The 5 Best Small Android Phones of 2021

Fit these phones in the palm of your hands

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The Rundown
Our product expert found the Google Pixel 4a to be a very capable compact phone with limited compromises, especially at the price.
Best Features:
Google Pixel 5 at Amazon
The Pixel 5 remains at a just-small-enough 6 inches, and packs the best specs of the Pixel range.
Best No-Expenses-Barred:
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5G at Amazon
It folds down in a clamshell-style, like the old cellphones of yesteryear, but has a complete screen.
Smallest Flagship:
Asus Zenfone 8 at Amazon
The Zenfone 8 is arguably the best-performing Android, ever, for the size.
The tiny 3.3-inch device is swallowed up by a single hand.

The list of the best small Android phones currently on the market is short: Most new phones, even on the cheaper end, are becoming larger and larger by default. Those devices pushing beyond 6.5 inches can make them heavy, difficult to hold, and even harder to use with one hand. Small phones remain attractive to many because they are much more manageable. And smaller devices can still provide all the features of their larger counterparts, with capable performance, cameras, and even solid battery life. If you want to go super tiny, there are options for you too. 

Our top pick in this range is the Google Pixel 4a, which packs all of Google’s smarts and essential components into the small form factor you’re searching for, including a camera the entire Pixel range commands—and all at a reasonable price.

Best Overall: Google Pixel 4a

The Pixel 4a is our pick for best value Android.
What We Like
  • Great camera

  • Pure Android experience

  • Great price

  • Headphone jack

What We Don't Like
  • Missing water resistance and wireless charging

  • Not for power users

Google’s Pixel 4a is one of the best small Android phones you can buy today. It’s the smartphone I used for months as my daily driver after buying it in early 2021, before I switched to its more expensive cousin, the Pixel 4a 5G, just so I could access 5G networks. I found it to be a very capable compact phone with limited compromises, especially at the price, and I enjoyed its lightness and ease of use, even in one hand.

All-important is the size, a 5.81-inch Full HD+ OLED display. It comes with key upgrades over the previous Pixel 3a, with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G chipset powering it along and a handy 6GB of RAM. Android 11 runs on the device, with access to Android 12 within months. It’ll get software updates for three years, too, making it better supported than other phones at similar price points.

Even at a comparatively affordable price, this Pixel series device has the same main camera: a 12.2MP dual-pixel sensor for photography. The star is Google’s post-processing via Google’s AI and the Pixel Visual Core. In particular, the astrophotography mode is a seriously fun thing you can try. The 8MP selfie shooter is fine, but it’s the main camera on the back that’s the star.

In keeping costs down, there are few extras features. You’ll need to keep it out of the pool as there’s no IP rating, and it doesn’t have wireless charging. The other big miss is a lack of an ultra-wide camera sensor, which offers versatility when available in other devices. The battery is only a 3,140mAh cell, which means average battery life is not great, but not bad. 

The good news is that the trusty rear fingerprint sensor is there, as is the headphone jack, which is handy for your wired headphone options. It’s all about price per dollar here for a small phone with a lot to offer. This has been a Google winner for months and months, and it remains that way.

Screen Size: 5.81 inches | Resolution: 2340 x 1080 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G | Camera: 12.2MP rear and 8MP front | Battery: 3,140 mAh

"Between the earpiece and the bottom-firing speaker, it pumps out stellar, clear sound whether you’re playing music, watching videos, or using speakerphone." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Google Pixel 4a

Andrew Hayward / Lifewire

Best Features: Google Pixel 5

The Google Pixel 5 is our pick for best Android phone
What We Like
  • Quality main camera

  • Sharp OLED display

  • Wireless charging

  • IP rating

What We Don't Like
  • No 3.5mm headphone jack

  • Camera options weaker at price

Google produced a winner with the Google Pixel 5, although it's just a little more expensive than ideal. The Pixel 5 remains at a just-small-enough 6 inches, and packs the best specs of the Pixel range, with Full HD+ OLED display at 90Hz—a feature you’ll notice every time you use it. You’ll get good battery life too, thanks to a healthy 4,080mAh cell.

