There was a time in our long-distant past where the fashion was to own the smallest phone possible. These times are exemplified by the cellphone Derek Zoolander used in the first Zoolander movie, which is of course the best one ever made. But as we are living in reality, we still need our small smartphones to have a sizeable screen for checking social media and similar.
So, no matter if your look is Magnum, Blue Steel, or Le Tigre, all the major smartphone manufacturers have downsized models, though not necessarily downsized features.
1. Apple iPhone SE
Even the best hand models in the world are proud to walk around with an iPhone, which is why the Apple iPhone SE is a great choice if you want something a little smaller than the rest. The basic models come with 64GB of memory, with options to choose 128GB or 256GB.
The 4.7-inch Retina HD display is large enough for everyday usage, while still having compact dimensions to fit into a pocket. The whole phone is water and dust resistant and comes with the usual iPhone goodies in the form of Touch ID, waterproofing to one meter, a 12MP wide-angle camera, a 7MP front-facing camera with portrait mode, 4K video, and wireless charging.
The phone also has a very good battery life, which means for sparse usage, it will last you all day and at least 13 hours of constant video viewing. Considering the iPhone SE is a cut down version of the iPhone 11 Pro, it still packs in lots of features that will keep you happy all day. And most importantly it is really, really, really ridiculously good looking. See for yourself in our iPhone SE review.
2. Samsung Galaxy S20
Having preferences for either a Samsung or Apple smartphone is a bit like supporting a football team. You either ardently support one or the other. For those out there who prefer the way Samsung does things, the Samsung Galaxy S20 still has flagship features with a 6.2-inch screen, but is slimmer than most.
With almost no bezel to speak of, the S20 is all screen, powered by a 4,000 mAh battery which should last you all day. The Snapdragon 865 chipset comes with 12GB of storage and the Android 10 operating system. The S20 also remarkably shoots 8K video, where you can pick out 33MP frames as still images and edit them with plenty of built-in features.
The S20 is also water-resistant and is a good audio device with enhancement provided by Dolby Atmos technology. The 120Hz AMOLED display is also wonderfully bright, making the S20 a great solution for those who want flagship features in a more compact size. If you’re new to Galaxy phones and want to know more, we discuss the Galaxy S20 Ultra in a full review.
3. Samsung Galaxy S10e
The S10e is a pared-down version of the S10 while still being very powerful, with more compact dimensions than the S20 above. The smartphone still has a respectable Snapdragon 855 Octa-Core processor with 128GB of storage, coming with 4K video and Android 9.0 Pie. The screen quality on this phone is as you would expect from a high-end Samsung, with great battery life and a 16MP dual camera.
As compact dimensions are at the top of the small smartphones requirement list, the S10e may lack some of the features of larger smartphones, but it is still equally capable. A telephoto camera lens is missing, but the resolution is still to the standards of the S10. The fingerprint reader has also been replaced by a side-mounted sensor.
However, as a stand-alone smartphone, the S10e still packs a punch at a very affordable price point.
4. Apple iPhone 11 Pro
The Apple iPhone 11 Pro isn’t exactly the most compact smartphone on the market. But when compared to large phones like the Galaxy Note 9 and our current leanings towards super large screens, the iPhone 11 Pro is still reasonably-sized and relatively lightweight. What you do get is a flagship-level smartphone with all the fancy features you would ever need.
The 5.8-inch display is wonderfully clear, bright, and easily viewed in sunny conditions. Plus, the triple camera setup features wide, tele, and ultrawide views with all the editing facilities you could want. There’s also 4K video at 60 fps, which can be used with all three rear and front cameras if you so need.
No matter your smartphone preferences, there’s a reason why the iPhone has become so popular. It mixes excellent design with extremely easy-to-use functionality. The full-fat iPhone 11 is still an expensive unit, but as we cover in our review of the iPhone 11 Pro, it can still be picked up for a relatively affordable price.
5. Samsung Galaxy A41 (Budget Winner)
If you need a relatively affordable smartphone with compact dimensions and don’t want to sacrifice features, the Galaxy A41 packs a lot into the tin for the money. This compact smartphone is an update to the A40, with standouts including the Super AMOLED screen and small notch, excellent battery life, with a reasonable camera setup for the money.
The camera has enough power for good-quality portraits and selfies, but it does lack some of the more advanced features such as a night mode. The processor is also reasonably fast, coming with Android 10.
The speed and efficiency of the processor is good enough for daily tasks, but it’s not up to the rate of being a gaming solution. There’s also no 4K video recording mode, which isn’t a huge downside on this type of phone, but there are more useful real-world features such as a 3.5mm headphone jack and an FM radio built-in.
Weighing Your Options for Small Smartphones
“Small smartphones” is almost a contradiction in terms, as today we want to have our cake and eat it, too. On one hand, we want large screens for the multitude of things we can do on a modern smartphone. But we also want something that is portable and not as unwieldy as a full-size tablet.
If you prefer the way Apple does things, then the iPhone SE is a very well-rounded choice, with smart features and usability. On the flipside, the Galaxy S20 delivers everything you would expect from a high-quality Samsung in a slightly more compact package. However, if you want the most bang for your buck, then the Galaxy A41 has plenty of features and processing power for general regular use.