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Best small phone 2021: the top tiny, compact smartphone choices

Best small phone
A selection of the best small phones (Image credit: Apple, Google)

If you're looking for the best small phone, you might feel like your options are quite limited. That mostly depends on what you consider to be a small phone. Once, there was a time when small smartphones were common or even the norm, but now we're in the age of increasingly large handsets. 

Because of that, not as many small phones are released, and our idea of what even constitutes a compact phone has changed. For the purposes of this article, we’re considering any phone with a screen size of 6-inches or below to be small.

If you've got an older smartphone, that may sound a bit big to you, but compared to the 6.8-inch Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max, these phones are definitely on the small side. For those who want something significantly smaller, there are still some options, such as the 4.7-inch iPhone SE (2020).

Below, you'll find a range of the best small phones including the iPhone SE (2020), right up to the likes of the Google Pixel 5 at the 6-inch end. They’re all a lot more compact and easier to use with one hand than typical smartphones.

iPhone 12 Mini

1. iPhone 12 mini

The best small phone around

Specifications
Weight: 135g
Dimensions: 131.5mm x 64.2mm x 7.4mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 5.4-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2340
CPU: A14 Bionic
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB
Battery: Unknown
Rear camera: 12MP+12MP
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Smaller design looks great+Fantastic display
Reasons to avoid
-64GB isn't enough storage-Battery life only okay 

The iPhone 12 mini is that rare thing – a phone that’s not only genuinely small, but also genuinely high-end. As the name suggests, it’s basically the iPhone 12 in a smaller size, with a 5.4-inch 1080 x 2340 OLED screen.

That’s a high-quality display, and while it’s bigger than the screen on the iPhone SE (2020), the relative lack of bezels means the iPhone 12 mini is actually a smaller phone overall.

Beyond the screen and the size, highlights of the iPhone 12 mini include its 5G support, its MagSafe tech which lets you magnetically attach accessories, and its top-tier power, provided by an A14 Bionic chipset (the same one as you’ll find in the rest of the iPhone 12 range).

The camera is highly capable too, albeit only packing two rear lenses – you get a 12MP main and 12MP ultra-wide shooter, so it lacks for telephoto skills.

We’d like to have seen slightly better battery life, and the 64GB starting size is entirely too low, especially for the price, but those niggles aside the iPhone 12 mini is a superb small phone.

Read our full iPhone 12 mini review

iPhone SE

(Image credit: Apple)

2. iPhone SE (2020)

The choice for those who want a cheaper iPhone

Specifications
Weight: 148g
Dimensions: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 4.7-inch
Resolution: 750 x 1334
CPU: A13 Bionic
RAM: 3GB
Storage: 64/128/256GB
Battery: 1,821mAh
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Low price for an iPhone+Lightweight frame
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life could be better-Old screen technology

The iPhone SE (2020) is Apple’s budget iPhone, but it’s also one of the company’s smallest available models. In fact, at 4.7 inches its screen is the smallest (as well as being smaller than almost any other widely available smartphone), but as noted above the actual dimensions are slightly larger than the iPhone 12 mini’s.

Still, the iPhone SE (2020) is undeniably a small phone, and it’s a very good one at that. While it can’t quite match the iPhone 12 range for power, it’s not far off, packing the A13 Bionic chipset that’s also found in the iPhone 11 range.

The handset has a decent – albeit single-lens – 12MP camera too, and a premium (read: metal and glass) if slightly old-fashioned design.

Some of this might sound like faint praise, but this is one of the most affordable and arguably best value iPhones we’ve seen in years, and it just so happens to be compact too.

Read our full iPhone SE (2020) review

Google Pixel 5

(Image credit: Google)

3. Google Pixel 5

The best Pixel phone out there right now for most users

Specifications
Release date: October 2020
Weight: 151g
Dimensions: 144.7mm x 70.4mm x 8mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.0-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2340
CPU: Snapdragon 765G
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 4000mAh
Rear camera: 16MP + 12.2MP
Front camera: 8MP
Reasons to buy
+Camera software is better than ever +Metal case is a refreshing change
Reasons to avoid
-No telephoto camera-Middling night photography 

With its 6.0-inch screen the Google Pixel 5 only just squeezes onto this list, but its tiny bezels means there’s no wasted space, and the screen itself impresses. It’s a 1080 x 2340 OLED one with a 90Hz refresh rate, which leaves it feeling smoother than a typical 60Hz phone.

The Pixel 5 also has a high-end and slightly unusual design, as it has a metal rear where most phones use glass or plastic. This helps it stand out, and that’s a good thing in our view.

