Report: iPhone 12 Mini is a Failure as Apple Cuts Production

Posted on March 10, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Uncategorized with 77 Comments

We’ve seen lots of reports about the iPhone 12 Mini underperforming Apple’s sales projections, but now the firm has cut production. Clearly, the market for small smartphones isn’t as big as some had expected.

According to Nikkei Asia, Apple is slashing the production of its iPhone 12 family of products following a blockbuster quarter in which many of the handsets sold much better than expected. The exception, of course, is the iPhone 12 Mini, which can only be described as a disaster, at least within the context of the iPhone.

Apple originally expected to sell 100 million iPhone 12s during the first half of 2021, but now it expects to only sell 75 million, a drop of 25 percent. That said, it still expects to sell about 230 million iPhones in all of 2021, an increase of 11 percent year-over-year if that pans out.

The iPhone 12 Mini is the chief culprit. Once expected to satisfy the needs of a demographic many were sure existed, the handset has performed so poorly that Apple has asked multiple component makers to slash the product of iPhone 12 Mini parts. By comparison, the other iPhone 12 models—the iPhone 12, 12 Pro, and 12 Pro Max—experienced only a “comparatively mild” drop-off in demand.

One source told Nikkei Asia that part of the production revision was tied to Apple being overly aggressive with suppliers during a time in which the industry as a whole was experiencing component shortages. But the iPhone 12 Mini is specifically problematic, with Apple overestimating the demand for a small smartphone with a tiny battery. The iPhone 12, with its much bigger battery, is only $100 more expensive. One source noted that only 10 to 15 percent of iPhone 12 family sales were of the Mini.

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Comments (87)

87 responses to “Report: iPhone 12 Mini is a Failure as Apple Cuts Production”

  1. yoshi

    I went with the iPhone 12 Mini, but eventually returned it. It was a delight to use. So compact and still so powerful. Battery wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. But once the novelty of it all wore off, I exchanged it for a bigger model. I started to think "Will I really be okay with this in a year from now?", and I knew I wouldn't be happy that long out.


  2. prebengh

    I guess most other manufacturers would have been happy with the sales numbers of the iPhone 12 Mini, which most likely still have sold several millions. According to the rumours Apple will still have an iPhone 13 Mini.

  3. cavalier_eternal

    So Apple is still planning to sell 230 million phones in 2021 but they are now planning for the ratio to skew more towards it more expensive phones and Paul manages to come up with a dire headline about “failure” .... *facepalm*

    • dftf

      In reply to cavalier_eternal:

      The headline says clearly " iPhone 12 Mini is a Failure", emphasis on MINI. It does not say the iPhone in general, or all of the iPhone 12 series. You're reading something that isn't there

      • cavalier_eternal

        In reply to dftf:

        Yes, I know what the headline says and my comment doesn’t say that Paul is claiming the iPhone or iPhone 12 are failures. My comment is on how weird it is that the iPhone mini is what Paul chose to fixate on while downplaying the rest of the story. The story is Apple planned to sell 230 million phones in 2021. Apple is cutting the orders for the iPhone mini and still plans to sell 230 phones, that means they got he mix wrong and orders are skewing toward the higher end phones. So in this “failure” of the mini Apple actually gains financially. So Apple still plans to sell the same number of phones, still plans for almost 23% growth year over year and now actually stands to make more in revenue than previously planned and out of all that Paul comes up with the iPhone mini is a failure as the headline? I get it, this site is ad driven and ad driven sites need clicks and Apple clickbait works well for Paul. Nobody was going to click on “Apple’s adjust product mix as consumer buy more high end iPhones than anticipated”. That lacks sizzle so you gotta spice it up with “Failure” ... but sweet Jesus it isn’t journalism or even journalism adjacent.

      • Paul Thurrott

        Welcome to my world. Stating something clearly and watching those with their own agendas accusing me of the same.
    • SyncMe

      In reply to cavalier_eternal:

      "Apple originally expected to sell 100 million iPhone 12s during the first half of 2021, but now it expects to only sell 75 million, a drop of 25 percent. That said, it still expects to sell about 230 million iPhones in all of 2021, an increase of 11 percent year-over-year if that pans out."


      Apple never said this.

