Best Compact Smartphones for 2019: A Closer Look at The Best Small Mobile Phones On The Market

by Sandra Henshaw - , Last Updated on August 19, 2019, Buying Guides

With the latest flagship phones hitting and exceeding the six-inch screen mark, is it possible nowadays to get a phone that doesn’t stretch out your pockets? Compact phones used to be desirable, but these days it seems like mobiles are just getting bigger and bigger. But there are some options available if you’re looking for a more compact mobile experience. We’ve got everything you need to know about buying a compact phone, as well as some great model recommendations!

Why You Need a Compact Phone

Alright, you might not necessarily need a compact phone. But they do have their advantages. A compact phone these days is any mobile with a screen measuring 5.5 inches or less. Sure, big-screened phones are nice. However, a smaller phone is easier and lighter to carry around, requires less battery power (and therefore less charging), and can be more comfortable to use.

Compact phones are great choices for kids, and for those of us who don’t have giant hands. They can also be a good choice for older people too. Or perhaps you’re looking for a second phone that isn’t going to cost a fortune. Compact phones tend to be pretty budget-friendly as well, which has to be a good thing!

What Are My Options?

xperia xa water

Okay, so we’re looking at phones with screens of 5.5 inches or less, so what are your options? The easiest way to divide compact phones up is by price. Depending on your budget, these are going to be your choices:

Top Tier

Anything over £500 is going to be a top tier phone, and there aren’t many compact phones that come in at this price point. However, if you’ve got the money to spend, you could get top-end features, great speeds and performance, and fantastic specs. On the other hand, you’ll definitely be paying for all those things…

Pros: Good performance, lots of extras, great features

Cons: You’re going to be making a big investment here, maybe more than you’re willing to pay for a phone

Best For: Those who have the cash to spend, or demanding users that really will take advantage of the extra speeds and features a top tier phone offers

Mid Range

Anything from between £150 and £500 is a solid mid-range phone. This is really a compromise option since you’re going to be spending a little less and you might not get all the top-end features you want. Performance should still be decent, however, and you won’t have to take out a loan to afford a new phone…

Pros: You’ll get good performance, and you’ll get to save a little cash when compared to buying a top tier phone

Cons: You’re unlikely to get top tier features such as 5G data speeds, or full HD screens, so you will be making some compromises

Best For: Those who want a good phone but who don’t want to break the bank to buy one, those willing to compromise a little to get a more affordable mobile

Budget Phones

Finally, anything that costs under £150 is going to be a budget phone. The good news here is that you’ll get a phone and it’s not going to cost too much. However, you’re likely to be making significant compromises when it comes to performance. Yes, a budget phone will be able to make calls and send texts and play simple games, but you’re not going to be taking fantastic pictures or editing video or playing top-end online games. Those low price tags are pretty tempting though…

Pros: You get a working phone that sticks to your budget, and you can’t say fairer than that

Cons: You’re not going to get super-fast performance, and you won’t get top-end features like super sharp cameras or HD screens, there’ll definitely be some sacrifices here

Best For: Those who are on a tight budget, or those buying for children who are likely to lose or break a mobile quickly

Sony Xpera XZ2 Compact

Our Top Pick

Sony Xpera XZ2 Compact

As far as compact phones go, Sony is one of the few manufacturers that still make a dedicated compact phone line. And the XZ2 is one of the best small phones around. You get octa-core processing power, with a quad-core 2.7 GHz processor and a quad-core 1.7 GHz processor, and a solid 4 GB of RAM, so you’re getting plenty of speed.

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What Do I Need to Think About Before Buying?

How Work

You don’t have a whole bunch of options when it comes to small-screened phones, however, there are a few models to choose from. But before you get down to deciding, there are a couple of factors that you’re going to need to think about:

How Much Can I Spend?

Yes, money has to be top of the list. Take a good long look at your budget and decide exactly how much you can afford to spend. It doesn’t matter whether you’re buying outright or getting a phone on contract, a new mobile can represent a big investment, and there’s no point getting into debt. And don’t forget that a phone can be stolen, lost or broken at any time, so you might need to buy yet another mobile a month from now…

How Do I Use My Phone?

You should also spend a little time thinking about how your new phone is likely to be used. Are you a big picture-taker? Then you’ll want something with a good camera and plenty of storage. If you love watching videos, then you might be looking for good screen quality. We all use our phones in different ways, so think about what features are important to you in a mobile.

