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Can we get back to reasonably sized phones, please?

Galaxy S20 Ultra And S20 Plus Grey
Galaxy S20 Ultra And S20 Plus Grey (Image credit: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is an eye-catching device with a lot of allure for your average enthusiast. Unfolded, it's got a nice big screen, a powerful processor and decent battery life, and folded up, it's palm-sized and quite fetching with its mirror finish.

To me, a simple gal with snug jeans, the Galaxy Z Flip is another hollow hope in the unending search for a reasonably sized smartphone. Yes, folded up, the Flip will fit in the front pockets on most of my pants — most, but not all — but it's still a phone with a lot of compromises that customers shouldn't have to make in their search for a reasonably-sized smartphone.

The original Moto X

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

When I first came to the Android world in 2012 with the Samsung Captivate Glide, the phone easily fit in my front pocket, even with its thicker profile due to the slider QWERTY keyboard. In 2013, I upgraded to a equally pocket-friendly Moto X 2013, which was the phone so perfect it turned me into an Android nerd. It felt wonderful in my hand — I still remember that lovely divot — and I could use and type one-handed on it easily.

5.5-inch screens were once phablets. Now they're considered mini.

Of course, the problem is that screen sizes didn't stay in that range for long. From 2013-2017, phone sizes ballooned, and then they've slowly kept creeping up towards full-blown tablet sizes ever since. To a degree, this super-sizing has been mitigated by the quest for zero bezels, but in the last year, main flagships well and truly super-sized with the OnePlus 7 Pro and now the 6.9-inch Galaxy S20 Ultra.

OnePlus 7 Pro and Samasung Gaalxy S10e

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

It makes sense: bigger screens mean you can see more at once, and they're better for watching videos on. But those bigger screens need bigger batteries to power them, which makes them heavier and harder to hold, especially for teens and women like myself who don't have basketball-palming hands. Using a phone grip is now a necessity for me, not just because I've utterly wrecked my pink propping up these huge phones in my hands while I type, but because it's the only way to comfortably grip a phone with a 6-inch screen or larger.

We know that phonemakers see our longing for a smaller phone. The iPhone SE answered a lot of prayers and the rumor mill churns constantly with the hopes that a sequel is in the works. The Samsung Galaxy S10e was a practical, compact flagship that captured the hearts of many last year for avoiding the buggy ultra-sonic fingerprint sensor and shatter-prone waterfall display.

Smaller screens feel like downgrades, even when they shouldn't.

The S10e did not see a successor in the Galaxy S20 line, and it's taken years and years to see a replacement for the iPhone SE because while they have a devoted following, smaller devices are a hard sell in the flagship space. Unless a smaller footprint is your primary goal, it's exceedingly difficult to go back to a smaller screen.

We see it as a downgrade: our review called the 5.8-inch screen on the S10e "cramped" and I know just how easy it is to get used to these monster screen sizes. When I went from the Note 10+ to the Pixel 4, it felt small for a couple days, but the ability to actually use my phone one-handed again was enough of a godsend that it was worth having to scroll more often while reading articles and Reddit.

Easy to grab

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

I know "the perfect phone" is impossible, but I think we've reached the point where the "the perfect petite phone" is more than possible in 2020. While the quest for 5G and 4K supersize screens and batteries, smartphone makers could make a tidy profit counter-programming with a flagship that will fit easily in smaller hands and women's pockets: a 5.3-inch 1440p screen with small bezels, two-day battery life, dependable Bluetooth and good primary and ultra-wide cameras. Give it Android 10, at least 6 GB of RAM and three years of updates, then take my money.

