Spoiler: I firmly believe that the iPhone mini will return as the next iPhone SE
I’m not going to play the game of having you scroll all the way down to figure out what I am talking about. I believe that the 4th generation of the iPhone SE will be in the shape of an iPhone mini. Hence, the mini shape will live on! Rejoice!
Left – iPhone SE 3rd gen; Right – iPhone 13 mini
Still not in my camp? Well, let me present my arguments, and you be the judge.
Is the iPhone mini being discontinued?
We’ve been hearing rumors that Apple intends to kill the mini line for well over a year now. Even as the iPhone 12 mini dropped (the first mini iPhone), its reception was underwhelming and Apple quickly re-adjusted its production lines accordingly, dropping the output of iPhone 12 mini devices.
Left – iPhone 12 mini; Right – iPhone 12 Pro Max
Then, as we were preparing for that iPhone 13 series reveal, plenty of analysts and leaksters said that this will be the last time we see a “mini” version. And, for what it’s worth, it seems they were right, as all leaks and rumors about the iPhone 14 series point to a new “Plus-sized” model and no mini.
Does nobody like the iPhone mini?
Consistently, the mini versions of the last two iPhone generations have had the least interest. For the entire iPhone 12 line, the iPhone 12 mini made up for 5% of the total devices sold. The same story repeated with the iPhone 13 series.But let’s get this straight — the iPhone 12 series sold more than 100 million units (this stat is from mid-2021, so more by now). This means Apple shipped 5 million mini units for that generation. It’s not a massive blockbuster, but it’s still a number that’s hard to ignore — I am pretty sure that plenty of smartphone manufacturers would love to have a small phone that consistently sells in the millions.
iPhone 13 mini – feeling cute, might get discontinued later
Also, browsing through the smartphone community — be it tech YouTube, Reddit, or even our own comments — you can always spot the occasional devoted fan of the iPhone mini. It’s obvious that they do exist and that Apple will have a crowd of disappointed customers if it does away with the tiny models.
So… is the iPhone mini truly dead? No! It will rise under a different name. I think.
The iPhone mini vs the iPhone SE
The iPhone SE and iPhone mini had a lot of crossover going on ever since inception. A bit of cannibalization, if you will. Let’s take a look:
Left – iPhone SE; Right – iPhone 12 mini
By design, they are incredibly similar products, aimed at two segments of the same market niche — small smartphones. If you want a more in-depth look, you can check out our iPhone 13 mini vs iPhone SE (2022), but that’s basically the tl;dr.
These models are usually not picked up by powerusers — they don’t have the screen size to allow for comfortable use for extended periods, and they don’t have the battery capacity to offer hours and hours of gaming, YouTube streaming, and constant social media posting.
Gaming on a mini – you can, but should you?
No, small smartphones are usually picked up by people who want a device that’s tiny and easy to carry in any pocket. A device that stays out of the way when not needed and good enough for the occasional picture or burst of media consumption. If it’s cheaper — well, that’s a major plus.
When we lay it out like that, it is quickly apparent that both the iPhone SE and iPhone mini are perfectly good choices for that type of user. And if the buyer happens to absolutely not care about having a “modern design”, they will obviously go for the cheap and classic iPhone SE.
Hence why the mini’s market share was stolen by one of its own siblings. Or, at least this is what this non-analyst writer here believes.
OK, fine, I will include the receipts. This here graph of the top 10 smartphones sold in 2021 has iPhone SE at position 8. No iPhone 12 mini in sight. Coincidence?
The iPhone SE 4 will have an iPhone mini design: my arguments
iOS builds will soon force the redesign
I may not be an engineer or software developer at Cupertino, but I do believe that Apple has allowed itself to stick with the same iPhone 6-ish design for the iPhone SE (2022) simply because it still supports the iPhone 8 with iOS 16.
See, the iPhone 8 is the oldest iPhone that will get the next update of Apple’s mobile operating system. This is noteworthy because, due to the presence of a home button with Touch ID and a 16:9 screen, Apple still needs to code in a different type of behavior for iOS. Swiping from the bottom pulls up the Control Center (ah, classic), there’s the Touch ID button to send you home or the double-press to open recent apps.
When iOS 16 comes out, these will be the models with home buttons that support it:
In the near future, be it with iOS 17 or iOS 18, support for the iPhone 8 will eventually be dropped, there’s no way around that. So, this list will become even thinner, with only iPhone SE models lingering about.
I think, from then on, Apple will be looking to purge the old design from its portfolio, just to streamline its iOS builds.
Show me the MagSafe money
iPhone 12 mini and MagSafe charger
Apple loves to make its own connectors because it can then make extra cash from accessory certifications. This applies to the MagSafe magnetic ring — you have probably noticed that the high-profile accessory makers are selling MFi-certified MagSafe chargers and whatnot. Apple is getting a piece of the pie there.
Obviously, the more iPhones with MagSafe, the better it is for Cupertino’s potential profits. The current design of the iPhone SE does not have room for a MagSafe array of magnets. The iPhone mini models do!
Plain and simple: the iPhone SE is due for a redesign
iPhone SE (2022)
Apple’s stubbornness for changing product designs is the punchline to plenty of jokes. But, let’s admit it, sooner or later — it happens. And the iPhone SE is long overdue for a new fit of clothes.
Across the board, Apple is unifying the design language of its products. The flat-sided square shape has crossed into its laptop designs, and the notch remains embedded in its brand identity (and screens).
iPhone 13 family
It’s only a matter of time before the classic iPhone look will also go the way of the dodo. With the iPhone mini series discontinued and so many aluminum casings made and left unsold, it seems obvious to me that Apple will fit them with whatever super-powered chip it makes in 2024 and sell them as the iPhone SE 4th generation.
Counter argument: the iPad line doesn’t show evidence of this behavior
The points I made in this article can be easily argued against if you look at the iPad line. Year after year (roughly), Apple refreshes the basic, $330 iPad, and persists on making it have the large bezels, the home button, and no Face ID.
iPad 10.2 (2021)
MagSafe is not something that exists in the iPad line. It does have the Smart Connector for the keyboard accessories Apple sells, and it’s worth noting that the Smart Connector eventually made it all the way down to the cheapest iPad, making it compatible with the Smart Keyboard Folio. Another point for me!
iPad with Smart Keyboard
It’s worth noting that the base iPad is the only one that still has the Lightning connector — all other models have moved over to USB C. I am pretty sure the base model will follow suit soon (*ahem* EU regulations looming). In fact, I think the base iPad will get a redesign of its own some time soon. But… this article is not about that. I’ll need to ponder on that one a little longer.
I believe the iPhone SE (4th generation) will come out somewhere in 2024 with an iPhone mini design — it will make the iOS experience (and development) more streamlined across devices, it will make MagSafe a common feature across all iPhones, it will ensure Face ID (which is now a very basic, core iOS feature) is on all iPhones, it will bring a redesign to the SE line, and it will keep the iPhone mini fans happy.
Thank you for coming to my PhonED talk.