The camera experience really shines here too, as is usual with Google phones. There’s just a dual-lens snapper on the back, with a 12.2MP main and 16MP ultra-wide included, but the pictures taken mostly come out well, other than a bit of noise in low light, and the phone is also packed full of easy-to-use image editing tools.

There’s perhaps less power here than you might expect from the top 2020 Pixel, as it has just an upper mid-range Snapdragon 765G chipset, but the Pixel 5 is priced accordingly, and still has 8GB of RAM and 5G.

Read our full Google Pixel 5 review

Google Pixel 4a

(Image credit: Google)

4. Google Pixel 4a

A budget take on the Pixel 4

Specifications
Release date: August 2020
Weight: 143g
Dimensions: 144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 5.81-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2340
CPU: Snapdragon 730G
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 3,140mAh
Rear camera: 12.2MP
Front camera: 8MP
Reasons to buy
+Easy one-handed use+Powerful single camera
Reasons to avoid
-Mediocre battery life-Cheap-feeling design

The Google Pixel 4a is Google’s rival to the iPhone 12 mini, though at 5.81 inches the Pixel’s screen is quite a bit bigger.

It’s still small though, and there’s a lot to like here – including that display, which uses OLED tech and at 1080 x 2340 is fairly sharp.

For the money we were also very impressed with the camera, as while there’s just a 12.2MP single-lens one on the back (and an 8MP one on the front) it performs well, with good image processing and decent results even in low light.

The Google Pixel 4a also has a headphone jack, which is an increasingly rare feature in phones, and its software is a definite strength, as it runs stock Android, which is more intuitive than many manufacturer overlays. As this is a Google phone you can also expect a day one update to the next software version.

Its power, battery life, and build are all middling, but then this comes in at a middling price, so that’s forgivable. Note also that we’re just talking about the standard Pixel 4a here, not the Pixel 4a 5G, which is slightly too big to make this list.

Read our full Google Pixel 4a review

Sony Xperia 10 II

(Image credit: Sony)

5. Sony Xperia 10 II

A cheap ticket to widescreen media

Specifications
Release date: May 2020
Weight: 151g
Dimensions: 157 x 69 x 8.2mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.0-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2520
CPU: Snapdragon 665
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64/128GB
Battery: 3,600mAh
Rear camera: 12MP + 8MP + 8MP
Front camera: 8MP
Reasons to buy
+Solid, understated design+Notchless 21:9 OLED display
Reasons to avoid
-Sluggish camera-Snapdragon 665 is middling

The Sony Xperia 10 II is one of the cheaper phones to make this list, and with a 6.0-inch 1080 x 2520 OLED screen it’s also one of the bigger ones.

That screen is slightly unusual too, as it has a 21:9 aspect ratio, which makes it tall and narrow – that’s great for landscape content, and especially movies, but less ideal for portrait content. The screen sports vivid colors too, and there’s no notch to get in the way of the action.

We’re also fans of the Xperia 10 II’s understated, symmetrical design. And understated perhaps sums this phone up, because it’s not flashy, or the best at anything, but it’s a solid all-rounder that excels for viewing videos, and has no major issues.

The camera is slightly sluggish and the chipset is middling, but neither aspect is actively bad, and the phone overall feels robust and useable.

Read our full Sony Xperia 10 II review

Samsung Galaxy S10e

(Image credit: Samsung)

6. Samsung Galaxy S10e

A more affordable S10

Specifications
Release date: March 2019
Weight: 150g
Dimensions: 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 5.8-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2280
CPU: Snapdragon 855 / Exynos 9820
RAM: 6/8GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Battery: 3,100mAh
Rear camera: 12MP + 16MP
Front camera: 10MP
Reasons to buy
+Superb camera for price+Easy to use in one hand
Reasons to avoid
-No in-screen scanner-Thicker than the S10

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is getting on a bit now, but if you want a compact Galaxy S phone this remains your best option.

As a member of the S range it’s reasonably high-end, with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM and an Exynos 9820 or Snapdragon 855 chipset. Which chipset you get depends on where you are in the world, but both rank among the best of this phone’s release year (2019).

The Samsung Galaxy S10e also has a 5.8-inch 1080 x 2280 AMOLED screen, which we found to offer bright colors and crisp detail. And there’s an excellent dual-lens camera, including 12MP main and 16MP ultra-wide snappers, plus all-day battery life.

The Galaxy S10e even has a decent build, with a glass back, a metal frame, and water resistance. Sure, it lacks a few of the bells and whistles of the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, and it’s no longer the newest phone on the block, but that just means it’s cheaper.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S10e review