Best small phones 2021: sleek, stylish and powerful compact phones

These are the best small phones to get in 2021 if you're not a fan of big displays, or a giant

The best small phones 2021
(Image credit: Apple)

While big smartphones are fun, not everybody wants a phone that won't fit in a pocket or purse – and not everybody has hands big enough to stretch all the way across some of the bigger displays out there. Smaller phones don't mean smaller specifications – but they can mean smaller price tags, saving you money as well as space.

If you want a great phone that isn't a great *big* phone, this guide to the best compact phones is for you.

For a while the trend was for ever-bigger handsets, and while that's still happening – Apple has its Pro and Pro Max, Samsung its Plus and its Ultra – we're also seeing more innovation in smaller phones too. An iPhone SE or iPhone 12 mini is much more comfortable to hold than one of the larger models, but there's no skimping on the specs.

The best small phones aren't just for small hands, although of course they're great for that. The best small phones don't take up tons of room in your bag or require giant pockets, and many of them are just as powerful as their larger equivalents. So if you want a great phone but don't want a great big phone, this guide to the best compact phones is for you.

The trend in smartphones is for ever-bigger handsets, so it's nice to see firms such as Apple making some smaller devices too: for many people, an iPhone SE is a much more comfortable phone to hold than an iPhone 12 Pro Max. So for this best small phones guide we've limited our selection to phones with screens six inches or smaller. Not every phone here is ultra-compact, but every one is small.

If you read this guide and decide that a small phone isn't for you, don't worry: our phone experts have also put together detailed, helpful guides to the best phones of any size. We also have guides for specific types of phones such as high-powered gaming phones, the best Android phones, the best Samsung phones and many more. And if you're shopping on a budget, don't forget to check out T3's best cheap phones buyer's guide.

Although most of the phones in this guide are traditionally designed, there's a new breed of small phone: the folding phone. We say new, but it's actually quite old – but modern tech is bringing the folding phone back in a big (small) way. If you like the sound of a small phone that can also be a tablet, make sure you scope out the Motorola Razr in T3's best foldable phones buying guide.

Right now, though, we're going to focus on the best compact phones on the market today including handsets from Google, Samsung, Apple and others. Read on to discover which small phone will be the best phone for you.

The best small phones you can buy today

iPhone SE 2020 best small phones 2021

The best small phone for most people? That's the Apple iPhone SE (2020).

(Image credit: Apple)

1. Apple iPhone SE (2020)

The best small phone for most people

Weight: 148 g
Dimensions: 138.4 mm x 67.3 mm x 7.3 mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 4.7 inches (LCD)
Resolution: 750 x 1334 pixels (326 ppi)
CPU: Apple A13 Bionic
Storage: 64GB / 128GB / 256GB
Battery: 1821 mAh
Rear camera: 12MP wide
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Very pocketable+All the polish of iOS+Affordable price
Reasons to avoid
-iPhone 12 mini also exists

When it comes to a screen size that's truly compact, nothing beats the display on the iPhone SE: it's just 4.7 inches, corner to corner, which is tiny compared to most of the handsets appearing on the market at the moment. It might take you a while to get used to.

What we also like about the iPhone SE is the low price, as you can pick this up for much less than any of the other devices in the current range of Apple smartphones. Despite being very affordable, it comes with plenty of power, packing in an Apple A13 Bionic processor that will last for years, as well as the very latest version of iOS.

You only get a single 12MP camera on the back of the phone, but the iPhone SE is still very capable when it comes to getting impressive snaps. Wireless charging and IP67 waterproofing are included too, features which aren't always a given at this price point.

To see how this top-rated small phone running iOS compares to a compact handset running Android, then be sure to check out T3's iPhone SE vs Google Pixel 4A comparison feature.

iPhone 12 mini best small phones 2021

The best premium small phone is the Apple iPhone 12 mini.

(Image credit: Apple)

2. Apple iPhone 12 mini

The best premium small phone

Weight: 135 g
Dimensions: 131.5 mm x 64.2 mm x 7.4 mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 5.4 inches (OLED)
Resolution: 1080 x 2340 pixels (476 ppi)
CPU: Apple A14 Bionic
Storage: 64GB / 128GB / 256GB
Battery: 2227 mAh
Rear camera: 12MP wide + 12MP ultrawide
Front camera: 12MP wide
Reasons to buy
+Super speedy+Very capable camera+5G enabled
Reasons to avoid
-Quite expensive

If you have a budget that goes beyond the level of the iPhone SE, then the iPhone 12 mini might just be the best small phone for you. It has a screen size of 5.4 inches, but thanks to the notch and lack of bezels, it's actually physically smaller overall than the iPhone SE.

Going with the iPhone 12 mini also gets you 5G and the fastest mobile Apple processor on the market (the A14 Bionic), plus a dual-lens 12MP+12MP rear camera rather than the single camera on the iPhone SE. Both these phones are running the latest version of iOS though, so there's virtually no difference when it comes to the software and apps.

