Best compact phones 2023 - buyer’s guide
Last updated: March 13, 2023 (Changelog)
The trend towards growing displays seems to be plateauing, but even in the current state of things, most phones are just too big for easy handling with one hand. This is why we always enjoy it when we come across the occasional competent compact handset. In this section of our buyer's guide, we'll try to point out the ones we think deserve your attention.
Apple iPhone 13 mini
- Tiny OLED, high-res, bright
- Iconic design with ceramic shield, aluminum frame, IP68
- The latest Apple A15 Bionic chip with 5G
- The cameras take some great photos and videos
- Night Mode and Dolby Vision available
- Loud stereo speakers
- Improved battery life over 12 mini
- Potential throttling under certain conditions
- No charger, no headphones
Even if there is no iPhone 14 mini, probably waiting to be announced as the next iPhone SE, the Apple iPhone 13 mini remains the most compact yet flagship phone you can buy today. It is a smaller version of the iPhone 13 and it's lost nothing. The most important updates over the 12 mini are the larger battery capacity, the smaller screen notch, and the doubled base storage. We sure don't think iPhone 12 mini owners should update, but we do consider the 13 mini as the best compact phone there is right now.
The iPhone 13 mini packs a 5.4" OLED screen of 1080p resolution and the powerful Apple A15 chip with 5G connectivity! It has the same dual-camera as the regular iPhone 13, complete with sensor-shift stabilization, Night Mode and Dolby Vision video capturing. It also enjoys loud stereo speakers and improved battery life. Another best bits - the mini is one of the most durable phones to date as it has the same Ceramic Shield and IP68 water proofing as the standard and Pro models.
The iPhone 13 mini is the best compact smartphone to date, and we wholeheartedly recommend it. You should also consider the Apple iPhone 12 mini as it is cheaper, and the differences with the 13 mini aren't exciting.Read full review
Apple iPhone SE (2022)
- It's an iPhone, and a 'cheap' one at that, as iPhones go.
- IP67 rating
- Apple A15 Bionic with 5G chipset
- The camera takes some great photos and videos
- Stereo speakers
- While technically 'compact', the massive bezels mean small usable screen area
- Apple’s excellent Night mode is sorely missed here
- Battery life is only so-so
- 60Hz LCD screen
- No charger in the box
Apple released a new SE in 2022 and it's among our top picks in this Compact chapter for its incredibly compact and lightweight body. It's hardly perfect though, but Apple has the iPhone 13 mini and 12 mini for those seeking perfection. So, the SE has a dated a form factor introduced years ago and reuses a lot of the iPhone 8 bits. That means a single camera, a small battery, giant screen bezels and - TouchID.
The best bit about the iPhone SE 2022, outside its incredibly compact and lightweight body, is the chipset – it employs the Apple A15 Bionic chip with 5G, the same one behind the latest iPhone 13 generation. The A15 chip is more powerful than even the beefiest Android, and it'll remain capable for years to come, during which time it'll keep getting software updates - the iOS way. It's a very affordable entry into that iOS world too.Read full review
Samsung Galaxy S23
- No-nonsense sturdy and grippy design, IP68, 168g
- Outstanding OLED screen, bright and fast
- Excellent photo and video quality across the board
- Top-notch performance, the fastest Android chip inside
- Exciting One UI with DeX support, great connectivity options
- No Dolby Vision or 10-bit color depth support for the screen
- The GPU is very quick to throttle under load to 60% of its max performance
- No charger in the box
The Samsung Galaxy S23 is one of the most compact Android flagships available and the small size didn't come at the cost of cut features.
The phone has an excellent 6.1-inch OLED screen with high brightness and adaptive refresh rate, the most powerful chipset on the Android market, and a superb quartet of cameras that will reliably capture whatever you put in front of their lenses.
We are glad that Samsung took the extra step and made an exclusive deal with Qualcomm for an overclocked version of the SD8G2 chip, and this will surely convince quite a few Exynos-doubting users to grab a Galaxy S23.
