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iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020): Which is best?

They may be similar in size, and released in the same year, but the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone SE (2020) are different in just about every other way. So which is best? Read on, and we’ll crown a winner in the battle of the small phones.

Overall winner in snapshot: iPhone 12 mini

It may be the more expensive of the two, so not the best choice for money-savers. But in every other regard, the iPhone 12 mini is our winner.

It’s a few miles ahead in terms of both technology and design, and we believe it offers an overall better mobile experience.

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iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020): What are the key differences?

There’s a notable price difference – the iPhone SE is cheaper by around £200-250.

The design is rather different between the two phones. The SE has an iconic iPhone look, with a smaller screen and a button on the front, while the 12 mini is more modern. The front is all screen and no button.

On that note, the display on the 12 mini is a lot better – larger, higher resolution, and more vibrant.

The camera on the 12 mini is miles better too, with an extra lens and more advanced technology and software.

And finally, the iPhone 12 mini simply performs better, with next-generation processors.

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020): Design

Though both phones are about the same tiny size (around 135mm tall, with the iPhone SE slightly bigger by half a centimetre), they look and feel quite different.

The SE has a classic iPhone look to it: a smaller screen, thick bezels at the top and bottom, and a good, old fashioned physical button beneath the display.

Its frame has rounded edges, in a design that matches the iPhone 8. Some will find its look a bit dated, though others will enjoy the familiar design.

The iPhone 12 mini, meanwhile, matches the look of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 ranges. It’s a bit more modern looking, with sharp square edges. And although the body is smaller on the whole, it has a larger display, taking up almost the entire front of the phone. There’s a notch for the cameras, but no button on the front.

Verdict: The iPhone 12 mini looks quite a bit more modern, with less wasted space on the front of the phone. Still, Apple classicists will adore the iPhone SE’s buttoned look.

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020): Camera

There’s a fair difference in the quality of the cameras for these two handsets.

The iPhone SE keeps it simple with one 12MP lens on the back. In all fairness though, it’s a very decent lens. It’s a good bit of hardware, capable of some great shots. Given it’s the same lens you’ll find on the standard iPhone 11, it’s rather nice to get it on a phone at this price point.

Then again, the iPhone 12 mini’s camera setup trounces the SE’s. It has two lenses: a bright 12MP f/1.6 sensor, and a 12MP f/2.4 ultrawide lens with a 120-degree field view.

Together, assisted by Apple’s software – which gives you features like Night Mode and Portrait Mode too – they’re capable of some really quite stunning photography.

The iPhone 12 mini wins for selfies, too. The iPhone SE has a fairly basic 7MP front-facing camera, which will take good enough pictures… but the 12 mini has a 12MP snapper complete with an added depth sensor. It’s even capable of shooting 4K video, as with the main camera.

Verdict: The iPhone 12 mini has significantly better cameras – it’s a clear winner.

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020): Screen and display

There’s a huge difference here.

The iPhone SE has a 4.7-inch screen – the smallest you can get on an iPhone these days – with a paltry 750 x 1334 pixel resolution. A smaller display is certainly expected here, but this one is quite startlingly smaller than other smartphones. The iPhone 13, for instance, has a screen a full inch and a half larger.

In contrast, the iPhone 12 mini sports a 5.4-inch screen – with a Full HD resolution of 1080 x 2340 pixels. Bigger, higher resolution, and all-round better.

It’s a Super Retina XDR OLED too, meaning a clearer picture with sharper colours and deeper blacks. The iPhone SE’s display is an LCD (again, like older iPhone models) – and though it’s a good LCD, the picture quality just isn’t quite on the level of the iPhone 12 mini’s.

The 12 mini also has the benefit of Ceramic Shield glass, making it stronger and scratch-resistant. The iPhone SE has ion-strengthened glass too – it’s less likely to shatter than the older iPhones it mimics – but the Ceramic Shield tech is a little more advanced.

Verdict: The display on the iPhone 12 mini is larger, clearer, higher resolution, and stronger.

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020): Battery life and performance

Both phones have fairly middling battery life. Independent testers put the iPhone 12 mini ahead of the SE, with a couple more hours of life in it per charge – but the difference isn’t too dramatic.

As for performance, the tech isn’t hugely different between the two handsets. The iPhone SE runs on an Apple A13 Bionic chipset, while the 12 mini is one generation ahead, with the A14 chip.

In very technical terms, the iPhone 12 mini platform is quite a bit ahead of the SE here – but with normal everyday use of either phone, you aren’t likely to see much difference at all.

The 12 mini does have a few more noticeable features that the SE skips, however. For starters, it can connect to 5G, meaning lightning-fast downloads in certain areas. It’s also got MagSafe technology, for charging the battery wirelessly and attaching smart accessories.

Another point of note: the iPhone SE has a fingerprint sensor and no Face ID, while the iPhone 12 mini has Face ID and no fingerprint sensor. If you have a major preference there, you may want to choose accordingly.

Winner: The iPhone 12 mini wins all round here. How much difference it makes to your everyday use, however, is another question.

iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE (2020): Software

There’s no real difference between the two phones in terms of software. Both run on iOS, both currently upgradeable to the latest version. You’ll get the same Apple ecosystem regardless of which one you choose.


If your main concern is price, this is a no-brainer. The cheapest phone of the two is the iPhone SE (2020) – and you’ll certainly be happy with your choice. It’s a good phone, despite its size, and we’d definitely recommend it for anyone who misses the classic iPhones of yesteryear.

However, the fact of the matter is that the iPhone 12 mini is simply better. The display is larger and crisper – while still being the smaller-sized handset of the two – the tech is more advanced, and the cameras are significantly better.

If you can spare the extra cash, the iPhone 12 mini is the one to choose.

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