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Best small phones in 2022

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

The best small phones may be going the way of the do-do, but they're still here. Apple is doing its part to keep compact phones in people's hands. The company's latest device is the iPhone SE (2022), a new version of the 4.7-inch iPhone that adds a new processor and 5G connectivity.

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.

A notable advantage to choosing a small phone is that they typically cost less than Plus-, Max- or Ultra-sized versions of the same device, so you won't be penalized by having to pay more for a handset that easily fits into your lifestyle.

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

What are the best small phones?

Small phone lovers who were also interested in snagging one of the best iPhones didn't have many reasonable options until recently. Thankfully, you've got multiple choices between the iPhone 13 mini and the new iPhone SE (2022). The iPhone 12 mini also remains on sale at Apple if you want dual rear cameras, but at a discount from the iPhone 13 mini's price.

If you're looking for a small phone that runs Android, you can't do better than the Asus Zenfone 8. It packs top-tier specs in a little body and it's a great phone. There's also the discontinued Google Pixel 4a, which has an OLED screen the same size as the one in the discontinued iPhone 11 Pro, for only $349. Of course, you might be thinking about the new Pixel 5a, but unfortunately, that's a much larger phone than the 4a.

Finally, Google's 6-inch Pixel 5 packs a display slightly larger than the 5.8-inch Pixel 4 it replaced, but embeds that panel inside a chassis with smaller bezels, making it one of the more attractive high-end handsets despite its age. Just make sure you can get it for less than the $599 starting price for the Pixel 6.

Here's a closer look at some of the best small phones out there right now, with screens sized at or under 6 inches. For our overall favorite handsets regardless of size, be sure to take a peek at our list of the best phones available right now.

The best small phones you can buy today

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 the new 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.

This year, Apple kept the design the same, but improved the battery life — in the Tom’s Guide battery test, the iPhone 13 mini lasted for more than 1.5 hours longer than its predecessor. The cameras also got an upgrade. Both the 12MP wide-angle main and 12MP ultrawide cameras feature larger sensors now that let in more light. The ultrawide also has autofocus now. But also new this year are 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 who want a small phone with powerful hardware and great creative capabilities.

Read our full iPhone 13 mini 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.

It’s also no slouch when it comes to the performance department. Using the same A15 Bionic chip that powers the iPhone 13 series, you’ll not find any phone that is faster under $500 — 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 Verizon’s mmWave 5G network. Again, the iPhone 13 mini enjoys that luxury. But for $429, you can’t have everything. 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.

the asus zenfone 8 is the best small android phone

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

Specifications

Display: 5.9-inch AMOLED (2400x1080)
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8GB, 12GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB / No
Rear cameras: 64MP (f/1.8) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide
Front camera: 12MP
Weight: 5.96 ounces

Reasons to buy

+
Compact and easy to handle
+
Clean, minimal software
+
Excellent performance
+
Good cameras

Reasons to avoid

-
No wireless charging

Asus decided not to the use the flipping camera module with the Zenfone 8 (that's a separate device, the Zenfone 8 Flip), instead opting for a compact device with the best hardware available at the time. Top all of that off with clean, stock Android and you've got yourself a recipe for a great phone.

In practice, we think that the Zenfone 8 is the best small Android phone you can get, hands-down. While it can't quite keep up with the Pixel 5 in terms of the camera, it runs laps around anything else that isn't an iPhone in this category. That's not to say that it can't take good pictures, quite the opposite. 

Asus knocked it out of the park here and the price is something else awesome about this phone. It's truly a wonderful phone.

Read our full Asus Zenfone 8 review.

the iphone 12 mini is still one of the best small phones around

(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. From its compact 5.4-inch display to its dual camera system, the iPhone 13 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 angle can take some beautiful photos, thanks to Apple's computational photography skills.

Best yet, you can probably find the iPhone 12 mini on a good sale right now since the iPhone 13 mini is out.

Read our full iPhone 12 mini review.

the google pixel 4a is one of the most affordable best small phones

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
The best small phone at an unbeatable price

Specifications

Display: 5.81-inch OLED (2340x1080)
CPU: Snapdragon 730G
RAM: 6GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB / No
Rear camera: 12.2MP (ƒ/1.7)
Front camera: 8MP (ƒ/2.0)
Weight: 5.04 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 8:55

Reasons to buy

+
Best-in-class camera
+
Bright OLED display
+
Low price

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life could be better
-
Hard to find now that Google's discontinued it

With a 5.81-inch OLED display and very slim bezels, the Google Pixel 4a stands out to us as one of the best small phones with a big screen, even with the larger Pixel 5a now available. In fact, the OLED panel dominates the Pixel 4a’s footprint, thanks to a hole-punch selfie camera design and a very slender earpiece, keeping the border encircling the screen to its absolute minimum.

At a hair over 5 ounces, the Pixel 4a is also exceptionally light, owing to its polycarbonate-but-quality build. It’s pretty thin too, despite having a healthy 3,140 mAh battery. Unfortunately, the battery doesn’t last quite as long on a charge as we’d like, but the Pixel 4a’s other benefits — from that beautiful screen to its software and update support, impressive camera, solid (if not iPhone-beating) performance and low price — complement its exceptional one-handed usability well.

The Pixel 5a has landed, but a small phone it is not, with a display greater than 6 inches. So turn to the Pixel 4a if compact size is what you value, though the phone is getting increasingly harder to find. And bear in mind that Google has officially discontinued the Pixel 4a, so you may have a harder time finding one.

