The smartphone world has generally gone crazy over big displays, and manufacturers are latching on to it. But not everyone wants their phone big. If, like me, you are a lover of smaller smartphones, I have drawn up a list of the best compact smartphones you can buy today in 2021.
In order to make things clear, I define a compact smartphone as one with a screen smaller than 6 inches. And by the best, I mean the the most up-to-date compact smartphones with screens below 6 inches and with the best performance available in the market. Because, despite the widespread obsession with bigger displays, there are enough smaller smartphones out there for you to pick from.
Best compact smartphones released in 2021
All the compact smartphones listed here are 2021 releases, so they are the most up-to-date and cutting edge available in this segment.
Sony Xperia 5 II
Sony is one of the last standing phone makers that produce compact smartphones. The Xperia 5 II is a September 2020 release and comes in a handy package with a 6.1″ OLED display, Snapdragon 865 chipset, 8GB of RAM, 128GB and 256GB storage options, and a microSD slot to expand your storage memory, should you desire to.
The battery is of 4000 mAh capacity with 21W fast charging, and there is an 8MP sellfie camera in front and a ZEISS 12MP triple camera at the back.
Sony Xperia 5 II is a proper flagship, so if you are hunting for a compact flagship, Sony Mobile has got you. This is probably the very best compact smartphone on this list today (September 2021). If you are looking for a smartphone that is not made in China, this is one as well.
How much does it cost? A flagship standard $950 only.
Google Pxel 4
The Pixel 4 is one of the best compact smartphones you can buy in 2021. A 5.7-inch P-OLED display gives it that refreshingly compact size, but it is a powerhorse with a flagship processor – Qualcomm SM8150 Snapdragon 855 – inside.
There is 6GB of RAM, coupled with 6GB of RAM. Storage memory is either 64 GB 128 GB, so you can make your choice. Typical of Google’s Pixel smartphones, there is no memory card slot.
There is a 12 MP + 16 MP dual camera at the back and an 8 MP selfie camera at the front. And then we come to what appears to be the Pixel 4’s weak point – the battery. It has a measly 2800 mAh capacity, but there is 18W fast charging for quick top ups.
Price is $500 USD.
Apple iPhone SE 2020
The iPhone SE (2020) is a replica of the iPhone 8 and packs Apple’s most powerful A13 Bionic under a 4.7″ display. Like all iPhones, it is well built and offers solid cameras, though in this case all you get is a single sensor rear camera. There are three variants – one with 64GB storage, 128GB storage, and 256GB storage. RAM is 3GB for all variants.
The smallish 1821 mAh battery is a worry, but it does has 18W fast charge to go with it. Lastly, fans of fingerprint sensor will be ecstatic, as that is available on this model.
Best compact smartphones released in 2019
All the compact smartphones listed here are 2019 releases and are all up-to-date smartphones for purchase in 2020.
Xiaomi Mi 9 SE
Xiaomi gave us something special in the compact category this year. The Mi 9 SE has a 5.97″ Super AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass 5 protection, coupled with a very capable Snapdragoon 712 chipset, 6GB of RAM, options of 64GB and 128GB storage, a 48MP rear triple camera, 3070mAh battery and 18W fast charging. It is also a dual-SIM device. This is definitely one of the best compact smartphones of 2021.
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
Want a bite from Apple? The iPhone 11 Pro is straight out of the oven and sizzling hot. It has a compact 5.8″ display, is up-to-date in the photography department with a triple camera with Quad-LED dual-tone flash, has stereo speakers, has 18W fast charging coupled with its 3040mAh battery, and is water/dust resistant. It is a phone to love. Apple has left out fingerprint scanner again, leaving users with only Face ID, but I doubt that iPhone lovers will care.
Google Pixel 3a
Released in May 2019, a 5.6 inches display graces this mid-range, compact Android phone. You get Google’s great camera, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 procerssor, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB internal storage, a 3000 mAh battery with 18W Quick Charging, as well as stock Android 9 Pie and guaranteed speedy updates. Note that this is a single SIM smartphone though.
Samsung Galaxy S10e
From Samsung with love comes one of the best compact smartphones worthy of your consideration in the year of our Lord 2021. A budget Galaxy S10 is a great one. For about $700 or N230,000, you get a 5.8 inches AMOLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, 6GB of RAM, 128 GB internal storage, and a 3100 mAh battery with 15W fast charging.
And it is available in both single and dual SIM options. Samsung Galaxy S10e specs.
Samsung Galaxy A40
Another phone that deserves a place on our list of best compact smartphones of 2021 is the Samsung Galaxy A40. With a 5.9-inch screen, it barely makes it! But if it is not 6 inches, it isn’t 6 inches. So, what do you get with this April 2019 release?
A Super AMOLED, Infinity-U display, rear dual camera, 25 MP selfie camera, 64 GB storage, and 4 GB RAM. There is also a 3100 mAh battery, coupled with 15W quick charging. Whether you want a single or double SIM support, you are covered. This package is available for about 219 euro.