The Pixel 5 has a Snapdragon 765G chipset to provide solid performance for typical application processing and enough graphics power for most of your games. Furthermore, Google uses the same award-winning 12.2MP camera sensor, along with an ultrawide-angle lens as well. That said, the camera setup is great for a value phone, but at a higher price point, finds itself troubled by competitors. It doesn’t have the flexibility of a telephoto lens setup for zooming, for example, so you might find yourself caught short at times.

However, with the Pixel 5 running you a few more dollars, Google did include extras: waterproofing with an IP rating, wireless charging, and it runs Android 11 and will be the first to get Android 12. It is missing a headphone jack, though!

Screen Size: 6 inches | Resolution: 2340 x 1080 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G | Camera: 12.2MP/16MP rear and 8MP front | Battery: 4,080mAh

"The 6-inch screen of the Pixel 5 is a smidge smaller than the 6.2-inch panel of the Pixel 4a 5G, but maintains the same 2340x1080 resolution and is a hair crisper." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4a 5G

 Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

Best No-Expenses-Barred: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5G

What We Like
  • Clamshell design means it's tiny

  • Folding display is a real innovation

  • Solid specs

What We Don't Like
  • It'll cost you

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5G is an unusual small phone. It folds down in a clamshell-style, like the old cellphones of yesteryear, but has a complete screen. You’ll find it’s smaller than a dollar bill when folded down at 3.4 inches, but opens up into a nice-sized 6.6-inch screen. It doesn’t just fold, but snaps shut, so you can snap the phone shut to end calls. What a delight. It has Samsung build quality, and Ultra-Thin Glass protects the folding display, too. 

It also runs almost-flagships specs, with the Snapdragon 865 Plus on board, and with a dual-camera snapping at 12MP with optical image stabilization, plus a wide-angle 12MP shooter as well. Reviewers found the camera performs well, though it’s a step short of the big Samsung flagships like the Galaxy S21 series. There’s a hole-punch selfie for snaps, too.

It used to be way too expensive at a $1,200 price tag, but we’ve spotted deals since its launch for as low $800. It’s still a lot of money, but you do get an innovative, fun, unusual small phone, with good specs too.

Screen Size: 6.7 inches (unfolded) / 1.1-inch front | Resolution: 2636 x 1080 / 300 x 112 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus | Camera: 12.2MP/12MP rear and 10MP front | Battery: 3,300mAh

Smallest Flagship: Asus Zenfone 8

What We Like
  • Superb specs and 5G

  • Great 120Hz display

  • Welcome pricing

What We Like
  • Average camera

Asus surprised the tech world when it produced the Zenfone 8, making the 5.9-inch AMOLED Full HD+ device its flagship for 2021. At just 148 millimeters tall and 69 millimeters wide, with nice, thin bezels, it’s small but has plenty of screen real estate.

It’s also arguably the best-performing Android, ever, for the size. That’s because it packs the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 to power the 120Hz display, and has a base of 6GB of RAM, with optional upgrades all the way up to 16GB. It will perform long into the future with even the most taxing games and apps, and boasts 5G wireless.

Asus claims it packed as much battery as possible into the package, so the phone doesn’t have wireless charging in the compact design. That said, the battery is just enough to get you through a full day, so it’s a compromise on the size.

The camera array on the back is a dual 64MP main, plus a 12MP ultra-wide camera, and offers a 12MP selfie camera is on the front. These cameras are solid for most shots you’ll take without being remarkable, and missing true optical zoom. That’s one of the small sacrifices you’ll make for grabbing this small phone, but the price point is very approachable for the flagship model you get here. It’s available starting at $630.

Screen Size: 5.9 inches | Resolution: 2400 x 1080 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 | Camera: 64MP/64MP/12MP rear and 12MP front | Battery: 4,000mAh

Smallest Size: Verizon Palm Phone

Palm Phone
What We Like
  • Incredibly small

  • Clean design

What We Don't Like
  • Bad battery life

  • Stifled Android experience

If you're looking for the smallest Android phone, the Palm Phone gets it done. The tiny 3.3-inch device is swallowed up by a single hand. The 720p resolution and compactness, however, isn’t really meant for gaming or consuming media for hours.

