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Upgrading from iPhone XS to 13 Mini

Posted in Apple

After three and a half years using an iPhone XS, my home upgrade chain kicked in: my wife broke her phone, so she inherits mine (as she cares considerably than me about new Apple tech!) and I get the latest model.

I thought long and hard at what’s currently available and ended up going for what turned out to be the cheapest non-home-button phone in the line-up: the iPhone 13 Mini.

Here’s my take on the moving from the base size XS to the 13 Mini.

Size and form

I always loved the form factor of the iPhones 5 and 5S, but jumped from owning a 4S to a 6, so when the Mini landed in 2020, with its similar size to those 5s and 5Ss I was very excited!

I tend to use my phone with one hand (my left, even though I’m right handed), and it feels more secure than my XS ever did. It’s also nice to be able to reach more of the screen.

The move back to flat edges is a nice call back to the iPhones 4 and 5 era; I don’t know if it helps with grip, but it feels like it does.

Screen

Rather than keeping the user interface elements the same size and fitting less in the screen, the Mini downscales everything, so it’s all slightly smaller. This was a bit odd at first, but only took a couple of days for my brain to adjust.

The screen is noticeably brighter than my XS and also dims darker, so no need for my night time reading Zoom hack. Apple have also increased the quality of their OLED, which is no longer blurry when scrolling in low light.

The smaller notch doesn’t make much of a difference on the Mini, but the ‘horns’ of screen either side of the notch are still slightly larger than those on the XS, so there’s a tiny bit of extra screen there. But the notch has never bothered me anyway, so it’s neither here nor there.

Lastly, the non-Pro models don’t have Pro Motion, but having never gotten used to Pro Motion I’m happy without it. Besides, there wasn’t a Pro Mini, and Pro Motion wasn’t enough to tempt me away from the smaller form factor.

Long press instead of 3D Touch

One of my bigger concerns was that I’d miss the immediacy of 3D Touch but, in practice, a long press is totally fine. The timing feels just right: long enough to prevent accidental presses, short enough to not feel laggy. Truth be told, I never felt all that comfortable pushing hard on the screen anyway.

My only slight gripe is text cursor movement: a long press on the keyboard’s space bar changes the keyboard into a trackpad, rather than a 3D Touch anywhere on the keyboard. This means my finger starts out right at the bottom of the phone, leaving little room to move the cursor downwards.

Cameras

Apple’s decision to pair the standard lens with a wide angle lens (rather than a zoom lens) was the right one. I never really got much use out of the zoom lens on my XS, but I’ve shot with the wide angle lens multiple times already; it’s great.

The wide angle front-facing camera is also excellent. I’m not one for selfies, but when I’m out with my family, taking a group photo that includes me has always been awkward, but with the wider lens on the FaceTime camera the shots are much more natural.

Night Mode means that photos come out much sharper in low light. We’ve booked flights to Spain (our first trip abroad in 2½ years), and it’ll be great for taking pictures of the kids on those long evening strolls.

Cinematic Mode is really clever. I haven’t had too much call to use it to move focus from one person to another, but even just applying a background blur to video when there’s one person in shot is a nice option.

The bigger camera bump means the phone will always wobble slightly when on a flat surface; the case took care of that with my XS, but even the case has a bump with the 13. There’s no escaping the wobble!

Face ID sensor

I’m pleased with the hardware iterations to the Face ID sensor. I feel like it has a longer range and a wider field of vision, so if my phone is on the kitchen worktop while I’m preparing food, I don’t have to lean forward to hover directly above it, and get up close for it to unlock.

Case

I always buy Apple’s official cases in leather. Expensive, but well worth the premium. Unlike the XS case, this one wraps all the way round the screen, including the bottom; this makes it tricky to know which way up the phone is without looking.

Speed and storage

The processors in the iPhones 13 are fast! I hadn’t noticed any lack of responsiveness in my XS, but it’s obvious when going back.

After using a 64GB phone since I got my iPhone 6 in 2014, I had started to bump against that storage limitation in recent months. Probably because of the App Library allowing me to remove apps from my home screens without actually removing the app. The roomier 128GB starting storage is a welcome upgrade.

Battery and charger

I had read that the 13 Mini’s batter life was a solid improvement on that of the 12 Mini, and I’m pretty pleased. It easily lasts all day, usually with around a quarter remaining when I plug it in before bed.

Although, I’m quite careful with what apps I allow to run in the background (Settings → General → Background App Refresh), so that might help.

The phone came with a USB-C to Lightening cable but not a plug to go with it. I have a USB-C plug from one of the kids’ iPads that I could use, but I have so many USB-A plugs and USB-A to Lightening cables that it hardly matters.

Speakers

They’re smaller, but the speakers are around the same volume and quality as my XS; I imagine the non-Mini 13s sound better, but what I have is perfectly fine. I usually use my AirPods anyway.

Untested

There are a couple of things I haven’t tried yet. I haven’t got a MagSafe charger, so can’t comment on that, although I’ve tried it in the Apple Store and it snaps on and off beautifully.

Finally, 5G. I’ve never been particularly excited about 5G as 4G seems fine. Admittedly, in the last couple of years I’ve rarely left the house (and my Wi-Fi network), but when I have, 4G has always served me perfectly well.

Conclusion

Overall though, while it wasn’t a necessary upgrade, I’m very happy indeed with the jump from XS to 13 Mini. And I’m sure my trusty iPhone XS will have a good few more years of life as my wife’s phone.

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