The smallest Galaxy S23 offers a decent battery life, too. It is one of the most compact droids available right now, the most powerful, too, and an easy enough recommendation.Read full review
Asus Zenfone 9
- IP68-rated, GG Victus, metal frame, grippy, lightweight
- Excellent 120Hz OLED screen
- Class-leading battery life, wide battery care feature set
- Headphone jack, properly great speakers
- Autofocus on all cameras, ultrawide and selfie included
- Wonderful video stabilization
- No telephoto camera
- No wireless charging
- Night camera mode is a little sluggish
The Asus Zenfone 9 is probably among the best compact Android flagship you can get. It has commendable qualities across the board. It's built as flagship as it can be - IP68 rating, GG Victus front and a metal frame. There is the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 5G chip with great performance. The camera quality turned out brilliant, no matter day or night, photo or video, or the type of camera you are using.
That's not all. The Zenfone 9 impressed us with its speakers quality, the excellent OLED, and rich connectivity options, including a 3.5mm jack.
Finally, the Zenfone 9 may be a flagship, but its price of €800 is quite reasonable by today’s standards.Read full review
Sony Xperia 5 IV
- It's not Xperia Compact, but close. IP68, lightweight, too.
- Classic no-nonsense design, GG Victus, IP68
- Excellent OLED screen, bright, 120Hz, color-accurate, no cutouts
- Great battery life
- Very good speakers of equal size and balance
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
- Excellent photo and video quality across the board
- Powerful hardware, pro camera apps
- No charger and no cable in the box
- Cameras lack Night Mode
- Easily overheats under peak load, which causes heavy performance and refresh rate throttling
The Sony Xperia 5 IV introduces a few updates over the Xperia 5 III - a brighter display, an updated design, a faster chipset, a better selfie experience, longer battery life, wireless charging. It gets to keep the same compact and lightweight design, thankfully.
The only thing that has been downgraded since the Xperia 5 III is the zoom camera - it now offers 2.5x fixed optical zoom instead of 3x/4.4x two-step zoom. But even with these improvements, it doesn't make much sense for any Xperia 5 III user to upgrade to this newer generation.
The Xperia 5 IV offers a lovely, timeless design with solid waterproofing, an excellent OLED experience with high brightness and HDR10 certification, and we enjoyed the balanced stereo speakers. The battery life turned out amazing, something that's incredibly rare for a compact phone, let alone a compact flagship.
Even better, the Xperia 5 IV offers four 12MP cameras with excellent photo and video quality. The Pro tools coming with the phone will surely win a few more users on the Xperia side, too.
The Xperia 5 IV is not a perfect phone as it has one notable issue, just like the Xperia 1 IV. Yes, we are talking about sustained performance, which is currently behind the curve. All non-gaming phones won't shine with stability, but the Xperia 5 IV even drops the refresh rate after a while, which is not a good thing. Sony is applying heavy throttling to keep the phone from overheating, and that's the main issue - the Xperia 5 IV design makes it so easy for the device to overheat in mere minutes.
With that being said, the Xperia 5 IV packs more than enough punch, even with the 50% throttling - it's still quite a powerful device. And if you won't be playing games all the time, or process videos on the go, we'd say most people won't ever experience these performance drops.
We can safely recommend the Sony Xperia 5 IV for its compact design and camera prowess, its battery life and speaker experience. It's one of the best 2022 flagships with excellent pocketability, and it has earned our big thumbs up.Read full review
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4
- Compact foldable smartphone, not insanely priced
- Excellent design, Victus+ panels, tougher aluminum
- IPX8-rated for water resistance
- Outstanding foldable display - bright, color-accurate, 120Hz, HDR
- The latest Snapdragon chipset
- Great all-round camera experience and quality
- Improved battery life, faster charging
- Heavily throttles under 100% CPU/GPU load
- No charger in the box
- We would appreciate more functionality for the outer display
- No DeX support
The Galaxy Z Flip went from a fashion-centric device to a full-blown flagship in just a couple of generations. The Flip4 is what the Flip3 should have been from the get-go - a powerful foldable smartphone with excellent camera performance, decent battery life and charging speed.
And indeed, we can say a lot of positive things about the new Z Flip4 - it has a superb water-proofed design that will hit the nostalgia notes across many users. It's a compact flip phone, one that clicks simply great.
The Z Flip4 offers an excellent AMOLED screen, good battery life, good charging speed, and the speakers are nice. It also packs the most powerful Android chip to date, though the thermals lead to throttling. And the camera performance is superb across the board, photo and video, day and night.
