In just a few short years, big phones have gone from being an outlier to the norm in the smartphone industry. Just about every major device released these days has a larger physical size, and while that’s great for watching movies and playing games, it can be a challenge for those who prefer phones to be small and compact. Thankfully, there are still plenty of options out there, including the Google Pixel 6 as our top overall pick. So if you’re looking eagerly at that iPhone SE 2022 but don’t want to switch over to iOS, these are the best small Android phones you can buy.
Best overall: Google Pixel 6
Regardless of size, the Pixel 6 is just one of the best Android phones you can buy right now. Admittedly, it may not have the brightest display next to the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S22, but it’s still of tremendous value. As you’d expect from any Pixel, the Pixel 6 snaps incredible photos, taking Google Tensor’s computational photography prowess into its own performance.
Whether you’re shooting in broad daylight or trying to take a picture of the night sky, the Pixel 6 delivers the goods. Magic Eraser and Night Sight modes within the camera are phenomenal at what they do. Overall, images are crisp, full of color, and consistently look great relative to how affordable it is. You get these amazing results every time you press the shutter button, and that reliability isn’t something always found on much more expensive devices.
Outside of its camera, the Pixel 6 doesn’t skimp out in any other regard. The 6.4-inch display really bends the rule on what a “small phone” is, but it’s wieldy enough for you to pull it off. It’s big enough for enjoyable content consumption while still being manageable in one hand, and thanks to a 90Hz OLED panel with a Full HD+ resolution, everything you do on it looks excellent. You can also look forward to a snappy performance from the custom Google silicone, all-day battery life, and ample storage (128GB or 256GB).
Unfortunately, it lacks expandable storage and a headphone jack, and as we mentioned, isn’t the smallest phone on this list. However, the overall package is too good and the price-performance-spec ratio ticks all the right boxes.
Best flagship: Samsung Galaxy S22
The baby Samsung Galaxy S22 is the perfect small phone in terms of size alone, touting an adorable 6.1-inch Dynamix AMOLED 2X display. In addition to the petite dimensions, it’s also a seriously great package that you won’t want to overlook.
The Galaxy S22’s small screen and overall slim build make it extremely comfortable to use in the real world. With tight bezels, a flat display, and a lightweight design thanks to the matte glass back, the Galaxy S22 is one of the most user-friendly flagships we’re bound to see in 2022. The display is also top-notch, with a fluid 120Hz refresh rate for buttery smooth animations, and impressive brightness under the sun.
Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset is at the heart of the S22, and as you’d expect, this allows for some of the best performance currently available in a smartphone (in addition to sub-6 and mmWave 5G support). There’s also 8GB of RAM and your choice of 128 or 256GB of internal storage. The triple-camera system is reliable and versatile. Between the 50MP primary camera, 12MP ultra-wide camera, and 10MP telephoto camera, you’ll be able to take some nice shots with the S22.
The biggest downside to the S22 is, unfortunately, battery life. It’s far from unusable, but if you’re rocking the 120Hz refresh rate and have an active 5G connection, don’t expect to make it through one whole day of use.
Best foldable: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3
Foldable smartphones have gone from being a pipe dream to a reality, taking on a few different shapes and sizes. The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5G was Samsung’s first attempt, while Motorola tried its throwback with a reimagined RAZR (2020). By virtue of simply folding in half, the device is small and compact. Samsung also finally figured out how to put in a usable display on the outside with the Galaxy Z Flip 3.
That 1.9-inch AMOLED Cover Display makes it handy to use the rear camera to take selfies, among other things. While that makes certain features easier to access, like selfies, notifications, and audio recording, it’s not big enough to handle more intricate tasks.
Once you flip the phone open, you’re looking at a 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED screen (2640×1080) that features a taller 21.9:9 aspect ratio, making it slightly narrower and more ergonomically friendly. However, it also stands out because of the type of material used to make it. Samsung used better glass this time, which doesn’t feel like plastic like the previous Z Flip did.
Powering the phone is a combination of the Snapdragon 888 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB or 256GB of internal storage. Those specs make it a capable device, and the combination of Android with Samsung’s One UI proves to work well on top of that. Unfortunately, not all apps take advantage of the Flip’s ability to prop up halfway, though you can utilize it with the camera app for selfies or video calls. YouTube also works pretty well, but the pickings remain slim beyond that.
The Galaxy Z Flip is also unique in that it uses two batteries that combine to form the 3,300mAh capacity. Of course, that doesn’t make it the most efficient battery out there, but it should hold up well in most situations. Plus, you can charge it wirelessly, so that compact size comes with extra perks.
Best alternative option: Sony Xperia 5 III
This phone borrows heavily from the Sony Xperia 1 II, making cuts in size inside and out. The smaller frame still gives you a 6.1-inch FHD+ OLED with a 120Hz refresh rate and 240Hz touch sampling rate, so visually, there’s something neat to look at. You won’t be getting 4K resolution on this panel, but that’s fine if you don’t mind a step or two lower at 2520×1080.
The Xperia 5 III is also easier to wield, not just because of its smaller stature, but also a wise decision to go with rounded corners. Strangely, Sony opted to go with an enlarged lock button to double as the fingerprint sensor when just doing an onscreen one would have probably made more sense. You are likely to hit it accidentally or have trouble locking/unlocking your phone.
