In recent years smartphones have grown to a size where we may have issues when we want to handle them with one hand. The good thing is, to the delight of our eyes, the screens of our smartphones have grown bigger. But this growth has perverse effects: our mobiles have become massive, they protrude from our pockets and sometimes even try to escape.
Worse, they are now uncomfortable to handle with just one hand. You have to grab an old smartphone to be reminded of that fact: the thumb spins much faster across the screen.
Lovers of compact smartphones will be delighted to learn that there are now desirable models of relatively modest size at almost all prices. This represents an advance compared to the choice available in the past year or two.
How do we recognize best compact smartphones?
They have a contained width, which is less disturbing for the thumb and frees its movements. Also, their moderate height allows the thumb to touch the top of the screen more easily, without making the mobile travel much in the palm.
Compared to the sumo format of current smartphones, about six by 3 inches, we can manage to nibble a third of an inch in length and half that in width. A small gain compared to the pre-2017 smartphones, which were much more compact, but in hand, these gains make a real difference. Comfort is improved, menus are quicker to navigate, and there is less risk of the phone falling.
There are about sixty good compact mobiles on the market. After dissecting the tests from several online media, we have isolated the promising models. Here are the top five choices.
Versatility and autonomy: Xiaomi Redmi 7A – $105
Redmi 7A is an excellent choice for a person who intends to use their mobile in moderation. It is a rather versatile smartphone; its photos are quite pleasant; the battery offers reasonable tranquility with two or three days of autonomy and a set of rare qualities.
The Redmi 7A’s screen is undoubtedly a bit dull. Its menus lack a bit of responsiveness; they might get a little slow in two or three years. But it’s a concession that you can’t escape at this price point.
Superb screen and wide-angle sensor: Samsung A40 – $250
This smartphone combines two new advantages at this price: a superb Oled screen with striking contrast and a second ultra-wide-angle photosensor, useful for taking images of spectacular landscapes.
When the sun goes down, its images are far from being worth those of a $1,000 smartphone, but they remain correct.
Its defect is its heart, a processor with average speed, which could start to toil in two or three years and to slow down the smartphone a little. If you are concerned about your ecological impact, this is a significant flaw.
Fast and gifted in photos: Google Pixel 3a – $390
At this price level, some smartphones have everything to please, but that have nothing compact, like the Xiaomi Mi 9. It is more difficult to find an excellent small smartphone. The Google Pixel 3a is nearly ideal, even if it suffers from several faults.
Its heart is fast enough to offer four years of fluidity before its menus slow down, provided you take great care of it because its plastic shell seems quite fragile.
Its camera is of excellent quality, but it lacks optical zoom and a wide-angle, however common at this price level. The marvelous Huawei P30 ($600) is equipped with it, and its aluminum periphery seems robust. But given Huawei’s misadventures with Google, it is unknown if it will continue to receive Android updates, which is a real problem.
Elegance and comfort: Samsung S10 – $740
This smartphone is impressive. When you grasp it, you are surprised by its comfort; you have the impression of holding a slightly wider device than it is. This is no coincidence: its curved edges significantly refine its waist, making it easier to move your thumb on the screen.
The S10 offers an excellent compromise between comfort in the hand and visual pleasure, and its screen is enormous for such a compact mobile. And since its photos are outstanding, since it is waterproof, and since it can be charged wirelessly, it is the best current smartphone for many users.
To stay true to Apple, iPhone 11 Pro – $1250
The iPhone 8 remains significantly more compact than recent smartphones, and its price is reasonable ($700), but it dates from 2017. Its software will not be forever updated, and its menus may slow down in two years. We can prefer a newer iPhone, but which one? The entry-level model released in September, the iPhone 11 billed at $1000, is quite massive.
On the other hand, the 11 Pro is an excellent smartphone, but its price is excessive. If you find the XS, its predecessor, for less than $1,000, it’s probably a better choice. Its dimensions are slightly thinner and its equipment almost as efficient.