Best small phones in Australia 2024: Top compact mobiles you can use one-handed

best small phones
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The best small phones in Australia have all but gone away, despite some holdouts. While there was once a time when smaller was deemed to be better, in the past decade or so, our penchant for bigger devices has grown exponentially.  

But, there is certainly still a consumer base for small phones in Australia and you'll find some manufacturers are still committed to the cause. Apple is one such brand doing its part to keep compact phones in people's hands, with the latest iPhone SE (2022), a new version of the 4.7-inch iPhone that adds a new processor and 5G connectivity, arriving in March last year. 

The iPhone SE isn't the only small phone on Apple's books, with the Cupertino-based company also offering the iPhone mini. However, the iPhone mini line suffered its inevitable fate upon the arrival of the iPhone 14 series, being replaced by the giant iPhone Plus models. Fortunately, for now at least, Apple is still giving you the chance to pick up the iPhone 13 mini, if you fancy. The logical assumption would suggest the iPhone 13 mini will disappear from Apple stores following the launch of the iPhone 15

But it's clear the handset doesn't have much company, as smartphone displays continue to get larger and larger. That's fine for people who like big screens, but there are precious few options for those who prefer something they can comfortably use one-handed. Trust us, we think this is quite the tragedy.

The best small phones you can buy today

Small phones are a rarity these days, though at least Apple still seems to believe the best things come in small packages — for now, anyway. We've gone through all of the best options available to Australian customers and put them through rigorous testing to see which ones you should buy. Here are the best small phones in Australia you can still get your hands on.

the iphone 13 mini is the best small phone you can buy

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
The best small phone you can buy

Specifications

Display: 5.4-inch OLED (2340 x 1080)
CPU: A15 Bionic
RAM: 4GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB / No
Rear cameras: 12MP main (f/1.6), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.4)
Front camera: 12MP (f/2.2)
Weight: 4.97 ounces

Reasons to buy

+
Capable dual cameras
+
Comprehensive 5G support
+
Incredible A15 Bionic power

Reasons to avoid

-
Cinematic mode capped at 1080p
-
No charger in the box

Apple continued the small phone legacy laid down by the iPhone 12 mini with the iPhone 13 mini. This little handset is very powerful thanks to its A15 Bionic chip. There’s nothing it can’t handle, all while being easily pocketed or used one-handed. The 5.4-inch OLED display is still crisp with excellent colors and viewing angles.

Apple kept the design the same as the iPhone 12 mini, but improved the battery life — in the Tom’s Guide battery test, the iPhone 13 mini lasted over 1.5 hours longer than its predecessor. The cameras also got an upgrade, with the 12MP wide-angle main and 12MP ultrawide cameras benefitting from larger sensors that let in more light. The ultrawide also gained autofocus capabilities. The upgrades don't end there either, as the iPhone 13 mini also received Cinematic Mode and Photographic Styles.

The former lets you record portrait videos with dynamically shifting focus for that artistic look. Photographic Styles are basically real-time filters that you can test out while you’re aiming the camera, letting you capture photos that match your personal taste.

We love the iPhone 13 mini's compact frame and impressive power. It's perfect for people in Australia who want a small phone with powerful hardware and great creative capabilities. 

Read our full iPhone 13 mini review.

Back view of Asus Zenfone 9

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
The best small Android phone

Specifications

Display: 5.9-inch AMOLED (2400 x 1080)
CPU: Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1
RAM: 8GB, 16GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB / No
Rear cameras: 50MP (f/1.9) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide
Front camera: 12MP (f/2.45)
Weight: 6 ounces

Reasons to buy

+
Great battery life
+
Excellent performance
+
Good cameras overall
+
Great value

Reasons to avoid

-
Photos can be a bit warm

Small phones may be a rarity in Australia, but Asus isn’t giving up. No siree, the Zenfone 9 is exactly what we wanted to see in a small Android phone. It packs in a ton of horsepower thanks to its Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor, paired with either 8GB or 16GB of RAM. The 5.9-inch AMOLED display is especially great with punchy colours.

The cameras are generally pretty good for most purposes, though we did notice a warm, yellowish tinge to some photos in our testing. It’s by no means bad, just noticeable against other strong camera phones.

With an RRP of AU$1,199, the Zenfone 9 is the best small Android phone around.

Read our full Asus Zenfone 9 review.

iPhone SE 2022 in hand at beach Midnight colorbest value

(Image credit: Future)
A powerful and compact phone

Specifications

Display: 4.7-inch LCD (1344 x 750)
CPU: A15 Bionic
RAM: 4GB
Storage / Expandable: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB / No
Rear camera: 12MP (f/1.8)
Front camera: 7MP (f/2.2)
Weight: 5 ounces

Reasons to buy

+
Fastest performance for the money
+
Very good photo quality
+
More durable design

Reasons to avoid

-
No Night mode for camera
-
No mmWave 5G support

Apple seems to be the last bastion of small phones, we're sad to say. The recent iPhone 13 mini and now the new iPhone SE (2022) both keep the screen size well under six inches. In the SE’s case, it’s a teeny 4.7-inch LCD. We don't think it's the prettiest, nor does it have a high resolution, but it fits in small hands and pockets.

But, while its looks could now be considered dated, it's entirely up-to-date where things under the hood are concerned. Apple has installed the same A15 Bionic chip that powers the iPhone 13 series, meaning you're highly unlikely to find any phone that is faster for the same AU$719 RRP or less — even the most expensive Android phones have a hard time keeping up in some places.

Of course, there’s no Night mode here, something the equally diminutive iPhone 13 mini has. The new SE also lacks support for Australia's mmWave 5G network. Again, the iPhone 13 mini enjoys that luxury. But when you factor in the low price, you have to understand that some sacrifices need to be made. If having the smallest phone is what you want, the iPhone SE (2022) should be one of your top considerations.

Read our full iPhone SE (2022) review.

iPhone 12 mini review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
Older, it's still one of the best small phones

Specifications

Display: 5.4-inch OLED (2340 x 1080)
CPU: A14 Bionic
RAM: 4GB
Storage / Expandable: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB / No
Rear cameras: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.6), 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.4)
Front camera: 12MP (f/2.2)
Weight: 4.76 ounces

Reasons to buy

+
Capable dual cameras
+
Incredible A14 Bionic power
+
Reasonable starting price

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 64GB storage to start
-
Underwhelming battery life

While it's been supplanted by the new iPhone 13 mini, 2020's iPhone 12 mini is still a great small phone and can still be picked up from select retailers in Australia. From its compact 5.4-inch display to its dual camera system, the iPhone 12 mini is still the little phone that could. If we had to level any true complaint against it, it'd be that the battery life is pretty poor. Oh, and the base storage is just 64GB.

Even so, you get the powerful A14 Bionic chip powering the whole experience, making for a handset that can run laps around many Android phones. We think the main wide-angle and secondary ultrawide lens can take some beautiful photos, thanks to Apple's computational photography skills.

The iPhone 12 mini is no longer for sale from Apple, so stock will start to dwindle soon. You might be able to find a good deal, especially on a used model.

Read our full iPhone 12 mini review.