In any case, there are some decent performance specs, courtesy of the Snapdragon 888 5G chipset, along with 8GB of RAM and 128GB/256GB storage (there’s also a micro SD slot if you want more space). That makes it more than capable of handling pretty much any task, even if the look of the phone may feel a bit aged. Streaming media is easy, and if you want to do some gaming, that’s easy enough, too. There’s even a headphone jack in case that’s useful.
A good IP68 rating gives the phone some decent water resistance, which may compel you to take a few risks when shooting with its capable camera. The triple camera array in the rear can take good shots, with more true-to-life color that might please your eye if you take photography more seriously. However, the front-facing sensor is a modest 8MP and not quite as good as other comparable phones.
The 4,500mAh battery holds up well because of its larger size relative to the phone’s slimmer frame, and that’s more than enough to last a full day, every day.
Best compact choice: Asus Zenfone 8
Last but not least, we have the Asus Zenfone 8. Asus doesn’t often make headlines in this part of the world with its phones, but the Zenfone line has had a few wins in its short history, and this version is a pretty good choice if you’re looking for the right combination of size and functionality. There are a few different variants as far as memory and storage capacity go, but the rest of the phone runs on the same specs.
Once upon a time, a 5.9-inch display would’ve been big, but nowadays, it feels compact. And that’s why the Zenfone 8 is one of the smallest flagship phones of today. It runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 processor, including an impressive 120Hz display with a 240Hz touch response rate. Add the varying RAM and storage options, and you get a lot for something that isn’t as sizeable as other handsets are.
It also sticks to the basics, like a headphone jack, while pushing boundaries on durability with an IP68 rating. The phone’s front has Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus to add some extra ruggedness to the device. Beyond its solid hardware and software performance. However, once you update your Zenfone 8 to Android 12, there’s only one major platform update left down the line.
The cameras can take great shots, though you don’t get a telephoto lens to zoom in optically. An amply-sized 4,000mAh battery is also more than enough to keep the phone going for a full day with little to get in the way. Unfortunately, no wireless charging means you’ll need to plug in for extra juice, but it supports 30W wired charging via USB-PD. In 2022, there’s a lot more on offer for similar or lesser prices, but the Zenfone 8’s size is undoubtedly one of the tiniest.
Best for tight budget: Moto G Fast
Budget phones don’t come with reputations, though they should come with measured expectations because they’re clearly dialed back to bring the price down. The Moto G Fast very much falls in that boat, but when your needs aren’t all that extensive and you want something easier to hold, it does check both those boxes pretty easily. It’s basically a repackaged Moto G Power (2020) without the same specs and price tag.
To be clear, a big reason why this device made this list is because of its size. The 6.4-inch display is hardly small, but feels that way, thanks to the overall design. You have to accept the lower 720p resolution, which may not be a big deal if you don’t care to do all that much with the phone. If your eyes don’t really discern much of a difference, or you simply don’t care, then this might be the phone for you.
The modesty extends to a lightweight Snapdragon 665 processor powering the device, which is the same chipset found in both the Moto G Power and G Stylus from 2020. The Moto G Fast is limited to 3GB of RAM, so multitasking will reach its limits if you’re actively using several apps at once. The fingerprint sensor is fairly responsive and accurate, and Android runs smoothly when you’re not pushing things too far on the hardware side. The phone comes with Android 10 but you can only upgrade that until Android 11, with no more platform updates past that point.
Camera output is going to be as good as it gets for something in this price range. Decent shots in good conditions and not so good when the lights dim. That’s the same for the battery, which lasts a long time, thanks to its 4,000mAh size and the lighter specs. So you should breeze through a full day with plenty left to spare.
Best for Apple users: iPhone SE 2022
The iPhone SE 2022 carries on from its predecessor, as Apple continues to support one of the smallest phones it makes. However, unlike the lower-cost iPhone SE (2020), this year’s Special Edition is a combination of a more diminutive size with the performance capabilities of the company’s other premium handsets. The obvious focus is on the minuscule 4.7-inch LCD (1334×750) panel. It’s easily one of the smallest phones you can wield today, even if it is dwarfed by those gigantic bezels on the top and bottom.
It’s always nice when hardware and software can run this well on a device this size. The A15 Bionic chip is a steady performer, and with iOS 15 running smoothly, it’s as intuitive as you’d expect an iPhone to be. Apple’s tendency to also support its phones with years of updates (assuming they won’t throttle it in any way) will also keep the iPhone SE 2022 relevant for some time.
Trimming things down also means a smaller battery. However, the 2,018mAh cell keeps the device up for a decent amount of time. Unfortunately, there’s still no USB-C, so you will have to charge via Lightning or Qi wireless charging. The single 12MP main camera takes decent shots, leveraging the processing powers of the A15 Bionic and software improvements. You do miss out on Face ID, but there’s the throwback home button with Touch ID built-in for biometric security.
Not everything’s about size
The market for small Android phones isn’t as expansive as it used to be, but there are still plenty of choices out there if you know where to look. Among everything currently available, we think the Google Pixel 6 is the best one you can get.
Google found a way to perfect the small phone formula with the Pixel 5a, which was attractive and well-built. The Pixel 6 gets bigger and badder in every aspect, with a flashy new design that dresses to impress. It may not be what everyone considers “small” but it has amazing specs across the board, comes in at a price that’s more than reasonable, and can still be considered small by modern phone standards. Using the Pixel 6 is pretty darn great no matter what you’re doing, often punching above what you’d expect from a phone this cheap.
What’s special about the Pixel 6 is that it goes above and beyond regarding camera and software. These are two areas that the Pixel does better than anyone else, and with the Pixel 6, you get those benefits while staying within your budget.