Here’s the real reason iPhone 12 mini sales may have lagged – opinion

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Chris Smith

You’ve probably seen a few headlines today citing the failure of the iPhone 12 mini to capture the imagination of the smartphone-buying public. Chris Smith argues this shouldn’t discourage Apple from keeping ‘mini’ phones around.

New research from Counterpoint alleged only 5% of sales of the brand new iPhone 12 range, during the first half of January, were accounted for by the iPhone 12 mini.

First of all, Apple doesn’t release individual sales figures for iPhone models (or overall iPhone sales at all anymore). Secondly, this was from a two-week period after Christmas. Thirdly, the research was conducted by an unofficial, albeit very reliable and informative source.

Much of the reaction to the research has pointed to the premise Apple’s smallest phone has failed to catch on. Many have suggested it might deter Apple from launching a ‘mini’ phone in 2021 amid a general slowdown in the demand for smaller-screen smartphones (of which there are fewer).

Related: Best iPhone

However, few of the reports pointed out that many of those who eschewed an iPhone 12 mini purchase, may have already purchased a small-screen smartphone from Apple in 2020 – the new iPhone SE 2, which is a direct sequel to the popular 2016 model and close to £300 cheaper than the iPhone 12 mini.

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE 2

The iPhone 12 mini’s screen is 5.4-inches, so actually not that small compared to the iPhone SE 2, which has a much more pocket-friendly 4.7-inch screen. Both can access iOS 14. The iPhone 12 mini’s display is far superior, it also has 5G connectivity and much better cameras.

The iPhone SE 2 keeps the home button around, a feature that legacy iPhone users have tended to prefer over the newer Face ID-based devices like the iPhone 12 mini. There’s only one generation’s difference in processors A13 Bionic vs A14 Bionic, so these are important considerations for sectors of the public simply seeking to update their old iPhone to one that does all the same stuff.

Price wise, the iPhone 12 mini is considerably more expensive. It costs £699 to buy outright compared with just £419 for the iPhone SE 2. That’s a massive difference. Sure the iPhone 12 mini is a greatly superior phone, but for those seeking a small phone that does everything they need, this is a no brainer.

If there’s not enough there to suggest the iPhone SE 2 would be preferable to the iPhone 12 mini in some ways, then there’s certainly enough to suggest the iPhone SE 2 would have cannibalised iPhone 12 mini sales. Many may have bought an iPhone SE 2 before the 12 range was even announced.

iPhone size matters

It’s also important to take into consideration that the standard iPhone 12, which has a 6.1-inch display and better battery life, was only £100 more than the iPhone mini at £799. This too would have been hard to resist for some. Indeed, there were a few factors counting against the iPhone 12 mini, but none reflect poorly on the handset itself.

In awarding the iPhone 12 mini 4.5 stars (rare air indeed for a sub-flagship smartphone), our mobile editor Max Parker concluded: “If you’re looking for an iPhone 12 and think picking up the mini version will save you £100/$100, then I think you’re looking at it wrong. You shouldn’t buy this iPhone because it’s cheaper, you should buy it if you’ve been hankering for a smaller phone and are happy with the sacrifices that come with it. For most people, I still think the regular iPhone 12 is the best buy.”

The problem for Apple might just have been that the iPhone 12 offered a little better value and those seeking small phones had their hankering placated with the long-awaited iPhone SE 2 release last spring.

Hopefully, Apple isn’t deterred and continues to offer new smartphones at three size options when the iPhone 13 rolls around later this year. Apple long constrained the public choice by only offering one iPhone size, right up to the launch of iPhone 6 Plus in late 2014. This was a mistake. The wider display size selection can only be a positive for smartphone users around the world, who deserve a phone that fits their needs, not those of the manufacturers.

Do you agree with Chris? Or did Apple really miss the mark with the iPhone 12 mini? Let us know @trustedreviews on Twitter.

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