While most flagship phones are getting ever bigger there are plenty of people who'd prefer a small handset. Sadly as popular opinion at the moment seems to be that bigger is better the smaller handsets are usually a little underpowered, but that's not always the case as there are still some great ones.
These include the super-cheap Huawei Y3, the powerful iPhone SE and the stylish Samsung Galaxy A3 2016, as well as entries from LG, Sony and Alcatel. Here then are the best compact smartphones available as of January 2017.
Smartphones don’t get much more basic than the Alcatel Pixi 3, but then they don’t come much cheaper either, and for the price this is a strong option if you want something truly tiny and don’t want to spend much.
Its 3.5-inch screen makes the Alcatel Pixi 3 one of the smallest smartphones around, and don’t be fooled by the low price, this really is a smartphone. It runs Android, has a 2MP main camera, a dual-core processor and 4GB of storage.
And the last of those can be improved by up to 32GB by adding a microSD card, while Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth ensure you can stay connected (and connect your phone to other devices) no matter where you are.
The Alcatel Pixi 3 also has an FM radio, which is a novelty nowadays, but while that’s a feature from the past, some aspects of the phone are very much from the present, including the ability to flip it over to mute it.
At 4.5 inches the LG K3 is a fairly compact phone, though not tiny, so you can still enjoy YouTube videos and snapshots on it.
It’s an accomplished handset too by budget standards, with a bright screen that comes in at a reasonably crisp 218 pixels per inch.
These aren’t high-end specs, but for the price there’s a premium selection, including both front and rear cameras, for all your photography needs, and you can launch the cameras fast from any screen, simply by pressing the volume key.
The K3 also runs Android Marshmallow, which is almost the latest version of Google’s OS, and has a quad-core processor paired with 1GB of RAM, for snappy performance.
The LG K3 supports 4G too – which not all budget phones do, and NFC – which many don’t, all wrapped up in a comfortable to hold and easily pocketable shell.
The Huawei Y3 combines a very compact form factor with a very low price. At 4.0 inches it has one of the smallest smartphone screens around, making it a breeze to use with one hand.
And while it may be basic the Huawei Y3 excels in some areas. For example, it has a long-lasting 1730 mAh battery, which while small can keep the phone going for well over a day. That’s impressive when handsets twice its price struggle to do that.
The Huawei Y3 also has a good camera for the money. The rear snapper is just 5MP, but it has a dual-LED flash, which helps it take strong shots even in poor lighting, while round the front there’s a 2MP camera with a beauty mode to help you look your best.
Ultimately the Huawei Y3 is a basic smartphone and won’t be suited to power users, but as a spare or for anyone who doesn’t rely heavily on their handset it’s a good choice.
At under £100 SIM free the LG Leon is a budget handset, but it takes some of the best features from flagships like the LG G5. There are its rear keys for example, which are arguably more intuitively positioned than the side-mounted buttons found on most handsets.
The LG Leon also features Knock Code, which allows you to unlock the handset with a series of taps while the screen is off.
Add to that a comfortable curved design and a faux-metal finish and it’s a good looking and feeling phone for the price.
The 4.5-inch screen is only 854 x 480, so there are sharper compact handsets around and the quality of photos shot on its 5MP camera will be adequate at best, but these are small compromises to make for such an affordable smartphone.
Along with Apple, Sony is the one manufacturer that is still regularly making small yet high-end phones and the Xperia X Compact is the latest and greatest of these.
While this is a largely plastic phone, it has a ceramic feel that really helps it stand out, and with a 4.6-inch 720 x 1280 display its screen is both compact and sharp.
There’s a hefty amount of power here too, with a hexa-core Snapdragon 650 processor and 3GB of RAM keeping things running smoothly, and with 32GB of storage plus a microSD card slot there’s plenty of space for all your media.
Sony’s flagship 23MP camera has made its way to this smaller phone as well, while the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner adds to the high-end appeal and the 2,700mAh battery will outlast most handsets, all of which makes the Xperia X Compact a great alternative to the Galaxy A3 or an iPhone.
The iPhone 5S is getting on a bit now, and has been topped by the iPhone SE (featured elsewhere in this list), but it’s still a strong, stylish phone and worthy of inclusion.
The 4.0-inch 640 x 1136 screen is both compact and sharp, coming in at 326 pixels per inch, which is the same pixel density as the iPhone 7.
The design differs to that phone, but is almost as premium, with a metal shell that’s just 7.6mm thick. That’s the same design as the iPhone SE, but the 5S is cheaper.
The iPhone 5S also has a fingerprint scanner and runs iOS 10, which is the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system.
The A7 processor and 8MP camera aren’t quite a match for the company’s latest phones, but they still deliver fast performance and sharp shots, making for a phone that’s still surprisingly premium, but far cheaper than most Apple handsets.
Samsung has followed up the Galaxy A3 with the Samsung Galaxy A3 2016, a phone which is just as beautiful as its predecessor, with a slim 7.3mm thick build, complete with a glass back and a metal frame.
We've cheated a little here, as while the Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 is fairly compact, its screen extends to 4.7 inches - a size which is the norm in iPhone land and is why you won't find the iPhone 7 here, but small screens are rarer on Android phones, so the A3 just squeezes in. That screen is a Super AMOLED display, which delivers rich, vibrant colours, and the battery life is strong too, with a 2300 mAh juice pack giving it up to two days of life.
Ultimately the Samsung Galaxy A3 is a mid-range phone, but it looks like a flagship and that in turn makes it one of the most stylish compact smartphones around.
Performance could be stronger, but its great battery life and colourful screen make it a good option for media fans.
The iPhone SE is the first 4.0-inch iPhone in years and with specs to rival the iPhone 6S it was worth the wait.
Technically the iPhone SE isn’t a flagship phone, but it’s very close to one, with the same Apple A9 processor and 2GB of RAM as the iPhone 6S. That gives it blazing fast performance. It's a step behind the iPhone 7, but then most things are. It also has a sharp, high quality screen, at a resolution of 640 x 1136 for a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch.
Then there’s its design, which is almost identical to the iPhone 5S, complete with an aluminium shell in a two-tone colour scheme. It’s one of the most premium and stylish compact smartphones on the market.
The iPhone SE has a great camera too. There’s a 12MP snapper on the back, with a dual-LED True Tone flash and support for Live Photos and 4K video.
Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner is present and correct, along with Apple Pay support and the iPhone SE runs iOS 9.3, which is the latest and greatest version of iOS. All in all, it’s a stunningly good phone and a lot cheaper than its larger siblings.
As you can see, there’s a wide range of compact smartphones available, sporting different prices, strengths and operating systems.
The Alcatel Pixi 3 is the worst to find a place in our list, but it’s also very cheap, as are the LG K3 and Huawei Y3. Next up there’s the affordable LG Leon, then for Android flagship fans the Xperia X Compact. Apple’s first entry sneaks into third place with the iPhone 5S, then there’s a similarly stylish Android phone in the form of the Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 and in first place the brilliant iPhone SE.
Any of these phones would serve you well if you’re after a small screen though, it all just depends on how much you want to spend.
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