iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020) – Which Tiny iPhone Is Best?

By Michael Grothaus •  Updated: 10/14/20 •  8 min read

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

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020) – Which Tiny iPhone Is Best?
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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.

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.

MORE: Which iPhones Have OLED Screens? A Quick Guide…


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.

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.

Winner? iPhone 12 mini – The A14 will get you up to 25% more CPU processing power.

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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.

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 Options

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.

MORE: iPhone 12 Mini Battery Size: How Big Is It?

Battery Life

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.

Winner? iPhone 12 mini – You get an extra two hours of battery life plus you get the MagSafe locking charging feature.

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020) – Which Tiny iPhone Is Best?
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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.


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.

MORE: iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 – Same Size, But What’s Different?

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020): Specs

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020) – Which Tiny iPhone Is Best?
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Here are the specs for the iPhone 12 mini:

And here are the specs for the iPhone SE (2020):

Be sure to check out our iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max comparison, too!

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Michael Grothaus

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.
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