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Best small phones of 2020: Top picks under 6 inches

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

With smartphone screens stretching to nearly 7 inches these days, finding a device that fits snugly in one hand is getting harder all the time. Fortunately, there are still compelling small phones out there — you just have to know where to look.

If you believe good things come in compact packages, you'd be well advised to explore Apple's range, as the iPhone maker continues to dominate the market for small phones with a number of compelling options. Samsung and Google are also keeping the segment alive with devices that are both pocketable and affordable.

A notable advantage to choosing a small phone is that they typically cost less than Plus- or Max-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.

However, one thing you won't find on this list — at least, not yet — are any 5G phones. That's because devices with 5G connectivity at this early stage tend to be larger, to accommodate the radios and antennas necessary for those networks. 5G phones also typically consume more power than their LTE counterparts, so the batteries have to be larger as well.

What are the best small phones?

Small phone lovers who are also interested in snagging one of the best iPhones should look to the 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro, which uses a nearly bezel-less design to maximize display real estate.

There's also another, older travel-sized iPhone that can now be had for less money than ever: the 4.7-inch iPhone 8. (That's to say nothing of the 4-inch iPhone SE — provided you can still track one down these days. Fortunately, Apple looks to be gearing up to introduce an iPhone SE 2 in the next few months.)

If you're looking for a small phone that runs Android, you may prefer the Pixel 4, which packs new features like secure facial identification and a state-of-the-art dual-lens camera system behind a 5.7-inch, 90 Hz display. You'd also be wise to check out the Galaxy S10e, which technically has a larger screen than Google's offering but is actually more compact, thanks to its smaller bezels. And if you're phone hunting on a budget, you'll find a lot to love in Google's $399, 5.6-inch Pixel 3a.

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 smartphones available today.

Best small phones: iPhone 11 Pro

The 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro may be relatively small compared to most flagships today, but it is mighty. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

1. iPhone 11 Pro

The best small phone money can buy

Display (Pixels): 5.8-inch OLED (2436x1125) | CPU: A13 Bionic | RAM: 4GB | Storage/Expandable: 64GB, 256GB, 512GB / No | Cameras (Back/Front): Triple 12MP / 12 MP | Weight: 6.63 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 10:24

Gorgeous OLED display is now brighter
A13 Bionic CPU fastest around
Stellar triple cameras with Night mode
Longest battery life of any iPhone
Fast charging in box
Shorter battery life than iPhone 11 Pro Max and iPhone 11
Just 64GB of storage for starting price
A bit heavier and thicker than iPhone XS

The 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro isn't just the best small phone you can use easily with one hand — it's one of the best and fastest smartphones around, period. Just like the 6.1-inch iPhone 11 and 6.5-inch iPhone 11 Pro Max, it's powered by Apple's state-of-the-art A13 Bionic chipset, which is powerful enough to enable unprecedented higher-order machine learning capabilities. The iPhone 11 Pro leverages the A13's power to pull off some stunning photography tricks, like Semantic Rendering, which recognizes different objects in a scene and intelligently exposes each uniquely, for a better result.

This iPhone also marks Apple's first with its Super Retina XDR display, an OLED panel that topped an almost unbelievable 752 nits of peak brightness in our lab testing. Couple all that with the added convenience of Face ID, the versatility of a new ultrawide lens and 18W fast charging out of the box, and the iPhone 11 Pro is an all-around remarkable flagship handset, but especially so for those who prefer smaller phones.

Read our full iPhone 11 Pro review.

Best small phones: Pixel 4

The only downside to opting for the more compact 5.7-inch Pixel 4 in lieu of the XL model is its smaller battery. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

2. Google Pixel 4

The best small Android phone

Display Size (Pixels): 5.7-inch OLED (2280x1080) | CPU: Snapdragon 855 | RAM: 4GB | Storage / Expandable: 64GB, 128GB / No | Cameras (Back / Front): 12.2-MP main (f/1.7); 16-MP telephoto (f/2.4) / 8-MP (f/2.0) | Weight: 5.71 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 8:03

Class-leading cameras
Smooth 90Hz display
Effective Face Unlock
Clever AI software features
Disappointing battery life
Relatively dim display
Motion Sense gestures need work
No unlimited photo storage and original quality

At 5.7 inches, Google's new Pixel 4 isn't an especially small phone — though it is significantly more pocketable than many top-line flagships today, including the iPhone 11 and the OnePlus 7T. With the Pixel 4, Google's trimmed out the bottom bezel, while leaving the Pixel 3's forehead intact, and repurposing that space for a sophisticated Face Unlock feature that rivals Apple's Face ID in terms of security. The top bezel is also where the Pixel 4's Soli radar system is stored, so the device can respond to hand gestures in midair.

