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I travelled to Udupi with my iPhone 13 mini – here’s what I’ve learned about compact phones

I am back from Udupi after a five-day vacation in the quaint coastal town of India. Typically, I carry my iPad, Nintendo Switch, and a DSLR on trips. This time around, I decided to carry fewer devices so that I could spend more time exploring Udupi and its serene beaches than being glued to the screen. The only computing device I took along with me was the iPhone 13 mini. I reviewed this device last year and found it to be an excellent compact smartphone. As much as I liked this product, however, I wasn’t too sure about travelling with just the iPhone 13 mini that too on a long-distance train journey. But I decided to rely on the iPhone 13 mini as my main device throughout the journey. These are my thoughts and experiences as a traveller of using the iPhone 13 mini.

Why the iPhone 13 mini?

Being a tech writer, I get access to every new device you could possibly think of. But I settled for the iPhone 13 mini as my primary smartphone. I could have taken the iPhone 13 Pro Max or iPhone 12 but my interest in big-screen phones has peaked. They are too big in size and holding them one-handed is nearly impossible. Apple also sells the iPhone SE (2022) which is also a fairly compact phone but I wanted a modern iPhone with an edge-to-edge screen and better cameras. In the end, though, I chose the iPhone 13 mini and I will explain why I went with this phone over more capable devices.

iphone, apple iphone, iphone 13 mini, iphone 13 mini review, iphone 13, iphone 13 mini camera review, udupi, karnataka For someone who wants a high-end, compact smartphone with excellent cameras, the iPhone 13 mini is simply heaven. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

The compact design makes a huge difference

I have to confess that the first thing I thought of after booking my tickets was that it would be great to carry just the iPhone 13 mini as my primary computing device and nothing else. Typically, I carry two smartphones with me whenever I travel for work. But since this was a leisure trip, I took the iPhone 13 mini with me. I was right. The thing with me is that I don’t like to keep the phone in my pocket for long. I want the phone to be in my hand which is why I prefer a light device that’s comfortable and easy to operate one-handed whether I am searching for a location using Google Maps, checking the nearest pure vegetarian restaurant, or taking a picture of a seaside view while in the auto. I wanted a phone that fits easily into a pocket and chest bag which I carried throughout my trip. Because the phone is easier to grip, there are less chances of dropping it.

What happens with a big-screen phone is that, after a point, it becomes discomforting in the hands and wrists, especially when you constantly take the phone out to the pocket to capture the moment. Of course, your perception will vary depending on which phone you currently use. If you are used to a larger iPhone, say the iPhone 11 or iPhone 12, it would take some time to adjust to the small form factor of the iPhone 13 mini. But if you are coming from the iPhone 5s, the flat edges and small design gives you a familiar feeling. The phone is as premium as the iPhone 13, has a screen notch that is slightly narrower than on the previous version, and is available in a number of colours, including the new ‘green’ shade.

iphone, apple iphone, iphone 13 mini, iphone 13 mini review, iphone 13, iphone 13 mini camera review, udupi, karnataka Carrying my iPhone 13 mini on a long-distance train was easy. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

The 5.4-inch screen feels ‘normal’

I have been using the iPhone 13 mini for months, and I never felt the 5.4-inch screen delivers a cramped experience. Compared to the iPhone 13’s 6.1-inch screen, the mini’s display is small but that’s the whole purpose of a phone like this. While watching YouTube videos on the train, the 5.4-inch screen felt ‘normal’ to me — not too big or small. But reading an eBook on the iPhone 13 mini doesn’t translate to a great experience, which is why I carried my Amazon Kindle with me. Also, sometimes typing on the small keyboard can be annoying but it’s not a drawback per se. Although the iPhone 13 mini’s display lacks ProMotion (adaptive 120Hz refresh rate), the display is bright enough under sunlight. I could read a travel guide to St. Mary’s island on Tripadvisor while walking the Malpe beach, replying to Dad’s WhatsApp messages and looking at the photos while having a sip of chilled cold coffee. The display is good enough for most people.

The iPhone 13 mini’s camera is ‘amazing’

It’s the cameras of the iPhone 13 mini that influenced me (apart from its size) to take this phone to Udupi. Not for a second, I think of taking my Canon EOS 600D with me on this trip. I mean, just look at the camera sample below:

iphone, apple iphone, iphone 13 mini, iphone 13 mini review, iphone 13, iphone 13 mini camera review, udupi, karnataka Kapu beach, Udupi. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

I am not getting too much into the camera specs. For that, you can read my detailed review of the iPhone 13 mini. All I can tell you is that the iPhone 13 mini has a dual rear-camera system with an Ultra-Wide and Wide-angle lens. The pocketability along with excellent cameras makes the iPhone 13 mini a perfect point-and-shoot camera for travel. I wish Apple had made a case with the loop (remember the iPod Touch 5th generation?) that could have made the iPhone 13 mini so much more convenient to take pictures.