We consider the Flip4 as the most affordable foldable smartphone of the current generation, one of the most compact, too. And for its €730 price, it delivers an outstanding set of features..
It's not an ideal smartphone - it takes a while to get used to its design and form factor. Then you need to live with the crease and the plastic screen protector over the screen. Dust gets in various places, too. But we are recommending it to people who'd like to own a unique phone, small, and yet powerful and capable; to users that will take it with all of its good and not so good aspectsRead full review
Motorola Edge 30 Neo
- 128GB 8GB RAM $ 379.99
- Lightweight and compact body with water-repellent design, LED notification ring
- Outstanding 120Hz OLED display
- Good-sounding stereo speakers
- Clean and snappy Android experience
- Blazing fast charging, wireless charging
- Phones with better-performing chipsets are available in the price segment
- The camera Night mode is not very competent, no 4K video recording
The Motorola Edge 30 Neo is a relatively compact and affordable smartphone. It impresses with an extremely bright and fast OLED panel, OIS on the main camera, better 13MP ultrawide camera with autofocus, blazing fast 68W fast charging, wireless charging, a set of nice-sounding stereo speakers and a nifty LED strip around the camera used for notifications and other stuff. Of course, some compromises had to be made for this price, so Motorola settled for a Snapdragon 695 SoC. Most of Neo's competitors run on faster chipsets and support 4K video recording. The device's camera capabilities, although not inherently bad, are not particularly impressive, leaving an easy opening for alternatives with better camera performance.
The good news is that the clean, burden-less Android experience doesn't slow down the chipset and operation is quite fluent and trouble-less.
So, if you are willing to make some compromises in terms of raw performance and overall camera performance, the €330 Motorola Edge 30 Neo gives you a whole lot of reasons to like it.Read full review
- Likable design, a rather compact and lightweight model
- Outstanding 120Hz OLED, super bright
- Excellent speakers
- Dependable battery life, incredibly fast to charge
- Flagship-grade performance, great stability
- Very good photo and video quality
- Not based on the latest Android 12 like Xiaomi 12
- No rated water resistance
- No zoom camera or proper lossless zoom
- The selfies could have been better
The Xiaomi 12X is an excellent compact smartphone with a top-notch display, the first one with native 12-bit color and true Dolby Vision experience. It offers flagship-grade performance and connectivity, excellent speaker experience, long-lasting battery life and fast charging. We are also happy with its camera quality across the board.
The Xiaomi 12X has no ingress protection and lacks zoom capabilities. But Xiaomi the 12X is an easily likable smartphone with a reasonable price in 2022 terms, and we think it has everything to become a best-seller. We are sure you will like the Xiaomi 12X as we did if you decide to get it. We do recommend this phone, especially if you are looking for a rather compact Android device with premium features.Read full review
Most recent updates
March 13, 2023: Replaced the Galaxy S22 with the Galaxy S23.
November 2, 2022: Replaced the Asus Zenfone 8 with the Zenfone 9. Replaced the Xperia 5 III with the Xperia 5 IV. Added Motorola Edge 30 Neo, Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4, Xiaomi 12X. Removed the Xperia 10 IV.
June 29, 2022: Replaced the iPhone SE (2020) with the iPhone SE (2022). Replaced the Galaxy S21 5G with the Galaxy S22 5G. Added Sony Xperia 10 IV. Removed the Pixel 5.
Oct 20, 2021: Replaced the iPhone 12 mini with the iPhone 13 mini. Replaced Xperia 5 II with the Xperia 5 III. Replaced the Pixel 4a with Pixel 5. Removed the Galaxy A41.
Aug 02, 2021: Added the Pixel 4a. Removed the 'Almost There' suggestions.
Nov 27, 2020: Replaced Galaxy S20 with Galaxy S21. Added the Asus Zenfone 8. Removed the Galaxy S10e.
Best phones by category
- 22 Feb 2023
Really? Here in gsmarena page it's written that S10e is up to Android 12 and OneUI 4.1
- 11 Feb 2023
With the S23 out, this will be an easy replacement for the S22. A power efficient SOC with increased battery capacity means a compact smartphone that can last the whole day.
- 11 Feb 2023
It's still getting security updates. The latest one in January 2023. So that's pretty good.