The Palm Phone is built for purpose and it does away with some features. It’s suitable for children or those who may be confined to using a single hand. That said, with a very modest 800mAh battery, the HD display means you'll have to keep a charger close by. 

It’s powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 425 chipset with 3GB of RAM, which leaves you wanting more often than not. And although it runs Android, expect limitations on anything approaching demanding use. In terms of cameras, it offers a 12MP (rear) and 8MP (front), and video is worse.

The Palm Phone was originally a Verizon exclusive, but there’s now an unlocked model compatible with all major wireless providers in the United States except for Sprint. The price for this 2018 release is down to under $270, and it is tiny!

Screen Size: 3.3 inches | Resolution: 1280 x 720 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 | Camera: 12MP rear and 8MP front | Battery: 800mAh

Final Verdict

Our overall pick is the Google Pixel 4a (view at Amazon), which is cheaper than ever but retains all the smartphone features people need and want, plus the best Android experience, period. The next step up would be the Google Pixel 5 (view at Amazon). For a lot more money, you get all kinds of useful features, including a nicer display, waterproofing, wireless charging, 5G, and a handy ultra-wide camera, though you lose the headphone jack for some reason. The Pixel 4a beats it by screaming value: It’s smooth, small enough, and the camera at this price is unbeatable.

About Our Trusted Experts

Tristan Rayner is an electrical engineer and an award-winning writer and editor reporting on technology, finance, and sports throughout the past decade. He has an absolute passion for helping people with personal finance, wealth, and buying the best-value products possible.

Andrew Hayward specializes in smartphones, wearables, smart home tech, and video games. His work has been published by TechRadar, Macworld, and others.

FAQs

What should you know about smaller phones before buying?

There are legitimately good reasons that the smartphone industry has gravitated toward bigger screens. People use their phones all the time, and with that much usage has come brighter, bigger, sharper screens. It’s nice to have a large display to read, see, and click more. Some people with vision difficulties could potentially have a harder time using a small screen, so this is a factor to consider. Also note that the variety of smaller phones is more limited now because of that shift toward bigger screens.

Do smaller phones have less battery life?

Good question; yes. Simply put, bigger phones have more room for bigger batteries. However, there are some footnotes to note. Because smaller phones have smaller displays, that can mean less drain on the smaller battery. It’s not an exact science, and it depends on the type of display, resolution, and brightness settings, but it’s not a bad rule of thumb.

Are smaller phones bad for any other reason?

No. It’s true that smartphone makers tend to make their best device the biggest. Large $1,000+ smartphones tend to be flashy and overflowing with features, while the vanilla versions (ones that are not Pro/Plus/Ultra/Max) are cheaper and usually miss one or two extras—maybe a third camera lens, or wireless charging. But that’s all very clear on the price tag. As long as you know what you’re getting, you may well get more bang for your buck from a smaller phone.

Google Pixel 4a

Andrew Hayward / Lifewire

What to Look For in the Best Small Phones

Performance

Small phones can be given low-power specs as makers push them more toward budget options, so they’re as cheap as possible. It’s important not to get a small phone and then have it be useful only for the most basic operations. The good news is there are good options.

Fast Charging

Smaller Android phones might have smaller batteries, but faster charging speeds can make up for this. Just a few minutes can add valuable charge depending on the fast charging speeds. Anything at 18W or faster is a great little help in daily life.

Pixel 5 sude

 Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

Screen Size

Remember that screen sizes are different from the physical size of a phone. While the display is in place, it might be bordered with bezels, foreheads, and chins. That can mean that a phone said to be 4.7 inches in the past now measures the same as a 5.7-inch phone, just because the screen size has expanded with much thinner bezels and chins. Take the concept of the fingerprint sensor in a dedicated spot at the bottom of older phones moving to the back, or underneath the display, or replaced with facial unlocking. So, check out the size of the device, and the size of the screen.

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