Read our full Google Pixel 4a review.

the google pixel 5 is has one of the better cameras of the best small phones

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
A pocketable, premium Pixel

Specifications

Display: 6-inch OLED (2340x1080)
CPU: Snapdragon 765G
RAM: 8GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB / No
Rear camera: 12.2MP wide (ƒ/1.7); 16MP ultrawide
Front camera: 8MP (ƒ/2.0)
Weight: 5.3 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 9:29

Reasons to buy

+
Gorgeous compact design
+
Excellent camera, now with ultrawide lens

Reasons to avoid

-
Underwhelming performance
-
Google has newer models

Google's Pixel 5 isn't an improvement over the Pixel 4 in every respect, which is likely why we found it somewhat disappointing. This Pixel's battery life is much better and it supports 5G across millimeter-wave and sub-6GHz bands, but it's less powerful than the old model, and lacks 3D Face Unlock and the capability to read Motion Sense air gestures, which were quite unique features.

But the Pixel 5 still has a lot going for it. It retains its class-leading camera, now armed with a secondary ultrawide camera sensor; it's cloaked in a distinctive all-aluminum design that we love; and of course, it benefits from Google's latest exclusive Android features, like Hold For Me and Call Screen for phone calls.

And it packs all of this into a supremely pocketable footprint, making for perhaps the most trimmed-down small phone I've ever seen in terms of screen-to-body ratio. The Pixel 5 isn't perfect in our eyes, and the Pixel 4a 5G can claim a lot of the same features for $200 less, though the 4a 5G is larger and lacks some luxuries, like wireless charging. Heck, we think even the Pixel 5a can hold its own to the Pixel 5, given that they use the same chipset.

Of course, the Pixel 6 is here with a return to the two model sizes. However, the Pixel 6 is not a small phone with its 6.4-inch display. But it's a serious upgrade over the Pixel 5 in every regard except maybe battery life — Google just can't seem to get battery life right. But if you're not set on a small phone, the Pixel 6 is worth your time.

Read our full Google Pixel 5 review.

How to choose the best small phone for you

You usually have to sacrifice something when buying a small phone. Of course, screen real estate is part of the tradeoff; but small phones also have smaller batteries, and sometimes less RAM or fewer camera lenses than larger, more expensive versions of the same device.

If you prioritize a compact form factor over all else — and you probably do if you're reading this page — these tradeoffs will likely be well worth it. Apple and Google are featured prominently on our list of the best small phones because they don't eliminate critical features from more compact handsets. That's illustrated by the fact that the iPhone 13 mini packs the same punch as the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Or how the new iPhone SE (2022) utilizes the same A15 Bionic chipset found in those more premium iPhone 13 models.

But the biggest challenge you might face when shopping for the best small phone is just how little choice there is. Smartphone shoppers favor bigger screens and that's where most device makers are putting their efforts these days.

How we test smartphones

In order for a smartphone to make our best phone list, it needs to excel on several tests that we run on every handset. We perform some of these tests in our labs and some in the real world.

When it comes to performance, we rely on such synthetic benchmarks as Geekbench 5 and 3DMark to measure graphics performance. These tests allow us to compare performance across iPhones and Android devices. We also run a real-world video transcoding test on each phone using the Adobe Premiere Rush app and time the result. (We unfortunately have to skip this test on some phones due to app compatibility issues, but we attempt this benchmark with each device we get in to review.)

Performance benchmarks
Geekbench 5 (single-core / multicore)3DMark Wild Life Unlimited (FPS)
iPhone 13 mini1733 / 464361
iPhone SE (2022)1718 / 448250
Zenfone 81120 / 365934
iPhone 12 mini1602 / 412354
Pixel 4a551 / 1647N/A
Pixel 5596 / 1617N/A

To measure the quality of a phone's display, we perform lab tests to determine the brightness of the panel (in nits), as well as how colorful each screen is (DCI-P3 color gamut). In these cases, higher numbers are better. We also measure color accuracy of each panel with a Delta-E rating, where lower numbers are better and score of 0 is perfect.

Display benchmarks
sRGB (%)DCI-P3 (%)Delta-E
iPhone 13 mini117830.27
iPhone SE (2022)115810.21
Zenfone 8155 (Default) / 179 (Natural)110 (Default) / 127 (Natural)0.27 (Default) / 0.3 (Natural)
iPhone 12 mini11883N/A
Pixel 4a106750.29
Pixel 5129910.3

One of the most important tests we run is the Tom's Guide battery test. We run a web surfing test over 5G (or 4G if the phone doesn't have 5G support) at 150 nits of screen brightness until the battery gives out. In general, a phone that lasts 10 hours or more is good, and anything above 11 hours makes our list of the best phone battery life.

Battery life benchmark
Battery life (Hrs:Mins)
iPhone 13 mini8:54
iPhone SE (2022)7:39
Zenfone 89:58 (120Hz) / 10:16 (90Hz) / 10:52 (60Hz)
iPhone 12 mini7:28
Pixel 4a8:33
Pixel 59:29 (90Hz) / 9:53 (60Hz)

Last but not least, we take the best phones out in the field to take photos outdoors, indoors and at night in low light to see how they perform versus their closest competitors. We take shots of landscapes, food, portraits and more, and also allow you to be the judge with side-by-side comparisons in our reviews. 

Jordan Palmer
Jordan Palmer

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over five years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.

  • k0pernikus
    This article is rather pointless and disappointing due to its "under 6 inches" criteria. In which world are 5 inch smartphones considered small? I'm looking for a phone in the 3.5 to 5 inch range that still packs a punch. I'm not looking to buy something cheap.

    Seems to be a true unicorn, it just doesn't exist.

    It appears the smartphone market is completely broken for people with small hands and somehow phablets have become the norm.
    Reply