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Hands-on with the iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max

Hands-on with 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. 


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 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 Nov. 6 and will arrive on Nov. 13. 

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