There's faster wireless charging on the iPhone 12 mini compared with the iPhone SE as well, while the screen is a higher resolution and OLED rather than LCD. The iPhone 12 mini costs more, but you get more back for your investment – and it's actually even smaller.

Is the iPhone 12 Mini the better buy for you than our number one small phone choice? Find out in our Apple iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone SE comparison feature.

Google Pixel 4a best small phones 2021

Want a small phone that runs Android and don't want to spend big? Then consider the Google Pixel 4a.

(Image credit: Google)

3. Google Pixel 4a

The best budget small phone

Weight: 143 g
Dimensions: 144 mm x 69.4 mm x 8.2 mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 5.81 inches (OLED)
Resolution: 1080 x 2340 pixels (443 ppi)
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 3140 mAh
Rear camera: 12.2MP wide
Front camera: 8MP wide
Reasons to buy
+Clean version of Android+Excellent image processing
Reasons to avoid
-Mid-range CPU

iOS and iPhones aren't for everyone of course, and if you're after the best small phone running Android then the Pixel 4a from Google might well be it: it's fast, it has an excellent camera, it runs clean software, and it's priced very competitively as well.

There's plenty of choice when it comes to Pixel phones at the moment, but the Pixel 4a is the cheapest of the current generation, without giving up too much in terms of performance or camera quality. Inside the phone you've got a very capable Snapdragon 730G processor, a generous 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for your files and photos.

What matters for the purposes of this guide is the size of the phone, and the Pixel 4a comes sporting a 5.81-inch OLED display. Thanks to some very thin bezels and a punch hole notch, it's very much a phone that you can slip into a pocket without much trouble.

Samsung's Galaxy A41 is a serious competitor to this handset, and to see how they stack up against each other be sure to check out T3's Google Pixel 4a vs Samsung Galaxy A41 comparison feature.

Sony Xperia 5 II best small phones 2021

Watch a lot of movies on your phone? Then the 21:9 aspect ratio Sony Xperia 5 II is a great choice of small phone for you.

(Image credit: Sony)

4. Sony Xperia 5 II

The best tall small phone

Weight: 163 g
Dimensions: 158 mm x 68 mm x 8 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.1 inches (OLED)
Resolution: 1080 x 2520 pixels (449 ppi)
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
Storage: 128GB / 256GB
Battery: 4000 mAh
Rear camera: 12MP wide + 12MP telephoto + 12MP ultrawide
Front camera: 8MP wide
Reasons to buy
+Superior screen tech+Distinct, narrow style+5G enabled
Reasons to avoid
-No wireless charging

With a 6.1-inch display, the Sony Xperia 5 II is pushing the definition of a small phone, but it's still more compact than a lot of handsets on the market – and thanks to the 21:9 aspect ratio it's very tall and narrow (in portrait mode), making it easier to use with one hand.

It's an expensive phone as well, but you do get a lot for your money: a high-end Snapdragon 865 processor from Qualcomm, up to 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage, and plenty of useful extras such as 5G connectivity and IP68 waterproofing. There's no wireless charging though, so you'll need to stick with cables.

This being a Sony smartphone, the display and the triple-lens rear camera are top notch – areas that Sony has plenty of expertise in as a company – and it's a handset that's well worth considering if you want a small phone that's also a premium phone.

Motorola Razr best small phones 2021

Want a small phone that has a folding screen? Then consider the Motorola Razr.

(Image credit: Motorola)

5. Motorola Razr

The best foldable small phone

Weight: 192 g
Dimensions: 169.2 mm x 72.6 mm x 7.9 mm (unfolded)
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.2 inches (OLED)
Resolution: 876 x 2142 pixels (373 ppi)
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
Storage: 256GB
Battery: 2800 mAh
Rear camera: 48MP wide
Front camera: 20MP wide
Reasons to buy
+It folds in half+Handy second screen+Distinctive design
Reasons to avoid
-Mid-range specs

While the Motorola Razr has a 6.2-inch screen, which is relatively large, it also folds in half – and that means it's very easy to slip into a pocket or a bag when you need to (and to ignore incoming calls and texts when you don't want to be disturbed).

Aside from the wow factor of having a folding phone – and being able to snap it shut when you're done talking to someone – you also get a Snapdragon 765G processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of internal storage space, and 5G connectivity. The main camera only has a single 48MP lens, but it's still more than good enough for photos heading to social media.

There is actually a smaller 2.7-inch display that you can use to monitor incoming notifications and so on without opening the phone up, so you might find that you keep the phone in its closed down, compact state for the majority of the day.