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

63 Comments
  • Yes. This is why I choose to carry a Pixel 4, and before that a Pixel 2, Pixel 1, and a Moto X. I don't want a huge phone, I want something that fits in my pocket and hand.
  • Same. I love the size of my Pixel 3.
  • Reasonably sized AND PRIZED too
  • My question is can we get back to the reasonably PRICED phones??
  • All kinds of deals on phones out there.
  • I mean sure, but there's not many phones that launch with reasonable pricing here in the States.
  • The launch price is the killer, and a "buy one get one" deal does not work for a lot of people.
    You can always go to Walmart and get a four year old phone, but I wouldn't want that.
  • If you don't mind lower specs, plenty of mid-range devices for you.
  • This is what I have done, I've stopped buying flagships. I now buy mid-range because they are very reasonably priced and I've put a hard cap of $350 for a phone, won't buy anything higher priced.
  • Maybe its to do with the fact that phones are not safe to put in your jean pockets. Does no one ever read the small print lol The manufacturers say the same.
  • I think the S20 is a pretty good size even though the price gives me cause to pause. It's in the same ballpark of my old V30 though and that size was perfect.
  • Not just reasonably sized, but priced as well. The asking prices for some of these phones are just ridiculous. There are plenty of excellent midrange and entry level devices that can fulfill an average consumer's needs just as well as any of these flagship or novelty handsets. Then again if your phone is a "lifestyle choice" or "fashion accessory"...well then I guess you won't mind paying these exorbitant prices...
  • Agreed. I use the "small" Pixel 2 right now. I will not go bigger. I would switch to Apple before I would carry a larger phone. Thankfully, Google has been releasing a decent sized phone (not that the Pixel phones don't have other issues)
  • The Apple XR may now be their small phone, however the Samsung 10E is smaller. A problem: "the good news is big screens are big excellent for viewing and working on documents, photos, and the like, however the bad news is big screens create big heavy devices".
  • The iPhone 11 Pro is smaller than the XR ;)
  • Yep! The 11 Pro is smaller than the XS and regular 11. I have both of them, but got the 11 instead of the 11 Pro because the store was out of stock, and I needed it right then.
    If you want really small, there's the SE and upcoming SE2. They are small to the point of being cute.
  • This is why I refuse to give up my iphone 8. The 6s was the best iphone ever, the 8 while having some things removed like the 3.5mm jack and some drop protection due to the full aluminum body, the iphone 8 has a better camera setup, wireless charging which is great and future upgradability that no android phone can match. not even pixel since they only upgrade for 2 full years guaranteed. My iphone 6s will be getting iOS 14 in the fall. That's support. Phone makers need to make a full screen phone in the dimensions of the iphone 8. Not bigger, not smaller, not longer not shorter. It's the PERFECT dimensions for a small pocketable phone. I picked up the huawei 30 pro, and the note 10 and damn, I would rather have a flip phone and a tablet. They are too big for phone use, and to small for tablet use.
  • Two day battery? Does that even exist on any device?
  • Absolutely. The Moto G7 Power. All 3 of my kiddos have one and it's been fantastic since they hardly ever run out of juice when we go on all day trips. I keep telling them at the end of the day to charge their battery and they are like "dad, it's at 60%"!!!
  • My 1+6T can hit that fairly regularly, especially if I'm not playing games on it.
  • Yep, same on the U12 Plus!
    Three days if I'm stingy 😉
  • It did on the Xperia Z3 Compact.
  • I've been saying this for a long time. This is why I have a Pixel 3 and now a Pixel 4 (and not the XL versions!). They're as big as I ever want to get. I'd much rather scroll a little than deal with these notebook-sized monstrosities that people call a "cellphone" these days.
  • It seems to be human nature to go to extremes. It has gotten ridiculous lately with phone sizes. I'm probably getting the Moto G Stylus later on and that 6.4 incher is probably as big as I ever want to go.
  • Agree 100%. It's getting ridiculous, especially if you're not a teenager. Seriously, in a professional environment who walks around with a near tablet in their hands all day? Try putting that S20 Ultra in a case and see how it feels in dress pants - or try sitting in a car with that in your jeans pocket. I've had dozens of phone over the years and given the high resolution of most screens now, anything above a small bezel-less 6-6.25" screen really doesn't make the normal daily experience any better. It's really just a case of "it's bigger so it should cost more".
  • Most women I know choose XL phones, probably because they mostly use them two-handed... Personally, I've been fine with the large phones of today, having used a Lumia 1520 for years back around 2015.
  • Waiting for the new compact iPhone 9. Fast, reliable, everything a Pixel isn't. Not sure if I want to switch from android to ios.
