Truly compact smartphones are a dying breed, with screen sizes seemingly growing with every passing year. Our list includes everything from the truly tiny iPhone SE (2020), to the flagship Pixel 4, iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S10e, among many other phones. And if you simply want the Best Compact Smartphone or the smallest smartphone possible we’ve got you covered there too, as we’ve also dug up the smallest one we can find that’s currently available.
As such, there aren’t as many small smartphones as there once were, but there are still some and there is still a market for them.
With that in mind we’ve created this guide, highlighting the best compact options available at a range of budgets. We’ve split it into sections, the first covers high-end phones, the second mid-rangers, and the third affordable phones, so if you’re after a compact phone just jump to the section that best suits your budget.
best compact smartphone
Best high-end compact phones
Samsung Galaxy S10e: The smallest S10
5.8-inch display and 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9mm
The Samsung Galaxy S10e is one of the very newest decent ‘compact’ phones you can buy. It’s right at the top end of that category, being 5.8 inches, but with minimal bezels it’s physically smaller than you might expect.
It’s the baby of the S10 range, but it still has an awful lot going for it, including a brilliant 1080 x 2280 Dynamic AMOLED screen with support for HDR10+, water resistance, a high-end Exynos 9820 chipset and upwards of 6GB of RAM.
The Samsung Galaxy S10e also has a dual-lens camera, and with one of those lenses being variable aperture it’s very versatile.
You also get fast charging, wireless charging, and even the ability to wirelessly charge other devices with it.
Google Pixel 4: The best of Google in a small size
5.7-inch display and 147.1 x 68.8 x 8.2mm
The Google Pixel 4 has a bigger screen than the Pixel 3 at 5.7 inches, but the overall dimensions are only negligibly larger, and this is a better phone in most ways.
Perhaps most significantly it adds a second rear camera, with a 16MP telephoto lens joining the 12.2MP main one. It’s a combination that allows for superb shots, even if you just point and shoot, showing that lots of lenses isn’t necessary for great smartphone photography.
The Google Pixel 4 also packs in a high-end Snapdragon 855 chipset, while its 1080 x 2280 screen has a 90Hz refresh rate, making interactions smoother than on many handsets. And as with other Pixels it packs pure Android and will be first in line for updates.
iPhone 11 Pro: Apple’s best phone made better
5.8-inch display and 144 x 71.4 x 8.1mm
The iPhone 11 Pro is – with the possible exception of the iPhone 11 Pro Max – the best iPhone you can buy, and it’s also the best compact phone – though with a 5.8-inch display it only just fits into that category.
It’s in many ways a lot like the iPhone XS, but there have been some key improvements.
Chief among them is perhaps the camera, which now has an extra lens, giving you a 12MP main, a 12MP ultra-wide, and a 12MP telephoto lens to play with.
The iPhone 11 Pro also has a much longer-lasting battery, and has had a significant power boost, thanks to Apple’s newer A13 Bionic chipset. It’s not the biggest of upgrades but these along with a few other tweaks are enough to make one of the best phones on the planet even better.
Best mid-range compact phones
Google Pixel 3a: A mid-range Pixel in a compact size
5.6-inch display and 151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2mm
The Google Pixel 3a is a mid-range alternative to Google’s flagship range, and at 5.6 inches it also has a fairly compact screen.
It’s a 1080 x 2220 OLED screen, so it’s fairly sharp and it’s also fairly high quality. And while it only has a 12.2MP single-lens rear camera, this is a lens of the quality you’d find on a flagship, so it can take great photos.
With respectable power too, and even Google’s handy Active Edge feature (which lets you squeeze the sides to launch Google Assistant), plus a pure, bloat-free take on Android, this is a prime mid-range choice if you want a compact smartphone.
