In humanity's quest to improve everything, phones have gotten bigger over the years. So much so that it sometimes feels like you need to have the hands of an NBA player to use one comfortably. And since most of the best Android phones are designed to maximize the amount of screen real estate, we find ourselves in a world full of phablets (a term coined to describe just how big phones have gotten) that refuse to let us enjoy our smartphones in one hand. But there is hope.
Luckily for small phone enthusiasts, a few devices haven't fallen victim to the “go big or go home” mentality and have kept their form factors much more compact, all while retaining good enough specs to make them worthy enough to be your daily driver. The best small phones may not be everyone's cup of tea, but here are some suggestions for people who love being able to use a device with only one hand.
Small phones that you can use with one hand
Asus Zenfone 9
Truly compact Android phone
When it comes to outstanding small phones, the Asus Zenfone 9 is a great choice for people who really want to use a phone in one hand. This compact 5.9-inch screen is quite a bit smaller than most phones, but it doesn’t suffer in quality at all thanks to its Super AMOLED display that’s capable of reaching a 120Hz refresh rate. Plus, it’s powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and has 8GB of RAM to make sure you can accomplish everything you need.
- One-handed use is easy
- Plenty of power for good value
- Headphone jack
- No wireless charging
- Software update policy lags behind the competition
It's not just the size of the Asus Zenfone 9 that impressed us when we reviewed it, but also how ZenUI (Asus' Android skin) has a ton of awesome shortcuts and gestures built right into the phone, making the one-handed operation of the Zenfone 9 feel great.
Gestures in the ZenTouch suite offer some simple tried and true methods of navigating your phone, such as the “double tap to wake and lock” feature we've seen on other phones in the past. But the “edge” tool that brings up a panel of apps and tools you can access picture-in-picture while in any other app — and the customizable “tap on the back” shortcut — make the compact design of the phone more than just a novelty; it's part of its identity.
Although the double-camera array on the back of the Asus Zenfone 9 isn't the best implementation we've seen on a smartphone, it's acceptable for posting pictures to social media accounts. The 50MP main sensor is good at capturing most shots, especially in full-resolution mode, making it a decent point-and-shoot camera.
Low-light situations can trip up the main sensor at the 12MP wide-angle featured on the Zenfone 9, and sometimes there are some odd computational decisions in the software that tends to over-sharpen the images. However, it can capture 4K video. And thanks to the six-axis image stabilization in the main sensor, that video will be much smoother when filming with your hands.
Some small phones have a reputation for always needing to be close to a power source, but that hasn't been our experience with the Zenfone 9. We made it a full two days on a single charge when we weren't pushing the phone to its limits, as the Zenfone 9 has great standby performance. And due to some ingenious work by Asus to keep the phone cooler when pushing that Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 to its limit, it won't drain the battery too fast, even while gaming. Even with lots of use, you should be fine getting through your day before needing to charge up.
Samsung finally made its small phone worth it
While Samsung’s smallest flagship has been around for a long time, the Samsung Galaxy S23 finally made the battery-life adjustments necessary to make it a small phone worth buying. With an excellently bright 6.1-inch screen, plenty of power from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, and the consistent stability of One UI 5, it’s hard not to love the Galaxy S23.
- Improved battery life over previous generations
- Tons of horsepower
- Flat-edged design that's easy to grip
- Slow charging speeds
- Low-light camera performance could be better
The flat screen on the Samsung Galaxy S23 is 6.1 inches and an entire rectangle. However, once you round off the corners, it becomes 5.9 inches, which makes the top corners of the screen easier to reach when using the phone one-handed, with minimal need to slide your palm upwards. Of course, the size of your hands will dictate how compact this phone feels to you, but for the average person, it should be small enough to fit comfortably in your palm.
The screen is dang impressive, too, something we've come to expect from Samsung. It's a Super AMOLED panel that can reach a 120Hz refresh rate, which is excellent for watching YouTube, scrolling through your social media feeds, or playing your favorite games.
Samsung has also included a fantastic set of cameras on the S23, which have remained unchanged from the Galaxy S22 that came before it. The 50MP main sensor puts in a lot of work and can make virtually any shot come out right (except for dark photos with movement, an area where many smartphone cameras tend to struggle). It makes up for that by having good secondary cameras. The 3X telephoto lens may not be as impressive as the one found on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, but it's nice to zoom in a little on your subject without having picture quality suffer.
We were pleasantly surprised with the battery performance when reviewing the Galaxy S23, especially since the Galaxy S22 was so disappointing. Not only did Samsung up the ante by including a larger battery (3,900mAh in the S23), but the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is a much more efficient chip than the Gen 1, which helps ensure your Galaxy S23 will last you throughout the day. In our testing, we found that on most days the battery could make it to the end of the day with some life left to spare. But if you do a lot of gaming for extended periods, you'll likely drain the battery more quickly. Still, this is a big improvement over its predecessor and a big reason we finally believe Samsung has made its smallest S23 worth picking up.
