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The best small Android and iOS smartphones worth buying

While the biggest smartphones can still fit in our back pockets, there are plenty of smaller smartphones that function as well, if not better, than their behemoth counterparts. Smaller cell phones are easier to carry and have easy to navigate screens.

Thankfully, you don’t have to sacrifice performance by getting a smaller phone. If you’re on the hunt for the smallest smartphones that pack the biggest punch, then you’re in the right place.

The best small smartphone is the iPhone SE (2020). Apple has finally returned to its budget iPhone range, and has built on the iPhone 8‘s formula, throwing in flagship specs and upgraded software while still keeping the price at a respectable $400. While it’s not the smallest smartphone in the world, it’s definitely the best smaller smartphone for your money.

Further reading

We’ve tested hundreds of smartphones at Digital Trends and we know that some people prefer a phone they can comfortably manage one-handed. All the diminutive devices that made our list have been thoroughly put through their paces. Here are some of the best small smartphones.

The best small smartphones at a glance:

iPhone SE (2020)

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

The original iPhone SE had been a mainstay of this list for a long time, precisely because it offered the best possible iOS experience on a small screen. While the new iPhone SE isn’t quite as small as the original SE, it’s still a small phone and combines the iPhone 8’s svelte frame with the iPhone 11’s flagship hardware. If you’re looking for the best possible experience on a small phone right now, this is the small phone to buy.

While most of the other options on this list have displays in excess of 5 inches, the iPhone SE is a tiny breath of fresh air. It’s packing a relatively minuscule 4.7-inch LCD display running a 1,334 x 750-pixel resolution. Thanks to the smaller size, it’s sharp, and while it’s not as beautiful as the iPhone 11 Pro‘s AMOLED display, it’s the equal of the $700 iPhone 11‘s display. On the minus side, the design is based on the iPhone 8, which makes it immediately dated. However, the glass body means it feels far more premium than its price tag, and the IP68 rating for water resistance means it can also withstand an accidental tumble into the pool.

As we’ve already mentioned, the iPhone SE has flagship specs, and that means you’ll find the same Bionic A13 chip you’ll find in the latest iPhone 11 range. There are rumors it’s been slowed down, but it’s still plenty fast in any case. A 1,821mAh may seem small, but it still manages to pump out a solid day of power, and there’s fast charging and wireless charging support as well.

Is the camera where the iPhone SE falls down then? Surprisingly, no. The single 12-megapixel lens on the back of the phone may not be up to the iPhone 11 Pro Max‘s standard, but it’s still a solid shooter, and one of the best in the price range. While the lack of a Night mode hurts, Apple has tuned up the iPhone 8’s camera, and the iPhone SE takes good shots in most circumstances. The lack of a second lens does mean it’s not as good at portrait mode shots, though.

The price is another major draw — the iPhone SE starts at just $400, and that bags you 64GB of storage. The 128GB or 256GB storage options will set you back $450 or $550 respectively, and considering there’s no MicroSD card slot, we’d recommend paying the extra $50 for 128GB of storage. But even at $450, the iPhone SE is an incredible small phone that’s hard to pass up. You can find more in our in-depth iPhone SE (2020) review.

Google Pixel 4

pixel 4 xl hero shot
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Designed by the developer of Android, Google’s Pixel 4 is the best place to go if you’re looking for the quintessential Android experience. As such, buying the Pixel 4 will mean you’ll be among the first to receive new versions of Android and security patches.

While not a small phone in the traditional sense, the Pixel 4 is still on the smaller side compared to most modern phones. Though it’s slightly larger than the Pixel 3, that additional size has been used well, with smaller bezels and a larger 5.7-inch display.

It’s also packed with 2019’s top-flight flagship specs, including the Snapdragon 855, a silky-smooth 90Hz display, and Google’s new gesture controls and face unlock. The face unlock feature uses radar to detect your face in 3D space, and that same tech can also detect certain hand gestures with Motion Sense — so you can wave above your phone to skip Spotify tracks, snooze an alarm, or automatically drop your ringtone volume when it detects your hand approaching your phone. It’s some seriously impressive tech.

But as always, the camera is the Pixel’s strongest point. This time, Google has added another camera lens — a 16-megapixel telephoto lens with optical image stabilization. Google has also added to its roster of A.I.-powered camera features, adding an astrophotography mode to the already impressive Night Sight feature. While a Pixel phone may no longer inhabit the top spot in our best camera phones list, it’s still an absolutely stellar option if you love smartphone photography.

There are downsides. The 64GB of storage really isn’t enough, and that’s compounded with the lack of a MicroSD card. There’s also no headphone jack. The bezels are chunkier than most modern flagships, and despite the “Pixel Square” housing the camera module, the design is definitely a little safe. The battery life is probably the worst aspect though, and on a busy day, the Pixel 4 will struggle to make it to bedtime. Google’s fast charging will refill the cell quickly, but it’s not much of a

While it’s not “modern $1,000 flagship” expensive, it’s still a pricey phone. Prices start at $500 for 64GB of internal storage, and it costs an extra $100 to upgrade that internal storage to 128GB. If the allure of having one of the best cameras around and the latest version of Android (Android 10) is too much to pass up, the Pixel 4 is the smaller screen for you. You can find more in our full Pixel 4 review.