      • cavalier_eternal

        In reply to SyncMe:

        You are right, nor did Apple say that they cut iPhone mini orders. Both what I said and the iPhone mini order cuts came from the same source. So your issue with my comment extends to Paul’s article as well. Which I see you called out to be consistent.... just kidding, you didn’t do that.

  4. txag

    I bought a 12 mini. I traded in an 8 Plus, which had replaced a 6. The 8 Plus had a much bigger screen than the 6, but it came in a package that was too large for most of my shirt pockets, and weighed a ton. Most of the recent iPhones simply weigh too much. For the record my aging eyes aren’t getting any better, but the 8Plus often got left on a table or nightstand and I would have to retrieve it to go somewhere.


    I went to the T-Mobile store to look at replacements. The SE looked retro, and the screen was very small (like back to the 6). The 12 mini was skinnier but taller than the 8Plus, and the screen coverage from edge to edge gives me almost the same screen real estate as the 8Plus had. And it is much lighter and the size allows me to drop it in any pocket in any of my shirts.


    For the non-mini 12 and up, it is just more expensive and heavier.

  5. ponsaelius

    I have an iphone mini. Its 5.4 inches. The iphone 8 Plus was 5.5 inches. It seems 0.1 means mini rather than plus. I like it because it's not my primary computing device. My Windows PC is. I could go on about why I made the choice but my main thought is that for many people a larger screen phone is their primary computing device. I think that is why the smaller screen suits people who supplement a primary PC while mobile. I also think that's a smaller number of people.

  6. samp

    I think the mini is Apple's "premium" cheap, or small, phone, while the SE is its main cheap phone. In my view, the SE and Mini where both aimed at the same market (parents buying kids their first phones, or customers looking for cheap phones, regardless of performance). In both of those markets, the SE is the obvious choice. The only potential customer, (besides for a parent wanting to spend extra on a good kids phone perhaps) would be a someone looking for a premium phone but for a small size (ie. with small hands), and how many of those are there?

  7. crunchyfrog

    People keep comparing the 12 Mini to the SE 2 but they are totally different phones inside and out and the audience for one is not necessarily an audience for the other.

    If you want a smaller premium phone, the Mini is it and it's $100 less for the same specs as the standard 12. The one phone that really got borked is the standard iPhone 12 Pro. They dumbed it down a bit by escalating the 12 but kept the same high price.


    • dftf

      In reply to crunchyfrog:

      People compare the two only on the basis of "they are both small phones". I don't think people are generally claiming they have the same hardware inside.


      But it's still interesting to see if the "Mini" line will continue. The only equivalents on the Android side I can think of are the "Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact" (2017) and "Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact" (2018). Since then, I can't think of any mini phones that still had, for the day, flagship specs. Small phones in the Android world generally just mean low-power: MediaTek CPU; 2GB RAM max; 32GB storage max; 8MP/5MP camera setup; 2500mAh battery or less, etc.


      I think there was an XZ3 Compact, but not available in the Western territories.

  8. b6gd

    "which can only be described as a disaster"


    Only? Kind of dramatic since any iPhone mini sold is profit for for Apple. The mini is using common iPhone parts. They did not incur any real expense by offering the mini. They took money off the table for those that want a smaller premium iPhone.

  9. crunchyfrog

    I think this is a classic overestimation of the expected sales of the Mini. The bigger phones typically sell better and the Mini type customers are always a smaller group. Cutting production could just be Apple readjusting the forecast.

  10. madthinus

    It might not have sold as expected, but I still think it is important to have that size in their portfolio.

  11. dftf

    For all the comments I see asking "what are the differences between the Mini and SE" ...


    gsmarena.com/compare.php3?idPhone1=10170&idPhone2=10510

  12. 2ilent8cho

    I would not call it a failure, a 20% cut in production means it is still selling well. The issue the Mini has is the price.


    I went from an iPhone 6 to an old type iPhone SE because I preferred the iPhone 5/5s design and the smaller one handed use phone. Apple decided to not upgrade the internals of the SE for too long and I gave in and got an iPhone 8 for the newer tech but found it too big, but I just put up with the size.