What Do I Need?

Again, we all use our phones differently, so what we each need is going to be different. Think about what you’re prepared to sacrifice in order to get the kind of price that you’re looking to pay…

What Features Should I Be Looking At?

Now that you’ve got a budget and an idea of what kind of features you want, what exactly should you be looking for when you’re checking out phones? Those spec sheets can be a little confusing, so here are a few things that you should pay attention to:

  • Processing and RAM: Okay, a processor is like an engine for your phone, the bigger the numbers here the faster and more powerful your phone will be. For decent performance, you should be looking at at least 1.75 GHz of power and a minimum of a quad-core processor. Numbers bigger than that will make your phone faster, but will also cost more. You should also look at the RAM number, you’re looking for at least 2 GB. The more RAM you have the faster your phone will respond and the better it will be able to multi-task.
  • Memory and Storage: The memory on your phone is used to store everything you put on there, from pictures to videos to passwords and favourite websites. The more memory you have, the more stuff you’ll be able to save, though don’t forget you can also store stuff in the cloud to access later. When your memory gets full, your phone will slow down and you’ll need to spend time cleaning data off your phone, which really isn’t fun. You should be looking for at least 16 GB (and that’s really the bare minimum).
  • Display Specs: You want a compact phone, which means opting for a smaller display. However, display quality is still something you should be looking at. Resolution specs will tell you how sharp a display will be, with higher numbers being better. And screen material may also make a difference, with AMOLED screens being generally better than LCD displays.
  • Camera Specs: Cameras aren’t a priority for everyone, but if you like taking pictures then you’ll want to check out camera specs. Front cameras tend not to be great and used only for video calling. Specs for rear cameras are more important. You’re looking for around 12 MP in your rear camera, and a dual-lens if at all possible.
  • Other Stuff: Finally, depending on what your needs are, there may be other specs that you’re interested in. Up to date Bluetooth tech is useful if you use a headset constantly, for example. Or maybe you’re looking for wireless charging. Phones these days tend to come with plenty of extras, so take a serious look at what’s on offer, but don’t pay for something that you’re really not going to use…

Now you should have a pretty good idea of what you’re looking for in a compact phone, but which phone is going to be the one for you?

The Top 8 Compact Phones for 2019

RankProductFeaturesProsCons
1
Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact
Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact
  • £530
  • 5" display
  • 4GB RAM
  • Tons of power
  • Very compact at just 5 inches
  • Plenty of memory and storage
  • Could be too pricey for some
  • Not everyone needs this much power

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2
Samsung Galaxy J3 2017
Samsung Galaxy J3 2017
  • £179
  • 5" display
  • 2GB RAM
  • Decent performance
  • Screen is only 5 inches
  • Good camera set for this price range
  • Speeds could be better
  • Not much internal memory

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3
Nokia 3.1
Nokia 3.1
  • £115
  • 5.2" display
  • 2GB RAM
  • Very good performance to price ratio
  • Pretty portable at just 5.2 inches
  • Surprisingly good camera set
  • Internal memory is a little low
  • Could use a little more RAM

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4
Pixel 3
Pixel 3
  • £650
  • 5.5" display
  • 4GB RAM
  • Great power and performance
  • Excellent display
  • Waterproof and dustproof
  • Very pricey
  • No SD card slot, so you can’t add storage

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5
LQ Q7
LQ Q7
  • £350
  • 5.5" display
  • 3GB RAM
  • Excellent performance
  • Solid screen
  • Plenty of memory and storage
  • Rear camera could be a little better
  • Screen maybe a little big for some people

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6
Xiaomi Redmi 6
Xiaomi Redmi 6
  • £110
  • 5.4" display
  • 3GB RAM
  • Tons of power
  • Excellent camera set
  • Top end performance and features
  • Screen resolution could use some improvement
  • Display may be a little large for some

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7
Sony Xperia XA2
Sony Xperia XA2
  • £180
  • 5.2" display
  • 3GB RAM
  • Very solid performance
  • Great camera set
  • Plenty of memory and storage
  • Screen resolution isn’t the best
  • Rear camera isn’t a dual-lens

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8
Nokia 5.1
Nokia 5.1
  • £130
  • 5.5" display
  • 3GB RAM
  • Very solid performance
  • Nice camera set
  • Crisp, sharp display
  • The screen could be too large for some
  • A little more RAM would be nice

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How We Selected Our Top Models

We do have some awesome model recommendations for you, but first a word about how we chose our options. Obviously, we looked at specs, price, features, and all the good stuff. We also restricted ourselves to phones that had displays of 5.5 inches or less. And we tried to get models to suit different budgets as well.

