Google Pixel 4aSource: Ara Wagoner / Android Central

Best Small Phone Android Central 2021

In just a few short years, big phones have gone from being an outlier to the norm in the smartphone industry. Just about every major device that's released these days has a larger physical size, and while that's great for watching movies and playing games, it can be a challenge for those of us that prefer our phones to be small and compact. Thankfully, there are still plenty of options out there — including the Google Pixel 4a as our top overall pick. If you're looking eagerly at that iPhone 12 mini but don't want to switch over to iOS, these are the best small Android phones you can buy.

Best Overall: Google Pixel 4a

Google Pixel 4aSource: Andrew Martonik / Android Central

Regardless of size, the Pixel 4a is just one of the best Android phones you can buy right now. It isn't the most technically impressive handset on the market, but the value on offer is tremendous.

As you'd expect from any Pixel, the Pixel 4a takes incredible photos. Whether you're shooting in broad daylight or trying to take a picture of the night sky using the Astrophotography Mode, the Pixel 4a delivers the goods. Images are crisp, full of color, and consistently look nothing short of amazing. You get these great results basically every time you press the shutter button, and that reliability isn't something always found on much more expensive devices.

Outside of its camera, the Pixel 4a doesn't skimp out in any other regard. The 5.8-inch display strikes a near-perfect balance of being big enough for enjoyable content consumption while still being manageable in one hand, and thanks to an OLED panel with a Full HD+ resolution, everything you do on it looks really good. You can also look forward to snappy performance from the Snapdragon 730 processor, all-day battery life, and ample storage (128GB, to be exact).

Pros:

  • Takes gorgeous photos
  • Good performance
  • Has a headphone jack
  • Clean and up-to-date software
  • Works with all U.S. carriers

Cons:

  • No expandable storage
  • Boring design

Best Overall

Google Pixel 4a

Small phone champ

With an excellent balance of specs, features, and price, the Pixel 4a stands out as the best small phone you can buy.

Best Premium: Google Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central

There's no denying the value of the Pixel 4a, but if you're yearning for something a bit more premium, the Pixel 5 is an exceptional upgrade. It has everything that makes the Pixel 4a great, along with a few key improvements that make the experience even better.

Starting first with the display, the Pixel 5 keeps the Full HD+ OLED setup and adds a 90Hz refresh rate to the mix. Pair that with the faster Snapdragon 765G processor, and the Pixel 5 sees a nice speed boost. The screen is slightly larger at 6 inches, but when you factor in the Pixel 5's smaller bezels all around, it ends up having a similar footprint to the Pixel 4a.

Also included on the Pixel 5 is a 16MP ultra-wide camera, in addition to the same 12.2MP primary sensor from the 4a. It isn't the very best ultra-wide camera we've ever used, but it still allows for expanded shooting possibilities that you just can't get on a phone without an ultra-wide option. Throw in smaller perks like IP68 dust/water resistance and wireless charging, and the Pixel 5 gives you a lot for its asking price.

Pros:

  • 90Hz OLED screen
  • Faster Snapdragon 765G processor
  • Dual rear cameras
  • IP68 dust/water resistance
  • Wireless charging

Cons:

  • Only one storage option
  • More expensive

Best Premium

Google Pixel 5

Treat yourself to something nice

With a 90Hz screen, ultra-wide camera, and faster processor, the Pixel 5 is the small flagship you're looking for.

Best Features: Samsung Galaxy S10e

Galaxy S10eSource: Android Central

The Galaxy S10e has since been replaced by the new Galaxy S20 family, but as far as compact flagship phones go, it's still one of the best you can get. You're treated to a 5.8-inch AMOLED screen with that trusty Full HD+ resolution, and while it's only 60Hz and not 90Hz like the Pixel 4, it's still easy on the eyes. Thanks to smaller bezels, it's also a little easier to manage in one hand.

You'll find a plethora of features crammed into the Galaxy S10e, with just a few of the highlights being dual rear cameras, expandable storage, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and Samsung Pay (which allows for both NFC and MST payments). There's also Samsung's custom One UI software, which is one of the most feature-rich Android interfaces on the planet.

Battery life on the Galaxy S10e may not last as long as you'd like if you're doing a lot on the phone, but it should get most people through a full day of regular use. And, thanks to wired and wireless charging options, refueling the S10e is a piece of cake.

Pros:

  • Premium glass/metal design
  • AMOLED display looks excellent
  • Cameras are good
  • Headphone jack and expandable storage
  • Wireless charging

Cons:

  • So-so battery

Best Features

Samsung Galaxy S10e

Tiny phone, lots of features

The Galaxy S10e offers a heap of features in a compact body in a way that only Samsung could do. It really is something special.

