Why Slow iPhone mini Sales Really Don't Matter

The iPhone 12 mini is the best iPhone ever

Key Takeaways

  • The iPhone 12 mini made up just 5% of iPhone sales in early January, according to reports.
  • Sales may pick up over time.
  • 12 mini owners really love their iPhones.
The iPhone 12 line-up.
Denis Cherkashin / Unsplash

iPhone 12 mini sales are flagging, say several reports—comprising as little as 5% of Apple’s total iPhone sales. These reports also speculate that this spells the end for the smallest iPhone. But does it? No way.

Reuters reports that the iPhone 12 mini sales are weak compared to the bigger iPhone 12, and even last year’s iPhone 11, which is still available. It even quotes a J.P. Morgan analyst who thinks Apple might soon stop production.

But this speculation ignores three things. One, the iPhone 12 mini may be a sleeper hit. Two, not all iPhones can be the best-selling model. And three, the iPhone mini is just awesome. 

"I love mine a lot," app developer Adam Smaka told Lifewire via direct message. "Seriously. It's so compact, and using it with one hand is way more comfortable."

Amazing mini

The iPhone mini is just amazing. It’s a fully-featured iPhone 12, with all the bells and whistles, only its small enough to slip into a pocket and to reach the entire screen with a thumb, when using it one-handed.

The only downside is a slightly smaller battery, but this is only a downside compared to the iPhones 11 and 12—the mini has a better battery life than the iPhone XS, for example.

I love mine, and a quick informal Twitter survey says other owners do too. 

"I love mine," replied Cult of Mac author Leander Kahney. "The size is all round great, and It’s not crippled or compromised. Switched from Pro Max, which now feels ridiculously large and clunky."

iPhone buyers have for years wanted a smaller iPhone, something more like the pocketable, flat-sided iPhone 5 than the iPhone 6, which kickstarted Apple’s big-phone trend. And, in fact, the iPhone 6 was a phenomenal hit, selling faster than any iPhone before it, and is still the best-selling iPhone of all time. At the time, it was thought that this was due to pent-up demand for a larger-screen iPhone. 

And yet, demand for a smaller phone remained. When Apple released the iPhone SE in 2016, which was an iPhone 5S case with the internals of the larger 6S, runaway demand surprised even Apple. This was likely—in part—due to the low starting price of $399.

But if you ask around, you’ll find that many people bought the SE because it was so small. They wanted a phone they could easily keep in a pocket for when they needed it, not one of those huge phablet-sized handsets. After that first SE, Apple didn’t make another small iPhone. Until the iPhone 12 mini. 

Why Isn’t the iPhone 12 mini Selling Better?

There are a few possibilities. Apple doesn’t provide per-model breakdowns of its iPhone sales, but some analysts report that the best-selling iPhone right now is still the 2019 iPhone 11. Then there’s the cheap iPhone SE (the current model). 

An iPhone mini in the box.
Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire

Another possibility is that iPhone early-adopters, the people who buy the latest model every November, also tend to favor the highest-spec models.

Indeed, on Apple’s latest earnings call, Apple’s chief financial officer, Luca Maestri, said that the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max models sold very well. So well, there were supply constraints "particularly on the Pro and the Pro Max." 

These early adopters may skew the sales numbers in the first quarter, whereas the regulars buyers, people who only walk into a store when they need a new phone, will be more numerous later in the product cycle.

Another factor is 5G. In the same conference call, CEO Tim Cook said sales in China have been huge, thanks to pent-up demand for 5G, which is much more available there. And in Asia, the historical preference has been for larger phones. The bigger the better. So, taken together, it’s no surprise that the mini’s sales lag compared to other models. 

Does It Matter?

The only reason Apple would abandon the mini size is if its sales were so poor that it no longer was worth making. Not all iPhones can be the best-selling iPhone.

"iPhone buyers have for years wanted a smaller iPhone, something more like the pocketable, flat-sided iPhone 5..."

One model always will be the worst-selling. That could be the iPhone mini, but as long as it sells enough to make it worth the trouble of making it, it’s just a part of a range. One thing’s for certain. If Apple does ditch the mini, then a lot of fans are going to be very disappointed.

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