The best compact phones 2018: small, stylish, and powerful handsets

The mobile phones to get if you're not a fan of big displays

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There's no doubt the trend is for phone displays that are bigger and bigger – don't forget the original 2007 iPhone came with a screen just 3.5 inches from corner to corner, whereas the same measurement on last year's iPhone X is a much more expansive 5.8 inches.

However, even as the industry and the majority of consumers go one way, there are still going to be those who prefer something a bit more compact, a bit easier to manage with one hand. If that applies to you, these are the top phones you can buy at the moment.

Nokia 5.1

Nokia 5.1

1. Nokia 5.1

For those on a budget

Specifications
Weight: TBC
Dimensions: 151.1 x 70.7 x 8.2mm
OS: Android 8.0 Oreo
Screen size: 5.5 inches
Resolution: 1080 x 2160 pixels
CPU: Cortex A53
RAM: 2/3GB
Storage: 16/32GB
Battery: 2970mAh
Rear camera: 16MP
Front camera: 8MP
Reasons to buy
+Premium finish for a budget phone+Won't cost you much
Reasons to avoid
-Limited on-board storage

Under the guidance of HMD Global, Nokia has once again been making a name for itself in the smartphone market, this time with a series of powerful yet simple handsets that stick to the basics and do them well, on top of providing a clean and speedy version of Android.

Included in this slow and steady rebirth is the Nokia 5.1, which with a screen size of 5.5 inches just qualifies for this particular roundup. It's not the fastest or best-looking handset you're going to find, but it's great value and it's easy to use with just one of your hands.

You're probably going to want to invest in a microSD card to get a usable amount of room on here, but other than that this is a solid budget phone from Nokia. It's only just been announced so details on price and availability might be sketchy for a while.

iPhone SE

iPhone SE

2. Apple iPhone SE

Apple's smallest phone

Specifications
Weight: 113g
Dimensions: 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm
OS: iOS 11
Screen size: 4 inches
Resolution: 640 x 1136 pixels
CPU: Apple A9
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16/32/64/128GB
Battery: 1624mAh
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 1.2MP
Reasons to buy
+Compact and inexpensive+Eligible for an iOS 12 upgrade
Reasons to avoid
-Design is starting to look dated

For Apple fans, the obvious choice for a compact handset at the moment is the iPhone SE, which has a screen a mere 4 inches from corner to corner (and a resolution of just 1136 x 640 pixels). This is a phone that just about everyone is going to be able to use one-handed.

Admittedly the hardware design is looking a little dated now, but the phone is still going to get an iOS 12 update later this year, so you get all the notification improvements and digital health features, as well as access to the millions of apps in the Apple App Store.

Performance isn't going to match the newest iPhones, and there's only a single-lens camera, but the iPhone SE is perfect for the budget-conscious as well as the small-handed. Just bear in mind that an upgraded version of this handset might be due in the near future.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

3. Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

The clue's in the name

Specifications
Weight: 168g
Dimensions: 135 x 65 x 12.1mm
OS: Android 8.0 Oreo
Screen size: 5 inches
Resolution: 1080 x 2160 pixels
CPU: Kryo 385 Silver
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64GB
Battery: 2870mAh
Rear camera: 19MP
Front camera: 5MP
Reasons to buy
+High performance handset+Impressive Sony camera, as always
Reasons to avoid
-Hasn't got the thin bezels memo

Maybe Sony doesn't shift as many handsets as the likes of Apple or Samsung, but it does make one of the very best small phones in the shape of the Xperia XZ2 Compact. With some top-notch hardware packed inside, it has a screen size of just 5 inches diagonally.

Admittedly the design isn't the most innovative or svelte that you're going to come across this year, but if you're looking for a lot of power from something that's still going to fit in your pocket, give it a look (the top-end Snapdragon 845 is the chipset running everything).

This being Sony, you know the 19-megapixel rear camera is going to serve you well, and the phone comes with some useful extras too, like an IP68 rating for protection against water and dust. Oh, and you can get the handset in four rather fetching colours as well.

Google Pixel 2

Google Pixel 2

4. Google Pixel 2

Premium hardware in a compact package

Specifications
Weight: 143g
Dimensions: 145.7 x 69.7 x 7.8mm
OS: Android 8.0 Oreo
Screen size: 5 inches
Resolution: 1080 x 1920 pixels
CPU: Snapdragon 835
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64/128GB
Battery: 2700mAh
Rear camera: 12.2MP
Front camera: 8MP
Reasons to buy
+One of the best cameras in the business+Speedy and stable Android updates
Reasons to avoid
-Soon to be replaced by the Pixel 3

Perhaps unfairly, the Pixel 2 XL tends to hog a lot of the limelight when it comes to Google's 2017 flagship phones, but the Pixel 2 is a more appealing option if you're looking for a smaller phone – even if it doesn't have the thin bezel aesthetics of its larger sibling.

Under the hood, the components in the Pixel 2 are exactly the same as those in the Pixel 2 XL: a Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, either 64GB or 128GB of internal storage, and so on. The key difference is the display measures 5 inches rather than 6 inches diagonally.

As well as the hardware you get Google's slick Pixel-ised version of Android, and a hugely impressive single-lens rear camera that uses AI smarts to get winning photos every time. With the Pixel 2 you don't have to compromise on performance to get a small-ish phone.

Moto E5 Play

Moto E5 Play

5. Moto E5 Play

Compactness on a budget

Specifications
Weight: 150g
Dimensions: 151 x 74 x 9mm
OS: Android 8.0 Oreo
Screen size: 5.2 inches
Resolution: 720 x 1280 pixels
CPU: Snapdragon 425/427
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16GB
Battery: 2800mAh
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 5MP
Reasons to buy
+Won't cost you much at all+Running Android 8.0 Oreo
Reasons to avoid
-Difficult to get outside the US

It's often budget phones that are smaller in size (all that display tech is expensive), and so we come to the Moto E5 Play, the recently launched Motorola handset that offers good value for money as well as a display that measures a mere 5.2 inches from corner to corner.

With a 1.4 GHz processor and 2GB under the hood, this isn't going to be the zippiest phone around, but it'll do most jobs well and – crucially for this list – doesn't need two hands to operate. We'd also suggest getting a microSD card to bump up the paltry 16GB of storage.

Of course the big advantage of going for the Moto E5 Play, besides its compact dimensions is the low price: if you shop around, you shouldn't have to pay much to bag this brand new. However, unless you're living in the US, you might find it's not that easy to get hold of.

iPhone 8

iPhone 8

6. Apple iPhone 8

Small but powerful

Specifications
Weight: 148g
Dimensions: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm
OS: iOS 11
Screen size: 4.7 inches
Resolution: 750 x 1334 pixels
CPU: Apple A11 Bionic
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 64/256GB
Battery: 1821mAh
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Top-end Apple A11 Bionic chipset+The usual polish of iOS
Reasons to avoid
-Only a single-lens camera

Apple lags behind the rest of the smartphone market when it comes to screen sizes, as the 4.7-inch iPhone 8 shows – it might not be as compact as the iPhone SE, but it's still smaller than a lot of the phone displays you'll come across in 2018, so it gets a spot on our list.

Remember the iPhone 8 has exactly the same guts as the iPhone X, so all you're really missing out on is the Face ID unlock technology and a notch at the top of the display. The camera's only a single-lens snapper too, but it still capture some very impressive photos.

The iPhone 8 will get a free upgrade to iOS 12 later this year, but if you're thinking about a purchase, remember that we'll see new iPhones in September – your iPhone 8 will still last you for several years, but it's worth bearing in mind that newer tech is around the corner.