The iPhone mini is Amazing, but Apple's Ditching It to Go Big - Updated

Grab one while you still can

  • Apple will axe the iPhone mini this fall and replace it with a plus-sized, non-pro iPhone.
  • The iPhone mini is perfect for people who have normal-sized pockets.
  • The iPhone 13 mini will be good for several more years.
iPhone 13 mini next to a tape measurer on a white table

Jeremy Bezanger / Unsplash

The iPhone mini is beloved. It's the perfect phone for people with normal-sized pockets, and who don't spend the day swiping through TikTok—and yet, come this fall, it will disappear

In the beginning, all iPhones were small, pocket-friendly phones. Then, with the iPhone 6, things started to grow. If your only computer is a phone, it makes sense to have a larger screen, and the iPhone Pro Max is the seam-ripping, thumb-stretching pinnacle of this idea. Then, Apple launched the iPhone SE, a modern version of the old iPhone 5, and people loved it. It followed up some years later with the iPhone 12 mini, then the 13 mini, but that's it. What went wrong?

"Older iPhone models are actually selling more than the mini. The demand for premium phones with bigger screens is on the rise," Sarah McConomy, CEO of used phone reseller SellCell, told Lifewire via email. 

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Not everybody wants a big phone. Some of us would like a pocket computer that can stay in a pocket until we need a camera, to send a text, or to check the map. Some people prefer to use an iPad or a laptop for general computing. Or maybe you use the phone all day long, but just like a smaller device. 

For us, the iPhone 12 mini was perfect. It had the exact same specs as the regular-sized iPhone (apart from the screen size), and the only downside was a shorter battery life due to its smaller battery. But it had the same cameras, same screen tech, same chips. It’s bigger than the iPhone 5, but not by much, and thanks to the slab-sided design of the iPhone 12 and newer, it still feels chunky and secure in the hand. 

iPhone 12 mini next to iPhone 5

Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire

"The iPhone mini lineup has top-of-the-line specs while maintaining a small form factor and being $100 cheaper than its sibling," tech writer Darryl Dsouza told Lifewire via email. "I think Apple might be ditching the mini lineup, only to resurrect it as the new iPhone SE."

If you like the smaller iPhones, though, you should grab a 13 mini while you can, or risk it all and wait for the new iPhone lineup in September, when the older models may get reduced in price (but also, if Apple follows its own MO, only the base model will still be available). That's because all the iPhone-related rumors point to the end of the mini. 

Go Big or Go Home

The reason? We'll probably never know for sure, but the smart guesses say Apple just didn't sell enough. And a look around confirms this. On public transport, I see most regular-sized iPhones, some big ones, and almost no minis. I see so few people carrying them when I do, I feel I should pull mine out of my normal-sized, un-stretched jeans pocket, flash it, and smile, like a classic car owner. But I don't, because that would be really creepy.

On the surface, it makes sense for Apple to drop lines that aren't selling well. Then again, "selling badly" in the iPhone world could still mean tens of millions of units. And if it's not actively losing money, then why not keep it around just to keep small-phone lovers happy? After all, Apple still makes the Mac Pro, and that sells so few units that Apple can afford to build it in the US

The demand for premium phones with bigger screens is on the rise.

The supply-chain rumors, which this close to the annual fall release of new iPhones are almost always accurate, say that Apple is going big. To get a large iPhone Max, you've always had to buy the Pro model. This year, it looks like the regular iPhone will also be available in XL. Perhaps, with the world's ongoing supply-chain difficulties, there's only capacity for two models?

But it's not all bad news. It's possible, although unprecedented, that Apple might release big and small iPhones in alternate years. A big one next month and another small one in fall 2023.

"It could be that a new iPhone SE version merges into the iPhone mini later in the year, so the ditching of a smaller phone hasn't completely happened yet! Mini lovers can probably hold back and wait to see what happens to a new iPhone SE in 2023," says McConomy.

It might be wishful thinking from a small-phone devotee, but few of us buy new phones every year. And since the pace of the iPhone's improvements has slowed, most of us would be happy with this arrangement. 

Fingers crossed.

Update 12/6/22: Apple did indeed ditch the mini iPhone, but by some accounts, its oversized replacement, the iPhone 14 Plus, isn’t selling much better. That could spell good news for mini phone lovers if Apple decides to alternate small and large models every couple of years.

The other good news is that the iPhone 14 isn’t that interesting. It’s pretty much the iPhone 13 with the iPhone 13 Pro’s chip inside, which is to say, barely any kind of upgrade. This year, all the good stuff—the Dynamic Island, the always-on display, and Live Activities, are all iPhone Pro-only features. This means that you can buy an Apple-refurbished iPhone 13 mini for a great price, and not feel any major FOMO. It’s all looking better than we expected.

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