These are the five best smaller smartphones released in 2019. But there are other solid smaller smartphones that are just as current available in the market. Hop over to the next section below.
Best compact smartphones released in 2018
Now, some of the best smaller smartphones available today in 2021 were launched in the last quarter of 2018 and so are current devices in the market. Let’s have a look at my recommendations.
Google Pixel 3
The Pixel 3 easily qualifies as one of the best compact smartphones available in the market today. It has a 5.5 inches display and was launched in November 2018, effectively meaning that it is a very up-to-date device if you are shopping in 2021.
What does it offer you? A 5.5 inch display, 2915 mAh battery with 18W fast charging, 64 and 128 GB storage options, stereo speakers, and Android 9 Pie. Being a Google phone, there is no question about it getting timely updates for another two years.
Making this list of best compact smartphones in 2021 is the Nokia 7.1 mid-range smartphone. It has a display that is 5.84 inches in size with Gorilla Glass protection. On its feature list are a 3060 mAh battery with 18W fast charging, a Snapdragon 636 processor, 4 GB RAM, and 64 GB storage.
It was launched in October 2018 running Android 8.1, but it is a Nokia, meaning that it gets fast software updates.
Apple iPhone XS
A stainles steel frame, gorgeous 5.8-inch screen, 4 GB RAM, and options of 64, 256, and 512 GB of internal storage is what you get from the iPhone XS. It is easily one of the best compact smartphones you can buy in 2021. The battery is a smallish 2658 mAh in capacity but there is 15W fast charging support.
Note though that there is no fingerprint scanner on the XS.
It hit the streets in September 2018 with iOS 12, and being an iPhone, you have nothing to worry about in terms of software updates.
The Nokia 6.1 has a 5.5-inch screen with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection and was launched in April 2018. There are 3 and 4 GB of RAM options available. For storage, you get to pick 32 GB or 64 GB. The battery is of 3000 mAh capacity and has 18W fast charging. Powering it is a Snapdragon 630.
Nokia offers stock Android OS, alongside guaranteed software updates for 2 years, so you get up-to-date software. If you are on a budget and want one of the best compact smartphones in the market today, this is a good choice.
Sony Xperia XZ2
With a 5.7-inch display, the Xperia XZ2 arrived in April 2018. Under the hood is a Snapdragon 845, 4 and 6 GB RAM options, 64 GB storage, and a 3180 mAh battery with support for18W fast charging. Sony’s trademark stereo speakers are here as well.
It is a shame that Sony Mobile phones are not as popular as they once were: the Xperia XZ2 is a solid device and one of the best compact smartphones in the market today.
Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact
The XZ2 Compact has 5 inches of screen size, with Gorilla Glass 5 protection. Like its bigger sibling, it arrived in April 2018 and packs 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB storage. It is also powered by a Snapdragon 845 chip, has stereo speakers, and a 2870 mAh battery with 18W fast charging. It launched with Android 8 Oreo.
The Xperia XZ2 Compact may be really small (5 inches is really, small in today’s world), but it does not skimp on features. This phone is the complete premium deal in a smaller package. True compact lovers will say that makes it the very best compact smartphone in the market.
Sony is perhaps the only smartphone manufacturer that has a history of commitment to producing compact smartphones, so that would be in order.
Samsung Galaxy S9
The Galaxy S9 is arguably the very best compact smartphone released in 2018. Apple fans will say that title belongs to the iPhone XS. That kind of face-off always makes for interesting watch.
But you won’t find another smartphone with a 5.8 inches display that packs as many features as the Galaxy S9 does. It arrived in March 2018 with a 3000 mAh battery, 15W fast charging, 4 GB RAM, and 64, 128, and 256 GB storage options.
These 2018 releases add another 7 devices to our list of the best compact smartphones to buy in 2021. That brings our total to 9 at this point. And we are still not done yet. A few phones from 2017 are still shining stars today. Come take a look.
Best compact smartphones released in 2017
The following may have been manufactured in 2017, but they remain among the best smaller smartphones that you can buy in 2021.
Apple iPhone X
In October 2018, Apple launched the iPhone X (or iPhone 10 or iPhone Ten). It has a 5.8 inches display, 3 GB of RAM, 64 and 256 GB storage options, as well as a 2716 mAh battery with 15W fast charging. It was launched with iOS 11 but getting updates till date.
In all, these are the 12 best compact smartphones currently available to buy in 2021. Happy shopping, fellow compact lovers.
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Founder of MobilityArena. Yomi’s journey in mobile started in 2001. Besides obsessing over mobile phones, he also started creating WAP sites (early mobile-friendly websites created with WML). He began writing about phones in 2004 and has been at it since then. He has owned over 200 devices, from Symbian, Palm, PocketPC/Windows Mobile, BlackBerry/BB10, webOS, Windows Phone, Firefox, Ubuntu Touch, to Android, iOS, and KaiOS operating systems.