When people think about the size of a phone they tend to think in screen sizes, but really it’s the overall dimensions that matter most.
That’s why to be considered for our list of the best compact phones a handset needs to be 145 x 70mm or smaller.
In practice that includes most phones with a screen of under five inches and at least one 5-incher, but it excludes handsets that don’t make the most of their space. There’s no room for big bezels here.
Any one of the phones below should comfortably fit in your pocket and be useable with one hand. They’re also all good phones in their own right.
The iPhone 7 is one of the best phones you can buy right now, but with its 4.7-inch screen and compact dimensions it’s the very best compact phone.
A stylish metal design with water resistance is paired with a high-quality display and a camera that excels in low light.
It’s tremendously powerful too, and comes with up to 256GB of storage, which is more than most users will probably ever need – though that does come at a high price.
It’s not a huge upgrade on the iPhone 6S, but it’s more powerful, has a better camera, and is leagues ahead of most other compact phones, which tend to be more mid-range at best.
Read the full iPhone 7 review
After something smaller and cheaper than the iPhone 7 but that still looks and feels high-end? Then you’ll likely want the iPhone SE.
This is a budget phone by Apple’s standards but it’s still not cheap, and nor should it be, given its metal build and iPhone 6S-matching specs, including a speedy Apple A9 chipset, 2GB of RAM and a decent 12MP camera.
Importantly, it’s also the most powerful 4-inch iPhone available, and is easier to find than the now-discontinued iPhone 5S.
The iPhone SE might not quite be the best compact phone you can buy, thanks to its big brother, but if you want something truly tiny it’s hard to beat.
Read the full iPhone SE review
It’s also water and dust resistant and has a battery which in our tests lasted through two days of moderate use – a figure which even most flagships can’t match, and which is all the more impressive given the phone’s small size.
You get a fairly average 720p display and a middling 13MP camera, so the A3 (2017) doesn’t come close to the Galaxy S7 in all ways, but it’s an accomplished and compact mid-ranger.
Read the full Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) review
There was a time when Sony was known for making small scale flagships, and while those days seem to have ended, the Sony Xperia X Compact isn’t too far from being one.
It has a classy design, with a plastic back that convincingly looks and feels ceramic, and at 129 x 65 x 9.5mm it comfortably fits in one hand.
You also shouldn’t have any trouble using the 4.6-inch 720 x 1280 screen with one hand, and while its mid-range Snapdragon 650 chipset is nothing to write home about, the addition of 3GB of RAM is.
With a long-lasting battery and a high-spec camera too, the Xperia X Compact is proof that good things can come in small packages.
Read the full Sony Xperia X Compact review
At 5 inches the Sony Xperia XA is the biggest phone to make it into our list of compacts, but at 143.6 x 66.8 x 7.9mm it’s smaller overall than the majority of 5-inch handsets.
It’s also a good phone, with a slim design and an eye-catching edge-to-edge 720p display, plus an accomplished 8MP selfie camera and a simple, minimalist interface.
It’s not overly expensive either, but performance and battery life could be better, which is why the Xperia XA only makes fifth place on our list.
Read the full Sony Xperia XA review
Other compact phones to consider…
Not sold on any of the above? If you can stretch to something slightly bigger you might want to consider the Wileyfox Swift 2, which combines a great metal design with a low price, but is let down slightly by its battery and the low light performance of the camera.
It's got a 5-inch screen, just like the Xperia XA, but comes in at a marginally larger 143.7 x 71.9 x 8.6mm.
The Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus is also a 5-inch phone and one with exactly the same dimensions and a similar (and similarly metal) look. The main difference is that with the plus you get 32GB of storage rather than 16GB, and 3GB of RAM rather than 2GB, and of course it comes at a higher price as a result.
And then there’s the Moto G5, yet another 5-incher but at 144.3 x 73 x 9.5mm a little too chunky to make our main list. Size aside it’s a top phone for the money, with a 1080p screen, a fingerprint scanner and a surprisingly premium, partially metal body.
All three of these phones are budget options, and all three come highly recommended if size isn’t your main concern.
- Size no object? Check out the best phones in the world