The best compact smartphones: how many inches do you really need?

The best compact smartphones: how many inches do you really need?

Smartphones continue to grow. Every year the manufacturers present their new flagships with ever larger screens. But there are still enough users who want a smaller, more handy smartphone. We present our selection of the best compact smartphones in this article.


Why are small smartphones getting bigger and bigger?

A few years ago, smartphones had very different sizes than today. The iPhone 8 still had a 4.7-inch display, at a time when many Android smartphones had already grown further. Sony also long time published the Compact models as smaller versions of the current flagships. But with each new generation of smartphones, the screens continue to grow.

Many displays today measure more than 6 inches, some smartphones even scratch the 7-inch mark. However, the devices themselves do not necessarily grow. Manufacturers are now doing without excessively thick bezels - improvements in display technology make it possible. The fact that cameras are now often sitting in a notch or otherwise wandering away from the edge of the display contributes to the fact that the edges are becoming thinner and the displays larger without the overall smartphone size growing. Smartphones with displays of up to 6 inches are now considered compact because they are barely larger than previous models with much smaller screens.

Google Pixel 3

Pixel 3 looks like a shrunken Pixel 2 XL at first sight. With its 5.5 inch display, it is still handy. Compared to its predecessor, the design is more contemporary, with narrower top and bottom bezels. It still accommodates the front camera and the two stereo speakers facing forward, but Pixel 3 is still a long way from "bezel-less".

Pixel 3 10
The Pixel 3 has one of the best cameras / © NextPit

The Google Pixel 3 is of course a high-end device. Inside are the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 and 4 GB RAM. As usual with Google, there is also pure Android, for which the manufacturer makes security patches and new versions available directly. Not for nothing did Pixel users get the beta of Android Q first.

With the internal memory you have the choice between 64 and 128 GB. But you have to do without a memory expansion for the Pixel 3, there is also no headphone jack. But, the camera, or better said the camera software, of the Pixel convinces. Even if Google only uses one camera here, the Google Pixel 3 takes excellent pictures in all respects. Meanwhile, the Pixel 3 is also quite often available at a reduced price, so keep an eye out.

iPhone XS

Although iPhone XS isn't the cheapest smartphone in Apple's current line, it's the most compact. With its 5.8 inch OLED screen, it's still quite handy. You can operate it with one hand without any problems. Sure, there's a notch that I'm sure not everyone likes. But, in terms of display, iPhone XS is one of the best things you can buy.

iPhone xs 01
iPhone XS has one of the best displays / © NextPit

The iPhone XS also features Apple's A12 Bionic, one of the fastest chipsets on the market. Unfortunately, this is not always noticeable with iOS. With many apps, on the other hand, especially with AR applications, the processor shows its full potential. The camera also delivers really good pictures. And something else: The notch is wide, but also houses the technology for 3D face recognition. And unlike many Android smartphones, this is not only fast and reliable, but also works in the dark.

Another advantage: Apple will continue to provide this smartphone with software updates and support for several years to come.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

Of course, the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is not the most modern smartphone on this list, and yet it is still quite interesting - especially since Sony is currently no longer launching Compact models on the market. The display is 5 inches large and therefore belongs to a dying breed. The HDR display with its resolution of 2,160 x 1,080 pixels makes a great impression.

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The Xperia XZ2 Compact is at the forefront of the compact class / © NextPit

This device is comparable to Sony flagships released at the same time. The Xperia XZ2 is also waterproof and has a 2,870 mAh battery, which is quite adequate for the size of the device. Sony has added to the camera and delivers better photos than its predecessors. Music lovers will not like the fact that there is no headphone jack to be found. Overall, however, the Xperia XZ2 Compact is still at the forefront of the compact class - especially since it is cheaper than the non-compact model, with practically the same performance.

Samsung Galaxy S10e

When Samsung unveiled the new Galaxy S10 series earlier this year, the S10e was part of the action and is the secret star of the current Galaxy family. With its 5.8-inch AMOLED screen, it certainly wouldn't have been considered compact a few years ago, but it definitely will in 2019. The design is high-quality, the workmanship flawless. In contrast to the two larger S10 smartphones, the S10e doesn't have any curved display edges, which certainly accommodates some users. The display is framed in very slim edges.

samsung galaxy s10e 02
The secret star of the S10 series: The Galaxy S10e. / © NextPit

One must do without the fingerprint sensor integrated in the display, but the sensor accommodated in a button works perfectly. Despite its compact size, the small S10 has the power of the big ones. Here an Exynos 9820 works alongside of 6 GB RAM. So, there is no area where the S10e would let you down with its performance.

Those who prefer a headphone jack will find it in the small Galaxy, and the sound via the loudspeakers is also powerful. You have to cut back on the camera here - at least as far as the number of cameras installed is concerned. Instead of four cameras, there are two. More important than quantity, however, is that there is nothing to complain about when it comes to quality. The photos are great in good lighting conditions and still impressive at night.

Xiaomi Mi 9 SE

The Mi 9 SE from the Chinese manufacturer is a slimmed down version of the Mi 9, so the display is a bit smaller at 5.97 inches. Nevertheless, the OLED panel does not have anything to hide. It has a Full HD Plus resolution and good color quality. The Snapdragon 712 is a rather powerful chip in the Mi 9 SE, which together with the 6 GB RAM for a mid-range smartphone offers outstanding performance.

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The Xiaomi smartphone offers a good OLED panel / © NextPit

The triple camera with its 48-megapixel main sensor is as good as its big brother. But there is no headphone jack, only average loudspeaker sound, and the 3,070 mAh battery doesn't reach far either. One day of use is fine for the battery life - but that's all. After all, there is 18-watt quick-charging technology, with which the battery is half full again within half an hour.

But, the battery is really the main point of criticism. Apart from that, there is nothing to complain about in view of the flawless performance and a good camera.

Which compact smartphones can convince you? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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  • Rusty H. May 24, 2019 Link to comment

    In 2010, I bought my FIRST smartphone. At the time, Samsung, Htc and Apple, had 3.5" screens. My first smartphone was the Dell Streak 5, with a "huge" 5" display. I know the laughs and snickers I got from people putting their entire phone onto mine, saying my screen was larger than their ENTIRE phone. I've never had a smartphone with smaller than a 5" display. About the 6" size is at the upper limit of what I like. I don't like the smaller screens. Too much zooming to read web pages and what not, that comes from the age where you are just at the limits to what your BIFOCALS can read LOL.

    • Dean L. May 27, 2019 Link to comment

      Agree with your comments. I moved up to a 5 inch screen about a year and a half ago. Now I’m not sure I could move to anything smaller. But the 5 inch size still allows me to use it one handed.

  • Konstantinos Daglaroglou May 24, 2019 Link to comment

    The correct question would be "what physical dimensions can you handle?" Edge and super tall screens lie about the actual, usable screen size and now that bezels are really small, physical dimensions matter more than ever.
    Personally, I can't go over 150mm of height, anything more is unacceptable. My S10 is around that mark and has a 6.1" screen on paper, but being with edge and very tall and narrow makes the screen look and feel much smaller than my Samsung Note 4's 5.7" display.

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