I am a player. I like to play with as many devices as I possibly can, and I always have. The smartphone industry has changed much in the past few years, and I was all for it until I realized that not every new thing is beneficial to me, the consumer.
With a long history of using big phones, like the iPhone 7 Plus, the iPhone XR, and the Motorola Edge 20 Pro, I found myself always looking for something that was missing. Something that didn’t quite suit me and my lifestyle. It took Apple’s release of the iPhone 12 mini for me to realize what this thing was.
When I first tried the iPhone 12 mini, I was amazed by how powerful a small phone could be. This relatively tiny phone packed great specs at a mini-size. I loved almost everything about it during testing… almost.
As many of you might gather, the biggest con of the 12 mini I couldn’t live with was its poor battery life. This phone barely lasted me until 3 pm, and for that reason, I decided to wait for the iPhone 13 mini to come out, as rumors back then stated that it will fix the battery issue by a big margin.
That thankfully happened, so I decided to go ahead and just buy it, and I can say it was almost life-changing. Here are all my thoughts about why I just can’t seem to find the will to ditch my iPhone 13 mini, and why I think compact phones are important and shouldn’t be overlooked.
How the industry forgot about small smartphone lovers
I remember I was waiting for the perfect compact smartphone for quite a while, and I thought the 12 mini was a step in the right direction, especially as I was already an iPhone user. Still, as mentioned above, the iPhone 12 mini had big shortcomings and wasn’t the perfect phone for me.
Before, I never used to think about getting a small smartphone, because they were always quite mediocre, in my opinion. They often came with lower specs, worse cameras, disappointing battery performance, and cheaper quality. I’ve totally given up on the idea that I might see another great small smartphone.
The last one I had before the iPhone 13 mini was the OG Motorola Moto X, with its nice 4.7-inch AMOLED screen and wonderful performance. This phone was released during Motorola’s short romance with Google as its subsidiary. It was all a good smartphone needed to be at that time, and I loved it deeply.
But then things changed, and with each new generation of smartphones, their displays got bigger, wider, later on much taller, to the point where the so-called ‘phablet’ class of smartphones ceased to exist. It was all phablets now.
This is why just like the industry itself, I also gave up on the idea of a compact flagship smartphone, and just moved on. The next thing I knew, I was working 5.5-inch 1440p screens that looked great but had their toll on battery life.
I vividly remember enjoying my LG G4. It is one of the best phones ever made if you ask me, but its battery life wasn’t great, and it wasn’t very pocketable.
Smartphone manufacturers decided to fix these issues by increasing the size of their devices even more in order to pack larger screens and bigger batteries. And I must admit that this trick worked. Nowadays, the 6+inch phones rule the world and have much better battery performance, lasting up to two days, some even more.
The increase in size meant that other features, like fingerprint scanners and multiple back cameras, had space to be fitted, and that’s exactly the direction the industry took.
Are smartphones better now that they are big? In many aspects, yes, they indeed are. But are they more intruding, more time-consuming with their big screens that catch our attention every day for hours? Yes, they definitely are.
I’ve had the chance to test many modern big phones, like the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, the Motorola Edge 20 and Edge 20 Pro, and the even bigger Motorola Moto G200. None of these seemed to fit me. The thing is, I still have most of these phones with me, but they stay in the box, waiting for me to give them some love and attention when I couldn’t care less because they aren’t a convenient daily driver that suits my needs as well as the iPhone 13 mini.
The iPhone 13 mini is the fresh breath of air many desired
Kudos to Apple. The Cupertino company wasn’t keen on the idea of big phones in the past, keeping the same smaller form factors in its iPhone lineup for years until it finally gave up with the iPhone 6 Plus, but they still persevered with making great small phones in 2021. I can confidently say that the iPhone 13 mini is the best compact smartphone ever made. This phone mesmerized me with its amazing performance, unproblematic software, good battery life, and excellent cameras. It feels great in the hand, very light, and not very easy to drop. It also feels expensive, just like any other iPhone with a glass back and metal sides.
People asked me at first if I bought it just because it is the cheapest iPhone 13. I found this question to be very silly and almost ignorant because that wasn’t the case at all.
