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iPhone 12 Mini explains why there are no small Android flagships, and more

Theory: Why Android flagships aren't compact any more is proven out in the iPhone 12 Mini battery, plus more tech news today!

Published onNovember 10, 2020

Apple iPhone 12 Mini

Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Tuesday, 10 November 2020. Don’t forget Apple’s major event today, as it ditches Intel x86 CPUs.

1. Oh yeah, that’s why there are no real small flagships

Low battery stock photo

Reviews are out of the iPhone 12 Mini and while it is the smol phone to beat (Wired), the shortened battery life is a compromise. And it’s bad enough that it clearly shows us why Android smartphones are so monstrous now.

Not all reviews have been worried by it, and not all reviews see it as more than a middling problem. It’s worth knowing about, but it’s part of the laws of physics to an extent: smaller area, smaller battery, less battery life:

  • Joanna Stern: “I haven’t loved an iPhone size this much since the iPhone 5. It’s just too bad about that battery life.” (WSJ).
  • Engadget says the same: “I love this phone, but I can’t trust its battery.”
  • The Verge describes the battery life of the iPhone 12 Mini as below average: “I don’t want to sugarcoat it nor be overly dire about it, but the battery life on the iPhone 12 mini is noticeably worse than on the iPhone 12, which itself was a step down from the battery-champ iPhone 11. For me, it’s good enough, but it does mean I’m already using it differently than I use bigger phones.
  • And trying to offer a view is Daring Fireball: “Yes, I noticed battery life on the Mini wasn’t quite as good as on the 12 and 12 Pro (and the 11 Pro I used for a year, and the XS I’d used the year before that). But I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to buy a 12 Mini for this reason. Battery life on the Mini is, at worst, good enough.”
  • My take is that it’s probably going to be fine for people who want a small phone, but it’ll be a nightly charge.

But the point I want to make here is that I might be wrong. I said this in the DGiT Monthly, looking at how the iPhone SE has driven Android to respond, and that the iPhone 12 Mini will as well:

…it’s possible that the iPhone 12 Mini will have more of an impact on Android in the coming months. People want flagships, but don’t always want the max specs to be the max sized phone. Why not great specs in the compact version, too?

  • Well, the reason is battery life. It’s always been battery life.
  • I now firmly believe that many Android makers have been going for bigger smartphones not because they think consumers are loving the creeping size increase, touching on the 7-inch size for phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and the S20 Ultra, at 6.-9 inch.
  • The OnePlus 8 Pro is 6.78-inches, the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro is 6.67-inches.
  • Again, I bet these smartphone makers would love to offer a slightly smaller phone, but the engineers can’t feasibly do it. That leaves the problem to the marketers, to push the big-display-is-best-and-beautiful arguments.
  • I mean, you just can’t buy an Android flagship with full-fat specs anywhere near the iPhone 12 Mini’s 5.4-inches that no doubt feels good in the hand. The Samsung Galaxy S10e was acclaimed for the 5.8-inch size, while the Pixel 4a is also that 5.8-inch.
  • But none of these offer (nor the Pixel 5) the latest specs and 5G. Apple does.
  • It’s possible only Apple, with uber-tight control of its hardware and software, can even offer full-day battery life, that leaves reviewers underwhelmed, but not slamming it at all.
  • Until 2021, maybe, when the new flagship chipsets, like the Qualcomm Snapdragon 875, might be able to reduce compromises by integrating the modem, offering more power with more power efficiency, and give more internal space to phone makers to increase the battery size, without getting it done by simply increasing the size of the phone.
  • The heat is on.

2. Breaking: Amazon to face antitrust charges in Europe — this is coming out right now, and includes charges against Amazon’s services in Germany and France, the biggest markets, and to do with big data to exploit its position. A stat: Amazon provides its private Amazon Basics label goods in 10% of overall products, but generates 50% of profits from those categories. Note these are charges, not fines/worse yet. (Politico)

3. These were the top 10 smartphones globally for Q3 2020. Samsung had 5 of the top 10, but I’ll wager you won’t guess its best-selling device (Android Authority).

4. Report: HUAWEI to sell HONOR to Chinese consortium in a multi-billion dollar deal (Android Authority).

5. This unusual smartphone patent has eight rear cameras, two on each corner. Probably not for me but uh, it’s something (Android Authority).

6. Pixel 5 review: Google spends its bill-of-materials budget unwisely (Ars Technica).

7. Former Vertu employees are launching a new luxury smartphone (Engadget).

8. Alphabet will use beams of light to deliver internet in Kenya: Project Taara (Engadget).

9. Other Apple product reviews: “The Apple MagSafe Duo charger is overpriced and under-delivers” (The Verge), and the materials don’t seem ideal, underwhelming (TechCrunch). This one seems like one of Apple’s worst new products in some time. Over on the iPhone 12 Pro Max — is it worth it for the camera? MKBHD: ‘The differences are mostly imperceptible’ (YouTube), The Verge notes the camera is great but the differences come in low-light, not daytime. And, that’s it’s almost too big, while the 60Hz screen lags all competitors in that $1000+ airspace. But great battery life, and I do think the refresh-rate issue isn’t too big.

10. Mashable’s had a data leak: 1.4M accounts, including full names, locations, email addresses, genders, IP addresses (The Daily Swig).

11. Speaking of, a company has been forced to change its name that could’ve (playfully) been used to hack websites: The original name of the company I can’t even include here because it may trip email servers! But the new name: “THAT COMPANY WHOSE NAME USED TO CONTAIN HTML SCRIPT TAGS LTD” (The Guardian).

12. The PS5 could’ve been even larger, somehow: “When I started drawing, it was much larger” (Washington Post).

13. NASA Chief says he will step down when Biden takes office (Gizmodo).

14. “Who are some women that often get overlooked in history but had major contributions to society?” (r/askreddit).

The DGiT Daily delivers a daily email that keeps you ahead of the curve for all tech news, opinions, and links to what’s going down in the planet’s most important field. You get all the context and insight you need, and all with a touch of fun. Plus! Rotating daily fun for each day of the week, like Wednesday Weirdness. Join in!

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