Smartphone screens have gotten larger and larger in recent years, but there are still some folks who prefer a model with a smaller display that’s easier to operate with one hand. So when Apple launched the iPhone 12 series last fall, the company included an iPhone 12 Mini with a relatively small (by recent standards) 5.4 inch display.

While the phone has the same processor, camera, and storage options as the iPhone 12 (with a 6.1 inch screen), the smaller display makes it a more compact device. It’s also $100 cheaper, with prices starting at $699.

But seems like Apple may have overestimated demand for a smaller, cheaper iPhone 12 – according to a report from Nikkei, Apple has indicated to component supplies that it’s cutting production of its smallest iPhone by more than 70-percent. And that’s probably not great news for fans of smaller phones.

iphone 12 and iphone 12 mini
Left: iPhone 12 / Right: iPhone 12 mini

Apple was relatively late to the big-screen smartphone party, but now that the company is selling models with 6.1 inch and 6.7 inch displays, it seems that most iPhone customers prefer those models to the smaller iPhone 12 mini. And that could mean that the company’s smallest, cheapest phone will be a one-off experiment. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is no iPhone 13 mini.

With many Android phone makers taking their design cues from Apple, that could prompt other companies to focus primarily on large screens as well… or it would if they weren’t already doing that. It’s already hard to find Android phones with small screens, and I doubt it’ll get much easier if Apple decides to pull out of the space.

I guess if there’s a silver lining, if Apple is cutting production of the iPhone 12 mini due to low demand, I suppose that means there may be fewer folks longing for small-screened phones than I would have expected. So maybe it’ll only be a small, yet vocal subset of smartphone users who will be sad to see the selection of small phones shrink.

But it’s possible that it’s not the small screens that are turning people away from the iPhone 12 mini. It also has a smaller battery than its siblings, so maybe some people are opting for the larger models because they want longer battery life rather than bigger screens.

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27 Comments

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  1. I want a 5″ or smaller smartphone. I’m not going to pay Apple’s prices (which are fucking ridiculous) but I still want one.

  2. I have a 12 mini and I absolutely love it. If you want a small pocketable phone with a big screen, you have an amazing option. Literally feels like a modern iPhone 5

  3. I don’t know if Apple users are a good indicator of no demand for smaller phones, though that’s certainly possible. Many Apple fans seem to not want to have choices. There’s plenty of that on the Android side of things, but not as much. I definitely have a limit for phone size as far as what I like to use and carry around. The biggest phone I’ve used is about six inches long and that’s the size where the size starts to work against it as far as usability for me.

  4. I’m interested in a smaller phone, but with more thickness to accommodate a larger battery.

    Make it 5″, and give it a thickness to hold a 4000mAh to 5000mAh battery. Give it bezels like the Samsung S10e.

  5. Personally I want the exact opposite, give me larger screens with pocketable form factors. My current phone has 100cm^2 and I’m looking to go up from there but the only way up seems to be foldable phones that are currently expensive. I’m waiting for someone to use the panel from the Huawei mate x/xs since that’s 200cm^2 vs the fold 2’s 180cm but with lower end hardware to bring the price down.

  6. I absolutely disagree with those saying it’s not small enough. The problem is probably that it’s a tad too small. I have been a strong supporter of small and comfortable phones and for me the ideal size is under 13.5cm and under 150gr. My old Samsung S4 was the perfectly comfortable phones, but of course not ideal because of bezels. My current S10e while a tad tall at 14cm is still manageable… and it’s 150gr, even if it gains weight with its case. And 5.8 is a good compromise. The iPhone 11 pro had the same size but was a bit too heavy… A 5.6in iPhone mini with a big battery would have been light enough and a great size, but then it would have been too close to something like the 11 pro to be called mini… The mini is very comfortable but leaves room on the table, it could be a tad larger and heavier and still be extremely comfortable.
    Problem is that for most people their smartphone is their main device. For a tech guy like me, with several cellular tablets and laptops of any size, it’s just a device for calls, notifications and (little) use in bed, no watching videos, no browsing, etc. so comfort is the most important thing, and battery life, while important doesn’t have to be huge, my S10e is perfectly fine…