Samsung Galaxy S9: Just about a compact
5.8-inch display and 147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5mm
The Galaxy S9 launched as a true flagship in 2018, and while the Galaxy S10 and S20 have it beat, the S9 is still an impressive phone, but now it’s cheaper than ever, and at 5.8 inches it can just about be considered compact – especially as the bezels are quite small.
This has a 5.8-inch 1440 x 2960 screen and as well as being sharp it’s just all-round one of the best you’ll find on a phone, even in 2020.
The Galaxy S9 also has a powerful Exynos 9810 chipset, 4GB of RAM, water resistance, and a 12MP variable aperture camera, giving you far more versatility than you’d expect from a single lens.
You also get stereo speakers, a premium build, lots of storage (plus a microSD card slot), and both a fingerprint scanner and an iris scanner.
iPhone SE (2020): Perfectly proportioned
4.7-inch display and 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm
The iPhone SE (2020) is Apple’s latest phone at the time of writing, and it’s also the smallest phone the company has made in years.
Specifically, it’s a phone with a 4.7-inch screen and a design that’s near-identical to the iPhone 8 – a phone which used to sit in this list until the new iPhone SE replaced it.
Indeed, they’re very similar phones, but the iPhone SE (2020) is both cheaper (making it also the cheapest iPhone in years) and more powerful, thanks to a truly top-end A13 chipset (the same as you’ll find in the iPhone 11 range).
You also get a capable 12MP camera complete with Apple’s famed Portrait mode, up to 256GB of storage, a Touch ID fingerprint scanner, and wireless charging.
Of course, no iPhone is complete without iOS, and on the iPhone SE (2020) you get the latest version, so this phone is completely up to date.
Best affordable compact phones
You might expect compact phones to be cheap, but in fact most of the cheapest phones actually have quite big screens these days. As such your options in this category are limited, but the following are strong choices.
Moto E6 Play: Basic but good
5.5-inch display and 146.5 x 70.9 x 8.3mm
The Moto E6 Play is one of the most basic of Motorola’s current smartphones, but as such it’s also one of the smallest, with just a 5.5-inch screen, and while its specs aren’t a match for most on this list, nor is its price.
It’s very similar to the Nokia 2.2 below in fact, with a 720 x 1440 display, a basic MediaTek MT6739 quad-core chipset, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 3,000mAh battery, a 13MP main camera, and a 5MP front-facing one.
While those specs aren’t identical to the Nokia, they’re close, with the main difference being that the screen is slightly smaller on the Moto E6 Play. Having said that, the Moto E6 Play has larger bezels, so while it’s slimmer it’s not actually shorter or narrower.
Nokia 2.2: A great secondary phone
5.71-inch display and 146 x 70.6 x 9.3mm
The Nokia 2.2 isn’t an overly exciting smartphone, but it’s certainly a very cheap one, and with a 5.71-inch screen it’s also a fairly compact one.
Its specs include a 720 x 1520 display, a basic quad-core Helio P22 chipset, 2GB or 3GB of RAM, a 13MP main camera, a 5MP front-facing one, and a 3,000mAh battery.
A powerhouse this is not, but then at under £100 it doesn’t need to be. And that also makes its plastic body very forgivable.
The Nokia 2.2 is a great option then if you want something palm and pocket-friendly that does the basics but not much more. This also makes it a good choice as a secondary or festival phone.
What is the smallest smartphone?
The Unihertz Jelly Pro is probably the smallest smartphone that’s easy to get hold of in the UK at the time of writing. It’s available from Amazon and other sites, and with a 2.45-inch screen its display is little more than half the size of the smallest other phone on this list.
And as the Unihertz Jelly Pro runs Android it’s undeniably a smartphone. Though unless you simply want the smallest phone possible it’s probably not the one to buy, as the specs aren’t up to much.
It has a 1.1GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, an 8MP rear camera, a 2MP front-facing one, and a 950mAh battery. That’s probably about all you can expect in a phone of this size, but for a more capable smartphone, consider one of the following options.
WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING A SMARTPHONE?
