Hey Google, if Apple and Samsung can keep small phones alive, why can't you?

Pixel 4a Alex Dogs Wallpaper
Pixel 4a Alex Dogs Wallpaper (Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

We're firmly in the midst of another busy techtember, that time of year when the biggest names in the game — including Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon — unveil their fancy new devices that will lead the industry forward over the next many months. Of course, one of the events that I'm most looking forward to is the upcoming Google Pixel 6 launch, as it promises to be one of, if not the most significant Pixel event ever.

Make no mistake. I'll be first among those lining up (virtually, anyway) to get my hands on one of these new phones (I adore that lemon/lime green one!), but I'm a little put off by their sizes. The "regular" Pixel 6 has a 6.4-inch display, while the Pixel 6 pro has a massive 6.71-inch display. These are sure to be fantastic for consuming content and productivity purposes, but they're also likely to be hard on the hands and plenty in the pockets for many people.

The Pixel 4a has been one of my favorite phones to use over the past year, and a lot of that comes down to its form factor. With its 5.81-inch display, this phone has been the perfect size for me. It's large enough to read and type on productively, but it's small enough not to cause hand fatigue. It also easily fits in my pockets. So of course I was heartbroken when the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5a came out in much larger sizes. But Google, it doesn't have to be this way. We can still have really great small Android phones!

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Cover Display Pocket

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Samsung and Apple are two of the biggest names in tech, and both companies have seen and addressed a demand for smaller phones over the past few years.

For Samsung, this has come in the form of its fast-developing foldable business. While the Galaxy Z Fold 3 gets most of the headlines (and deservedly so), it's the Galaxy Z Flip 3 that will likely outshine that larger device in terms of sales and widespread adoption.

Part of this is because the Z Flip 3 is basically half the price of the Z Fold 3, but it's also likely that the familiar and portable clamshell design is something consumers like and understand better. It looks and feels like those favorite phones from years gone by, and best of all, it fits in most hands, pockets, purses, etc. Indeed, it's likely that "small" phones will be foldable phones in the future.

Both Samsung and Apple have heard the demand for smaller phones, though they've addressed it in very different ways.

At least to date, Apple has chosen to address this market with physically smaller devices. However, ever since it started making "large" phones back with the iPhone 6, a vocal minority of customers wanted it to bring back the small iPhone. The company's first attempt to address this took the form of the iPhone SE in 2016, following the launch of the 6S, and then it followed that formula with another small (albeit larger) iPhone SE in 2020.

Last year, Apple introduced the iPhone 12 mini, which, while it undoubtedly outsold many Android handsets, was a bit of a disappointment compared to the other iPhone 12 models. In fact, many prognosticators predicted that there wouldn't even be an iPhone 13 mini. However, it turned out that those analysts and leakers were wrong, and we actually did see another small iPhone.

So if these behemoths think it's worth addressing a vocal minority wanting smaller smartphones, shouldn't Google at least consider bringing back that Pixel 3a or 4a form factor?

Pixel 4a Iphone 12 Mini Lifestyle

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

We all know the troubles that Google has had getting any traction with Pixel sales, but it does appear that the company is redoubling efforts to succeed with the new high-end Pixel 6 models and its own Tensor SoC. I'd like to see a not-so-distant future where we see it succeeding with this strategy, and continuing to evolve the a-series lineup.

What I'm dreaming of is a Pixel 6a and Pixel 6a XL series in 2022, similar to what we got back with the Pixel 3a and 3a XL. The differences would probably come down to screen size, battery capacity, and camera offerings, but I think those are tradeoffs that value-conscious Pixel owners could accept.

Might we see a Pixel 6a "mini" or Pixel Flip in the future?

There have been many rumors about the Pixel Fold, but those seem to point to a larger device like the Galaxy Z Fold 3. If that device were to come to life and succeed, I know I'd be all for a future Pixel Flip-style phone as well.

What about you? Do you think Google should bring back a smaller Pixel in the future? Why or why not?

Jeramy Johnson
Editor-in-chief

Jeramy is proud to help *Keep Austin Weird* and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he's defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.

