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 5.8in. 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.
The 5.8in Huawei P20 and Samsung Galaxy S9 are still small though, as they have taller 18:9 displays that mean the overall phone size is still as small as the rest of the phones in this chart. They also have slimmer bezels that generally make the body smaller.
This list best represents the top picks for the small phones on the market in 2018.
The best small phone in 2018
There’s no doubt that the Galaxy S9 is the best phone of the year so far. It offers an excellent all-round experience with Samsung expertly blending design, hardware and software to make a phone that will appeal to all kinds of users.
You only need to spend extra on the Galaxy S9+ if you really want the extra camera, bigger screen and other internal upgrades – more RAM, storage and a bigger battery aren’t as noticeable.
However, we can’t avoid the fact that the improvements – namely the camera and biometrics – are minor and in many ways the S9 is the same as the S8 but with a higher price tag. Those on last year’s model will unlikely be able to justify the upgrade and those on an S7 or earlier might want to grab the S8 at a now much lower price.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S9 review.
2. Huawei P20
The Huawei P20 is a phone we can recommend with hardly any reservations. It lacks a headphone jack and waterproofing, but aside from that is one of the best phones of 2018.
It holds its own thanks to outstanding cameras, excellent battery life and the most premium design on a Huawei phone ever. It has a notch, but you can hide it in the software settings, making it no issue.
At £599, we can recommend it alongside the Samsung Galaxy S9, though you might want to spend more on the S9 for the OLED display, waterproofing and headphone jack.
Read our Huawei P20 review.
The Pixel 2 is a boring phone until you turn it on. The uninspiring hardware melts away to present you with a bleeding edge vision of the Android future, with machine learning fully integrated. It’s not quite there yet, but this is where we are heading.
The camera, one lens down on some competitors, is better than all of them in most situations thanks to the superior software onboard. You only get that benefit when you buy Google hardware, and the company is finally realising the end to end product that Apple has been making for a decade.
If you want a smartphone to fawn over and make your friends jealous with, you won’t want the Pixel 2. But it’s faster than the Galaxy S8 and takes better photos. It delivers the best overall camera and software experience on any Android smartphone to date.
Read our Google Pixel 2 review.
The iPhone 7 is an evolution of the 6S, so if you were expecting a revolution you’ll probably be slightly disappointed. However, aside from the underwhelming battery life, it is an excellent phone. It’s waterproof, has fantastic cameras and performance, and the new stereo speakers sound great. There’s now 32GB of storage as a minimum, which helps to mitigate the higher prices.
Read our Apple iPhone 7 review.
5. Honor 9 Lite
The Honor 9 Lite might not have all the mod cons but it’s one of the cheapest phones around to offer an 18:9 screen with a bezel-free design. It’s an attractive phone and general specs are good, including no less than four cameras. It doesn’t have flawless performance but there’s little to complain about at under £200 making it the best budget phone around.
Read our Honor 9 Lite review.
There are some great things about the iPhone 8 including the addition of wireless charging, 64GB storage as standard and a fast A11 Bionic processor. However, this all comes at a higher price and everything else is largely the same so we can’t imagine or recommend iPhone 7 users upgrading. Those on an older device like an iPhone 6 or older will experience a much bigger change.
Comparing the iPhone to Android rivals is difficult as many users will be on one side of the fence already. Forgetting about software, the iPhone 8 simply doesn’t excite like flagship rivals including the Galaxy S8 and LG G6.
Read our Apple iPhone 8 review.
The G5s is a good-looking, well-built phone that suffers from below-average performance. Its cameras are good, though, and it has a decent screen.
The main problem is that you can get a faster phone with better specs for the same money, so it’s hard to recommend it unless you find it significantly cheaper.
Read our Motorola Moto G5s review.
The Xperia XZ2 Compact fits almost every major feature from the XZ2 into a smaller frame, offering the best specs you’ll find in a 5in phone right now – at the cost of a slightly chunky rear end. If you don’t mind the bezel-ly design and the lack of wireless charging, you won’t find better performance anywhere near this price point.
Read our Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review.
We love the Xperia XZ1 Compact – mouthful name and all – as it has the top of the line Snapdragon 835 processor found in the XZ1 and XZ Premium, but in a smaller, cheaper package.
Aside from the screen resolution and battery size, this smaller Compact model does not compromise. At the time of writing, it can be found for £399, which is an incredibly good price for a high-end phone.
If the smaller size isn’t for you, there are other options.
Read our Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact review.
10. iPhone SE
The SE is what many iPhone fans have been asking for, and it’s a great upgrade if you’re still using an iPhone 5. For 5S owners, things aren’t quite as clear cut. If you’re not happy with the 5S’s performance, the SE should solve that problem. However, unless you really want to shoot 4K videos, you’re not going to notice a massive improvement in photo quality. There’s a much bigger jump in quality if you’re coming from an iPhone 5 (or earlier), however. In 2017 the SE might be more expensive but Apple has doubled the storage making it a more attractive buy.
Read our iPhone SE review.