    Now Apple released a new SE but its basically an 8s , same size , same design as an 8 but newer and that is their lower cost phone, which previously had been their smallest phone. Both my parents prefer the smaller phones and have the older SE, but when it came to getting a newer iPhone at Christmas, they got iPhone SE's not iPhone 12 Mini's. Why? Price! They wanted the smaller phone, but they refused to pay that kind of money so suffer with the bigger new SE. I jumped at the iPhone 12 Mini on release day to have a smaller iPhone again, but even I was half temped with the new SE due to price.


    I think the issue is generally those who prefer the smaller phones generally won't pay the higher end prices and that's the mistake Apple have made. I would have been happier if they had just updated the old iPhone SE design, called it iPhone Classic and priced it around the same price as the current SE.

  13. ikjadoon

    I mean, honestly, it's still a major success for a $699 phone. It's just not an 12 Pro Max level of success. Apple sold 80 million iPhones in Q4 2020. Make 5% the Mini and it's still 4 million units, outselling many of the $699 Android phones per model. Head-to-head, it outsold many manufacturers' best models in terms of sales.


    Most smartphone manufacturers would bend over backwards for 4 million sales on a single model, much less calling them a failure.


    Q120: S20, S20+, S20 Ultra sold 8.2 million units

    Q420: iPhone 12 Mini sold 4 million units


    Apple's "failures" are ridiculous successes in the smartphone businesses. Hardly anyone paid MSRP for the S20 devices.


    Sources


    https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2021-02-22-4q20-smartphone-market-share-release


    https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2021/02/the-iphone-12-mini-hasnt-sold-well-according-to-multiple-estimates


    https://www.sammobile.com/news/galaxy-s20-series-ships-32-6-percent-below-s10-q1-galaxy-s20-leads-5g/



  14. nbplopes

    It was just a badly priced product IMHO. If it was $599 would be more in the ballpark.


    Whoever would appreciate a smaller unit yet undecided, would go for the “regular” size playing safe considering the $100 price difference. Also this price difference it’s just close enough to make it look like the Mini was more expensive than the “regular” size. Much less real state in everything but the CPU for a comparable price.


    Now failure it was absolutely not. Generating roughly 2 billion in Q4 2020. Ok it pales against the overall 66 billion., but still ... it has space to grow.

  15. scottib62

    All this talk about big phones and small phones reminds me of this. Apple's Steve Jobs: 'no one's going to buy' a big phone | Engadget. Its amazing how people get hung up on size and how you hold the phone.

  16. markbyrn

    "now it expects to only sell 75 million" yes, a total failure ?

  17. dftf

    "The iPhone 12 Mini is the chief culprit. Once expected to satisfy the needs of a demographic many were sure existed"


    There are still people out there who want a small phone. Just not perhaps as-small as the Mini, which GSMArena informs me is 13.2cm (5.2") tall and 6.4cm (2.5") wide. That's only just slightly-bigger than my old 2013-era Moto G, which I believe was pretty-much the exact same-size as whatever the current iPhone was at that time. It's tiny by today's standards!


    But for me, my current Pixel 3a is just-a-bit-too-big, whereas the Pixel 4a would probably be more my-size (at 14.4cm/5.7" tall, and 6.9cm/2.7" wide). The iPhone SE (2020) comes in at 13.8cm/5.5" tall and 6.7cm/2.7" wide, for comparison.


    I think there is still a market for smaller phones, but perhaps not as small as the iPhone 12 Mini. Also, not when, according to GSMArena, the typical price for it online in the UK is £679 for the base 64GB model, whereas the iPhone SE (2020) base-model is £399.


    Not only the above, but I also think there are Apple users out there who are fans of the "classic" iPhone look, with the physical home-button at the bottom, and so such people will only go for the iPhone SE. (Or the iPod Touch, which essentially is the same thing as the iPhone SE, but it lacks all of the phone-network chips and only does Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. I think it's still being made?)

    • avidfan451

      In reply to dftf:

      Yes, the iPod Touch is still being made, but it’s hardly worth it. Processor is four generations old at this point, and the iPhone SE can be had for not much more and is a fully functioning phone. I almost bought an iPod Touch for my daughter but got a better deal on an SE from AT&T as an upgrade (just kept and didn’t replace my current phone). Turned off the cellular connection and now she has a much more capable device at only $10 for the next two years…

      • samp

        In reply to avidfan451:

        I think Apple is trying to stay in the audiophile's market. Although I don't have one, I have herd the sound is way better on it.

