an iPhone,” Bjørhovde said. “For a lot of users who now are feeling pressure from prices increasing, maybe their…disposable income starts to reduce a bit, the option of going for a cheaper iPhone can all of a sudden be a lot more appealing, especially if you’re quite a loyal Apple user.”
If there is no future for the iPhone mini, those who loved its petite body (and branding) can rest assured they’ll still have the iPhone SE to keep their tiny hands warm.