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The best small and compact phones (Updated July 2021)

The best small and compact phones (Updated July 2021)
You're probably wondering where all the small smartphones went. Once dominating the market, compact phones are slowly but steadily getting replaced by bigger handsets that don't fit the bill of just anyone that easily. 

Apart from the occasional compact phone announced once in a blue moon, the big players such as Apple, Samsung, Sony, and Motorola release larger than life phones, and definitely don't cater to folks with smaller hands or just those who prefer a more compact phone. 

Yet don't think that small phones are going the way of the dodo – albeit scarce, they do exist. Last year we saw a renaissance of compact phones. That's great news for fans of the small form-factor. To make things easier, we've rounded up the best small phones you can buy in 2021.

What are the best compact smartphones in 2021? Let's explore!


Apple iPhone 12 Mini

Apple iPhone 12 mini
9.0

Apple iPhone 12 mini


The Good

  • Tiny, cute, pocketable, comfortable
  • Same great display as all iPhone 12 series
  • Same great camera as iPhone 12
  • MagSafe is cool and has potential
  • Fast performance, lots of headroom

The Bad

  • The camera module looks a bit goofy on a mini phone
  • No charger, no headphones in the box
  • Battery can drain fast
  • 64 GB starting storage is OK, but feels a bit stingy
  • 60 Hz refresh rate
Until not long ago, we thought the era of compact flagship phones is over. But last year, these compact devices made a surprise comeback. The iPhone 12 mini became the smallest iPhone Apple is offering, beating even the iPhone SE for that title. 

Thanks to its thin bezels and flat-edge design, you're getting a bigger screen compared to that of the iPhone SE but in a smaller body. And what's even better is that the iPhone 12 Mini is the cheapest of the four iPhone 12 models at $699.

You won't sacrifice much in terms of specs, either. You still get Apple's A14 chip and the same dual-camera system as that on the iPhone 12. When it comes to size and performance, nothing beats the iPhone 12 Mini right now, it's probably the fastest compact phone you can get. 


Apple iPhone SE (2020)

Apple iPhone SE (2020)
9.0

Apple iPhone SE (2020)


The Good

  • Unmatched performance
  • Impressive image quality, industry-leading 4K video capture
  • Great price
  • Compact form factor, easy to use with one hand
  • iOS and the ecosystem (AirPods, Apple Watch, etc)
  • Support for wireless charging

The Bad

  • Mediocre battery life
  • Dated look on the front with big bezels
  • Only one small size that won’t fit everyone (no Plus model)
  • Slow 5W charger in the box
  • No Night Mode, no telephoto camera, no ultra-wide camera

The new Apple iPhone SE comes with Apple's 2019 chipset but keeps the same retro body of the iPhone 8. Not only is the new SE fast, but it's also pretty compact and affordable, but that comes at the expense of larger bezels and a bit dated design. 

Despite all that, the up-to-date hardware inside makes the latest iPhones futureproof for a couple of years at the very least. If the price of the iPhone 12 Mini is too high for you, this is the next best thing if you're looking for a small iPhone.

Read more: Apple iPhone SE (2020) review

Google Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5
8.7

Google Pixel 5


The Good

  • Lightweight, elegant design
  • Crisp, bright display
  • Versatile camera & excellent photos
  • Great battery life with wireless charging + power share
  • Clean, fast software

The Bad

  • Midrange chipset on a flagship
  • No optical zoom
  • The Pixel 4a (5G) does most of this for $200 less
Google surprised us with its latest flagship Pixel 5 model as well. There was no Pixel 5 XL last year, but instead, we got a nice, compact phone with no thick top bezel for maximum screen real estate. 

The downside is that the Pixel 5 doesn't sport the fastest Snapdragon processor inside and although its very reasonably priced, there's serious competition on the Android side of the smartphone market in that price segment. 

The Pixel 5 features the same main sensor as the Pixel 4 but ditches the telephoto camera for an ultra-wide-angle one. Regardless, camera performance is still among the best in the business. Most importantly, you get that "pure" Android experience and cutting-edge AI features Google is known for. 


Google Pixel 4a

Google Pixel 4a
9.1

Google Pixel 4a


The Good

  • Top-notch still photo quality
  • Polished software and user experience
  • Lightweight design
  • Smooth performance
  • Excellent value

The Bad

  • No wireless charging or 5G support (for now)
  • Plasticky build
  • No waterproofing

Last year's budget Pixel is an all-around pleasant surprise. It undercuts the iPhone SE price wise and while it has nowhere near that powerful, it has a large display with a punch-hole that makes the most of its compact body. 

But what's best about the Pixel 4a is that Google has brought its computational photography wizardry to it, making it the best camera phone in its price category. Yes, there's only one rear camera, but the Pixel 4a makes it count where it matters: picture quality. 

And as with the pricier Pixel 4, you can expect your Pixel 4a to only get better over time thanks to the software updates Google will keep sending in the years to come.