        Anyways, Google Voice can be used for phone calls on an IPod, and there are many other VoIP products that can make phone calls to a number without needing a number.

        • Lauren Glenn

          In reply to samp:

          If Apple wanted the audiophile market, it would sell hi-res audio for it's "hi-res" speakers that play music from its music store that only sells 44.1kHz audio. Maybe the HomePod Mini plays a higher quality file from some hidden part of the store? No idea... but I would bet that most audiophiles don't consider Apple that brand to go to.

          • samp

            In reply to alissa914:

            My audiophile friends say its more about the player than the speaker, and anyways, wireless is lossy and not likely to be used by a audiophile. Its more for connecting to an apple device (which syncs libraries I believe, I'm not an apple user) that can play high quality sound on the move.

  18. glenn8878

    Buying a phone is insufferable experience like buying a car. I spend 2 hours negotiating everything from phone plans/features to the phone with battery sizes and memory to get the optimal bang for the buck. Apple would sell even more phones if they can be sold cheaper. iPhone 12 Mini isn't cheap enough. The iPhone 12 with 128 GB is the best configuration.

  19. ianbetteridge

    Ahh, the clarion call of spring has arrived: the quarterly "Apple is cutting/boosting production" story has emerged from Nikkei. After all, back in December they were boosting production by 30%. Or maybe Apple is now just shifting production to India? Back in November it was cutting production at Foxconn and moving it to Luxshare. Luxshare is obviously doing well enough out of the deal to invest nearly a billion dollars in Pegatron to get more capacity.


    Here's what actually happens: Nikkei goes to talk to sources in one supplier. Supplier tells them whether Apple has cut/boosted contracts with them. Nikkei then prints the story, not seeing that Apple has boosted/cut production with another manufacturer. Repeat every quarter, and Nikkei has a nice little production line of stories. Other sites then extrapolate to saying model X is a huge success/failure. Rinse and repeat.

    • Paul Thurrott

      This is the latest in a long string of stories about the lack of demand for the iPhone Mini. I only wrote about it now because they've been stacking up and I've ignored it to date.
  20. RobertJasiek

    Ignoring design details, it is too expensive, has a too small battery, the SE is competition and small phone buyers tend to keep them longer. There is a significant group of small phone users who don't accept greed.

    • txag

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      If you look at them side by side, the SE is not competitive with the 12 mini

      • RobertJasiek

        In reply to txag:

        Do you mean the display, speed or something else?

        • dftf

          In reply to RobertJasiek:

          Spec-wise, there are clearly many more-premium things on the 12 Mini than the SE (2020):


          gsmarena.com/compare.php3?idPhone1=10170&idPhone2=10510


          Whether you consider all the differences to be worth nearly $300 more is up to the buyer...

          • RobertJasiek

            In reply to dftf:

            As a potential smartphone buyer, I do not compare spec lists but compare the basics: display ratio (16:9 is better for me), display technology (IPS is much better for me because OLED has flickering), battery duration in practice (SE seems to do better there), battery replaceable by the enduser (neither), price (SE is twice as good). So I see advantages for the SE but continue to wonder what people preferring the Mini actually prefer when, as txag writes, one looks at them side by side. If somebody actually needs specs of the Mini, I understand his decision but just saying "put them side by side and you see it" tells me nothing.

            I despise the home button and could appreciate a high display / body ratio if the OS had proper palm rejection. However, I value 16:9 so much higher than a high display / body ratio that I can easily tolerate the home button and do not understand what other aspects I should see at a glance.

  21. ahajra

    I think the obvious reason for the poor sales of the 12 Mini is that people who want a smaller phone (like me) will just keep their good enough iPhone 7 or 8 instead of spending $800 on a new phone.

  22. ghostrider

    I think the problem here is, in general, Apple owners are snobs. It looks like no iPhone owner wants to be seen with the 'cheap' iPhone even if it is by comparison, still pretty expensive. Apple could have made the device even cheaper, but they don't want to affect their obscene-profit-per-handset margins. Yes, this handset has a smaller battery and is 'only' $100 cheaper than the next step up model, but are those reasons or excuses for the mini technically being a poor selling model?