40 Comments
  • I have a 3aXL and it's pretty much a perfect size for me. However I wouldn't object to something a bit bigger. Small doesn't work for me anymore.
  • This. This. This. This. This!
  • What. What. What. What. What!
  • The Pixel 6 is the same size as the OnePlus 8T, too big. It would have been nice if it was around the size of a 4A.
  • I like smaller phones too. I'm currently using a Pixel 4 with a 5.7-inch screen. I wouldn't mind something a little larger though. We had dinner with some neighbors last night who were sporting monstrous iPhones. I don't know the model, but I do I know I don't want to lug something that large around. There was a time I considered getting the iPhone SE because of its small size. It was when my Microsoft Lumia 950XL was being abandoned by Microsoft. But that is when I went with Pixel 2 and haven't looked back since.
  • ABSOLUTELY!!! I'd love to see something between the Palm & iPhone 13 mini. Otherwise, I have a 10" Fire tablet and a NUC.
  • I'm currently using the Pixel 4a5g. It's about the perfect size for me. My hands are about average size. I can see if someone has smaller hands how a small phone would be acceptable, but I'm not interested in going backwards at this point.
  • I also have the 4a 5G and this is the perfect size for me!! I've got an 8" tablet and a Surface GO2 if I need something larger and portable. I can't believe how pleasantly surprised I've been with this phone! Best phone for me since my 950 XL!
  • 100% agree. I went from the 2XL to the Pixel 5 last year and I'm loving the smaller size. It's practically the same size screen without the bezels, so win-win! I won't be going back to a larger phone.
  • All of the THIS! I'm still rockin' my Pixel 3 & really don't want a phone bigger than this. I am all for small forms for phones. I would love a clamshell Pixel Fold.
  • I bought a pixel 4a specifically for this reason thats is somewhat usable with just one hand. So far I'm loving it. The screen colors aren't as great as iphone 12 mini but the battery life is awesome. I hate larger phones. They don't fit in pocket, and are a pain to use with one hand.
  • It was great when Pixels were available in the smaller and XL sizes. I prefer the XL but I know many like the smaller variant.
    The main thing I miss is facial recognition unlock. Holding onto my 4 XL until Google makes another phone with that feature. Also no notch or hole punch on the screen is great.
  • Samsung and apple push through do many units they can afford to make 2 different sizes of the same phone
  • This is why I jumped on the unlocked Pixel 5. It is similar in size to my old Pixel 2. I don't want to walk around with a mini tablet in my pocket.
  • I love the size of my galaxy s20.
  • I'd like to see phones go back to the 16x9 screen format rather than the Cinemascope ratio they seem to use now.
  • Pass. If those tiny phones sold they would be make alot of them. The tiny hands crowd is a small subsect of phone users.
  • Has nothing to do with tiny hands. People with average sized hands want them too. It was simply a war each year of who had the bigger screen size#, just marketing bs. But also having a larger screen size means a phone can stay alive a bit longer due to a bigger battery. Another # the companies go at each other with.
  • Almost zero demand for small phones. No manufacturer is going to make a premium small phone.
  • Maybe Asus Zenfone 8
  • Indeed, my Zenfone 8 is a cracking device.
    Updates are not that fast but when they have arrived improvements are visible. Nice clean OS and great performance, it's the best compact flagship IMHO.
  • I haven't bought a new Pixel since #2 because of the screen size. Pixel 1 was perfect for me. Pixel 2 was the very very edge of what I was willing to do. Plenty of stretching my thumb to reach the top, one handed. Unfortunately years later, battery was going down. Tried to replace and ended up breaking my screen. Using a Motorola G Power for the meantime due to super cheap and longest battery life you could get. It absolutely sucks using this mini tablet of a phone. And of course another new Pixel generation coming out, once again too large. Though #6 is the same size as my G Power, so I may get it. I just need higher end specs again.
  • This is why i liked my Huawei p10 lite so much, it was nice and small, while the Oppo i have now is a good phone, it is large and a pain to carry sometimes. i don't want a phone that folds, and certainly not at Samsung prices, not that I would buy a Samsung. i just want a smaller phone, the same size as my old P10 lite.
  • A lot of people are pointing out that small phones don't sell well relative to their larger counterparts. Yes, this is true. Google phones in particular have never sold well either so a small subset of people wanting a "pure Google" phone must be absolutely miniscule. However, this is one of the richest companies in the world, they can afford to lose a little money making a few thousand unprofitable phones for the tiny handful of buyers in that target market. Now, I know that some people may jump in to point out that people who want a stock phone would buy it anyway regardless of size, but I already have said that Google should take the L on a smaller model so don't waste your time hitting that reply button.
  • Companies aren't in the business of losing money.
