iPhone 12 Mini and Pro Max: Hands-on with Apple's smallest and biggest new phones

I spent a little time with the iPhone 12 Mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Here's what I thought.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
3 min read

Update, Nov. 9: Read CNET's reviews of the iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max.

It's far from the most important challenge we face in 2020, but getting hands-on time with new tech products is especially difficult right now. Every big product launch has been turned into a streaming video event, which means we can't go and see, touch and try new products right away.  But taking appropriate precautions, I was able to spend a short amount of time with the new iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max in person. We've already seen and reviewed the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, but this is the first time we're seeing the Mini and Max versions in person. (Here's how to preorder from the iPhone 12 lineup today.)


The Max and the Mini. 

Dan Ackerman/CNET

With just a short hands-on window, my initial impressions are more about the design, size, weight and feel of the phones , rather than a deep dive into any specific features or performance. But as the two phones on the extreme ends of the current iPhone lineup, a lot of the story really is about that feel and physicality. 

Here are my initial impressions. 

The iPhone 12 Mini may be the most interesting of the bunch

Back at the dawn of the mobile phone era (circa Dotcom 1.0), the real status symbol was having the smallest phone possible. People would go to lunch and casually place their phones on the table in front of them, and the tiniest phone was the unofficial winner. The iPhone 12 Mini feels like a return to the idea of packing the most features into the smallest body. 


Now that's a small phone. 

Dan Ackerman/CNET

While it's not as flashy, there's a real hunger out there for premium phones in smaller sizes, and I hear all the time from people how the latest super-premium smartphone is "just too big." With a 5.4-inch screen and the same features as the regular iPhone 12 , this 4.8-ounce phone could be just right for anyone with small hands or small pockets, or who just wants something less tablet-like. 

In my average-size hands, it felt incredibly small, which really just shows you how much we've been acclimated to huge phones. 

Read more: iPhone 12 review: One of our highest-rated phones of all time 

The iPhone 12 Pro Max has some really nice design extras

Seeing the 12 Pro Max in person for the first time, I really appreciated the small design differences between the Pro and the non-Pro models. All the new iPhones have a metal outer border, but the stainless steel version on the Pro phones looks much nicer than the aluminum band around the non-Pro phones. It's a little more subdued in the stainless steel version, shinier in aluminum. 

That matches the backs of the phones, where the 12 Mini and 12 have clear glass on the back, the Pro and Pro Max have a matte-glass back surface, which gives it a slightly frosted look. The stainless steel and matte glass is a great combo, even if I'd never dare leave an iPhone uncased. 

And yes, it's very big, but not outlandishly so. We've slowly been getting used to larger and larger phone screens, and while the 6.7-inch Max is a stark contrast to the iPhone 12 Mini, when put in context with the entire product line, from Mini to iPhone 12, 12 Pro and on to the 12 Pro Max, it tells a much more linear story. 

While I only had a short window to get a feel for these phones, you'll be able to see for yourself soon enough. The iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max are available for preorder starting on Friday, Nov. 6, and will arrive on Nov. 13. See the chart below for prices, specs and how they compare to the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro.

iPhone 12, 12 Mini, 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max specs

Apple iPhone 12Apple iPhone 12 MiniApple iPhone 12 ProApple iPhone 12 Pro Max
Display size, resolution 6.1-inch OLED; 2,532x1,170 pixels5.4-inch OLED; 2,340x1,080 pixels6.1-inch OLED; 2,532x1,170 pixels6.7-inch OLED; 2,778x1,284 pixels
Pixel density 460ppi476ppi460ppi458ppi
Dimensions (inches) 5.78 x 2.82 x 0.29 in.5.18 x 2.53 x 0.29 in.5.78 x 2.82 x 0.29 in.6.33 x 3.07 x 0.29 in.
Dimensions (millimeters) 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4mm131.5 x 64.2 x 7.4mm146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4mm160.8 x 78.1 x 7.4mm
Weight (ounces, grams) 5.78 oz.; 164g4.76 oz.; 135g6.66 oz.; 189g8.03 oz.; 228g
Mobile software iOS 14iOS 14iOS 14iOS 14
Camera 12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide)12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide)12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (telephoto)12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (telephoto)
Front-facing camera 12-megapixel12-megapixel12-megapixel12-megapixel
Video capture 4K4K4K4K
Processor Apple A14 BionicApple A14 BionicApple A14 BionicApple A14 Bionic
Storage 64GB, 128GB, 256GB64GB, 128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB
RAM UndisclosedUndisclosedUndisclosedUndisclosed
Expandable storage NoNoNoNo
Battery Undisclosed; Apple lists 15 hours of video playbackUndisclosed; Apple lists 15 hours of video playbackUndisclosed; Apple lists 17 hours of video playbackUndisclosed; Apple lists 17 hours of video playback
Fingerprint sensor No (Face ID)No (Face ID)No (Face ID)No (Face ID)
Connector LightningLightningLightningLightning
Headphone jack NoNoNoNo
Special features 5G enabled; MagSafe; water resistant (IP68); wireless charging; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM) 5G enabled; MagSafe; water resistant (IP68); wireless charging; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM) Lidar scanner; 5G enabled; MagSafe; water resistant (IP68); wireless charging; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM) Lidar scanner; 5G enabled; MagSafe; water resistant (IP68); wireless charging; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM)
Price off-contract (USD) $829 (64GB), $879 (128GB), $979 (256GB)$729 (64GB), $779 (128GB), $879 (256GB)$999 (128GB), $1,099 (256GB), $1,299 (512GB)$1,099 (128GB), $1,199 (256GB), $1,399 (512GB)
Price (GBP) £799 (64GB), £849 (128GB), £949 (256GB)£699 (64GB), £749 (128GB), £849 (256GB)£999 (128GB), £1,099 (256GB), £1,299 (512GB)£1,099 (128GB), £1,199 (256GB), £1,399 (512GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,349 (64GB), AU$1,429 (128GB), AU$1,599 (256GB)AU$1,199 (64GB), AU$1,279 (128GB), AU$1,449 (256GB)AU$1,699 (128GB), AU$1,869 (256GB), AU$2,219 (512GB)AU$1,849 (128GB), AU$2,019 (256GB), AU$2,369 (512GB)