Finally, a Pocket-Sized iPhone With Face ID
The Great, but Too Big iPhone
In November 2017, after three frustrating years of using Touch ID on an iPhone 6, I decided to upgrade to the new iPhone X and give Face ID a try. With Touch ID, I would place my finger squarely on the sensor and sometimes the phone would unlock, and sometimes it wouldn’t. I could never tell what caused the failures. With Face ID, unlock failures only occur when my face is obscured or I look away from the phone. I just effortlessly unlocked my phone ten times in a row using Face ID, something that was impossible with my iPhone 6’s Touch ID sensor.
The iPhone X’s improved biometric authentication made it a worthwhile upgrade; its 5.8" edge-to-edge display and its dual-lens camera made it a fantastic upgrade. The one downside was the phone’s significantly larger size resulted in it being only marginally pocketable [“That is so inconvenient”¹].
A Glimmer of Hope
I’ve known about the potential for a 2020 iPhone with a 5.4" display since reading about it in a Ming-Chi Kuo research report in MacRumors last summer. It seemed like it might be the perfect size iPhone for me, slotted between the 4.7" display of the iPhone 6 and the 5.8" display of the iPhone X. Rumors turned into reality during Apple’s October 13, 2020 special event, when the iPhone 12 mini was announced. However, when I looked at Apple’s updated iPhone comparison page I saw that all of the mini’s display size gain over the iPhone 6 was height-based; even with a 0.7" differential in their display diagonals the two phones had almost identical display widths [“I feel like I’m taking crazy pills”²].
While I was sure I would appreciate the height of the 5.4" display, I was really hoping for a display width somewhere between the iPhone 6 and the iPhone X. I knew I wasn’t going to switch to any of the other iPhone 12 models, which were all bigger than the ‘too big’ iPhone X, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back to an iPhone 6-sized display width. I wound up placing a pre-order for the mini but canceled it after having second thoughts. After mulling it over for a couple of months the decision was taken out of my hands when my wife and kids bought me the iPhone 12 mini for Christmas [“Merry Christmas, you filthy animal”³].
My main concern about reverting from the iPhone X’s wider display was how it would impact the gameplay of the brain game apps I play every day. With 60 fast approaching, I was afraid that my manual dexterity might have decreased over the last several years to the point of making the games more difficult and less enjoyable on a smaller display (I had tested out the gameplay on my old iPhone 6 back when I pre-ordered the mini, with mixed results). My fears have so far proven unwarranted as six days of gameplay haven’t shown any significant difference on the mini [“No problemo”⁴].
I had been fixated on the iPhone 12 mini’s display width but it turned out that the biggest problem with the new phone is Apple’s latest case design. When I first heard about Ceramic Shield and its claimed four times better drop performance, I thought I might finally be able to go caseless. However, it seems the improved durability doesn’t extend to the rear of the phone. Since I didn’t purchase AppleCare, I opted for Apple’s leather case in Baltic Blue.
Unfortunately, Apple has changed its case design since the iPhone X, filling in the bottom edge cut out that used to be present. The resulting small lip interferes with swiping up from the bottom, so the case is on its way back to Apple and I replaced it with a Moment Indigo Blue Thin Case that just arrived today. The Moment case is slightly notched along the bottom edge for less interference when unlocking the phone. And at $31.97 delivered, it’s almost half the price of Apple’s case [“So it’s kind of a win-win”].
: Love Actually, Universal Pictures, 14 November 2003
: Zoolander, Paramount Pictures, September 28, 2001
: Home Alone, 20th Century Fox, November 16, 1990
: Terminator 2: Judgment Day, TriStar Pictures, July 3, 1991
: Ghostbusters, Sony Pictures, July 15, 2016