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Best Compact Smartphones: Which mini smartphone should you buy?

By Simon Thomas on 25th March 2016

best compact smartphones

While most flagship phones are getting ever bigger there are plenty of people who'd prefer a small handset. Sadly as popular opinion at the moment seems to be that bigger is better the smaller handsets are usually a little underpowered, but that's not always the case as there are still some great ones.

Here then are the six best compact smartphones available as of March 2016.

6. Samsung Galaxy J1

Best Compact Smartphones: Which mini smartphone should you buy?

The Samsung Galaxy J1 isn’t the best small phone around but with a low price it is one of the best value.

It stands up well in other ways too, from its fairly stylish (for an entry level phone) curvy build to its all day battery life.

The 5MP camera can take good shots for the money and with a 4.3-inch screen it really is very compact. It’s also light at just 122g, so the Galaxy J1 is a phone you could easily forget you’re even carrying.

It’s not the most powerful of handsets and it lacks the premium design found on many recent Samsung phones, but the Samsung Galaxy J1 is a compact bargain that does the basics well.

5. LG Leon

Best Compact Smartphones: Which mini smartphone should you buy?

At under £100 SIM free the LG Leon is a budget handset, but it takes some of the best features from flagships like the LG G4. There are its rear keys for example, which are arguably more intuitively positioned than the side-mounted buttons found on most handsets.

The LG Leon also features Knock Code, which allows you to unlock the handset with a series of taps while the screen is off.

Add to that a comfortable curved design and a faux-metal finish and it’s a good looking and feeling phone for the price.

The 4.5-inch screen is only 854 x 480, so there are sharper compact handsets around and the quality of photos shot on its 5MP camera will be adequate at best, but these are small compromises to make for such an affordable smartphone.

4. Nokia Lumia 635

Best Compact Smartphones: Which mini smartphone should you buy?

There aren’t many compact Windows Phone handsets, but the Nokia Lumia 635 fills the role admirably. It has a small 4.5-inch 480 x 854 screen, which isn’t super sharp but does have great viewing angles.

It also has a colourful build, a quad-core processor and plenty of storage space thanks to a microSD card slot. Performance is smooth and the Lumia 635 won’t break the bank.

Perhaps most excitingly though is the promise of Windows 10. Right now it runs Windows Phone 8.1, which is a stylish and slick mobile OS in its own right, but it’s likely to get upgraded to the powerful Windows 10 Mobile OS at some point, making it better than ever.

3. Samsung Galaxy A3

Samsung Galaxy A3 - Best Compact Smartphones

The Samsung Galaxy A3 is an exciting phone in many ways. Not only is it packing a premium metal shell, which until recently was a rare sight on a Samsung phone, but it’s also got a compact design and a fairly affordable price tag.

The Galaxy A3 just squeaks into compact phone territory with a 4.5-inch 540 x 960 Super AMOLED display, giving it rich if not super sharp visuals.

Its 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor and 1.5GB of RAM gives it mid-range power and it has an 8MP rear camera and 5MP front-facing one to keep photo fans happily snapping away.

But the highlight really is its slim 6.9mm thick metal build, which makes it look distinctly high-end, despite only costing around £165.

2. Apple iPhone SE

Best Compact Smartphones: Which mini smartphone should you buy?

The iPhone SE is the first 4.0-inch iPhone in years and with specs to rival the iPhone 6S it was worth the wait.

Technically the iPhone SE isn’t a flagship phone, but it’s very close to one, with the same Apple A9 processor and 2GB of RAM as the iPhone 6S. That gives it blazing fast performance. It also has a sharp, high quality screen, at a resolution of 640 x 1136 for a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch.

Then there’s its design, which is almost identical to the iPhone 5S, complete with an aluminium shell in a two-tone colour scheme. It’s one of the most premium and stylish compact smartphones on the market.

The iPhone SE has a great camera too. There’s a 12MP snapper on the back, with a dual-LED True Tone flash and support for Live Photos and 4K video.

Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner is present and correct, along with Apple Pay support and the iPhone SE runs iOS 9.3, which is the latest and greatest version of iOS. All in all, it’s a stunningly good phone and a lot cheaper than its larger siblings.



1. Sony Xperia Z5 Compact

Best Compact Smartphones: Which mini smartphone should you buy?

Sony has for a while been leading the charge when it comes to compact phones, as it’s the only company which doesn’t particularly compromise on specs when shrinking the size of a handset.

Its latest small phone, the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact, is its best one yet, with a 4.6-inch 720 x 1280 display for a pixel density of 323 pixels per inch, a powerful octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor and 2GB of RAM.

Its camera impresses too, thanks to a 23MP sensor on the back and a 5.1MP snapper on the front. Its frosted glass back leaves it looking fairly high-end and with IP68 certification it can survive getting wet and dusty.

The Sony Xperia Z5 Compact has a lot of life too, with a 2,700 mAh battery good for up to two days of juice and with 32GB of storage plus support for microSD cards of up to 200GB you’ll never run low on space.

It even packs in some premium extras, like a speedy side-mounted fingerprint scanner, Hi-Res audio support and PS4 Remote Play.

In other words the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact really is a flagship smartphone in a smaller package and as such it’s the best compact phone available.

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