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Opinion 4 min read 10 comments

Is there any hope left for small smartphones?

The market has adapted to users’ expectations (or perhaps it’s the other way around?). In recent years, however, the market has evolved so much that small smartphones are disappearing. Like dinosaurs in the past, they are about to die out, and this time because of their small size. Is there a glimmer of hope or are they doomed?

Are “compact” smartphones for everyone?

I can imagine that many people reading this article are thinking “who still wants a small screen in 2018”? I’m one of these people, for starters, but there are also many others like me all over message boards on the Internet. The problem is that as many of us as there are, we’re still very far from forming a majority, so manufacturers aren’t very interested. It’s a sad reality, but that’s the way it works. Brands prefer juicy markets and leave the rest to the side. Trying to do anything differently is like preaching in a desert.

Let’s get back to the heart of the matter: why would you want a small smartphone? “Small” is a relative term today since it’s now possible to obtain excellent screen-to-body ratios. So imagine a device size that’s between the iPhone SE and the Sony XZ2 Compact: that’s what I mean by a compact smartphone.

AndroidPIT iPhone SE 4291
This was not its main selling point, but the iPhone SE also attracted fans with its small size. / © AndroidPIT

Not so long ago, smartphones were far from being as gigantic as they are today. While there are some people who want to leave that era behind, others regret this evolution. Smaller smartphones fit more easily in your pocket (I find it very frustrating to put a phone in my pocket and see a tip sticking out!) and are more manageable, especially if you’re using your device with one hand.

Of course, these devices have a disadvantage: the screen is smaller, and multimedia enthusiasts won’t be satisfied. It’s far easier to consume multimedia content on YouTube and Netflix with a bigger phone. With that said, not everyone wants a smartphone to play or watch videos. Like many people, I prefer watching videos on a TV or computer.

If you enjoy the comfort of a small format and don’t play or watch videos on your smartphone, what’s the point of having a large screen? Some people might say it makes writing easier. Typing on a keyboard is only a matter of habit, and writing on a Galaxy Note 9 or an iPhone SE is a very different experience, but in both cases, it only takes a little practice to get used to it.

Will we see more on the market?

In short, we fans of small smartphones are sailing against the current. When the trend of larger smartphones began, Apple made a special edition (SE), and offered a device with the dimensions of the iPhone 5 at a much lower price than the iPhone 6 (especially if you consider the hardware used). But as we saw at the keynote recently, there will be no continuation this year and there will probably not be any further progression.

AndroidPIT sony xperia xz2 compact front iso u5d
The XZ2 Compact is the best compact smartphone. / © AndroidPIT

In the end, only Sony is still in the race with the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact. With a 5-inch screen, it is already bigger than the iPhone SE/5s/5 and that’s not a bad thing, especially if Sony goes with a bezel-less screen. It’s a small smartphone that is comfortable to use. But for those people out there who don’t like Sony and still want a recent smartphone? They’ll have to just change their position.

In short, don’t expect a wave of compact smartphones to arrive any time soon. These dinosaurs will probably go extinct soon, and with time Sony’s solution will only interest nerds like me. I have to admit, that people with my viewpoint are outnumbered. If any manufacturer is reading this, please make a small high-end smartphone, and don’t give it the same price as the iPhone XS Max!

Which smartphone is the right size for you?


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  • Paul 7 hours ago Link to comment

    Some people need to learn to distinguish a tablet from a phone. A phone is used to make calls. How uncomfortable it is to hold a giant slab against your face! I don't know about you (whoever is reading this), but when I have to take a call on someone's phablet, my face gets all sweaty and at the end of the call it's awkward to give the thing back with drops of sweat on it.

    Another factor I like about compact phones: using with one hand. Some people say it's totally impossible to use a 5" screen with one hand, well I'm not one of those people. My hands are not small. However, I have a different point here. Think about *how* you hold your phone and how often you need to readjust your grip to reach something. Seems like it's become natural for most people to just place their phone *on top* of their fingers, and slide it up and down all the time just to reach the top and bottom of the screen with their thumb. That's fatiguing and unsafe, the phone can fall off easily because you're not really holding it strong. I, on the other hand, like to hold my phone *in* my hand, not *on* my hand: all 4 fingers from index to little finger cling into the left side of the phone, while the thumb comes out through the right side and can still reach 100% of the screen. Without *ever* having to change my grip in any way. I do this with Sony Xperia X Compact, by the way.

    Also, a point about watching videos: if you want to watch a video or movie comfortably, is 5.5" really enough for you? And 6.5"? I can say for sure, neither is for me. I'd rather watch movies in a 40" TV or *at the evry least* my 15" laptop. So why the bigger screen? Whether it's 4" or 6", it's still too small to watch movies and only good for quick glimpse/preview of a video or just a short video where it doesn't matter if you see some smaller details.

    Typing: one of the major points for small phone haters. You know what, I can type with one hand, and if I want to, I can *actually* make use of swipe input, without having to awkwardly hold my phone in one hand and swipe with the other. Good luck doing that on a 6" phone.

    Reading: this is the part I do understand. People with weak vision do prefer larger screens. You can actually make text bigger or smaller as you wish on Android, it's just that if you increase the size too much, a small screen phone becomes unusable. However, I still don't understand why people with perfect vision whine about small screens.

    P.S. some people tell me "you'll get used to it", but I've had 2 phones with 5" screens, for a total of 3 years, and it was still a torture at the end. So I moved to Sony with their Compact product line and never regretted. At 300 euros it wasn't too expensive either.

  • Jay 1 month ago Link to comment

    Completely right. The market being in demand of compact and good configuration smartphones under 5.0 - 5.2". Dear smartphone manufacturers, please make small size high quality smartphones.

  • petre 1 month ago Link to comment

    I still go with samsung S4 mini, like the size and weight, and running quick now with Android Pie, LineageOS

  • storm 2 months ago Link to comment

    As you age, your eyes change. I use reading glasses now. But with a large screen phone I don't have to dig out my glasses to check notifications. I can see well enough for that. When it's time to dig in to content, then I break out the glasses, even with the big screen. So screen size isn't only for games and video.

  • I went from my last 3 Huawei phones that had larger bezels & 5.9" screens, to the Essential with a 5.71 and pretty much NO bezels. That extra .19" isn't missed, but the smaller size is nice.

  • Sorin 2 months ago Link to comment

    Small phones are "small" just like a screen, their performance being clearly superior. However, I do not see who would be interested in phones with a diagonal of 4 ", or even smaller ones. I have no idea if they are making such a thing, except perhaps the toy phones. much, and along with the rest of the components, it comes at a reasonable price for phones with a diagonal of 5 - 5.5 ". Newer phones with narrow edges have even reached diagonals of almost 6 "without these seemingly large and can be used with just one hand.

  • Other than the portability factor, I don't see any attraction for a "small" phone. Smartphones are rapidly becoming a "visual" tool for many users. So the bigger the screen, the better. Screen size should not be smaller than 5" and no bigger than 6.5".

  • Why don't give us a 5.5" with bezel-less ? It will be perfect dimensions without sacrificing screen size...

  • I've set a mental limit of about 5" for the out and about pocketable smartphone (current aging ZTE), though will consider slightly larger in 18x9 format for the next one. Actually, the big phones are too small for my use around the house: at home the little phone takes calls and messages on the shelf, while browsing, ereading and video are on an 8" Lenovo tablet that puts the new FLAGMAX SUPERZOOLAs to shame.

    Update: To the note below: you've got the same reason I bought a tablet for any extended reading, beyond messaging or email. Except waiting for appointments or a train now and then, I rarely read the phone at all.

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