This is the comparison many people have been waiting for: it’s the iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020) faceoff! For years some Apple fans have complained that the iPhone was getting too big. These people held the older, smaller iPhones in high regard and many longed for the day of the iPhone 5, with its 4in screen. Apple never brought back the iPhone 5c, but earlier this year it introduced the 2nd generation iPhone SE–the smallest iPhone Apple makes.
Yet that all changed this month when Apple introduced the iPhone 12 mini. Despite having a bigger display, the mini is smaller in size than the SE. This means Apple fans now have TWO small iPhones to choose from. And the thing is, while these iPhones may be the same in that their physical size is small, they are radically different in many respects.
So, how else do the two tiny iPhones compare? Let’s take a look.
iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020) Quick Comparison
The design is going to be the immediate thing people notice when they compare the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone SE. The iPhone 12 mini features an all-screen design and sports Face ID as its biometric authentication system.
Glance at the iPhone 12 mini for even a second and you’ll see just how different it is from the iPhone SE (2020)…even though they both came out in the same year. The iPhone SE features the old-school iPhone design. That is, it has a big forehead and chin. That chin houses the Touch ID button–the old home button some iPhone fans love. But that button comes at a price: the iPhone SE doesn’t have that all-screen design.
- iPhone 12 mini – The iPhone 12 mini has a glass and aluminum body with flat corners. It comes in blue, green, red, white, or black. It features Apple’s Face ID. Its physical footprint is smaller than the SE.
- iPhone SE – The iPhone SE also has a glass and aluminum body, but it sports rounded corners. It also has Touch ID instead of facial recognition. It comes in red, black, or white.
Winner? iPhone 12 mini – If the design and a small size is what you want in an iPhone, the iPhone 12 mini wins by a mile. It’s the smallest iPhone Apple sells.
The display is another area where the two iPhones vastly differ. And again, there’s a clear winner. The iPhone 12 mini features an all-screen display. It also uses an OLED panel with a huge resolution of 2340 x 1080–that’s huge when considering how small the device is. Matter of fact, what’s really crazy is the iPhone 12 mini is physically smaller than the iPhone SE, yet has a much larger display.
The iPhone SE’s display, on the other hand, is tiny in comparison. It’s also an LCD panel, which means it doesn’t have as sharp of colors as the iPhone 12 mini. Plus the iPhone SE’s resolution is much, much lower at 1334 x 750 pixels.
- iPhone 12 mini – The iPhone 12 mini features an OLED Super Retina SDR display that is 5.4in and has a 2340 x 1080-pixel resolution.
- iPhone SE – The iPhone SE features a Retina HD LCD display that is 4.7in and has a 1334 x 750-pixel resolution.
Winner? iPhone 12 mini – No contest here either. The edge-to-edge OLED display on the iPhone 12 mini is far superior than the iPhone SE. It’s not even a contest.
When it comes to raw processing power, the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone SE are more similar than in their display and design. That’s because, while the iPhone 12 mini has the A14 chipset, the iPhone SE uses the A13, which is only a generation prior.
The A14 is still 25% faster than the A13, but it’s not like the A13 is any slouch.
- iPhone 12 mini – the iPhone 12 mini features the A14 Bionic chipset. This A14 is a 5nm chip.
- iPhone SE – the iPhone SE features the A13 chipset. This A13 is a 7nm chip.
Winner? iPhone 12 mini – The A14 will get you up to 25% more CPU processing power.
The iPhone 12 mini also has some MASSIVE camera improvements over the iPhone SE. The biggest different between the two devices is that the iPhone 12 mini has a dual-lens rear camera system. That rear camera features a 12MP wide and telephoto lens. The front camera also has a 12MP lens.
The iPhone SE, on the other hand, has just a single-len 12MP system (it’s a wide angle lens). The front camera’s lens is also of lower capabilities, featuring just a 7MP camera. All-in-all, the iPhone 12 mini just has a much better cmera setup.
- iPhone 12 mini – The iPhone 12 mini features a 12MP selfie camera. On the rear, you get a dual-lens camera setup with a 12MP wide and 12MP telephoto lens and 2x optical zoom.
- iPhone SE – The iPhone SE features a 7MP front-facing camera. On the rear, you get a single-lens 12MP camera complete with a wide-angle lens.
Winner? iPhone 12 mini – Not only does it offer a dual-lens setup, but it also offers optical zoom. The front selfie camera is also superior.
Storage is the one area where the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone SE are identical. Both phones come in three storage options, and all three storage options are the same: 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB.