Google Pixel 6a
The best price on a compact Android phone
In the Android market, it’s nearly impossible to beat out Google’s Pixel A-series devices in terms of value, and that’s why the Pixel 6a makes such a great small phone. Its 6.1-inch screen is small enough to make it pretty easy to use one-handed but large enough not to feel like you’re missing out on important screen real estate. Combined with Google’s stellar Tensor chip, outstanding camera performance, and fantastic price, it’s a budget small phone worth picking up.
- Stellar camera performance
- Excellent Pixel software
- Great price
- Fingerprint sensor could be better
- No wireless charging
The good news is that not only expensive phones make this list. For instance, the Google Pixel 6a is a prime example of the kind of value a budget Android phone can give you if you don't mind a slightly older design and fewer premium features. Its 6.1-inch screen is small enough to be accessible by one hand, but it only has a 60Hz refresh rate, making its display less smooth than some of the more expensive phones. Still, it is an OLED panel.
The software has always been the hallmark of the Google Pixel lineup, considering that the company often gets the newest versions of Android out to its users first. And while that can occasionally mean that some new features are somewhat clunky right out of the gate, overall, we love the Google Pixel software experience. A big part of that is because of Google's focus on ambient computing; Google Assistant's deep integrations and platform benefits on Pixels are profoundly helpful. Features like automatic call screening, Direct My Call, Wait times, and even the Magic Eraser make your life so much easier and less stressful, and it's all included in the Pixel 6a's great price.
The phone's biggest issue is its annoying interruptions in signal strength, an unfortunate growing pain with Google's Tensor chips. It's not unbearable by any means, but the minor annoyance of having to restart the phone when leaving a Wi-Fi network because it could not connect to a cell network did happen to us a few times. Software updates have improved this issue, but you might still run into this problem.
Suppose you can handle a few drawbacks of having a plastic body and a slightly less impressive screen. In that case, the stellar camera performance, all-day battery life, and incredible Google software make Google's smallest phone feel like its more expensive Pixel siblings.
Apple iPhone 13 Mini
The small Apple
The smallest phone you can get nowadays actually comes from the “fruit” company. That’s right, Apple’s iPhone 13 Mini is a powerful but extremely compact smartphone that runs on Apple’s A15 Bionic chip. Of course, it’s an Apple phone, so it has plenty of Apple-centric features, which, if you’re not invested in the ecosystem, may not appeal to you; however, there’s no denying that for small phone enthusiasts, it’s worth its weight.
- Super easy to use one-handed
- Powerful and fast
- Excellent display
- Battery life is lacking a bit
- Works better if you're invested in the Apple ecosystem
If you a want small phone above anything, the iPhone 13 Mini is the smallest phone you can find with a ton of value to the user. It's powered by Apple's A15 Bionic, which is plenty powerful to get all your tasks done, play games, or even do some video editing for your TikTok if you're so inclined. Plus, the 5.4-inch screen is super easy to use with one hand but also gorgeous. Apple's super fancy-sounding Super Retina XDR display has an OLED panel that shows colors beautifully and has those deep blacks you'd expect. It is stuck at a 60Hz refresh rate, which is undoubtedly a bit of a drawback, but with the screen being so small, it's super sharp.
Of course, being an iPhone, the iPhone 13 Mini has many features that are made much better if you're invested in the Apple ecosystem; however, it also has some annoyances. For one, it's still stuck using Apple's propriety Lightning port for charging, though it does have MagSafe for Qi-enabled wireless charging or other accessories. Also, with the form factor being so small, the battery powering the iPhone 13 Mini is quite small. Compared to other phones on the list, its battery will likely last you the least amount of time, especially if you're using it heavily.
That said, it is the smallest phone out there right now, and while diehard Android users may want to avoid making the switch, the iPhone 13 Mini is a great and powerful phone with a ton of software support going forward as well.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4
Small and big at the same time
While phones may never be as small as the height of the flip phone era ever again, being about to put the 6.7-inch 1080p screen of the Galaxy Z Flip 4 into the smallest pockets is a miracle for some of us. Sure, Samsung’s clamshell foldable has a few drawbacks that make the expensive price point a little unsettling; however, there’s nothing quite like it on the market.
- Unique foldable design
- Allows big screen in a small form factor
- Improved hinge design
- Cameras could be better
- Battery life isn't too great
While the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 isn't a small phone in the traditional sense, its foldable design makes it easy to carry around and fully embraces what the promise of foldable phones always was from the get-go. Unfolded, the Z Flip 4 features a big 6.7-inch display, but folded up, it's only about 3.3 inches, making it easy to slip into a pocket, bag, or purse.