  • Android is turning more into IOS than ever before. If Apple has the USB c, I'm leaving Android.
  • How so? Android has more features, settings and customizable options than IOS does.
  • I didn't even read this yet but judging by the title.... AMEN. Make big versions too for the market but stop treating normal sized versions like crap. Side note: for regular S20 6.2 isn't exactly small either.
  • Bigger the better for me
  • I love the screen size of 6.8'' on my Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G
    But prices have gone INSANE....
    I *only* paid 1100 Euro back in September and that was considered a very good deal, I had to opt out of getting the S20 Ultra as it is 1579 Euro here
  • The lack of small phones actually hurts more than the missing headphone jack. At least I still have ways to listen to my music and podcast, there's very little work around when doing finger gymnastics across my phone screen.
  • My wife and I are miffed about the new tall-skinny form factor for different reasons. She likes that the phones are narrow but thinks they are too tall relative. I am irritated that I can't get the width I want without having some skateboard sized phone. So many websites have menus that need that width once you start using big fonts for old eyes.
  • It does seem that big name phones offer a range of sizes, but those sizes keep getting bigger every year, not unlike what happens to automobiles. Personally, I prefer (or need) a large phone so I can set the font size large enough to read, and something that doesn't require me to flex my hands much to grip it. Neither the eyes nor the fingers work the way they used to. For the last several years, it seems that the larger phones were the more popular ones in almost every series. Manufacturers read that as a desire for larger phones and respond accordingly. When the smaller versions start outselling the larger ones, they will respond to that. Someone like Apple or Samsung might be willing to build a smaller phone for a "niche" market, but most companies will go with what they thing most buyers want.
  • The galaxy s10e with those specs, that good size and flat screen, was the deal for the last flagchips from Samsung.
  • Naaa, they are just now getting to the size they need to be...
  • I love my Note 10+ but I do love the size of the regular Pixel 4 and iPhone 11 Pro. Some times the N10+ has to take a back seat for a few days while I use the Pixel 4 because of the size. The S20 Ultra is going to be massive, although, I think it's still smaller than the N10+ as far as width goes so it might be better in the hands. It's just super tall!
  • I hate small phones, The bigger the better.
  • I love 'em, but 7" seems to be the real limit on these phones. (Not there yet.) Easier to read and write emails, texts, etc. Easier to read newspapers, websites, view videos, movies, etc. Easier to write and take notes (I have the Note 10+). I admit it's become a largely 2 handed device for all those purposes (except for answering the phone!).
    Different for everybody, but these are going to fly off the shelf. I'm pre-ordering the S20 Ultra 512GB Cosmic Black tomorrow, and trading in my Note 10+ for $700. That brings it down to $899. With the free buds ($192) and $200 Samsung credit, you could consider the true cost to be just a bit more than$500. I'm not saying no.
  • I love bigger phones
  • Big phones are nice for viewing content? But, it's hard to put a 6.9 phone in your pocket. You talking to me, yeah I'm talking to you Mr Ultra, yikes!
  • Western markets prefer smaller phones. Sony's Compact line, for example, always outsold their normal version.
    The problem is that growth isn't in Western markets. We're saturated and are now changing phones only every 2 or 3 years.
    Meanwhile in Asia they like tablets pretending to be phones like the S20 Ultra. And in Asia there's still plenty of room for sales growth. Unfortunately for OEMs, though, there's also a lot less money. So OEMs are stuck with two options: make smaller phones aimed at the Western market but go into a much slower refresh cycle, or sell oversized phones in Asia in smaller quantities but with more regularity.
    So far they're going with option 2. But with the rumours of the iPhone 12 or 12 Pro or whatever it's called, coming at 5.4" and with the obvious boom in sales it'll generate for Apple in Western markets (like the SE did, even though it launched in a completely off time-frame when most iPhone users weren't thinking about changing phones yet), I have a feeling Android OEMs will suddenly realise there's a market there and rush to release a compact version of their flagships again. That's how the S10e came to be. It was Samsung answering the iPhone SE.
    Just watch them. I for one will stick to the S10e until it dies or an equally sized or smaller phone is launched.
    The S10e (with the notch turned off I should add) is the largest I'm willing to go on a phone. I still remember the few awful months I spent with the S9 (so much so I ditched it and went back to the S7 a mere 7 months after purchase).
    If Android OEMs offer me a phone that suits my needs, I'll upgrade. If not, I'm driving the S10e to the ground and then I'll likely buy another S10e. And I'm a tall guy with pretty long fingers. So it's definitely not an issue of short people vs tall people etc.