SMARTPHONE PERFORMANCE: PROCESSOR AND RAM
Your smartphone processor, also known as the chipset or the SoC, is the component that is responsible for just about everything functioning on your smartphone. It is essentially the brain of the system, and most of these processors also come equipped with AI capabilities that essentially make your smartphone as ‘smart’ it is today.
A capable processor not only allows your device to function seamlessly but is also capable of enhancing other factors. One example is image processing. Samsung phones, as an example, comes in two variants – one hosting the Snapdragon chipset (the latest one being Snapdragon 865+). In contrast, the other one employs Samsung’s in house Exynos processor (the latest being Exynos 990). Some reviewers have explicitly stated that there is a tangible difference in not just the processing power of the two variants, the Snapdragon being much snappier, but also the image-processing abilities.
So, when you choose your smartphone, it is integral to know what processor you’re getting along with it since the performance directly correlates with it. Popular ones include Snapdragon, Apple A13 Bionic, Exynos 990, and Kirin 990. Apple processors are known for their raw computing power, and Snapdragon processors are the closest equivalent in the Android realm. You also have lower-powered processors for mid-range and budget devices such as the Snapdragon 730 and 730G, Snapdragon 675, MediaTek Helio G90T and G85, and more, that are commonly found in lower-priced 2020 smartphones. If you’re on a budget and don’t mind sacrificing some power to save money, consider buying phones with one of these processors since they drive down costs quite a bit.
Coming to RAM, this refers to system memory that smartphones use to hold data that active applications are using. A portion of your smart- phone’s RAM is always used up by the operating system, to keep it run- ning. We’re not going to get into the nitty-gritty of RAM usage in a phone since it involves explaining terms such as kernel-space which will end up taking a lot of room in this article. Having sufficient RAM can allow you to have a larger number of apps running in the background, which significantly affects your multitasking experience. However, some smartphones are breaking all barriers and installing a whopping 12-16 GB of RAM in their smartphones. That’s definitely overkill for smartphones, especially if you don’t plan on switching between 10-20 apps at the same time. If you’re a light smartphone user, someone who only uses their phone for calls, texts, What- sApp and light browsing, you can easily get away with 3-4 GB RAM. For power users, something around the ballpark of 6-8 GB is perfectly fine.
CHOICE OF OPERATING SYSTEM
It boils down to two options – Android or iOS. The choice is actually more complicated than you imagine since both operating systems have a sizable list of pros and cons. If you’re someone who enjoys tinkering around with your device and customising it to your heart’s content, you’re Team Android. If you like a simple, powerful OS which gets constant software updates and is supported for a more extended period, you’re Team iOS. Nevertheless, Android is also almost as powerful but not quite as simple, although the current Android version has become much simpler to use than the days of Gingerbread. Just know that iOS, as an OS, is quite limiting, in some cases. For instance, you cannot sideload apps from the internet if they are not available on the App Store, the split-screen mode still isn’t a thing on iPhones (just iPads), you cannot customise your home screen (although iOS 14 may include widgets), and you definitely cannot use launchers to completely change the look of your phone. However, iOS comes with a plethora of advantages as well, such as iMessage, FaceTime, regular software updates, and the biggest of all, minimal bloatware, and no adware! We’re looking at you, Xiaomi!
PREFERED USER INTERFACE
You also have to keep in mind that numerous smartphones come with their own skin or UI (user interface) smacked on top of Android. OnePlus has OxygenOS, a clean skin that is quite close to stock Android, Samsung comes with One UI 2, which has improved by leaps and bounds from its TouchWiz days, MIUI on Xiaomi phones, which is an ad-fest but is well-optimised, ColorOS on Oppo and Realme smartphones, that is heavily inspired by iOS.
Remember to try and experience the UI before buying the device to see if it works for you.
A GOOD DISPLAY
Smartphone display sizes seem to be ever-increasing and are continually pushing the boundary of what we’d expect a smartphone display size to be. They’ve reached the ‘phablet’ realm with displays even reaching up to 6.9-inches!
