iPhone 12 mini review - the comparison with iPhone SE 1st generation


As a D-Netz veteran, you probably have your very own demands on mobile telephony, so the reader should consider to what extent these lines are transferrable.

When I held the first SE in my hands in 2016, I was thrilled! A tiny bit longer than the 4S, but this disadvantage is easily outweighed by its advantages. The fingerprint sensor drastically shortened the login procedure, the camera was significantly better, and overall I felt that it was a quantum leap at the time. And up until yesterday I hadn't held any other phone in my hand for more than a few minutes.

Within the last four years I have exchanged my SE for the 128 GB model after a fall, otherwise I would never have thought of buying one of the - in my eyes - phablets. Too clumsy, too heavy and, above all, not operable with one hand. Since I am of the opinion that a phone must also work without a protective cover, the phone looked appropriate. But I also don't stick protective strips on the doors of my car and I immediately peel off this protective film from electronic devices. Because I think something should be designed for its application in such a way that it survives it well. Wearing a helmet - for example when snowboarding - I find completely legitimate. Because when man was invented 20,000 years ago (?), there was no winter sports. You protect something especially when you use it outside of its intended purpose. But in everyday life it has to work without it.
Why I don't use a cell phone chain? Because I just want my phone in my pocket. As small and inconspicuous as possible!

Coming back to my little, slightly battered SE. When I dropped it one too many times recently, the display protruded slightly from the case frame and the frame was dented a bit. When I tried to push the display back into the case, it cracked. In order to be able to use the replacement display ordered by idoc , I first had to tweak the housing a bit. After assembly everything worked fine again - except for the cameras and the LED lamp. I seem to have damaged it during my apparently too crude motor repair. And after a few days, in desperation, I ordered the iPhone 12 mini.

The iPhone 12 mini arrives

Absolutely on time and accompanied by countless calls (I gave a landline number when ordering) with the shipping status read out before and after delivery, the phone was delivered yesterday. From an eastern tip of the Czech Republic within 24 hours with DHL Express to Hamburg Mitte. The phone comes in a surprisingly small box as only the phone and a charging cable (USB-C to Lightning) is included.


I ordered it (of course) in black because I found it to be the most inconspicuous color. Had only seen the phone online so far and was a bit surprised that the back is glossy instead of matte. It always looks greasy very quickly, it's a real magnet for fingerprints, but I haven't found it that tragic so far. First of all, the device doesn't feel that much bigger than the old iPhone SE. About the same thickness, but mainly a bit longer and a few millimeters wider. The really good display is huge though, about the same size as the old SE overall. The volume buttons on the side feel a bit smaller, you can't feel them quite as well and quickly as on the old SE, and the pressure point is also a bit more subtle. Nevertheless, it makes a valuable impression and, unlike an iPhone 11, it is easier to pick up and touch, it doesn't have that slippery feel.

The facility

The first time I tried this phone-to-phone direct restore, I actually found it very smart. However, it failed several times and the new phone then wants to be reset - without further information on the cause - and you start over. Even Apple Support had no idea, the Internet tips such as charging the battery didn't help either. So I restored it from the computer using an iPhones backup. On the first try, all non-system apps were shown on the display and in the correct position, but were not loaded. The app only started when you started it for the first time. Many apps had also forgotten to register and I had to register again. After a second attempt at restoring it worked better, all apps were loaded.

The first bewilderment

During setup, the phone was on the table and I typed on it. I noticed that no matter where you tap on the display, the phone wobbles and rattles. The raised camera makes the phone like a table that has a leg that is too long. I don't know exactly when humanity decided for itself to flatten things that occasionally lie flat on the bottom. But bottles, cars, houses, plates, chairs - everything is built in such a way that it doesn't tip over. I don't understand what prompted the ladies and gentlemen in Cupertino to withdraw from this consensus. I also tried it with an iPhone 11 Pro, it's not quite as tragic, but also annoying. I was in a bit of a bad mood then.

The usage

It wears a bit more when you have it in your pocket, you notice it more. When you reach for it, the home button is a bit missing, which on the one hand gives you a good grip on it, but on the other hand you can immediately see what position the phone is in. And due to the lack of a fingerprint sensor, it feels like it takes a little longer until the phone is ready to use. With the home button you could already unlock it while pulling it out of your pocket and then got it ready for use in front of your nose, it just takes longer now. Even if you have your phone lying on the table and you look at it from time to time to see if something has happened, you can no longer simply press the home button from above, but first have to get hold of the button on the side so that this can be done screen is concerned. But maybe you get used to it at some point.
The phone is significantly faster, loading times for apps, for example, are noticeably reduced. The display just looks better and because the bezel is smaller, it also looks much more contemporary. However, it's a bit annoying when buttons are at the bottom or at the top because you just can't get to them anymore. So, despite glove size 8, not all buttons can be reached immediately when holding the phone in one position. This slows down the usage a bit. And despite the huge display, it was probably not feasible to display the charge level in %. You just see a more or less large dot at the top right. Whether that is now 80% or just 56% is not so easy to see. And slowly I started asking myself what Apple was thinking. While you can see the exact charge level when navigating somewhere, you're far from getting essential information at a glance. In my eyes, these are compromises or limitations without getting any benefit from them.

Then, over the course of a 24-hour usage cycle, I noticed that there was no longer an option to put the phone on its side. I put it to the side every now and then while filming or watching a video. But since there are now buttons on both sides, this is no longer possible. Why? Why this small restriction in usability, without getting a recognizable advantage from it? Why couldn't the power button stay up?

Another point - but I haven't fully validated it yet - the vibration seems to be weaker. It's a pleasantly subtle hum, but no longer the attention-grabbing tremor of the first-gen iPhone SE.

My conclusion

One gets the impression that Apple now builds devices that fit perfectly into the ecosystem, not us humans. We have to adapt ourselves and our habits to the device, not the other way around. So you can say it's a top device that is probably far ahead in all KPIs, but the usability compared to previous generations is simply not as given. Everything already works, just not as well, securely and fluently.

I'm still undecided whether I'll stick with it or go back to my old device. The camera is awesome and the battery life is significantly better than a 2 year old SE. But that's the only place I've seen significant progress so far. In a few days I'll pick up the old SE again and see if it feels at home or alien. Then we will see...

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