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

Small Compact Smartphones 2022
© primopiano / Shutterstock.com

Are small smartphones still be around in 2022? So what? Even though many manufacturers are moving towards display sizes that are way beyond the 6-inch mark, there are exceptions like the Galaxy S22, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 or the iPhone 13 Mini. For this reason, we have compiled the best compact phones for tiny hands below.

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The 1.94 m tall author of this article has huge hands. But even with those, it's not easy for me to operate a 6.8-inch device using just one hand. Therefore, it is absolutely understandable that many smartphone users long for more compact models. The NextPit editorial team put their heads together and came up with this list of the five best compact smartphones for 2022.

The best compact smartphones in 2022

  Best Android option Best Apple option Best compact alternatives
Product
Image Xiaomi 12 Apple iPhone 13 Mini Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Apple iPhone SE (2022) Samsung Galaxy S22
Specifications 6.28 inch, Curved AMOLED
2,400 x 1,080 pixels (419 ppi)
120 Hz
Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
128 / 256 GB ROM
8 / 12 GB RAM
Triple camera
Main camera: 50 MP
Ultra wide-angle: 13 MP
Macro camera: 5 M
4600 mAh, 67 W, Wireless 50 W
152.7 x 69.9 x 8.16 mm
180 grams











5.4 inch, AMOLED
1080 x 2340 pixels (326 ppi)
60 Hz
Apple A15 Bionic
128 / 256 / 512 GB ROM
4 GB RAM
Dual camera
Main camera: 12 MP
Ultra wide-angle: 12 MP
2,438 mAh
131.5 x 64.2 x 7.7 mm
141 grams










6.7 inch, Dynamic AMOLED
1080 x 2640 pixels (426 ppi)
120 Hz
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
256 / 256 GB ROM
8 GB RAM
Dual camera
Main camera: 12 MP
Ultra wide-angle: 12 MP
3,300 mAh
86.4 x 72.2 x 17.1 mm
183 grams










4.7 inch LCD, 60 Hz
1334 x 750 pixels (326 ppi)
60 Hz
Apple A15 Bionic
64 / 128 / 256 GB ROM
4 GB RAM
Camera
12 MP
? mAh
138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm
144 grams









6.1 inch, Super AMOLED
1080 x 2400 pixels (434 ppi)
120 Hz
Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
128 / 256 GB ROM
8 GB RAM
Triple camera
Main camera: 50 MP
Ultra wide-angle: 12 MP
Telephoto camera: 10 MP
3,700 mAh, 25 W, wireless 15 W
144.7 x 70.4 x 8 mm 151 grams










Pros
  • Beautiful size
  • Bezel-less and brilliant display
  • Powerful main camera
  • Long update support
  • Stunning design
  • Foldable display
  • IPX8 certified
  • Four years of security updates
  • Finally, faster Quick-Charging in the Plus model
  • Finally, "real" telephoto lens included
  • Samsung builds the best displays
  • Smaller and easy to handle
Cons
  • Wireless charging only available in the base model
  • No telephoto cameras still
  • Memory is not expandable
  • Minimal differences between smartphones
  • Battery life
  • Disappointing camera at this price
  • Very few significant improvements
  • Very small battery in  the base model, plus only 25-watt charging
  • Memory is not expandable
  • SoC advantages remain to be seen
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You already have the technical specifications at hand and can make a quick comparison. If you want, you can jump directly to your favorite device, because we present each device in a bit more detail. However, I recommend you also read the buying guide, where we provide you with relevant information that you should consider before buying. Let's go!

Jump to:

  1. Buying guide: What to look out for in compact smartphones
  2. Best compact Android smartphone: Xiaomi 12
  3. Best compact Apple smartphone: Apple iPhone 13 mini
  4. Compact smartphone alternatives
    1. Foldable alternative: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3
    2. The cheaper Apple alternative: iPhone SE (2022)
    3. Samsung's compact flagship: The Galaxy S22

Buying guide: What you have to consider when buying small smartphones

Where is the border between a large and a small phone? The answer is subjective, and it is similar to our selection here. We did not select the smallest smartphones available for our best-of list. Instead, we made sure that both quality and compact design are well balanced. In 2022, no one should accept that a smaller phone is at best, a slimmed-down version of a flagship!

It's possible that when you buy a small smartphone, you are mainly looking at how practical and handy it is. But despite all of its advantages, there are also disadvantages that you should be aware of before you go to your trusted phone dealer. Here are a few points to consider before you buy a new phone.

