Find someone who believes in the enthusiasm that Apple’s mini phone fans have for the iPhone mini. Even though Apple dropped the mini from the iPhone 14 lineup for the first time, you won’t have to search long online to find people hoping for the iPhone 15 mini’s triumphant return this fall.
No one outside of Apple’s headquarters knows the full extent of Apple’s iPhone 15 plans yet. We won’t know the official lineup until the iPhone 15 release date later this fall. But I don’t think I’m being overly negative when I tell you that the chances of the iPhone 15 mini are very slim.
We may not have any official announcement from Apple, but we do have a lot of rumors about iPhone 15 launch plans. So far, these rumors point to a standard 6.1-inch iPhone joined by a pair of iPhone 15 Pro models – 6.1-inch Pro along with iPhone 15 Pro Max, 6.7 inches. As for the fourth model, the 6.7-inch Plus is expected to return for another year, leaving the iPhone 15 mini on the outside looking in.
So it seems unlikely that there will be an iPhone 15 mini — or indeed, any small device or some time in the future. The question, then, is why Apple seems to have given up on phones with smaller screens.
iPhone screen sizes through the years
To answer that, it’s helpful to remember the history of iPhone sizes. The original iPhone offered a 3.5-inch screen — minuscule by today’s standards, but larger than the displays on most phones at the time. The screen size was expanded to 4 inches with the iPhone 5, and it didn’t exceed 5 inches until the 2015 introduction of the 5.7-inch iPhone 6 Plus.
At the same time that Apple was keeping things compact, competitor phones’ screen sizes were getting bigger. Large screen phones have been popping up here and there for years, but it was the introduction of the first Samsung Galaxy Note in 2011 that started the shift towards phablets.
Six years after that first Note, Samsung phones were offering screens larger than 6 inches, while the largest iPhone screen available was the 5.85-inch iPhone X. (You may remember that the 5.5-inch iPhone 8 Plus introduced around the same time was a A physically larger phone, but the iPhone X provided more display real estate by introducing the notch to iPhone screens.)
Apple started releasing phones with 6-inch screens in 2018, starting with the 6.1-inch iPhone XR and the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max. From that point on, Apple didn’t look back, eventually going over its current lineup of smartphone sizes.
The Mini, with its 5.4-inch screen, was an exception to Apple’s embrace of the 6-inch iPhone. (So does the 2022 iPhone SE, though this device still takes its design cues from the iPhone 8, you could argue that it lacks the modern look of the mini models.) With their compact design and portability, the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone award 13 mini replaces users with phones with a larger screen – something you can easily use with one hand, unlike the giant Pro Max models.
The problem is that the audience of the mini turned out to be as small as the screen size of the phone.
Apple is learning that bigger is better
Apple doesn’t break down its phone sales numbers by model, but people who follow the company’s finances believe that neither the iPhone 12 mini nor the iPhone 13 mini sell well compared to the rest of the iPhone lineup. The fact that Apple reduced production orders for the miniature models added fuel to speculation about their lack of popularity.
Compare the cold reception of the iPhone mini with the way the iPhone 14 Plus was received. This miniature replacement is said to not be as popular as other iPhone 14 models, but a Display Supply Chain Consultants report in March indicated that iPhone 14 Plus panel shipments were ahead of iPhone 13 mini shipments at similar points in the channel cycle.
People love bigger phones, and this isn’t an iPhone-specific phenomenon either. Draw in Statista (Opens in a new tab) The global smartphone market has been segmented by screen size over the past five years, with larger phones gaining popularity over that time. In 2018, phones with screens 5.5 inches and smaller accounted for 34 percent of global smartphone shipments. That percentage will drop to 15% by 2022.
From my point of view, there are two reasons for this. First, battery life remains one of the most important features of a smartphone, and the larger the device, the more battery it can accommodate. It’s no coincidence that the two iPhones currently on our best phone battery list are the iPhone 14 Pro Max and iPhone 14 Plus — the largest devices in Apple’s lineup.
Also, mobile apps are becoming more sophisticated, squeezing more information onto our phone screens so we can do more on the go. It is easier to use these apps on a device with a larger screen.
I speak from experience here, as someone who prefers phones with a smaller screen. I find it easier to hold and use with one hand. But while my hand size hasn’t changed much in the past decade and a half, my eyesight has definitely gotten worse. And while I might appreciate being able to hold a smaller iPhone in one hand, I definitely like being able to see all the details on a larger iPhone screen without having to squint.
“While human hand sizes have not increased since the dawn of the smartphone era, the way we use phones has changed, and a clear preference has emerged among consumers for phones with bigger screens, bigger batteries, and more cameras,” agreed Avi Greengart, lead analyst with Techsponential.
What happens next for the smaller iPhones
With the iPhone 15 mini unlikely to appear this year, that would make the 4.7-inch iPhone SE the last small-screen device in Apple’s lineup. The iPhone 13 mini is still on sale as of this writing, but there is a strong possibility that Apple will drop it once the iPhone 15 arrives to make room for the new models. (The iPhone 12 mini met a similar fate last fall — Apple dropped it, keeping the standard iPhone 12 as the $599 bargain model.)
“There is a vocal minority of consumers who want smaller phones with screens less than 6 inches,” Greengart said. I’m among them. I’d like to see Apple release new small iPhones, maybe in two or three years. However, Apple now seems to be serving that market by putting a relatively powerful processor in the 4.7-inch iPhone SE instead of building a iPhone mini is fully featured.”
Even the smallest iPhone SE might not be long for this world. iPhone SE 4 rumors indicate that it will adopt a 6.1-inch screen and a design similar to the iPhone 11 screen if, as expected, Apple updates the SE next year.
Tastes change, of course, and there may come a time when phones with smaller screens enjoy a resurgence. But for now, the iPhone mini is still out there at Apple, with no potential turnaround in sight.