Anyways, coming back to the cameras of the iPhone 13 mini, I am just like any other iPhone user who snaps a picture in Apple’s camera app. For me, the iPhone camera works primarily because it is so good at capturing everyday life. I find myself carrying my DSLR less, and using the iPhone more for taking photos.

iphone, apple iphone, iphone 13 mini, iphone 13 mini review, iphone 13, iphone 13 mini camera review, udupi, karnataka Kemmannu Hanging Bridge, Udupi. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
iphone, apple iphone, iphone 13 mini, iphone 13 mini review, iphone 13, iphone 13 mini camera review, udupi, karnataka Shri Krishna Temple, Udupi. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
View of Udupi from the Kapu Lighthouse. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

The iPhone’s primary camera, or ‘wide’, now has a larger sensor and a ‘faster’ lens, meaning it lets in more light. This allows for shots with less noise in low light.

I shot in tons of different lighting scenarios, and frankly in many of the scenes both cameras rendered beautiful images. I knew the mini would be a great camera and I loved shooting the photos above. The kind of photos the mini takes shows the strength of Apple’s hardware prowess and its lead in software. If you notice carefully, each photo tells a unique story. There’s a great amount of detail in the pictures (below).

iphone, apple iphone, iphone 13 mini, iphone 13 mini review, iphone 13, iphone 13 mini camera review, udupi, karnataka The best way to explore India and its food is by travelling by train. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Below, I was able to capture Udupi’s untouched beaches through an ultra-wide-angle lens.

Kodi Bengre beach, Udupi. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Having spent a lot of time at the beaches of Udupi, I started liking the iPhone 13 mini camera more than ever. I didn’t feel I needed a larger, more professional camera with me. The lenses quickly capture unique perspectives, like the one I captured at St. Mary’s island.

iphone, apple iphone, iphone 13 mini, iphone 13 mini review, iphone 13, iphone 13 mini camera review, udupi, karnataka The gorgeous St. Mary’s Island. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

I also shot a few videos using the iPhone 13 mini. I don’t think any other smartphone comes close to the iPhone in video capture. Of course, shooting videos in water, your phone is bound to get wet. The IP68 water resistance, at least, assures that your camera is going to survive.

The ‘Siri’ phone

I used Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, the most during my trip to Udupi. Maybe it was an intentional move, I wanted to see how Apple’s personal voice assistant saves my time when I am on the move. Simply ask Siri what are the attractions to see in Udupi and she will provide a detailed list of major tourist points. Siri is also better at weather reporting or doing math. Simply say“remind me to pick up coconut water in the morning…” and Siri will instantly add it to the Reminders app on your device. Pretty cool.

While on this vacation, I realised I don’t need to carry too many gadgets on leisure trips like these. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Uncompromised performance, battery life could have been better

Performance is unsurprisingly great. Apple’s muscular A15 Bionic chip, the same processor found on the iPhone 13 Pro Max, made sure that the most common apps I use every day run flawlessly. Apps like RailYatri, MakemyTrip, Google Photos and Google Maps ran fast and smoothly. I will be screwed up if my phone starts stuttering or freezes in the middle of Kodi beach, which is far away from the main town. No tourist would want their phone to slow down while navigating Google Maps in a town where Uber and Ola are not available.

The battery in my iPhone 13 mini left a lot to be desired. I won’t say the battery will last a full day, especially when I started my day at 8 am and used the phone non-stop, the mini will get me until 7 pm. This is not a dealbreaker but yes I expect the phone to last a little longer. But the good thing that happened with me during the trip was that even though I had a power bank, in case I needed it at the time of emergency, I barely used it.

iphone, apple iphone, iphone 13 mini, iphone 13 mini review, iphone 13, iphone 13 mini camera review, udupi, karnataka Compact smartphones are as good as standard phones. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

STOP treating compact smartphones DIFFERENTLY

One of the lessons I learned after using the iPhone 13 mini is that the overemphasis on the word ‘different’ needs to stop. I don’t see the iPhone 13 mini any different from the standard iPhone 13 both in terms of experience and practicality. The iPhone 13 mini is designed to be COMPACT and that’s its strength – not weakness. I see the iPhone 13 mini as a pocket camera that can also make calls and help me navigate Google Maps when I travel to a new city. I don’t see any other smartphone that comes close to the iPhone 13 mini in size and sheer performance.

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