  7. I gave the iPhone 12 mini a try. I works fine for voice calls, and it’s every bit as good as the larger iPhone 12 for photographs. The Mini’s smaller size and lighter weight reduce “trouser sag” – no need to snug up your belt when the phone is in your front pocket.
    But phones today are used for much more than voice calls and photos. Texting, email, web browsing, navigation, games, and a hundred other apps require accurate touchscreen input. My fat fingers didn’t work accurately on the Mini. I returned it for a standard iPhone 12, and have not regretted the decision.
    Brad, I have been a fan since you started publishing reviews of audio equipment online. I think it would be great if you would return to your roots once in a while, and share your perspective on today’s audio recording gear.

    1. I picked up a Zoom G6 recorder before the start of the pandemic, thinking I’d use it for recording podcast interviews in the field. And then everything shut down and it’s been collecting dust. If I recall correctly, I loved the clean preamps and 32-bit float recording capabilities for recording without clipping or significant noise, but the user interface is kind of annoying with the tiny buttons and knobs and the need to go into the software to change most settings rather then flipping physical switches. I figured I’d get used to it after using it for a few recording sessions, but I haven’t actually had one yet, and have been mostly coordinating interviews over the internet and coaching people on how to record their own voices using voice memo apps on their phones. We live in interesting times 🙂

  8. I want a smaller screen/footprint with a fatter battery, but of course, Apple is allergic to fat. Magsafe batteries might help especially if 3rd parties are allowed to do with form factors things that apple won’t.

  9. It also has a smaller battery than its siblings, so maybe some people are opting for the larger models because they want longer battery life rather than bigger screens.

    Anecdotally, that’s a big part of the reason that people I know have opted for larger phones, and I might eventually do so. Out-of-the-box battery is usually acceptable, even in a smaller phone, but after a year or two, the smaller batteries can’t make it through a full day of use, whereas a larger phone battery has a better chance. So, essentially a bigger phone has a longer useful life.

    1. Too bad nobody ever thought of making a phone with a removable battery that you could swap when the old one doesn’t keep a charge long enough.

      1. To be fair, it’s not impossible to replace a sealed in battery. Harder, but do-able. I just replaced the battery in my Pixel 2, and I expect that with a custom ROM for security updates, I’ll be able to get another 2-3 years of life out of it.

  10. Absolutely, Just not an Apple. If they actually made flagship phones in a smaller size, with no compromises, I’d buy it.

  11. I’m still using my 2016 iPhone SE. I considered the iPhone 12 Mini but my SE is still getting SW updates and I still use the headphone jack.

    I do use wireless earbuds at home but take wired earbuds when I go out because batteries suck and these earbud cases take more space in my pocket than rolled up earbuds.

  12. Solid sales numbers for the iphone SE2 and the Pixel 4a indicate that demand for small (or at least ‘smallish’) phones is strong in the $350-$400 price bracket. Premium devices at premium prices have done less well. Samsung’s Galaxy S10e was less popular than its siblings in 2019, and now we are seeing the same for the current gen iphone.

    As someone who prefers small phones, this isn’t altogether surprising. My phone is still very much an accessory device for me, whereas for many it is now their main device. I can see the appeal of larger screens to those who use them more and are willing to pay for top specs. I’d rather spend the extra money on a better laptop (and have a phone that is easier to hold/pocket). I would be happy to see more mid-range, mid-price devices with small screens. A reboot of the 1st gen Moto X with exactly the same dimensions but a higher screen-to-body ratio, a midrange processor, and a good camera for $400 would be amazing.

    1. I was seriously considering the Pixel 4a when it was time to retire my Pixel 2, but went with the 4a 5G for its faster processor, extra camera, and bigger battery. I’m very pleased with the battery life, but it took months to get used to the screen size.

