Phones are getting bigger, but that doesn’t mean they’re better. The first iPhone had a 3.5in screen, now the iPhone 11 Pro Max has a 6.5in display. Not everyone wants those extra inches.
When the 4.7in iPhone 6 was released, many were outraged at the increase. Now such a screen size is considered comically small.
Why get a small phone?
Simply put, phones are too large nowadays. Bezels on phones have shrunk significantly in the last few years, but that doesn't mean people are suddenly willing to wield a 6.78in monster, like the OnePlus 8 Pro, around in their pockets.
People with smaller hands are going to find a permanently two-handed phone an inconvenience, not just when in-hand but when it's constantly poking out the top of a jeans pockets. Handsets of a smaller size can be used one handed, fit in a pocket or bag far easier, and can do everything a bigger phone can do in a more compact package.
As with so many things, bigger isn’t always better with regards to smartphones, and this list best represents the top picks for worthwhile small phones on the market in 2020.
Best small phone 2020
1. Apple iPhone 11 Pro
We're not fully on board with the 'Pro' naming but there's no doubt this is the best iPhone to date for various reasons.
We like the matte finish which provides more grip than standard glass and helps negate fingerprint, too. The OLED screen is stunning, especially with Dark Mode in iOS 13, the cameras are excellent, performance is slick and battery life is better than ever so there's a lot to like.
Still, it's a lot more expensive than the regular iPhone 11 which has the things that most people want and doesn't really break any new ground. It's not even 5G capable.
Read our full Apple iPhone 11 Pro review
2. Samsung Galaxy S20
The Galaxy S20 is the best phone in Samsung’s S20 series, and simply the best phone the company makes right now. It’s compact, powerful, and packs a versatile camera system that may not match the top-tier S20 Ultra on zoom or detail, but it meets - and sometimes beats - it across the rest of the board, which means it's more than a match for just about any other phone out there too.
The wider 5G ecosystem isn’t quite there yet, but will be within the lifetime of this phone, making it almost worth the upgrade. And while battery life remains a slight concern, that’s really the only major fault here. The Android ecosystem offers more for less elsewhere, but usually without Samsung’s level of prestige or polish, and in this case we think that’s worth paying for.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 review
3. Apple iPhone SE (2020)
The iPhone SE is a phone devoted to function over form, prioritising raw performance and camera capabilities over design or aesthetics (though battery life gets caught in the crossfire), all in the name of hitting its £419/$399 starting price.
That makes it a very un-Apple iPhone, but that’s unlikely to help it win over Android users, who can still get a lot more for less by resisting the Apple allure - with the exception of the impressive inclusion of the top-tier A13 processor at a mid-range price, along with luxuries like wireless charging and waterproofing.
It’s hard to entirely forgive the choice to save money on a budget 720p LCD display and dated design, and you’ll be committed to carrying a battery pack with you every day. Still, if you want a reliable camera, fast performance, and guaranteed iOS updates for years to come without breaking the bank then this is the iPhone for you.
Read our full Apple iPhone SE (2020) review
4. Google Pixel 3
The Pixel 3 has great performance, the best camera on a smartphone and a premium design.
Google has paid special attention to the display, which is much better than the previous two generations of Pixels (though doesn't feature the 90Hz refresh rate of the Pixel 4), and Android software is best with this hardware. The all-glass back allows for wireless charging, and Google bundles USB-C headphones in the box.
The Pixel 3 XL is exactly the same experience save for the larger notched display and larger battery.
The Pixel 4 is now here, but thanks to a price drop, the Pixel 3 still makes an excellent case for itself if the new telephoto camera, upgraded internals and new gesture controls of its successor don't appeal - especially since the more recent phone disappoints in battery life.
Read our full Google Pixel 3 review
5. Google Pixel 3a
The Pixel 3a might not be the all-singing, all-dancing mid-range option and, in some ways, there are better phones at the same price.
However, you probably have different reasons for wanting this phone. The Pixel 3a will appeal to those wanting a cheaper option to get Google's design and pure Android across areas such as the camera and the OS at a whole.
Then there's the promise of updates for years to come which is something not many rivals can deliver.
Read our full Google Pixel 3a review