  • Performance: Make sure that you are not blinded by the big flagship marketing fluff and then feel ripped off with a less powerful SoC. In this list, however, you have devices that guarantee a very strong performance, but you also have to bear in mind: A powerful processor in the phone often results in heat build-up when it is under a heavy load. The larger the smartphone, the better the heat can be dissipated. For gamers, it might be better to choose a larger alternative for this reason alone.
  • Cameras: Similar to the SoC, smaller smartphones often suffer from the fact that the cameras are slimmed-down versions of their larger siblings. However, you should not suffer any disadvantages when using a smaller phone for taking pictures.
  • Battery: Less space in the smartphone = smaller battery. That is just logical of course, and battery size alone does not determine how long your smartphone will last. The efficiency of the components and the software also play a role. But take into account that you will often be disappointing with less than 4,000 mAh in compact phones.
  • Display and form factor: The most important thing when deciding on a small phone is the size, of course! It is handy, fits better in trouser pockets, shirt pockets or handbags, and is easier to use with one hand. So there are many advantages. But there are also disadvantages: If you like multimedia content, it is naturally more fun viewing those on large devices. If you are a gamer, you should consider that your thumbs cover a certain part of the display when gaming. The smaller the display, the more difficult it is to play without a controller accessor.

The best small Android phone: Xiaomi 12

"Compact" is a term for smartphones that is subject to constant change. If we had called a smartphone like the Xiaomi 12 with a 6.28-inch screen diagonal compact a few years ago, you probably would have thought we were crazy. But in times of large flagship phones and slim bezels, this Xiaomi 12 is actually pleasingly compact.

Xiaomi 12
Well over 6-inches, but still quite compact. / © NextPit

How big is the Xiaomi 12? It measures 152.7 x 69.9 x 8.16 mm and is thus the largest phone in this illustrious best list despite its compact design. Remarkably, it is slightly smaller than its predecessor. There seems to be a trend towards smaller smartphones here.

Even though the 5G-capable device is only the little brother to the Xiaomi 12 Pro, the specifications are impressive: The brand-new Qualcomm 8 Gen 1 powers the device, plus there is either 8 GB or 12 GB of RAM. Storage stands at 128 GB or 256 GB, while the battery offers a capacity of 4,500 mAh. As usual with Xiaomi, you can charge the battery in no time. The Xiaomi 12 uses a 67-watt charger, and it also juices up wirelessly at 50 watts.

The extremely successful curved AMOLED display is also a very remarkable screen. It offers a refresh rate of 120 hertz and FHD+ resolution and is still easy to read even in sunlight. It runs on MIUI 13, which is fortunately now based on Android 12. The triple camera still has to be tested, but at least the 50 MP main camera should enable flagship-quality photos. You will find out more when we finish our review of the Xiaomi 12.

The Xiaomi 12 has just been introduced to the local market. You can pre-order the base model from Xiaomi's flagship range, although it is unavailable officially in the US. Over in Europe, it has a rather hefty base starting price of €849.90. That is rather expensive, but Xiaomi also packs a lot of powerful technology into the device.

The best small smartphone from Apple: Apple iPhone 13 mini

After introducing the iPhone 12 mini in 2020, Apple insisted on continuing the compact formula in 2021 with the introduction of the iPhone 13 mini. It has roughly the same dimensions as its predecessor. Measuring 131.5 x 64.2 x 7.7 mm and tipping the scales at 141 grams, it is slightly heavier than the previous model, but still rather small compared to other iPhone 13 models.

NextPIT Apple iPhone 12 mini
The iPhone 13 mini has a smaller notch than the iPhone 12 mini (above) / © NextPit.

Just like the 2020 model, the iPhone 13 mini has the same specifications as its larger siblings, starting with the powerful A15 Bionic processor, which Apple claims is around 50% faster than the next best Android competitor.

However, the main advantage of this small iPhone lies in a completely different area: Apple's iOS operating system and the aforementioned SoC combine well to deliver pretty good power management, which Apple says is "up to an hour and a half more" on the iPhone 13 mini compared to its predecessor, the iPhone 12 mini.

Apple also places the compact iPhone below the regular model and Pro variants in terms of price. The recommended retail price is $699, making it significantly cheaper than the normal model.