Read more: Google Pixel 4a review

Samsung Galaxy S21

Samsung Galaxy S21
8.5

Samsung Galaxy S21


The Good

  • Great look
  • Fast and snappy performance
  • Full of features to explore
  • Good camera quality
  • Speakers are improved over last gen

The Bad

  • Plastic back is a no-no at $800
  • The plethora of features can be overwhelming, take it slow
  • The UI looks a bit flat and tacky
  • Bye, bye, microSD card slot
Samsung had a tough time peddling the Galaxy S20 series, so the Galaxy S21 had to deliver. From the looks of it, the Galaxy S21 fixed all the wrongs of the Galaxy S20 and helped Samsung to really bounce back. With a slightly refreshed design that ditches the curved screen, new colors in tow, and top-notch performance, the Galaxy S21 is a perfect choice for Samsung fans that enjoy smaller flagships.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 specs are top-of-the-line. From the Snapdragon 888 chipset to the beautiful 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED display with an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate. In the camera department, the phone sports a triple-sensor setup on the back and comes packed full of features. If you don't mind the plastic back, this phone will satisfy your compact desires.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S21 review

Samsung Galaxy S20

Samsung Galaxy S20
9.1

Samsung Galaxy S20


The Good

  • 120Hz is a buttery smooth, game-changing experience
  • Beautifully crafted devices
  • Screens have rich, vibrant colors, look amazing
  • Better zoom capabilities than most phones
  • Very good battery life (but only at 60Hz)

The Bad

  • 120Hz option takes a heavy toll on battery life
  • In-screen fingerprint scanner experience is among the worst on a flagship
  • Selfies often turn out botched due to a bug
  • A bit on the pricey side

Speaking of the Galaxy series, the last-gen Samsung Galaxy S20 can easily fall under the compact smartphone category, despite its 6.2-inch display. Samsung decided not to go for a S10e successor but the vanilla Galaxy S20 inherited the smaller physical size of the S10e to some extent, making it a perfect compact flagship option. 

Under the hood there is a Snapdragon 865/Exynos 990 chipset with 12GB RAM and 128GB onboard storage. The phone is powered by a 4000mAh battery. On the back, there's a triple-camera setup: 12MP main sensor, one telephoto, and one ultra-wide camera.


Sony Xperia 10 II

Sony Xperia 10 II
8.5

Sony Xperia 10 II


The Good

  • Excellent screen
  • Decent battery life
  • Lightweight
  • Pleasant design
  • Generous 128GB of storage
  • Competitive price

The Bad

  • The single loudspeaker is a bit lacking
  • Plastic frame
When it comes to compact phones, Sony has often proved that it knows how to deliver. That's the case with the affordable Sony Xperia 10 II. This phone is a great mid-ranger that offers a 6-inch OLED display, water and dust resistance, a fingerprint scanner, and a triple camera system on the back. 

Under the hood, it's powered by a Snapdragon 665 chipset, coupled with 4GB RAM, and 128GB of onboard storage. A 3600mAh battery powers the device, which is still a decent capacity although we're a bit spoiled by 4,000+ mAh batteries becoming a widespread option in most modern phones.

The best feature of the Xperia 10 II is its price. You can get the phone for less than $400, which is a bargain if you consider the amazing OLED display alone.

Read more: Sony Xperia 10 II review

Asus Zenfone 8


Asus ZenFone 8
9.0

Asus ZenFone 8


The Good

  • Compact and easy to handle
  • Top-level performance
  • Great display
  • Cameras are pretty good
  • Good battery life, especially for the size
  • Stereo speakers, 3.5mm audio jack, hi-res audio support
  • Clean and feature-rich UI
  • Competitive price tag
  • IP68 water and dust resistance

The Bad

  • Gets hot in high-demanding situations
  • No wireless charging
  • No SD card slot
  • The small size might be a con for some people
Asus decided to turn things around in 2021 and launched two separate flagship devices in the Zenfone 8 lineup. The large Zenfone 8 Flip carried out the heritage of the flip camera but the vanilla model, the Zenfone 8, went down the compact route. Apparently, Asus saw a demand and a potential niche in the smartphone market, and the Zenfone 8 was born.

This little gem is just the right size - not as small as an iPhone 12 mini, which some people find too small, yet significantly more compact than the average modern flagship. It’s not just the size, though. The Zenfone 8 comes equipped with all the bells and whistles you'd find in a top-tier phone, and more! 

The latest and greatest Qualcomm chipset - the Snapdragon 888 - is the beating heart of this little beast along with a gorgeous 5.9-inch 120Hz AMOLED panel made by Samsung. Asus somehow found a way to keep the 3.5mm jack, and there's also a pretty hefty battery inside. What's the best thing about the Zenfone 8, though? It's the price! It starts at €499 in Europe and it's expected to cost $599 when it launches in the US, making it one of the cheapest Snapdragon 888 phones out there.

Read more: Asus ZenFone 8 review

And there we have it – the best small and compact phones you can buy in 2021. If you're still undecided in your quest to find the perfect phone, you may also find helpful the following picks:

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