Four great compact smartphones with outstanding battery life

We live in the age of handset screens getting ever larger, and it seems this trend will not be fading out anytime soon. Of course, with big displays come a lot of goodies – aside from the fact that the user can consume media more comfortably, the required bigger phone body can house this much extra hardware, and more potent batteries. Now, on the flip side, people that prefer to own smaller handsets still exist, however, it seems that they are generally not viewed as powerusers, since most of the demographic appears much more interested in having an easily pocketable device, able to keep them connected at all times, rather than owning a portable media-blasting machine.

But there is something that compact phone lovers can possibly find themselves envying in bigger handsets – the generous juicebox. Indeed, while a device with a 5.2”-plus display will usually have something around a 3,000 mAh battery, sub-4.7-inchers will usually linger around the 2,000 – 2,500 mAh mark. However, we've come to find that battery life is often much more than simple numbers – it's what the manufacturer does with the phone's optimization that can really count, as it can make or break battery life, regardless of what's powering the phone.

So, we decided to sift through the tests and see which compact smartphones still deliver some satisfying usage times, despite their smaller batteries. Of course, we still want them to be well-working, modern-looking handsets, so we added a couple more prerequisites in the mix. Here's what we are looking for:

  • A result of 7 hours and above in our battery life test
  • A display of 5” or less
  • A screen-to-body ratio above 65% - anything lower than that is just a waste of real estate, and doesn't look attractive by today's standards
  • A review rating of 7 and above

After put through these grinding filters, the sub-5-inchers that survived were the following 4 handsets:

LG Lucid 3

A Verizon-exclusive, which was released around April 2014, the Lucid 3 comes for free with a two-year contract to the carrier. It offers a 540 x 960 resolution, 4.7” screen adorning a 5.18" x 2.6" x 0.39" (132 x 66 x 10 mm) body. A Snapdragon 400, coupled with 1 GB of RAM hums under the hood, and the phone gets its power from a 2,440 mAh battery, which managed to keep the lights on for 8 hours and 20 minutes in our custom test – pretty impressive timing, indeed.

Now, it's not an extremely impressive handset – with a noticeably poor display, and very modest specs, it's aimed at the low-end crowd. Snatching it up when signing up for an extra 2 years with Verizon is a good option, however, it's off-contract price is $299.99, and we wouldn't recommend it at this price.

Nokia Lumia 635

OK, we have to bend our own rules here just a little bit – the Lumia 635's screen-to-body ratio is slightly below our limit, at 64.48%. However, it's frame is still easily palmable, at 5.10 x 2.63 x 0.36 inches (129.5 x 66.7 x 9.2 mm), and the handset lasted a very impressive 9 hours and 35 minutes on our battery test, plus, we regard it as one of the best budget-phone choices out there.

The Lumia 635 is an LTE-capable handset, powered by a Snapdragon 400, 512 RAM, and a 1,830 mAh juicer, all of which may sound underwhelming on paper, but we've found Windows Phone 8.1 to be perfectly capable of making the most of what hardware it has available, providing generally smooth performance as far as basic tasks are concerned. The whole package can be purchased for $99 - $150, depending on where one gets it from, and we find it to be a great choice for people who mainly want to use their handset for calls / texts / chat / emails.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha

The Galaxy Alpha was Samsung's first attempt at a contemporary "premium" design – doing away with a lot of plastic and adding a nice metal frame around the phone, with some very well placed accents and details all around the chassis, the Alpha definitely impressed us as one of the most beautiful Samsung phones to come out.

Powered by a homebrew Exynos 5 5430 (there is an alternative Snapdragon 801 variant), 2 GB of RAM, and a measly 1,860 mAh battery, this handset still kept going for 7 hours and 50 minutes in our benchmark test. All of this is neatly packed in a 5.21" x 2.58" x 0.26" (132.4 x 65.5 x 6.7 mm) body, adorned with a 4.7" 720p display.

The Alpha also proved to be more than looks, when it took 3rd spot on AnTuTu's ranking list for Q3 2014, beating the likes of OnePlus One, Moto X, Xperia Z3, etc.