But this being a Pixel, the biggest improvements have been levied at the camera, as you'd expect. The Pixel 4 features Google's first dual-lens imaging system, partnering a telephoto lens with a standard wide angle one for improved zoom shots. Our lone complaint about the Pixel 4 lies with the device's middling battery life — at just 8 hours, it's far and away eclipsed by the newest iPhones. but if you can see past that, the Pixel 4 will delight you with its clever uses of machine learning and stunning photography. You can get a sense of how Google's phone compares to other top flagships in our Pixel 4 vs. iPhone 11 Pro face-off.

Read our full Google Pixel 4 review.

Best small phones: Samsung Galaxy S10e

Because the Galaxy S10e's bezels are so scant, it's actually the smallest phone on this list in terms of its footprint. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

3. Samsung Galaxy S10e

The most compact flagship you can buy

Display Size (Pixels): 5.8-inch AMOLED (2160x1080) | CPU: Snapdragon 855 | RAM: 6GB, 8GB | Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB / Yes | Cameras (Back / Front): 16-MP (f/2.2), 12-MP dual-pixel (f/1.5, f/2.4) / 10-MP | Weight: 5.29 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 9:21

Incredible display
Delightful, compact design
Super powerful
Wireless PowerShare
Headphone jack
Cameras could be better
OneUI is polarizing
Battery life is so-so

The Galaxy S10e is a different kind of flagship phone from Samsung. At $749, it's a bit cheaper than the 6.1-inch S10 and 6.4-inch S10 Plus, which start at $899 and $999, respectively. There are a few concessions for that lower price — namely a dual rear camera setup instead of a triple one, and a side-mounted fingerprint sensor replacing the regular S10's in-display technology. But the S10e is every bit as powerful and fast as its more expensive siblings, despite the fact that it's also one of the best small phones available. The handset's 5.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED panel is quite large, but because it's wrapped in a body with extremely slim bezels, the result is one of the most compact premium phones on the market today. In a lot of ways, it's evocative of the old iPhone SE: still superfast and very capable, but at a much more reasonable price, and in a package that small phone lovers will surely appreciate.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S10e review.

Best small phones: Samsung Galaxy Note 10

6.3 inches isn't small, but because the Note 10 utilizes nearly the entirety of its front surface for its display, it feels compact for a phablet. (Image credit: Future)

4. Samsung Galaxy Note 10

The smallest phone with the biggest screen

Display Size (Pixels): 6.3-inch AMOLED (2280x1080) | CPU: Snapdragon 855 | RAM: 8GB | Storage / Expandable: 256GB / No | Cameras (Back / Front): 16-MP ultra wide (f/2.2), 12-MP wide (f/1.5, f/2.4), 12-MP telephoto (f/2.1) / 10 MP | Weight: 5.9 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 9:25

Compact design with huge display
256GB storage standard
Live Focus now for video
Fastest charging yet in a Samsung phone
No headphone jack or microSD
Handwriting conversion is cumbersome
Aura Glow is a fingerprint magnet
DeX for PC needs work
Battery life is below average

We know what you're thinking — a 6.3-inch smartphone is not small, and doesn't even adhere to the criteria of this list! We understand, but take our word for it: the Galaxy Note 10 is more compact than you'd ever imagine, and it's all thanks to the phone's miniscule bezels, which deliver an all-screen experience in the truest sense. Plus, the panel Samsung shoehorned into its latest phablet is a beaut — a rich Dynamic AMOLED display with curved edges, shrouded in shatter-resistant Gorilla Glass 6.

Under the hood, the Note 10 boasts Qualcomm's latest premium processor as you'd expect, as well as a sizable 3,500-mAh battery fitted with Samsung's new 25W fast charging technology. Meanwhile, the S Pen has learned some clever new air gestures that allow you to navigate the phone simply by waving the stylus in front of the screen. If you've ever been intrigued by the productivity potential of the Note series, but the device's prohibitively large proportions put you off, the Note 10 is definitely for you. (And if not, well, there's always the 6.8-inch Note 10 Plus.)

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 10 review.

Best small phones: Google Pixel 3a

The Pixel 3a feels a bit bigger in the hand than many of the other devices on this list because of its pronounced bezels, but it's a phenomenal value nevertheless. (Image credit: Future)

5. Google Pixel 3a

The best small midrange phone

Display Size (Pixels): 5.6-inch OLED (2280x1080) | CPU: Snapdragon 670 | RAM: 4GB | Storage / Expandable: 64GB / No | Cameras (Back / Front): 12-MP (f/1.8) / 8-MP (f/2.0) | Weight: 5.2 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 11:59

Flagship-caliber camera
Google software and support
Solid build
OLED display
Low price
Excellent battery life
Supports all carriers
No water resistance
Performance is good, not great
Display could be brighter
No wireless charging

So you want an all-around great smartphone with a camera that would put most flagship shooters to shame, but you don't want to pay more than $400 for it. In the past, requesting such a device might get you laughed out of the retailer of your choosing, but then Google introduced the Pixel 3a and suddenly, everything changed.

