The Best of the Smallest Smartphones You Can Buy in 2020 | Digital Trends

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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 now the iPhone 12 Mini. Apple’s return to a smaller sized iPhone is a triumph, and it’s absolutely the phone to start with if getting a smaller smartphone is your top priority. But, while it’s far from the most expensive phone around, $700 is still a hard sell for many, and that’s why we have a number of other great smartphones on the smaller size, so you can find the perfect smartphone for you.

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:

The best overall small phone: iPhone 12 Mini

iPhone 12 Mini
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s the best small smartphone in the world, right now, bar none.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants the best small smartphone, regardless of whether it’s iOS or Android.

Why we picked the iPhone 12 Mini:

Apple’s iPhone 12 Mini has rocked our world, so it makes sense to put it at the top of this list. This new iPhone challenges the mantra of “bigger is better” by cramming a much larger phone’s specs into a very small body (for this day and age). The iPhone 12 Mini comes with the same top specs as its iPhone 12 brethren, including the extremely powerful A14 Bionic processor, but inside a body smaller than the new iPhone SE (2020). Simply put, this is a flagship phone within a tiny body, and it’s the best place to start looking if you’re looking for a small phone.

As we’ve already mentioned, the iPhone 12 Mini comes with the latest A14 Bionic processor, and that means you’re getting top flagship performance from your small phone, with enough grunt to handle any app or game you throw at it, and enough longevity to do so for years to come. The base model comes with 64GB of storage, which may be a little low for many, so consider upgrading to 128GB if you have the money to spare. Apple’s bezel-less design means you’re also getting a pretty big screen for the size as well, with the Super Retina OLED panel coming in at 5.4-inches. This is especially impressive when you point out the larger iPhone SE (2020) has a much smaller 4.7-inch screen.

Like the bigger iPhone 12, you’re getting an excellent dual-lens camera with the Mini. Sure, it’s not the match of the larger (and more expensive) iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max’s triple-lens camera modules, but the Mini’s 12-megapixel main lens and 12MP ultrawide lens do a great job, and it’s unlikely you’re gonna miss the Pro range’s telephoto lens when the two lenses on the Mini are this good. Simply put, the Mini has an excellent camera.

But it does fall slightly when we turn to the battery. A smaller case means less space for the battery, and as such, the iPhone 12 Mini doesn’t sport the same excellent battery life as its bigger siblings. There’s a day of battery life in there, but it can be tight, and if you’re prone to battery anxiety, we can see you reaching for the charging cord before the end of the day, just to be sure. But on the plus side, it does recharge extremely fast, and we saw it recharge from flat to 50% in just 30 minutes. But if you’re not a heavy user — and if you’re after a smaller phone you may not be — then the battery should last out the day with a little left over at the end.

Now comes the important part — the price. Well, the iPhone 12 Mini is a premium product despite its size, and that means you’re looking at $700 for a 64GB model. It’s not the cheapest option on this list, but if you’re not averse to splashing the cash, then this is the small phone for you. Read more in our in-depth iPhone 12 Mini review.

The best small Android phone: Google Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s one of the best small Android phones out there, with an incredible camera, smooth performance, and two-day battery life, crammed into a relatively small body.

Who it’s for: Anyone who isn’t an iPhone fan, or someone who loves having a small but very capable cameraphone in their pocket.

Why we picked the Google Pixel 5:

The Pixel 4 was a good phone, but the Pixel 5 is excellent. Google’s abandoned the shiny $1,000 flagship space in favor of securing the more reasonable $700 market, and it has succeeded. Sure, the Pixel 5 isn’t the smallest phone around, but it’s compact, loaded with the latest tech, and has one of the best cameras on a smartphone.

But if you’re here, it’s because you want a small smartphone — and as we’ve admitted, it’s not the tiniest of handsets around. However, at 144 inches tall and 70 inches wide, it’s still a relatively small phone and should be able to be used one-handed by most people. The slim bezels mean there’s room for a big 6-inch display, and it benefits from a 90Hz refresh rate. That might not be a 120Hz refresh rate, but upgrade from a 60Hz display and you’ll be blown away by the smoothness.

A drop in price has meant Google has also dropped flagship chips, but don’t assume you’re getting an underpowered phone. The Snapdragon 765G is a powerful processor, and it’ll run even the latest 3D games without hiccups, and has 5G support. The 90Hz refresh rate also means it’ll feel quicker than some flagship phones with a 60Hz display. Only having the option of 128GB of storage hurts a little though, and if you take photos (as you should — more on that later) you may start to feel the pinch a few years in. However, Google’s fixed the issues with the Pixel 4’s battery, and the Pixel 5 is capable of lasting into a second day on a single charge.

Much like every Pixel phone since the range was launched, the camera is the star of the show. The rear module is comprised of a main 12.2MP lens with Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF) and optical image stabilization (OIS), and a second 16MP wide-angle lens. But it’s the software that really makes the difference, and the Pixel 5 produces some of the best immediately shareable images of almost any smartphone. The editing software is excellent too, though, and if you enjoy tinkering with shots, you’ll find a lot to love here too. But for most people, the potent software that powers Google’s Night Sight and Portrait mode shots are more than exciting enough.

It’s not a perfect phone though, which explains why it doesn’t top this list. It’s a bit big if you’re looking for a really small phone, but aside from that, it’s just a little boring. Google didn’t make any huge steps forward as it has with previous phones, and it lacks the unique selling points past Pixel phones got. The cool movement sensing radar system from the Pixel 4 has gone, with nothing to replace it. The design is also uninspired. Not bad, just … bland.

But aside from those relatively minor downsides, the Pixel 5 is an excellent small Android phone. You can pick it up for just $699, and it’ll work on most U.S. carriers, though you’ll need to make sure your carrier supports the Pixel 5’s 5G.

The best midrange small phone: iPhone SE (2020)

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

Why you should buy this: It’s small, it’s powerful, and it comes at a low $400 price.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants a smaller, more easily pocketed phone that’s very capable, but not too expensive.

Why we picked the iPhone SE (2020):

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. While no longer the best small phone to buy, it’s still an excellent small phone, and our pick for the best small midrange phone.

While most of the other options on this list have displays over 5 inches, the iPhone SE is a tiny breath of fresh air. It’s packing a relatively minuscule 4.7-inch LCD running a 1334 x 750-pixel resolution. Thanks to the smaller size, it’s sharp, and while it’s not as beautiful as the iPhone 12 Pro‘s AMOLED display, it’s the equal of the $600 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 last year’s 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 12 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.

The best budget small phone: Moto G7 Play

Moto G7 Play Review
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s a small phone you can get for a fraction of the price of an iPhone.

Who it’s for: Anyone who loves a small phone, but really doesn’t want to pay a lot of money for one.

Why we picked the Moto G7 Play:

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 runs a 1512 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 the 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.

The best small rugged phone: Unihertz Atom

Unihertz Atom Review
Mark Jansen/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s a tiny titan with more physical strength than most flagships.

Who it’s for: Anyone who needs a small phone that can be tucked away easily, or tossed into a bag without worry.

Why we picked the Unihertz Atom:

“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 it. 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 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, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB 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.

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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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