The death of the iPhone Mini proves that nobody actually wants small phones

The death of the iPhone Mini proves that nobody actually wants small phones

Before I start, let me state that this article’s title employs a literary technique known as hyperbole — meaning, it’s not to be taken literally. Of course I know there are people who really, really want to use a small phone. All, like, 37 of you are very vocal on social media. One prominent industry insider even started a petition.

But here’s the thing: despite your repeated pleas, the reality is the overwhelming majority of people don’t agree with you. How do I know this? Well, you didn’t hear about an iPhone 14 Mini at the recent Apple Event, right? Despite all of its marketing, Apple is a company that wants to make money first and foremost. And Apple’s decision to scrap the iPhone Mini just two years in says it all. Sales must have been really bad (by Apple standards) for them to discontinue a product that saw very little competition.

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The writing was already on the wall, to be honest. Reports of the iPhone 12 Mini’s poor sales popped up in early 2021, and the iPhone 13 Mini fared no better. Long before the Apple event, industry insiders had expected the iPhone Mini to be scrapped.

The iPhone 13 Mini

I know anecdotal evidence can be highly subjective, but it’s worth sharing anyway because this is an editorial. As a phone nerd, I have a habit of checking out what phones people use, and in the past two years, I have very rarely ever seen a Mini iPhone (or an iPhone SE) out in the wild. I live in one of the most densely populated cities on earth (one that has high iPhone usage rate) and so I see probably over 500 iPhones a day. I also travel often to other major cities like Los Angeles, Berlin, Bangkok, and Singapore. If I have to estimate a ratio on how many 6.1- or 6.7-inch iPhones I’ve seen to the iPhone 12/13 Mini or the SE, I’d say it is an easy 200:1.

If Apple couldn't make the small phone happen, no one can.

You might dismiss my personal anecdotal experiences — but we can always go back to the sales numbers and the fact that notoriously stubborn Apple cut bait on the Mini faster than they gave up on the butterfly MacBook keyboard.

“Why are you using iPhone sales to determine the entire phone scene?” I hear some of you asking. Okay, fine, then where is the small Android flagship? Only the 5.9-inch Asus Zenfone 9 comes to mind, and some of you small phone acolytes are so hardcore that you still say that phone is too big.

To the vocal small phone fans (all 37 of you), phones should drop down to 5.7-inches? 5.5? Sorry, now that Apple axed the Mini, it’s never going to happen again. If Apple couldn’t make the small phone happen, no one can.

Most people think they want a small phone, but end up buying the bigger one

Look, small phone fans, I understand your plight, I get where you are coming from. Modern top-tier flagships are slightly too big to be comfortably used with one hand by most people. I struggle typing with one hand on the 6.8-inch Galaxy S22 Ultra (unless I shrink the keyboard); and I find the iPhone 12 and 13 Pro Max to be uncomfortable to hold for extended periods of time.

But humans are visual creatures; we rely on visual cues to determine whether we find things appealing. So when it comes to displays, bigger has almost always been better. Every time I pick up the S22 Ultra, or the iPhone 13 Pro Max, or when I unfold the Galaxy Z Fold 4, I always slow down a beat to admire the vivid display panel. When I scroll through the Instagram page of travel influencers, their photos of picturesque scenes in Mykonos or Bali look more stunning on a larger panel. When I am watching Blackpink’s latest video, their visually mesmerizing style holds a stronger grip on me on a Galaxy S22 Ultra than on the Pixel 6a.

iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Mini

Besides the superficial factor of “pretty things look prettier on a larger screen,” there are many practical reasons for wanting a larger screen — they allow us to see more and do more, particularly as mobile technology advances. Mobile games are becoming more and more complex and graphically intensive than ever; there are like a dozen streaming services with endless content for you to consume anywhere, anytime. More of us are working remotely than ever before, relying on our phones to read work emails or send Slack messages. In this day and age, a bigger screen is just much more practical.

fold 4 software

And so I, like most people, choose to compromise a bit of in-hand comfort for that larger display. I’d rather use a 6.7-inch phone and deal with needing to stretch my thumbs a bit than go with a 5.9-inch and need to squint to read press releases and emails all day.

You may think you want a small phone, but walk into a phone store now and look at an iPhone 13 Mini next to an iPhone 13 Pro Max (or do the Android counterpart and look at an S22 Ultra next to an S22), your eyes will be drawn to the larger screen.

Face the facts: The small phone is near extinction. The only way you’re getting a small phone in the future is if the screen folds in half. But hey that future isn’t too far away.

    The Galaxy Z Flip 4 is Samsung's latest foldable flip phone, now upgraded with a better camera, better battery life, and a new chipset.
    The iPhone 14 is now the most affordable device in Apple's flagship lineup. It brings minor upgrades over last year's model, including new primary and selfie cameras.

About author

Ben Sin
Ben Sin

I'm a senior editor at XDA Developers. I have been a journalist for a decade, the last five years covering the mobile tech scene closely, reviewing just about every phone and attending trade shows and launches. I also run a gadget review channel on YouTube.

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