However, in the age where content is being consumed increasingly on our pocket devices (hard to call them that now), this may not be a bad thing. We suggest anything above 5.7 inches so you can really immerse yourself into games and media. As far as display types go, you have LCD and AMOLED displays. AMOLED displays have variants such as OLED or Super AMOLED (in the case of Sam- sung) and have better contrast and darker blacks. They also assist in saving battery since they turn off all the black pixels on the phone to display ‘true black’.
Next, you also have various resolutions such as Full HD, Full HD+ Quad HD. While QHD does provide crisper images, the difference between FHD and QHD is not too jarring, especially to the untrained eye. You should also check the screen protection on your device. Gorilla 5 and 6 are usually used in current-generation smartphones, and they provide reasonable protection for your glass sandwiches. However, we still recommend a case strongly.
THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF STORAGE
The current standard is 64GB on lower-end models and 128GB to 512GB on flagships. With swift sharing apps and technologies, almost all of us import every single GB of data from our previous phones to the new ones. So, adequate storage is essential. We recommend that you do not go under 128GB since it will give you enough breathing room to keep your data as well as download apps to your heart’s content. Also, keep an eye out for phones with expandable memory storage.
BATTERY LIFE THAT FITS YOUR DAILY REQUIREMENTS
The golden standard of battery life in flagship smartphones is 6+ hours of screen on time. Anything with higher capacities can mostly allow even heavy-users to power through. Flagship phones, as well as some mid-range phones, can also reach 8-10 hours of screen on time, which is brilliant. The goal is to get a phone that can at least pull through one whole day of intensive usage. So, ensure to check battery tests online before purchasing a device. Also, try and research if the phone you’re planning on buying has a decent power-saving mode.
CAMERA QUALITY THAT JUSTIFIES THE PRICE
In 2020, multi-cameras are the norm and phones with just one rear camera are extremely rare now. You usually get a primary lens which sports the highest MP count, a portrait lens, and a wide-angle shooter. And then, you also have a few extras that some manufacturers add such as the ToF (Time of Flight) sensor, macro lens, and colour filter lens. We, at the Digit Labs, are fans of the wide-angle lens because of the magnitude of images you can now take on phones. Capturing sprawling scenes is not a problem anymore! The portrait lens, when done well, can produce spectacular bokeh shots too. However, if this trend just isn’t for you and the growing camera bumps enrage you, it would be best to buy older phones with one primary lens or newer ones such as the iPhone SE 2020. Also, don’t go MP hunting, higher megapixel-count doesn’t always mean better images since the sensor size is much more integral to producing good photos.
Smartphones have also been employing pixel-binning, which essentially turns four or more pixel into one big pixel, that adds clarity and detail to the image. Also, for now, try to stray away from the 108MP sensors since they’re pretty rough around the edges at the moment plagued with image fringing and autofocus issues.
MISCELLANEOUS THINGS TO CONSIDER
- Wireless charging
- Gaming Mode
- Fingerprint sensor vs Face Unlock
- Bluetooth version
- IP Rating
- Dual sim
- Reverse wireless charging
- Stereo speakers
- Dual-band Wi-Fi
WHAT NOT TO CONSIDER?
While the design evolution is innovative and smart, it is simply too early to be completely reliable. Our verdict? Hold off on buying foldable phones for a few years.
In a country like the US which is slowly but surely seeing widespread 5G integration (low band or mmWave), sure, go for 5G phones to futureproof. However, 5G integration in India is still a ways away, and the proper rollout is years away. So, it makes no sense paying more to purchase a 5G phone.
As you can see, there’s a wide range of compact smartphones available, sporting different prices, strengths and operating systems. While above they’re listed in terms of price bracket and quality, below you’ll find them in approximate ascending order of overall size, followed by a rundown from worst to best.