Samsung Galaxy S10e

Samsung Galaxy s10e hands-on
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Alright, so we’re pushing the acceptable boundaries for “small”, but hear us out. The Samsung Galaxy S10e is one of the larger phones on this list, and while it’s significantly larger than traditionally small phones like the iPhone SE and the XZ2 Compact, the cheapest member of the S10 range is still one of the smallest modern flagships you’ll find.

The 5.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED display is the most obvious feature of the Galaxy S10e. It’s one of the best around, sporting a sharp Full HD+ resolution, and breaking records in DisplayMate’s screen tests. Like the rest of the S10 range, there’s a hole-punch for the selfie camera, and this addition has allowed Samsung to shrink the device’s bezels even further. It’s not exactly the same as its more expensive siblings though — there’s no curve on the screen edges, and there’s no ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. However, neither is a huge loss.

It’s an even smaller concession when the power inside remains unchanged. The S10e packs 2019’s top flagship power with the Snapdragon 855 processor, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. If you need more power, then there’s a version with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. The headphone jack is still there, and it features reverse wireless charging and a 3,100mAh battery that should last a full day, even if it’s nothing special.

The S10e isn’t using the same triple-lens set-up as the S10 and S10 Plus, but the dual-lens rear module is still excellent. You’ll find a variable aperture 12-megapixel lens and an ultrawide 16-megapixel lens on the back of the phone and a 10-megapixel selfie lens around the front. There’s A.I.-optimization here too, and the phone will suggest simple fixes to common problems and can recognize even more scenes through the Scene Optimizer.

However, while the S10e is the cheapest of the Galaxy S10 range, it’s still not an affordable smartphone. Prices for the Galaxy S10e start from $600, though there is a range of deals you can keep an eye on to try and save some extra money. Check out our Galaxy S10e review for our in-depth analysis of the phone.

Moto G7 Play

Moto G7 Play Review
Moto G7 Play Simon Hill/Digital Trends

With the top flagships having exceeded $1,400, you might assume there’s no point in even looking at a phone priced at $200. Well you’d be wrong, and the Moto G7 Play is the perfect phone to pick up if you’re looking for a pint-sized phone on the cheap. The 5.7-inch LCD display runs a 1,512 x 720-pixel resolution, and you’ll find a Snapdragon 632 paired with 2GB of RAM on the inside. While that’s a far cry from the more expensive phones above, the Moto G7 Play showcases smooth and snappy performance on this budget hardware and keeps up well with its more expensive brethren in the Moto G7 range.

That power-sipping hardware means the decent 3,000mAh lasts even longer than you’d expect, and when it runs out, the included 10W USB-C charger shouldn’t take too long to recharge. There’s only a single camera lens on the back, a 13-megapixel shooter, which performs well enough as long as lighting is good. You’ll find compromises though: There’s only 32GB of internal storage (though a MicroSD card slot helps), there are a big notch and chunky bezels, and it has a cheap-feeling plastic back.

Still, those issues are fairly small when you consider the price is so low. The $200 price is a lot easier on the wallet than most phones out there, and this packs good performance, a big battery, and an easy one-hand-friendly design. It’s a great choice for a smaller phone if your budget won’t stretch very far. Read more about it in our Moto G7 Play review.

Unihertz Atom

Unihertz Atom Review
Mark Jansen/Digital Trends

“Small” doesn’t have to mean “weak,” and the Unihertz Atom is proof of that. It’s small enough to fit comfortably in one hand, yet it’s tough enough to bounce down a set of stairs without damage. We know, because we tested. The Unihertz Atom is the small phone if you need something a little more solid than your average phone.

As a rugged phone, it’s wrapped in protective materials. Rubber covers the tough polycarbonate body, and it’s reinforced in key areas like the corners. The 2.4-inch LCD display is a little disappointing, with washed-out colors and faded blacks. It’s surrounded by chunky bezels, and you’ll find a fingerprint scanner beneath the screen, flanked by a pair of capacitive buttons. It’s certainly not fashionable, but it’s not trying to be. It’s functional, and because of its size, a little cute.

Performance is smooth thanks to an octa-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor, 4 gigabytes (GB) of RAM, and 64 GB of internal storage. In the age of social media, a smartphone’s camera capabilities are everything. The single 16-megapixel camera around the back isn’t as good though, and while we got some good shots, image quality went down alongside the lights. There’s only a 2,000 milliampere hour (mAh) battery, but due to the energy-sipping hardware and tiny display, this is enough to power the Atom through two days of battery life. It also has IP68 Waterproof capability and is resistant to minor threats such as dust, vibration, extreme hot or cold temperatures, and shock.

Unfortunately, as with any smartphone, this one has a few downsides. Firstly, it only runs Android 8.1 Oreo, and as such, it hasn’t seen any updates – security or otherwise – since April of 2018. It’s not the phone for you if you care about having the latest and greatest OS.

Additionally, while this phone doubles down on its small form factor, that same small size makes it hard to use every day. It has decent keyboard tracking, but it can still be a struggle to do specific tasks on the tiny 2.4-inch display. The colors are also pretty unimpressive, so if you’re looking for a quality display, you should probably look elsewhere. 

However, for someone who wants a small phone, these downsides are pretty minor. For one, the Unihertz atom starts at only $260, and it would be perfect for an active individual who wants a small, compact smartphone and doesn’t use it for much during the day. For such a small device, it certainly packs a punch, too. You can read even more about it in our Unihertz Atom review.

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