    2. I think this is a major factor. I also want small screens, and one of the reasons is that I use it less than others do. I don’t need very nice cameras or a cutting edge processor. The problem with the landscape of small phones is that you either have the iPhone at $700 or a couple rare Android Go edition devices with 8 GB of flash. I’m guessing most people who want a small phone need more than the ridiculously cheap kind (if you can even find that kind outside a locked device for a low-cost MVNO) but don’t use it enough to justify a $700 price tag.
      The only viable candidate I’ve found is the Unihertz Atom L/XL, which might work. I have considered one but haven’t purchased because my current phone is still functioning.

  13. Generally speaking (anecdotally), I only ever see people with large phones in the 6.x inch range. This has been true for years.

    One of my primary purchasing decision items: how large is the screen? I do hope other manufacturers focus on larger phones and maybe – one day – I’ll see my ideal size: 7 inches, 16:10 aspect ratio.

    1. That is a tablet.
      Not that there’s anything wrong with wanting a tablet or UMPC that also makes phone calls. It’s why they’re making foldables and rollables.
      I just couldn’t carry that tablet absolutely everywhere, and I have one of those, so I would know.

  14. After being forced to adapt to a LG v20 after accidentally breaking and having to “factory reset” my s5 sport by trying to encrypt it after having rooted it (again) then forgetting the password to my samsung account that uses a deleted gmail address, I don’t have as much problem with the size as I thought I would.
    I WILL HOWEVER MAINTAIN THAT THE GALAXY S5 IS THE BEST SIZE FOR ME.
    See, the V20 is actually kind of light compared to some of the devices I poked a few times at the cell phone store. If I had to use one of those, with their glass backs and greater moment arms, I might have a problem. It’s not so much the size, but how much trouble I have gripping it; knurled or ribbed edges on the V20 would help a lot, so I got a case for it, the case it should have built in but doesn’t.
    Where size actually becomes a problem for me is actually overall length. I have a hard time sitting down with the v20 in the pockets of my jeans. My more formal pants have deeper pockets more to the side, so that’s not a problem. But 160mm is pretty much at my limit! The RoG 5 is just too tall, I can’t sit down with that. The s5 sport, being 144mm, is short enough to run with it in my pockets.
    And sometimes, I do have trouble reaching things one handed. Trying to adjust brightness requires pulling the “notifications menu” or whatever that’s called over halfway down the screen, and that’s hard to do one handed.
    If phones lengths stopped at 150mm, we wouldn’t need pop sockets! (as much!)
    As for Apple, I suspect that those who want small phones might also not want iPhones. There are various possible reasons for this.

    (I remembered the password later! But I’m not switching back, that’d cost $15 more a month.)

  15. I would. But I’m not due to replace my current phone for another year or two.

    That said, I think they really should make the minis thicker and put bigger batteries in them.

  16. Is 5.4″ a small phone? (qualifying it by saying “by recent standards” doesn’t really help) When the people who say they want a small phone, what screen size are they thinking about?

    The iPhone 5/5S/SE had a 4″ screen. That is a huge difference from a 5.4″ screen.

    How important is price? Is a “mini” that is only $100 less than the “full size” model attractive? It’s not small enough to be small and not lower in price enough to make the smaller size worth the price.

    A cynic might say that Apple produced this half-measure mini as “proof” that people really don’t want small phones.

    1. Keep in mind that aspect ratios and bezels have changed – a 5.4 inch iPhone 12 Mini measures 5.18″ x 2.53″ x 0.29, while the 4.7 inch iPhone 6 is 5.44″ x 2.64″ x 0.27″.

    2. Screen size isn’t the best measure to compare over time since bezels have been shrinking. The body of the 12 mini is only 6% taller (4.87″ to 5.18″) and 9% wider (2.31″ to 2.53″) than the 5. The screen is a lot bigger because the top and bottom bezels almost vanished.

      I agree a lot of it is about price – and the iPhone SE, which is about halfway between the 12 mini and 12 in size.

      1. The Phone Arena has a handy size comparison tool on their website which I have used a lot and really like.
        Do new Apple iPhones have that physical hardware switch to MUTE audio? My iPhone 7 has that feature and I really wish my Android phones did. It allows you to retain the mute setting even after a reboot!
        I would prefer a smaller thicker phone with a larger battery. It would be even easier to pocket and hold than a large thin slab that I’m worried about bending.