I wanted to spend more time with both the iPhone 13 Mini and the iPhone 13 Pro Max before I weighed in with a final verdict on their respective batteries. I’ve updated my full reviews of each to reflect my impressions after using them for a couple weeks, but I figured it might be helpful to lay out what I’m seeing separately.
The long and the short of it is that, in both cases, the batteries exceeded my expectations. Apple really did improve on the feature that matters most to most people: these phones last longer than their predecessors.
It’s easy to talk about the battery life on the iPhone 13 Pro Max. It’s ridiculous. It goes and goes, lasting so long that I had to actively work to kill the thing in less than a full day by just shooting a bunch of 4K video to drain it. I think the majority of people will be able to get well into their second day of use before the battery warnings pop up. And I’m talking devil-may-care use, doing whatever you want without concern kind of use. It is, as the headline implies, a battery beast.
The iPhone 13 Mini is a more complicated story. I think that if you’re the sort of person who isn’t completely glued to their screen for much of the day, you’ll find that at the end of that day, the 13 Mini will still have some juice. That’s a definite improvement over last year’s iPhone 12 Mini, but it nevertheless still doesn’t last as long as larger phones — including both the iPhone 13 or even last year’s iPhone 12.
In my initial review of the iPhone 13 Mini, here’s what I had to say: “The iPhone 12 and 13 Minis are meant to be minimalistic both in size and also in how much you use them.” The difference this year is, instead of having to make major changes in my phone habits, I only had to make modest ones.
You may have seen this excellent battery rundown test from Arun Maini (aka Mrwhosetheboss). Maini’s video is excellent because through the entire timelapse, you can see exactly what activities the phones are doing as they drain down, and it’s a big array of stuff. His result has the iPhone 13 Mini outlasting last year’s iPhone 12. I don’t have the two to compare directly myself, but in my daily usage of the Mini this year, my battery life hasn’t been quite that good.
This is all very fuzzy, but that’s the nature of battery testing in the real world. We all use our phones differently, and so predictions are necessarily vague. But the fact that we use our phones differently is the point: the iPhone 13 Mini is a phone that I believe should be used differently.
As with the iPad Mini, the smaller screen here subtly influences your behavior in ways that aren’t immediately obvious. Even though it runs the exact same software as the 13 Pro Max, the iPhone 13 Mini encourages more sporadic use for shorter periods just because it’s smaller and less immersive. If you can adapt your phone usage to fit, it’s great — and definitely better than last year.
The same insight applies to the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Its gigantic screen also encourages a different kind of use — specifically more of it. But because it simply can have such a huge battery inside (and perhaps because it can vary the refresh rate of the screen), those behaviors don’t affect how long it lasts as much. Physics is physics, and the battery in the 13 Pro Max is physically huge.