Of course, I had some concerns before buying this phone. I wasn’t sure if the smaller keyboard would suit me, or if the display would give me enough information without the need to scroll. I was also afraid of constantly feeling the need to zoom-in on things because otherwise, they were too small.
Thankfully, none of these concerns materialized. I got used to this smaller form factor pretty quickly, and I should say that Apple has done a great job with optimizing iOS for compact iPhones. Of course, none of this is surprising, as there are even smaller ones, like the iPhone SE (2020), that are still sold to this day, and their software experience is also great.
You should also consider another benefit of compact phones – single-hand use. Yes, the iPhone 13 mini is more than appropriate to use with only your thumb. This is an especially important feature when you’re on the move. In a big city, traveling in public transport, or even in your car waiting for the traffic light to turn green, a phone you can use with only one hand is the most convenient piece of tech ever.
I believe the iPhone 13 mini is the wonder child of 2021. This phone is just as good as much bigger phones and gives them a run for their money. Of course, I should also say that I don’t think this is a phone for everybody. We, the compact phone freaks, are a rare breed. I understand why many people prefer bigger phones, but you should be aware that if your concern was battery life, the 13 mini doesn’t disappoint.
If you’re an Android user, you should definitely consider the Asus Zenfone 8. I must admit that it isn’t as good as the iPhone overall, but it is still a nice phone.
Compact phones are on the verge of extinction
Unfortunately, the future of compact smartphones looks dimmer than ever. Except for Apple and Asus, almost all other phone manufacturers have ditched compact phones entirely and moved on with the industry to big 6.8-inch Android beasts. There are of course some semi-compact phones like the Galaxy S21 FE and the iPhone 13, but these are nowhere near as pocketable and one hand-friendly as phones from a decade ago.
I’ll summarize the situation with the wise words from Elton John’s song, ‘Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word’: It’s sad, so sad, It’s a sad, sad situation. It is indeed sad for every fan of the OG compact smartphone from back in the day. The first iPhone SE, the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact… these were great pocketable devices that packed the power of their much bigger premium siblings.
Rumors about the iPhone 14 series state that Apple is planning on ditching the mini, and going for a bigger version of the non-Pro iPhone instead. I must admit that business-wise this is a smart move, but since when is it all about money and profits?
I guess I should feel silly and naive asking this question, but as a tech enthusiast, my heart wants what it wants. Passion for compact phones prevails over logic and trends, but I guess it still isn’t enough for big companies to make devices for this smaller group of consumers.
All of these points I made led me to the intriguing thought that the iPhone 13 mini will probably be the last great phone of its kind. This made my decision to buy it very easy.
I’m sure by now plenty of you are wondering what am I on about when there are foldable phones that are even more compact while eliminating the small phone form factor’s drawbacks. I think foldable phones will never be truly compact, hear me out.
Why foldable phones aren’t really compact
With Motorola’s revival of the OG RAZR in a modern foldable phone, a new era in the smartphone industry began. People saw that foldable phones can come in many shapes and sizes, and suit different people’s needs.
The idea behind the modern clam-shell foldable smartphone is that you still get a big screen, but it folds in half, leaving you with a much easier-to-carry device when it’s not in use.
While I must admit that you end up with a compact phone, you can’t use it in that form. Yes, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 has a small outer screen with which you can interact, but who wants that anyway?
The outer screen has similar functionality as a smartwatch, and as history showed, the smartwatch cannot replace the smartphone.
So you still end up with a big 6+ inch screen, but that’s not all. It’s not only not compact, but it is also filled with reliability and maintenance concerns. You also get an irritating crease, which doesn’t feel that great at all.
Still, foldable phones are probably on their way to getting rid of these drawbacks of theirs, but that will not make them compact, not really. A compact phone stays compact all the time, not only when it’s in your pocket.
Foldable flip phones are also heavy. For example, the Motorola RAZR 5G weighs 192g, and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is 183g. Ten years ago, that was considered to be huge. Forgive me if I still consider it to be way too heavy, I just think a phone should be used with ease, not by you having to hold it with both of your hands in order to use it comfortably.
And that’s what it is all about, your phone being comfortable. Foldable phones aren’t it. Yes, they are practical, full of features, and very functional for the most part, but comfortable and user-friendly they are not.