  23. ben55124

    Mini is also competing with the SE -- which attracts the lowest price buyers and leaves the mini with just the higher-end iphoners who want a small phone.

  24. Pulagatha

    The original SE was smaller and 300 dollars cheaper. This got released after the new SE. Apple tried to charge an expensive price for a budget phone.

  25. rwj_dk

    ?... The iPhone 12 Mini was the best thing that have come out of Apple in years... I don't care if it is cheap or expensive... It is the size that the all important here. Hope they at least keep it around in the future we less production... Else I guess I need to stock up 12 Mini's (did not do that on the original SE and regretted it)

  26. Mcgillivray

    I got the Mini as I travel a lot.


    I'm wondering if becasue of Covid - and people not able or needing to travel anymore - people changed their mind and decided against the most portable phone and went for a bigger one for this year?

    • crunchyfrog

      In reply to Mcgillivray: I bought the 12 Mini mainly because I got tired of trying to pull a big fat phone out of my pocket and not being able to put it back in easily enough.


    • Truffles

      In reply to Mcgillivray:

      I'm guessing that the mini (I bought one) is an attractive option for people whose digital lives don't revolve around their phone. Those people aren't early adopters, they'll just wait until their contract is up or they break their existing phone. If that's right, in sale terms the mini might be a steady grower rather than a must-have-it-now kind of phone.


      Baring accidents, I'll keep my mini for 3 years or more. If I had to replace it, I'd hope there's a mini still available because the bigger phones are just wasted space for my usage profile.



  27. scovious

    If my iPhone 8 wasn't good enough, I would have bought the mini. I was disappointed by the battery life just like everyone else who reviewed it, but I hope this doesn't mean the only way to get a future iPhone is with an absolutely ridiculous 6 inch screen.

  28. johnh3

    I dont think the market for compact devices itself are a failure. iPhone SE seems doing alright. And I saw some statistic recently that iPhone 12 Mini was in the top ten list for phone sales. Was at place 10.

    And that in general is not so bad I suppose. Its a expensive phone so I think you can not expect it to outsell budget Samsung A series of smartphones.

    Yes most people might prefeer larger phones. But since Android dont got some nice small phones iPhone 12 Mini are the choice for some customers.

    Like myself I like a phone that fits in my pockets.



  29. will

    Cut the price by $100-$150 and it would sell faster. The SE is pulling the low end and they should just keep some sort of lower cost SE model. Apple used to keep the last year or two's iphone as the lower priced option, now that has gone away.

  30. red.radar

    I guess I better get the Iphone 13 mini when it releases and hold onto it till it dies.


    1. Battery life is not an issue. We are surrounded by opportunities to charge the device. My nightstand has a QI charger, My desk at work, even my truck has a usb port for charging my phone. Wireless charging makes it so easy to lay the phone down and just top it off when I move from one location to another. So the only time I need Marathon battery life is if I am in motion away from my car...traveling from one charge location to another. I guess that is when I am on a plane or at a theme park.... But even then you can get a battery back and recharge in those limited situations. I think people make a bigger deal out of this than necessary. Feels like electric car range anxiety for cellphones.
    2. When I want to do a longer session of content consumption, I am usually reaching for my tablet. Usually I am at home or in a hotel so tablet gives a bigger screen and better experience then even the Larger screen phones.


    So they only thing I am using my phone for is ... communication, music, quick reference to information. A small form factor device is fine for that and I appreciate the compactness. I don't like the big weight in my pocket.


    I will admit the smaller screen can be limiting once you start multitasking, but again I usually reach for my tablet when that starts to happen.


    I guess I am a luddite... I want my phone to be smart, but more of a phone and less of a primary computing device.

    • daniel7878

      In reply to red.radar:

      i totally agree. I don't know why this doesn't come up more. Rare are the people disconnected from any kind of infrastructure that need a phone to last on a single charge that long. Maybe it's one of those things that they think it "should", but in all reality, it rarely needs to. Electric car range anxiety is a good way to put it. Queue the responses of; but I'm on the go go go. No time for charging!