Of course, good things come at a price – the Galaxy Alpha can be found for around $500 off-contract in the US.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The king of battery life in sub-5” handsets, Sony's offering truly impressed us with a 10 hour and 2 minute time in our endurance test. Going against the trend of releasing underpowered “mini” versions of one's own flagship handset, Sony decided to build the Compact variants of its Z series to be on-par with the bigger sibling, with minor compromises. The Xperia Z3 Compact is powered by a Snapdragon 801, has 2 GB of RAM, and is juiced by a 2,600 mAh cell. Its display offers a 720p resolution stretched across a 4.6” diagonal and encased in a waterproof 5.00" x 2.56" x 0.34" (127 x 64.9 x 8.6 mm) body, making for a screen-to-body ratio of 70.64%.

A nigh-flagship device comes with a nigh-flagship price – the Xperia Z3 Compact can be found for around $450 off-contract nowadays.

So, it was a very close competition between the Galaxy Alpha and the Z3 Compact. However, performance aside, the reason we decided to give the Compact the crown in this particular competition is both because of its extreme battery life, and because of its IP67 rating – we are looking for pocketable devices that are more likely to be neglected, rather than very carefully cared after, therefore – are much more prone to accidental spills, drops, et cetera, so any form of additional protection is more than welcome.



1. Kruze

Posts: 1285; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

Z3 Compact FTW!

2. android_hitman unregistered

My wife has one (Z3 Compact) and when I see that she gets over 8.5 Hours of screen on time it drives me crazy ... her phone is not rooted no greenify nothing, just as sony intented to be used. On my side with a Note 3 if I get over 4.5 hours of screen on time I am lucky (custom rom(s) rooted, greenified everything and a lot of other tricks that obviously are not doing their job)... I am really considering a Z4 as my next phone, I am sick of Sammy.

4. Kruze

Posts: 1285; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

Sony used to have bad battery life on their phones, my Z has like 2.5 hours of screen on time. That's horrible. But it's very surprising to see how much they improved on newer phones. Definitely looking forward to the Z4 as my next phone too.

8. maherk

Posts: 6959; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Then there must be a problem with your custom rom, i find it hard to believe that you only manage to get 4.5 hrs of SOT, when i had the phone for around 6 months and never got below 5.5 to 6 hrs of SOT, unless you are cranking the brightness to its max. On another note, how much does it take to fully charge a Note 3 vs a Z3/Z3c?? And do you have the option the swap your drained battery for a fully charged one in less than a minute?

11. mixedfish

Posts: 1560; Member since: Nov 17, 2013

Battery swapping and charge time is quite a moot point these days. If you can bring a spare battery, why not a small power bank? If charge time is more important than battery preservation, why can't you find a powerpoint within the 2-3 day battery life? There's a reason almost every manufacturer is leaving it out.

31. zig8100

Posts: 243; Member since: Dec 13, 2012

Battery swapping is way more better. 0 to 100 in 2 mins tops Vs having to carry a power bank and have it plugged in. Your example makes no sense at all.

32. JC557

Posts: 1919; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

Because I can charge other things with a portable battery pack than having a battery for one device which needs to be charged every so often anyway. I did this with my Samsung Droid Charge and HTC Rezound and Motorola Bionic. They needed docks if I wanted them to charge without having swap 'em out. With a power pack I can lend it to a friend that may need to charge his/her phone be it iPhone or other. I can use it to charge my iPod Nano should I forget to do so when it's low on battery (usually by the end of the week). I swear it seems that the diehard samsung fans are becoming more condescending than Apple fans. If it's not the samsung way then it's wrong instead of us having choices like they kept harping on in the past.

33. Kumar123 unregistered

100% agree with you. Samsung has lots of $**t head fans. And they way they behave in this site is certainly resembles the religious fanatic.

23. buccob

Posts: 2975; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

My Z3 Compact came with a 1.5 A charger and it is QuickCharge 2.0 compatible so your point is not valid. I also have a 7000 mAh external battery but ever since I got the Z3C I haven't needed.

24. buccob

Posts: 2975; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

Phone Arena never tested the Z1 Compact for battery test... That one would have deserved a spot on this article for sure... I still find it superior to most compacts out there

3. boosook

Posts: 1442; Member since: Nov 19, 2012

So the Galaxy Alpha has outstanding battery life? With its 1860 mAh battery? Just use the navigator for more than a couple of minutes and you can call it a day. But I understand you had to put a Samsung phone anyway...

5. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

Its a pre-requisite for most article to have a Samsung phone for income purposes. If Samsung see their phone, they will pay PA for it whatever reasons.

15. hboy857

Posts: 367; Member since: Jun 03, 2013

Phonearena should retest Samsung Galaxy Alpha's battery life. Practically every reviewer said that it has mediocre battery life but here at PA they say alpha has outstanding battery life, which i find to be a joke. Vlad from the Verge said he gets 3 times the battery life from Z3 compact than alpha. MKBHD also said alpha has 'meh' battery life (You'll find many reviewers said the same thing). I find it weird that they retest Z3 compact when it scored more than 14 hours but they didn't retest alpha's battery life when practically everyone said that they have mediocre battery life.

7. maherk

Posts: 6959; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

My mom has the Alpha, and while she isn't a heavy user, she charges her phone once every 3 days with around 2:30 to 3hrs screen on time. Even GSMARENA talked about the good optimization Samsung has done with the Alpha. Just because you don't like Samsung, doesn't mean they have to take it off the list.

13. Felix_Gatto

Posts: 942; Member since: Jul 03, 2013

According to this article, the Galaxy Alpha only achieves a good result while the rest have excellent. While GSMArena only got a mediocre result.

9. hellbread

Posts: 309; Member since: Nov 21, 2014

I have galaxy alpha. It has good battery. Ofc I would like zc3 battery lifetime but it is not that bad as you think.

12. Felix_Gatto

Posts: 942; Member since: Jul 03, 2013

Just good? then it's not outstanding.

25. hellbread

Posts: 309; Member since: Nov 21, 2014

When we talk about Samsung or Apple here in PA terminology good = outstanding. :-)

26. jesse30135

Posts: 9; Member since: Sep 17, 2014

I also have had both the g850f galaxy alpha(international ver)& the at&t galaxy alpha & im a heavy user,its ok. The international ver gets better battery life,im not a gamer so that ,or so ive heard,in exynos socs' equates to better battery life. The alpha is a great phone.

30. may_czos

Posts: 955; Member since: Nov 22, 2014

It seems that the Alpha is there mostly because it's compact not because some great battery life.

6. dimas

Posts: 3382; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

Or you can get the Z3 after the Z4 launching just to test their product. Sony don't discard their previous models that easily. My wife is also eyeing on Z3 compact for a lower price after she saw mine. She's just waiting for someone to buy her Note 4 coz she got tired of big phones.

10. mixedfish

Posts: 1560; Member since: Nov 17, 2013

Z1 compact is still a good buy, S801 in the Z3 isn't that much better and the Z1 can be bought for under $300.

29. toplintag

Posts: 14; Member since: Jul 03, 2014

but z3c has front firing speakers! thats FTW!!

14. andrak

Posts: 30; Member since: Oct 12, 2013

You guys forgot about LG G2 Mini

16. andrak

Posts: 30; Member since: Oct 12, 2013

better than the LG Lucid 3, better cameras, more compact, a bit better battery life and the awesome price of 170 USD off contract

20. murron

Posts: 162; Member since: Jun 10, 2014

I got my sprint full-sized g2 for 170 usd off contract :p it was used though but it was in mint condition

17. hboy857

Posts: 367; Member since: Jun 03, 2013

Battery life is Sony's differentiation factor from other companies. I just hope they keep using 1080p resolution and go for 3 days of battery life.

18. andrak

Posts: 30; Member since: Oct 12, 2013

Why not the BLU Life Pure Mini too, gigant battery, and also good medium specs at a price of $150 off contract

19. zachki17

Posts: 294; Member since: Sep 14, 2014

Where is the lg g2 ??? Its the most compact phone on the world full hd with 3000 mah and s800 2gb ram its a beast

22. murron

Posts: 162; Member since: Jun 10, 2014

It didn't last longer than 7 hours on their battery test. They also were looking for phones 5" screen and under (yeah, I know, the 5.2" screen g2 is smaller than a lot of 5" screen phones)

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