  • P4A and P5 are roughly the same size as a regular iPhone, so I don't know why people consider them small and keep comparing them to the iPhone mini. Totally different categories. Pixel 5 is absolutely perfect. 6" screen with just enough bezel to prevent palm presses, and uniform all the way around which Android phones usually can't pull off for some reason. It is light, thin, has a good battery that lasts all day, and is fast for most tasks. One handed use is no problem. Google- make a P7 in the form factor of a P5 and I'll be first in line to upgrade.
  • This 👍. Uniform bezel, perfect size and weight. Love Pixel 5.
  • Totally agree with this sentiment. I went back to the Pixel 5 because it was way more comfortable in the hand than the phone I was using prior (a 12 Pro), comfort due to both its size and weight. I love the form factor and materials of the 5.
  • Not a big fan of these huge phones personally. Some are and that's fine of course but even my current phone Galaxy S21 has 3 different sizes available. Don't these companies realize how stupid something that large looks sticking out of a guys back pocket? Not only that, it's easier to steal too as it's easily accessible. Also the tall phones are getting ridiculous. Why so tall and narrow as well? Why not make them just a tad wider which you would be able to read more? Was really hoping to go back to the Pixel line as I'm not a huge fan of the S21 but I don't want a huge phone so I may go the Samsung route again as much as I'd hate to. Why can't these companies do something on their own and give people more choices instead of "It works for apple or so and so and it should work for us as well? That's not always the answer.
  • I have never understood why people put stuff in their back pockets, at least for guys (female pants have mostly gotten so short that there is no side pocket).
  • My S10e is a great small phone, I'll never purchase one of those giant slab phones, way too uncomfortable in my pocket.
  • What makes companies think people prefer large phones? I want something portable and if I need more I grab a tablet or laptop. I doubt most users really research phones before purchasing, and buy what they see advertised on television or something affordable from their service provider. People with places to go and things to do want phones that easily fit in a pocket and use them more as a tool than a toy. Bigger, for this reason is not really better. I still have my beloved Pixel 3a XL and planned to move on to the 5a 5G, but am reconsidering given its size.
  • You speak about not wanting a larger phone but the Pixel 5a is actually smaller than the 3a XL even with the larger screen. Unless you can comfortably use the 6" screen one-handed, I don't see the big deal in having a larger screen in a smaller chassis.
  • Here we go again with another article about bringing back small phone. If Apple struggled with their iPhone mini, what chance would an Android phone have? The market has already settled this debate, small phones don’t sell. The small phones proponents are just a vocal minority.
  • I recently ended up using my first gen Pixel for a week while I waited for a new phone to replace one that had borked the power switch. While the battery life is absolutely atrocious (even new it was sub-optimal) it made me realize how much I miss actually small phone screens. I get that they aren't for everyone, and since I would rather have a substantial battery and put up with a larger phone than a terrible battery in a small phone, I will continue to purchase 6" screens... but if a phone with a 4" screen and a three day battery came out, I would pay more for that than any phone I have owned in years. I might even break down and buy something from Samsung. On that note, there is some irony in wishing for a small phone and then praising a folding "flip" phone... The screen is still just as large though, and instead of a corner pushing out of your pocket you get a chonky bulge. That's not much of a win, though I will say I at least find it worth consideration. Unfortunately that folding mechanism cuts even more into battery space so it's even more of what I hate, without much of what I sort of like. All that said, I am inclined to agree that flagships aren't the right space for small phones. Good budget phones, like the pixel a series and the moto G series are a great place to meet the admittedly smaller market for smaller phones. The conclusion that small phones should not exist at all, however, or should only exist for those phones for which "budget" has gone to the extreme and ended up as "steaming pile of rubbish" ignores a reasonably large group of buyers... maybe not enough for Apple, but certainly enough to get some traction in Android's already very fragmented/diverse market. I certainly don't expect Samsung to make this their next flagship, or even for Google to ditch the "XL/Max" idea. I don't even expect to see Motorola ship this as a flagship. But certainly there is enough market for a 4" phone with an all-day+ battery to keep it a part of the ecosystem of the many, MANY available Android phones.
  • My S10e is "small" by today's standards and packs a punch, and after 3 years I still get all day battery life with battery to spare.
  • I waited patiently all year to upgrade my 4A to the 5A, but when I saw the screen size I passed on it. I'd love a Pixel the size of the iPhone Mini but it's looking like that will never happen.
  • The biggest problem is that the Pixel 6 comes in compromised large and fully featured huge sizes.
    It's literally no choice at all because the "smaller" one is demonstrably worse and (probably) won't be much cheaper.
  • A Pixel phone with the screen size of iphone mini might remain a dream, at the least gotta settle down with Asus Zenphone 8.
  • No they need one the reported size of the Pixel 6