Once again, the software touches that make use of the unique form factor of the Z Flip 4 are truly a treat, even if they are a little more fun than they are practical in some situations, like being able to prop the phone up in an “L” position (known as Flex mode) to use the front-facing camera hands-free, or even scrolling through apps with a little digital trackpad. Neat features like these make the Z Flip 4 a fun and innovative device.
Although the device is powerful and has full 5G support — making it a fantastic 5G phone — it does lag behind its more traditional slab-style Galaxy brothers regarding camera performance and battery life. Still, if you love having a big phone that can become a small phone when you need to carry it around, there's no better foldable to pick up.
Apple iPhone SE (2022)
Apple's iPhone SE is small – and a little boring
Apple’s budget phone has always been somewhat of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you’ll get a decently powerful phone with a super manageable 4.7-inch screen that can do all the Apple-centric things you want. But you also have to deal with a super outdated design and an LCD panel that is woefully unimpressive in today’s market.
- Good price
- Decent battery life
- Small and slim
- Super outdated design
- Display is not good enough in today's market
Even though a 4.7-inch screen may seem comically small to some (What is this? A phone for ants!?), its big forehead and chin design makes it bigger than Apple's iPhone 13 Mini. Still, it's small enough to fit in one hand while typing, swiping, or scrolling.
You won't have to worry about power with the iPhone SE since it comes equipped with the same A15 Bionic chip that powers the current iPhone 14, meaning this small phone is packing a punch. And, while the iPhone 13 Mini lacked battery life, the iPhone SE has pretty good battery life. You will easily make it through an entire day with average use, and even if you push its limits a bit, charging at bedtime isn't such a big deal.
As mentioned in our iPhone SE (2022) review, there are the same Apple annoyances here that you'll find on all its products if you switch from Android, like iOS being less customizable and the Lightning port being the only connector on the entire device. However, we also love the camera performance and the reliable fingerprint sensor housed in the Home button, and we were pretty impressed with the build quality. The iPhone SE is the cheapest way to get an Apple phone, which might make it appealing to Android users looking to switch or for those small phone enthusiasts who want a good deal.
Sony Xperia 5 IV
An alternative to the usual suspects
Sony’s smartphones have always been the sort of weird uncle of the Android market, but the Xperia 5 IV is the closest we’ve seen the company get to being a true alternative to the other big names. Its odd shape (narrow but tall) makes it feel like a compact phone when you hold it, but it can still require a bit of work to reach all the corners.
- Narrow width makes it easy to hold
- Great battery life
- Excellent creator-focused features and apps
- Cameras require manual shooting for best results
The Sony Xperia 5 IV has a 6.1-inch OLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate that looks great, but with a 21:9 aspect ratio, it's also very tall and narrow. Yes, the narrowness improves the feel of the device in your hand, allowing you to grip it easily and even type with one hand when you want or need to; however, because of the height of the display, you likely won't be able to reach the corners without two hands or sliding your palm up and down the side of the device. Still, in terms of one-handed usability, the Sony Xperia 5 IV is much better than some other phones.
The battery life on the Xperia 5 IV is quite remarkable. We easily got about two days of life out of the device when we reviewed it, which included plenty of music or podcast streaming, browsing Twitter and other social media apps, tracking a run through Google Fit, and messaging.
Sony said this phone is marketed toward creators, making it a little less accessible in practice. We did notice that the triple-camera array performs much better using manual shooting mode. And if you're not used to choosing your shutter speed, aperture, and other essential image metrics, you might be stuck with a point-and-shoot experience that isn't as good as it could be. Plus, Sony's support software and upgrade schedule pales in comparison to other manufacturers like Samsung.
A small phone that doesn't suck
The Asus Zenfone 9 bucks the trend that every other smartphone manufacturer has been jumping on for years by offering a small phone that is perfectly pocketable and doesn't skimp on performance. It includes the powerful and capable Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1, so you never have to worry about being unable to run the games you want. Its use of Android is also pretty great, with a ton of gesture controls that make zooming through the UI on the Zenfone 9 a breeze.
You might think a small phone like this would have battery issues, but the Asus Zenfone 9 has a surprisingly excellent battery life, despite the 4,300mAh battery. In addition, the 5.9-inch OLED display is gorgeous, offering vibrant colors and deep blacks as you'd expect, and provides up to 120Hz refresh rate to make sure everything looks sharp and smooth.
Asus Zenfone 9
Truly compact Android phone
When it comes to outstanding small phones, the Asus Zenfone 9 is easily a great choice for people who really want to use a phone in one hand. This compact 5.9-inch screen is quite a bit smaller than most phones, but it doesn’t suffer in quality thanks to its Super AMOLED display that is capable of reaching a 120Hz refresh rate. Plus, it’s powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and has 8GB of RAM to accomplish everything you need to do.