Further recommendations for compact smartphones

With this, we have picked out the best Android and iOS smartphone for you at the moment. However, we want to give you some more alternatives that perfectly combine both quality and a compact form factor in our opinion. So here are our other recommendations:

The foldable one for your pocket: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

Not everyone is looking for a compact smartphone because their fingers are too short. The big flagships from Xiaomi, Oppo and the like also take up a lot of space in the pocket. So much so, many people prefer to hang their smartphone around their neck with a lanyard rather than put it in their pocket.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 semi-opened
Smaller foldable devices like the Galaxy Z Flip 3 are an alternative to the increasingly larger flagships / © NextPit

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a full-fledged flagship smartphone with really small dimensions. As the name suggests, it is a foldable smartphone, i.e. with a foldable display. Unlike the Galaxy Z Fold 3, however, you do not fold the smartphone vertically. It is more reminiscent of a retro clamshell phone from the 2000s.

When folded, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 measures only 86.4 x 72.2 x 15.9 millimeters at its thinnest point. When unfolded, the device "grows" considerably, but the lush 6.7-inch display is also a real eye-catcher. But why didn't the Galaxy Z Flip 3 make it to number 1 in our "Best of" list?

Although it has improved a lot in terms of durability and is even waterproof according to the IPX8 rating, the battery is still too small with a capacity of 3,300 mAh. And even considering that the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is cheaper than its predecessor, it is still more expensive than the other smartphones on this list.

Apple alternative for a smaller budget: The iPhone SE (2022)

The recently unveiled iPhone SE (2022) is still almost warm from the oven. We've included it here because it's a very affordable way to get your hands on a very high-performance iPhone thanks to the new processor.

Apple iPhone SE 2022
The design of the iPhone SE 2022 almost makes it a retro phone. / © NextPit

What are the top arguments for the iPhone SE that comes in 2022's flavor? The fast A15 Bionic in a smartphone for just $429! Sure, with the iPhone, you always 'buy' a few other highlights automatically: Great cameras, high-quality workmanship, optimized and long software support, for example.

This is also true for the iPhone SE to a large extent. The design, which was already old-fashioned in the iPhone SE 2020, has been adopted 1:1 and does not look any more modern. You get a 4.7-inch display with very fat bezels, which is simply outdated. Throw in HD resolution and 60 hertz refresh on an LCD display, every $400 mid-range smartphone can actually far better.

However, Apple has an enviable talent for optimizing both hardware and software in such a way that you hardly notice technical deficits. Sensational photos can be taken even with the simple camera of the iPhone SE, the display is convincing enough despite the low resolution and sluggish refrest rate, and the performance of the A15 is beyond any doubt anyway. Therefore, we have included it in our list as a top alternative to the iPhone 13 Mini.

If you long for long updates: The Samsung Galaxy S22

Samsung also follows the trend and reduced the size of its smartphones. The Galaxy S22 has a 6.1-inch screen - and could have secured the compact crown, if not for this SoC...

Samsung Galaxy S22
The Galaxy S22 has also shrunk compared to its predecessor / © NextPit

Samsung unveiled its new flagship lineup in February 2022 and the base model Galaxy S22 made it into our compact best list. At 6.1-inches, it is smaller than the Xiaomi 12 and should carry the superior camera (review to follow). The South Koreans provide the S22 with actual telephoto cameras, making it one of the best compact camera phones.

Samsung also does not show any weaknesses in the display (Super AMOLED with a 120 Hz refresh rate) and delivers the usual outstanding performance. Perhaps one of the top arguments for Samsung and against one of the competitors could be the software, and it is not only because of the extremely popular OneUI that is based on Android 12. Samsung also scores with its long software support. We are looking at four major Android updates and up to five years of support for security updates, guaranteed!

Everything could be so nice, if only Samsung did not have install a rather small battery (3,700 mAh) and the Exynos 2200 chipset, which is undoubtedly an appealing SoC, but it is weaker than the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 that the competition uses (and by Samsung itself in other markets as well).

Thus, the Galaxy S22 missed the chance to make it to the throne in our list, but it will undoubtedly remain as one of the strongest smartphones of its size class that you can buy in 2022. Speaking of buying: The fun starts at $799, which is a decent bargain for what you get.

That brings us to the conclusion of our recommended compact smartphones (as of March 2022). Of course, this is a subjective list for which we discussed and pondered in the editorial team, and sometimes also having turned a blind eye. All five recommended models have these in common: you get a fairly compact form factor with plenty of performance.

Feel free to chat in the comments about which compact favorites you would have preferred to see in this list.

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