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Samsung Galaxy A41 best small phones 2021

(Image credit: Samsung)

6. Samsung Galaxy A41

The best basic small phone

Weight: 152 g
Dimensions: 149.9 mm x 69.8 mm x 7.9 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.1 inches (OLED)
Resolution: 1080 x 2400 pixels (431 ppi)
CPU: Mediatek Helio P65
Storage: 64GB
Battery: 3500 mAh
Rear camera: 48MP wide + 8MP ultrawide + 5MP depth
Front camera: 25MP wide
Reasons to buy
+Bright, sharp screen+Solid Samsung build quality+Affordable price point
Reasons to avoid
-Entry-level specs

Samsung makes more phones than you might have realised – it's not just about flagship handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra – and with a 6.1-inch display the Galaxy A41 is actually one of the smallest in the current Samsung range, as well as being one of the cheapest.

The phone's budget nature is given away by the Mediatek Helio P65 processor, the 4GB of RAM and the 64GB of internal storage (which you can expand with a memory card), but the phone is still going to be able to get through everything you need it to. The triple-lens 48MP+8MP+5MP rear camera is also very good quality for the price you're paying.

While you don't get extras such as wireless charging, waterproofing or 5G, you don't have to spend very much at all to get your hands on this phone, and it'll still serve you well – on top of being one of the best small phones that you can buy at the moment.

Google Pixel 5 best small phones 2021

(Image credit: Google)

7. Google Pixel 5

The best mid-range small phone

Weight: 151 g
Dimensions: 144.7 mm x 70.4 mm x 8 mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6 inches (OLED)
Resolution: 1080 x 2340 pixels (432 ppi)
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 4080 mAh
Rear camera: 12.2MP wide + 16MP ultrawide
Front camera: 8MP wide
Reasons to buy
+Fast Android updates+Impressive camera system
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life is just average

Google has been focusing on mid-range phones rather than flagships recently, and while the Pixel 5 is just about the most premium option in the current range, it's also relatively small – it has a screen size that's exactly 6 inches from corner to corner.

What really makes Pixel phones stand out are their mobile photography capabilities, and although the Pixel 5 only has a dual-lens 12.2MP+16MP rear camera, it can take some stunning pictures day or night. You also get a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB in return for your money.

This being a Pixel phone, it's always going to be running the latest version of Android, which is another reason to give it a look. There's support for 5G, wireless charging, and an IP68 rating for waterproofing as well, so it's a great value offering from Google.

Samsung Galaxy S10e best small phones 2021

(Image credit: Samsung)

8. Samsung Galaxy S10e

The best value-for-money small phone

Weight: 150 g
Dimensions: 142.2 mm x 69.9 mm x 7.9 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 5.8 inches (OLED)
Resolution: 1080 x 2280 pixels (432 ppi)
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
RAM: 6GB / 8GB
Storage: 128GB / 256GB
Battery: 3100 mAh
Rear camera: 12MP wide + 16MP ultrawide
Front camera: 10MP wide
Reasons to buy
+Very affordable+Fast Android updates+Impressive camera system
Reasons to avoid
-Galaxy S20 and S21 are more powerful

Even though it's a couple of years old at this point, the Samsung Galaxy S10e is still worth considering: it comes with specs that were at the very top end when it launched, and that means it's still a very capable and competent phone now as well.

Crucially for this particular list, it's nice and compact, with a screen size of just 5.8 inches. You won't have much trouble using this particular phone one-handed, or cramming into the corner of a bag or a pocket, and if size is important to you then this remains one of the better options. Coming from Samsung, you know it'll be reliable as well.

Under the hood you've got the Snapdragon 855 processor plus up to 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage, so there's plenty of power to be going on with. The dual-lens 12MP+16MP rear camera is capable of taking some very nice shots as well.

Nokia 2720 Flip best small phones 2021

(Image credit: Nokia)

9. Nokia 2720 Flip

One of the best small feature phones - and it folds!

Weight: 118g
Dimensions: 104.8 x 54.5mm
Screen size: 2.8 inches (internal), 1.3" (external)
Resolution: 240 x 320 (int), 240 x 240 (ext)
CPU: Snapdragon 205
Storage: 512MB
Battery: 1,500mAh
Rear camera: 2MP
Reasons to buy
+Cheap and cheerful+28-day standby time+WhatsApp and Facebook
Reasons to avoid
-Low-power specs

The Nokia 2720 Flip is a fascinating little phone. We love its looks, which take us back to the 1990s when dropping your Nokia would break the floor and battery life was measured in weeks and months, not hours. But despite the retro styling this is a very modern device that sits somewhere between feature phone and smartphone. It doesn't have an App Store like Android phones or iPhones do, but it does have Facebook and WhatsApp with 4G LTE connectivity so it's not completely internet-free. 

We really like this phone. As much as we love our smartphones there's a lot to be said for simplicity, and this is a particularly good option for people who need a phone with basic social networking and nothing else – or for parents who want their kids to be contactable by them but not by every Tom, Dick and Harry on the internet. The big icons and big numbers on the keys means it's also a good option for people whose eyesight isn't what it used to be.

David Nield
David Nield

Dave has been writing about tech since before the iPhone even existed, and he's never happier than when he's testing out some of the latest cool gadgets – whether that's a new laptop or a smart home speaker.