Best Design: Nokia 7.1

Nokia 7.1Source: Joe Maring / Android Central

The Nokia 7.1 is no longer the newest Android phone in Nokia's lineup, but it does have one of the smaller screens that the company offers. It comes in at 5.84 inches, and even with the large chin and notch at the top, it's still very easy to manage and use as a compact device. An LCD panel is used for the display, along with a crisp 2280x1080 resolution. What's especially cool about the Nokia 7.1 is that it supports native HDR and can convert SDR content into HDR for a more vibrant and colorful image no matter what you're looking at.

Outside of the tiny and powerful display, there are plenty of other reasons to get excited about the Nokia 7.1. Its battery life is very good for such a tiny phone, you get an NFC chip for Google Pay support, and the metal/glass design is almost too good for as little as the phone costs.

Nokia also takes a major win in the software department, offering a clean user interface that's backed by guaranteed updates and monthly security patches.

Pros:

  • Sharp and colorful display
  • Converts non-HDR content
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Has NFC for Google Pay
  • Android One software

Cons:

  • Performance can be a bit choppy
  • Only works with T-Mobile and AT&T
  • Newer phones in Nokia's lineup

Best Design

Nokia 7.1

Get more for your money

Getting a lot for your money is critical for a lot of shoppers, and if that sounds like you, the Nokia 7.1 is the phone to buy.

Best Affordable: Nokia 5.1 Plus

Nokia 5.1 PlusSource: Nokia

Speaking of Nokia, it has another small Android phone in the form of the Nokia 5.1 Plus. This is one of the cheapest phones on our list, making it a great choice for when your budget is especially tight. Its display is a little bigger than the Nokia 7.1 at 5.86 inches, but this is still a very easy-to-use form factor.

Despite costing so little, you still get a pretty well-rounded smartphone with the Nokia 5.1 Plus. There's expandable storage, a headphone jack, dual rear cameras, and a fingerprint sensor (something you don't always see at this price). The design also looks quite good, even with the large notch.

The Nokia 5.1 Plus isn't the fastest phone we've ever encountered, but for most apps and day-to-day tasks, it should be fine for doing everything you need it to.

Pros:

  • Fast enough for day-to-day apps
  • Expandable storage + headphone jack
  • Rear fingerprint sensor
  • Backed by guaranteed updates

Cons:

  • Doesn't have NFC
  • Weak performance
  • Older phone

Best Affordable

Nokia 5.1 Plus

Super small and super cheap

You make some sacrifices for a phone this cheap, but even so, the Nokia 5.1 Plus still delivers a great user experience.

Best Dirt Cheap: Nokia 1.3

Nokia 1.3Source: HMD Global

Last but not least, we have the Nokia 1.3. This isn't a phone that'll knock your socks off, but if all you need is a functioning Android handset that does the basics for as little money as possible, it's a solid option.

So, what exactly do you get for what the Nokia 1.3 costs? There's a Qualcomm Snapdragon 215 processor, 16GB of expandable storage, an 8MP rear camera, and a 3,000 mAh battery. The 5.71-inch screen is wonderfully small, with a 1520x720 resolution offering a good picture for the price.

There are a few features you don't get when spending this little, namely USB-C charging and a fingerprint sensor, but you have to remember just how cheap the Nokia 1.3 actually is. To put things in perspective, you could buy seven Nokia 1.3s or one Pixel 5. They're very different phones in just about every regard, but if your primary concern is having a compact device to run your apps and keep you connected, the Nokia 1.3 does that while keeping as much cash as possible in your wallet.

Pros:

  • Minimal bezels around the display
  • Good battery size
  • Storage is expandable
  • There's a headphone jack
  • Textured back

Cons:

  • Doesn't have a fingerprint sensor
  • Weak performance
  • Micro-USB charging

Best Dirt Cheap

Nokia 1.3

Spend as little as possible

If money is especially tight, the Nokia 1.3 is a great little phone. It's cheap, tiny, and has all the specs you need.

Bottom line

The market for small Android phones isn't as expansive as it once used to be, but if you know where to look, there are still plenty of choices out there. Among everything currently available, we think the Google Pixel 4a is the best one you can get.

Google just about perfected the small phone formula with the Pixel 4a. It's an attractive and well-built phone, has capable specs across the board, and comes in at a price that's more than reasonable. Using the Pixel 4a is pretty darn great no matter what you're doing, often punching above what you'd expect from a phone this cheap.

What's special about the Pixel 4a is that it goes above and beyond in some regards — namely the camera and software. These are two areas that the Pixel does better than anyone else, and with the Pixel 4a, you get those benefits while staying within your budget.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Joe Maring is Android Central's Senior Editor and has had a love for anything with a screen and CPU since he can remember. He's been talking/writing about Android in one form or another since 2012 and often does so while camping out at the nearest coffee shop. Have a tip? Reach out on Twitter @JoeMaring1 or send an email to joe.maring@futurenet.com!

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