Phones are getting bigger, but that doesn’t mean they’re better. The first iPhone had a 3.5in screen, now the iPhone 8 Plus has a 5.5in display. Not everyone wants those two extra inches.
When the 4.7in iPhone 6 was released, many were outraged at the increase. Now that size is the norm, and is considered small.
Why get a small phone?
Simply, large phones can be too large. Bezels on phones have shrunk significantly in the last two years, but we’re certain not everyone wants to tote the 6.3in screen on the Galaxy Note 8. Not only is that phone huge, but it is also very expensive.
People with smaller hands are going to find a permanently two-handed phone an inconvenience when in use and when poking out the top of their jeans pockets. Handsets of a smaller size can be used one handed, fit in a pocket far easier, and download every single app you could get on a phone with a larger screen.
Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to smartphones, so we picked the ten best small phones on the market.
We’ve put together a list of phones with screen sizes ranging from 4in to 5.15in. The latter is the high end of what we consider ‘small’ in today’s market, and while you could technically go smaller than the former we wouldn’t recommend it. This list best represents the top picks for the small phones on the market in 2017.
Apple iPhone 7
The best all-round small phone is the iPhone 7. It has been superseded by the iPhone 8 but is number one because it is cheaper to buy outright or on contract.
The 4.7in display is easy to use with one hand even if you have small hands and the familiarity of iOS to millions of users means it’s easy to get to grips with.
The attractive metal body, IP67 water resistance and fast processor make it an excellent all-rounder, though there’s no headphone jack.
If Apple isn’t your thing, then Google has your back. The Pixel is only a touch taller and wider than the iPhone 7 but has an extra 0.3in to the screen, which is a more vibrant AMOLED compared to the iPhone’s LCD panel.
It has the purest, fastest version of Android in 8.0 Oreo and the advantage of fast software and security updates. It’s easy to use one handed and the rear mounted fingerprint sensor is convenient for unlocking and swipe down gestures for the notification shade.
It isn’t waterproof and doesn’t have wireless charging, but it fast charges and keeps the headphone jack that so many users still crave (but there are no headphones in the box). With the Pixel 2 to be announced in October, this original can be found cheaper and will only become more so for those after a top of the line small Android phone.
The iPhone 8 is the best iPhone to date (though the iPhone X will change that soon) but it is a tad too expensive for many people. It adds wireless charging, a glass back and a slightly better screen to the already excellent iPhone 7, for £150 more.
If you have the cash then you’ll also get the fastest phone on the market thanks to the A11 Bionic chip, another upgrade. Apple has used the same design for a while now but when it’s this pocket friendly we don’t mind.
One handed use is easy unless your hands are tiny, and the glass back makes it gripper than the iPhone 7.
The P10’s 5.1in display is a manageable size and while the software skin is quite different from stock Android, the dual camera set up more than justifies its place in this chart.
The design isn’t the most cutting edge, but the black model in particular is sleek and matte, with one of the best fingerprint sensors on the market, with the ability to unlock and quickly switch apps. High speed wireless charging is also a plus.
The dual cameras put stunning point and shoot photography in your pocket with high quality monochrome and depth effect shots possible. With a microSD slot for storage expansion too, the P10 is a solid leftfield choice that we love.
The smallest display on this list goes to the iPhone SE, Apple’s smallest and cheapest iPhone. Despite that it can run iOS 11, has the still-capable Apple A9 processor, Touch ID and a solid if not high-end camera.
It’s the easiest phone out there for one-handed use, and gives you access to every app you’d find on an iPhone twice the price. Perhaps for long video watching sessions the screen might feel poky, but at this price you won’t mind.
If you want a small iPhone handset on a budget it’s a no brainer, and keeps you in Apple’s ecosystem with iMessage, FaceTime and more.
Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung’s 2016 flagship smartphone is still brilliant over a year later. The 5.1in display is a high-quality Samsung AMOLED with the brightest colours and deepest blacks going, while the camera is identical to 2017’s larger, more expensive Galaxy S8.
The glass design is beautiful if a fingerprint magnet, and the headphone jack is present and correct on a phone that has IP68 water resistance – take note, Apple.
The fast charger comes in the box along with a pair of headphones, a combination surprisingly seen less and less with some smartphones.
Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact
Sony has been flying the flag for the smaller phone lover with its Compact series for a while now, and the XZ1 Compact is excellent. It adds a Snapdragon 835, the same as the regular XZ1, to a 4.6in screen. Sony is pretty much the only major smartphone maker not compromising specs in line with size.
The Compact is quite austere and straight edged, but performance is top drawer, while battery life is better at the expense of a reduced screen resolution compared to the bigger XZ1.
At £499 it might be hard to justify, but it isn’t the most expensive phone on the list and Sony’s photography prowess means this is a solid pocket shooter with all day battery life. The fingerprint sensor on the edge of the phone is still mint, too.
The cheapest option on our countdown is firmly in budget territory, but if you want a capable, small Android phone it can hold a candle to phones more expensive.
The G5 runs Android close to stock, so it’s a clean experience with very little bloatware and you can expand storage up to 256GB via microSD. It also has a built in FM radio, a feature seen less and less these days.
The lower price means compromising on screen, performance and camera quality, but it retains must-haves like a fingerprint sensor. And of course, with Google Play you can have every app that people with £800 phones have. The G5 remains one of the best small budget phones out there.
Samsung Galaxy A3
While its S and Note lines grab the headlines, Samsung quietly also produces excellent small, cheaper phones like the A3. The 2017 version looks similar to the Galaxy S7 but at a fraction of the price.
While the screen, processor and camera get downgrades to suit the price, we love that it retains NFC for mobile payments, IP68 water resistance (better than any iPhone) and a headphone jack.
16GB is too little for storage today but there’s a microSD slot, but just be aware of the sometimes-annoying storage management that comes with that. But if you want a phone with the same size screen as the iPhone 8 then this Android handset is worth a look.
Xiaomi phones are ridiculously popular in China, but the company hasn’t quite broken through here yet. Despite this, the 5.15in Xiaomi Mi 6 sneaks onto our list as the largest screen small phone that we’d recommend.
The ceramic build is lovely to hold, while the dual cameras akin to the Huawei P10 impress. Also for the price you’re getting the Snapdragon 835 processor, Qualcomm’s most advanced mobile chipset available at the moment.
The main issue for most will be that you have to import it from China, but when it costs little over £300, we can still seriously recommend it – though check our review for full details on network compatibility and downloading Google apps.