      • retcable

        In reply to Daniel7878:

        The reasoning is that it is much more fun to post an article that says "The iPhone Mini is a failure" or that "Apple failed" than it is to write articles about the pitiful state of smartphone batteries. The fact that NO phone sold today contains a battery that is capable of powering the device for a full day with all of its features turned on to the max, turned on to the level they feature in their advertisements, and turned on to the level that users want and are demanding.


        That "demand" is something that phone makers always talk about, they brag that they are meeting the demands of their customers with any new device they come out with, but the dirty little secret is that the first thing users must do when they unbox their shiny new device is to turn off some of the radios, turn off the high-refresh-rate screen, turn off HDR, turn down the high-resolution screen to VHS resolution, and a myriad of other functions that are a big part of the reason they bought the thing in the first place, just to have the battery last a freakin' day!


        For my part, I will GLADLY accept and use a phone that is thicker to have the freedom and peace of mind that I will not have to constantly be aware or worry about where the nearest wireless charger or power cable is. Yes, I have these things scattered everywhere like everyone else, but my question is WHY should we have to do this? I do not need or demand a paper-thin phone. Give me a phone that has a decent damn battery in it. I know all this ranting will not do a thing, that I am tilting at windmills here, but it is really frustrating.

        • Paul Thurrott

          Much more ... fun? Huh. I always appreciate when someone reaches into my brain like this to extract some purpose they imagine. Because it's almost always wrong. Also, I charge my Pixel 4a 5G every two days. Now THAT'S fun!
          • retcable

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            That's great, but not terribly significant when you consider that the Pixel 4a does not contain a lot of the power-hungry advanced features or top-level components of today's top-of-the-line smartphones that need to be turned off or turned down in order for those devices to last a full day. My OnePlus McLaren will last a full day and maybe more, IF I turn off the high-refresh-rate screen, turn down the resolution, and turn off 5G.


            The iPhone 12 mini is not a failure because no one bought it. Apple simply mis-read total demand for the device, making more than was necessary. They still sold millions and millions of them, more devices than quite a few Android makers sell in a year, they would love to have the sales numbers of an Apple "failure" device. They might even have sold more minis than Google sold Pixel 4a's. I did not buy it because I like a larger screen, like you I am getting older, but I don't consider it a failure or Apple to have failed because they made it. This is not another "Apple is doomed" situation.

            • Paul Thurrott

              Thanks, I can handle the semantics. The iPhone 12 Mini is a failure within the context of iPhone sales overall and of Apple's expectations. So ... A "failure," to just speak directly to the topic. Which is what I did.
  31. ebraiter

    Apple continues to be its own competition when they still sell older models....

  32. Saarek

    The problem for the iPhone 12 Mini is not the size, but rather that it's facing competition from another iPhone, the iPhone SE.


    At £300 more than the SE it's a tough sell.


    It's faster, but for now no one will notice the difference in real life usage.


    The screen is "better", but Apple's LCD's were always the best and unless you're sitting the two devices together the quality difference isn't really noticeable to the average person.


    Face ID is nice, but Touch ID works just fine and during Covid it's arguably a selling point.


    The camera is better, but once again the camera in the SE is pretty decent and more than good enough for the average person.


    Unless you are a real nerd the chances are you don't really care about 5G, both are water proof, both have wireless charging.


    Apple should have just canned the SE and dropped the iPhone 12 mini by a £100 and called it a day. Fact is that if you want a smaller phone, why pay £300 more than you have to.

    • txag

      In reply to Saarek:

      The screen real estate on the 12 is seriously larger than the SE. Not comparable.

      • Saarek

        In reply to txag:

        I appreciate that, and you are right. However, the physical dimensions are not that far off each other.


        At the end of the day, if someone wants a small premium phone they have to decide between the iPhone SE and the iPhone 12 Mini.


        Most people, it would appear, are opting to get the SE because it's £300 less and fits the bill.

        Yes, the iPhone 12 Mini is the nicer phone, but is it £300 nicer? I suppose the answer to that is subjective to the individual.


        The iPhone 12 Mini sales numbers are only seen as a failure in comparison to the other iPhone models, in reality there is not a single phone manufacturer out there that would not kill to have those sales numbers on a single model. But I assume that Apple had hoped the sales mix between the SE and iPhone 12 would go the other way.

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