    I simply hate phablets or big phones in general. I'd gladly go back to the 4.7" screen of the Z3 Compact.
  • Ya'll remember when the Nexus 6 was considered huge? Ha!
  • Agreed. Since I carry 2 phones, I prefer smaller so its easier to pocket both. Using an OG Pixel and iPhone SE as a result. Will be holding onto both for the foreseeable future. However, the Note does look pretty tempting.
  • I love the size of my S10+ but honestly, I wish it were wider. I don't have reading issues with my eyes but I do prefer a wider screen. I really enjoy the bigger phones.
  • The wider screen is one thing I miss about the U11. You can fit more text per line.
  • I just got the iPhone 11 Pro, coming from the Note9. Battery life better than the Note9, but the phone is way smaller and feels like it only weighs half as much (with anti-glare screen protector and Apple Leather case - similar setup to my Note9). Screen is still a very nice size. I'm never going back to a big phone, and I'm not buying a nerfed flagship just to get a smaller size - not in a $900 price class. Sorry, not an option. Getting this smaller phone is like getting relief for back pain after a decade of suffering. It makes such a huge difference. I also bought an iPad Air (2019) with Apple Pencil, so I'm set. Doubt I'll be going back to Android anytime soon, because you can never find a phone this size with battery life so good. Apple basically gives you Galaxy Note 10+ battery life in the size of a Galaxy SE, along with all the power of an iPhone 11 Pro Max. No Android OEMs are doing this. Pricing is not a huge issue. Just buy from an OEM that offers 3-5 years of good support and stop wasting money on 1-2 year smartphone upgrades. Apple is optimal for this, but if you go Android, then I'd bias to Google or OnePlus. I would definitely avoid Samsung.
  • I use the S10+ and with Samsung's magic it's pretty compact for a 6.4in display. Actually that's about as big as I'll ever go. My backup is the 3a XL & at 6in it's the same size as my S10+, go figure? A tad wider also?
  • Modern ~6" phones are about the same dimensions as the older/smaller 4.5-5" phones people compare them to. If I remember the numbers correctly the 6.2" S20 is about half an inch taller and a tenth of an inch wider than the the 4.7" iPhone 6.
  • Completely irrelevant. The screens are much bigger which make using them much harder with one hand.
    The S7 at 5" is far easier to use with one hand than the equally sized but 5.8" S10e.
  • Buy whatever you want and stop trying control something you have no right to control
  • Here! Here! This is what I am waiting for, a sub 5.8" screen with removable storage. Why is this so freaking hard to do? I want to for this thing in my pocket, not a murse.
  • S10e and loving it. Never could stand those big clunky phablets.
  • I still have an iPhone 5S, and using it is a real novelty. I'd say the iPhone 11 and HTC U12+ are about the right size (for me anyway), with the iPhone 11 being wider because of the big bezels. We have the Note 10+, and it just feels too big to me.
  • The phone I have is still large enough that I use a phone ring, but I was happy to trade in my Note 9 for the regular Note 10. I was able to get almost the same size screen in a smaller overall phone. It is easier to manage and more pocket friendly than my Note 9 was. I would have probably turned it to get the S20, but Verizon does not have that phone when preorders start and I don't think I want to go the unlocked route.
  • sorry, let's keep these phones big. i have big hands, i like the size. i got rid of the pixel 4xl for note 10 + fits just right.
  • So many small phones about to choose from. Fill your boots. Just buy one of those. Big phones are what sell. The bigger the better. My Note 10+ is amazing. Big phone in a manageable form factor. Thank God for it! I for one would definitely not buy a small phone. And there are many people that think the same. Always hated this push to go back to small phones.
  • Freud would like to have a talk with you.
  • I agree with this completely. The Essential Phone PH-1 that I have carried since February 2018 will be missed when I finally replace it. Not only does it fit in my pocket perfectly, but it fits on my motorcycle phone mount perfectly as well. The new huge phones coming out are just simply too big. The Essential was the perfect size.
  • For me my note10 is the best balance of size and battery power. I can use it one handed (left handed) and it last me all day at work(restaurant manager) .My wife has the s10+ and loves it,but it goes in her purse. That monster doesn't fit in my pocket. Maybe a Galaxy Note Flip/fold?
  • I'd love to be able to pocket my phone again.
  • I only buy Galaxy Note phones (for the foreseeable future). The Galaxy Note 9 and Note 10 Plus are my preferred sizes. Anything larger than the Note 10 Plus isn't for me. I'll most likely not buy any of the Note 20 phones if they come with that horrible 20:9 aspect ratio. One-Handed phone usage? I'm almost always using 2 hands. The phone in my left and the S Pen in my right hand. Anything smaller than the Note 9 or Note 8 isn't to my liking.