The 5.6-inch Pixel 3a (and its larger sibling, the 6-inch Pixel 3a XL) touts the same 12.2-megapixel rear camera in Google's premium smartphones, along with an OLED display, long-lasting battery and the latest and greatest Android software. However, it costs only $399 — half the price of the Pixel 3. You do lose out on some amenities, like the Pixel 3's top-tier Snapdragon 845 processor, wide-angle front-facing camera, water resistance and wireless charging. However, the rest of the device is far better than its midrange price tag would suggest, and easily our new top pick for a handset under $400 — let alone the best small phone in that price range.

Read our full Google Pixel 3a review.

Best small phones: iPhone 8

Rumor has it the next-generation iPhone SE will echo the iPhone 8's 4.7-inch form factor. (Image credit: Future)

6. iPhone 8

The best compact iPhone

Display Size (Pixels): 4.7-inch LCD (1334 x 750 pixels) | CPU: A11 Bionic | RAM: 2GB | Storage / Expandable: 64GB, 128GB / No | Cameras (Back / Front): 12MP / 7MP | Weight: 5.2 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 9:54

Solid A11 Bionic performance
Supports wireless charging
Bright display
Compact design
Affordable price
Large bezels
Battery life not the best

It's easy to dismiss the now two-year old iPhone 8 as undeserving of your consideration, and even easier to overlook it in favor of the flashier iPhone 11. However, if you're interested in getting the best small phone for your dollar, that would be a mistake in both respects. For starters, the iPhone 8 is powered by Apple's A11 Bionic CPU, which is still pretty sprightly compared to the chips in midrange and budget Android devices. The device's glass design allows the iPhone 8 to support wireless charging, something previous iPhones couldn't do. And speaking of battery, the iPhone 8 lasts 9 hours, 54 minutes on a charge — nearly an hour longer than the iPhone 7. If you want a phone with a screen that's smaller than 5 inches, that feels more like a modern iPhone SE, the 4.7-inch iPhone 8 is the device to get — and these days, it starts at just $449.

Read our full iPhone 8 review.

Best small phones: Samsung Galaxy S9

Samsung's 2018 flagship is well worth a look for those searching for a premium small phone on the cheap. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

7. Samsung Galaxy S9

A great small flagship on the cheap

Display Size (Pixels): 5.8-inch AMOLED (2960x1440) | CPU: Snapdragon 845 | RAM: 4GB | Storage / Expandable: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB / Yes | Cameras (Back / Front): 12-MP dual-pixel (f/1.5, f/2.4) / 8-MP (f/1.7) | Weight: 5.8 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 10:52

Bright, colorful display
Sleek design
Great battery life
Solid low-light camera
Headphone jack
AR Emoji is dismal
Bixby fails to make itself useful

A screen measuring 5.8 inches doesn't sound like it would make for a particularly small phone. But what you have to remember is that the Galaxy S9 isn't like other phones — and that's all thanks to its wraparound Infinity Display. Samsung's ability to curve its OLED panel around the sides, while trimming the bezels above and below, allows the Galaxy S9 to shoehorn a massive display into a very compact form factor. In other words, you're not sacrificing on screen size for comfortable one-handed operation. It also helps that the panel itself is among the brightest and most vibrant in its class (only eclipsed by the newer S10 range, as well as Apple's iPhones) and that the Galaxy S9 is as well-rounded as any Android handset that came out in 2018, between its speedy Snapdragon 845 processor and solid photos in low light.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S9 review.

Best small phones: Nokia 7.1

The Nokia 7.1 offers pure Android One software in an attractive metal-and-glass chassis, for a low price. (Image credit: Future)

8. Nokia 7.1

A simple, cheap and compact Pixel 3a alternative

Display Size (Pixels): 5.8-inch LCD (2280x1080) | CPU: Snapdragon 636 | RAM: 4GB | Storage / Expandable: 64GB / Yes | Cameras (Back / Front): 12-MP (f/1.8), 5-MP (f/2.4) / 8-MP (f/2.0) | Weight: 5.64 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 7:42

Stunning, solid design
Android One software
Great display
Good cameras for the price
Premium-caliber performance
Not available on Verizon or Sprint
Battery life could be better

For just under $350, the Nokia 7.1 gives you a 5.8-inch HDR10-equipped LCD display, respectable performance from a Snapdragon 636 processor, 64GB of storage that can be expanded with a microSD card, among the best dual cameras for the price (save for the Pixel 3a's, of course), attractive design and the latest version of Android in all its stock glory, as Google intended.

Like the Pixel, the Nokia 7.1 is a simple but effective expression of a modern Android phone, without all the frivolous bells and whistles that impede devices from other phone makers. It's also one of the best small phones that won't break the bank.

Read our full Nokia 7.1 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 features from more compact handsets.

Samsung, on the other hand, usually scrubs something from their smaller models. The Galaxy S10e, which has a dual-lens camera compared to the triple-lens module inside the company's Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus devices, is a prime example of that. The S10e also lacks an in-screen fingerprint sensor and has less RAM than its bigger, pricier siblings. Alas, that's the price you pay for wanting a phone that can fit in your pocket in 2020.

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 GFXBench 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.

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.

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 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.

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.