- iPhone 12 mini – 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB
- iPhone SE – 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB
MORE: iPhone 12 Mini Battery Size: How Big Is It?
By now you might see the trend: the iPhone 12 mini almost consistantly outdoes the iPhone SE. It’s clear which small iPhone Apple prefers for the linup’s future. When it comes to power management, the iPhone 12 mini also excels over the iPhone SE.
While both iPhones feature tech like wireless charging, the iPhone 12 mini gets you two additional hours of battery life. How does Apple achive this when the phone is pshycially smaller and has the larger disaply? The increased battery life in the iPhone 12 mini comes down to improved power-management features in the A14 chipset and also the fact that the iPhone 12 mini has an OLED diaplay.
OLED displays use much less power than LCD displays, which the iPhone SE has.
- iPhone 12 mini – The iPhone 12 mini battery will get you about 15 hours of battery life with mixed usage. It also features wireless charging with MagSafe technology.
- iPhone SE – The iPhone SE’s battery will get you about 13 hours of battery life with mixed usage. It features standard wireless charging.
Winner? iPhone 12 mini – You get an extra two hours of battery life plus you get the MagSafe locking charging feature.
One area where the iPhone SE does beat the iPhone 12 mini is on price. It should be no surprise that the iPhone SE is cheaper. It’s because it uses older components that are cheaper to procude. The iPhone 12 mini, on the other hand, uses the latest tech–and you always pay more for the latest tech.
- iPhone 12 mini – The 5.4in iPhone 12 mini costs $699 (64GB) and $749 (128GB) and $849 (256GB).
- iPhone SE – The 4.7in iPhone SE costs $399 (64GB) and $449 (128GB) and $549 (256GB).
There’s no two ways to cut it. The iPhone 12 mini is the best option for iPhone fans who want the smallest iPhone possible. Despite the iPhone 12 mini having the larger 5.4in display, it’s physically smaller than the iPhone SE with the smaller 4.7in display.
But it doesn’t stop there. The iPhone 12 mini also beats the iPhone SE because it has an OLED display, an edge-to-edge display, Face ID, the superior A14 chipset, a dual-lens camera system, MagSafe charging, and 5G support.
Really, the ONLY reason you would want to go with the iPhone SE over the iPhone 12 mini is the cost. At $399 the iPhone SE is Apple’s cheapest iPhone–and for what it can do, that’s a bargain price. However, if you want the smallest iPhone, the iPhone 12 mini is your device.
iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020): Specs
Here are the specs for the iPhone 12 mini:
- Display: 5.4in OLED Super Retina SDR display with a 2340 x 1080-pixel resolution
- Dimensions: 131.5 mm x 64.2 mm x 7.4 mm
- Weight: 135 grams
- Storage: 64, 128, or 256GB
- Processors: A14 Bionic chip
- Front camera: 12MP FaceTime HD camera
- Rear camera: 12 MP Ultra Wide and 12MP Wide. 2x optical zoom out.
- Battery: Up to 15 hours (video playback)
- Other: 5G, Face ID, NFC, MagSafe wireless charging, IP68 waterproof (6m)
And here are the specs for the iPhone SE (2020):
- Display: 4.7in LCD Retina HD display with a 1334 x 750-pixel resolution at 326ppi
- Dimensions: 138.4mm x 67.3mm x 7.3mm
- Weight: 148 grams
- Storage: 64, 128, or 256GB
- Processors: A13 Bionic chip with third-generation Neural Engine
- Front camera: 7MP FaceTime HD camera with 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps, Portrait Mode
- Rear camera: Single 12MP Wide camera.
- Battery: Up to 13 hours (video playback)
- Other: 4G, Touch ID, NFC, wireless charging, IP67 waterproof (1m)
Be sure to check out our iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max comparison, too!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is iPhone 12 mini smaller than SE?
Yes, the iPhone 12 mini is phsyciall smaller than the iPhone SE. Here are their phsycial dimensions:
- iPhone 12 mini: 131.5 mm x 64.2 mm x 7.4 mm
- iPhone SE: 138.4mm x 67.3mm x 7.3mm
Q: Is the iPhone SE still good in 2021?
Yes! Provided you are talking about the 2020 model of the iPhone SE. That’s the iPhone SE with the A13 CPU and the 12MP rear camera. The previous iPhone SE came out in 2016 and it’s tech is lacking in 2021.
Q: Is the iPhone 12 mini out?
Yes, the iPhone 12 mini came out at the end of 2020. As of 2021, the iPhone 12 mini is still sold by Apple and is readily available at Apple Stores and third-party resellers.
Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.