Apple and Google both tried to re-introduce compact smartphones while others too dropped their ‘affordable’ smaller-sized device last year. Seems like the idea has failed miserably.
Is this even a smartphone anymore? It looks like a mini-TVhahaha...who needs that big a screen? We should rather make calls using a tablet! These were some of the commonly cracked jokes or asked questions, only a few years ago, when the smartphone makers were increasing the display sizes. It was a rather new concept and users were still adjusting to it. Massive displays led to bigger smartphone sizes and rightly so. Smartphones were being used to read the text, watch videos and interact with other users.
Not everyone though was satisfied. They never are. That’s why there were continuous calls to bring back compact form factors. Result? Some responded. Apple and Google both tried to re-introduce compact smartphones while others too dropped their ‘affordable’ smaller-sized device last year. Seems like the idea has failed miserably.
Apple tasted some success with the iPhone SE (2020) which was launched in the first half of 2020. This probably encouraged it to launch a compact variant of the more premium iPhone 12 the iPhone 12 Mini. As things stand, the latter has failed to make a mark and now the company is planning to entirely stop iPhone 12 Mini production, according to JP Morgan supply chain analyst William Yang.
The considerably bigger iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Pro have been in high demand and the company is now planning to ramp up their production. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.
iPhone 12 Mini a failure?
To call the iPhone 12 mini a failure, would be wrong. It was an experiment from Apple which might have failed for multiple reasons. The smallest of the iPhone 12 series brought flagship-grade specs to a smaller form factor. It features a 5.4-inch Super Retina XDR display and supports a 5G network. The iPhone 12 mini also comes with IP68 certification for dust and waterproof body.
Hindsight can be a great teacher and, in this case,, it should teach Apple to create a more distinguished identity for its future experiments. The iPhone SE was a success because it was aggressively priced, giving iPhone enthusiasts an option that didn’t need them to break the bank. The same can’t be said for the iPhone 12 Mini. It was priced on the higher end at Rs 69,990 and came with similar features as the iPhone 12 which costs only Rs 10,000 more and offers a significantly bigger screen.
It made a lot more sense to extend the budget and opt for a genuine upgrade than to settle for the Mini model. The timing of the launch might have also played a crucial role. The iPhone 12 Mini was unfortunately launched during a pandemic where video consumption was on a high. And, what do you need to consume videos? A big display.
Despite all these factors, the iPhone 12 Mini was never going to be a mass seller. It was launched keeping in mind a niche category of smartphone users that don’t want to compromise on the specs but prefer compact form factors.
Impact on Android smartphones
This is no secret that anything Apple does has a direct or indirect impact on Android smartphone makers as well. Take its recent decision to remove the charger from the box as an example. Some Android makers mocked the Cupertino-based tech giant, only to follow its footsteps a few months later. Several of them have borrowed features and even the nomenclature of their line ups from Apple. In fact, Apple was the first to remove a 3.5mm headphone jack. See how that turned out!
So, when Apple introduced the iPhone 12 Mini, which by the way was appreciated by almost everyone, there was great optimism that the Android ecosystem will look to introduce similar devices going forward. In fact, Google was already testing the market with its Pixel 4a which is again, a very capable compact smartphone.
But, the eventual response to the iPhone 12 Mini means that there was not much substance to the hall around the demand for compact smartphones. The rise of streaming platforms and the popularity of mobile gaming leaves smartphone makers with no option but to equip their smartphones with big displays and powerful hardware both of which significantly contribute to the size of the device.
Another concern for users has been the battery life. Most of them want their phones to last longer and the only solution to that is bigger packs. This again leads to larger phones. Now, you can’t pack a 7000 mAh battery and keep the phone compact! In fact, Redmi was one of the brands to highlight that. The company said that it may consider a compact phone in the future but that will bring down the battery life.
The greater demand for bigger displays in the past few years has also made it less cost-effective to fit a small screen on phones. It is mainly due to the need to cut the panels down to such a size. This requires more resources and adds to the final bill.
Apple is not known to be an early mover. The design of its iPhones hasn’t changed much over the years. But, it has a great influence on the smartphone market. Everything done by Apple is closely monitored and often adopted by others. So, will be its inability to crack the compact smartphone market. This is probably why even after three months of the iPhone 12 series launch, we haven’t heard of any Android maker planning to launch a compact phone. Things are unlikely to change anytime soon.