We looked at reviews and customer recommendations to find out the kind of experience other people had with phones, and in many cases, we’ve used these phones ourselves as well. Plus, we spend most of our time around mobiles and mobile experts, so we got plenty of input from pro users as well.

So, on to those model recommendations. Which compact phones are the best for 2019?

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact (Top Tier)

Xperia XZ2

Price: £530

Screen Size: 5 inches

Power: Octa-core processing, 4 GB of RAM

Camera Set: 19 MP rear camera

As far as compact phones go, Sony is one of the few manufacturers that still make a dedicated compact phone line. And the XZ2 is one of the best small phones around. You get octa-core processing power, with a quad-core 2.7 GHz processor and a quad-core 1.7 GHz processor, and a solid 4 GB of RAM, so you’re getting plenty of speed.

The display is five inches, so nice and small, and that’s an LCD High Definition display as well, with 1080 x 2160 resolution. At the front, there’s a 5 MP selfie cam, and a single lens 19 MP camera is at the rear, so you’ll get some solid pictures. And there’s 64 GB of internal memory, but an SD card slot lets you add up to 1 TB of extra storage.

You’re getting some excellent specs here, and the XZ2 definitely gets some great performance. However, at over £500 this is going to be too rich for some people’s blood, and not everyone is going to need all that power for daily use.

Pros

  • Tons of power
  • Very compact at just 5 inches
  • Plenty of memory and storage

Cons

  • Could be too pricey for some
  • Not everyone needs this much power

The Samsung Galaxy J3 2017 (Mid Range)

Samsung Galaxy J3 2017

Price: £179

Screen Size: 5 inches

Power: Quad-core processing, 2 GB of RAM

Camera Set: 13 MP rear camera

If you’re looking for something a little more affordable, then the J3 is a great choice. It’s a little older than some other phones on this list, but it still gets regular updates, so you needn’t worry. You get quad-core 1.4 GHz of processing power here, and 2 GB of RAM, so performance is decent though not super fast.

You also get a five-inch display, so again, nice and compact. That display is 720 x 1080 pixels, so just about HD, and it’s an LCD screen. In terms of cameras, you’re getting a 5 MP front cam and a solid 13 MP rear camera, better than we’d expect at this price point. And though there is only the minimum 16 GB of internal storage there is an SD card slot for up to 256 GB of extra space should you need it.

Speeds could be a little better here, and we’re not pleased about the internal memory specs. However, a cheap SD card should fix that problem. But if you’re looking for solid performance for under £200, then the J3 is a great option.

Pros

  • Decent performance
  • Screen is only 5 inches
  • Good camera set for this price range

Cons

  • Speeds could be better
  • Not much internal memory (though there is an SD card slot)

The Nokia 3.1 (Budget)

Nokia 31

Price: £115

Screen Size: 5.2 inches

Power: Octa-core processing, 2 GB of RAM

Camera Set: 13 MP rear camera

On a strict budget? Then the Nokia 3.1 is an absolute steal, with some very impressive specs for a phone that’s going to cost you only a little over £100. You get stunning octa-core processing here, with two quad-core processors (a 1.5 GHz and a 1.0 GHz), plus 2 GB of RAM. That gives you some surprisingly decent speed for this price point.

You’re getting a 5.2-inch screen, so not too big. And that’s an LCD screen, though not full HD at 720 x 1440 pixels. The front camera is a whopping 8 MP, and the rear cam a satisfying 13 MP, one of the best camera sets around at this price range. And though you do only get 16 GB of internal memory, there is an SD card slot for up to 256 GB of extra storage. There is a 32 GB version of the 3.1 around, but it’s tough to find and will cost you a little more.

It’s hard to make any complaints here, you just get such good specs for your cash. Yes, memory is a little low, and okay, there could be more RAM. But at these prices, you’re not going to hear us complain.

Pros

  • Very good performance to price ratio
  • Pretty portable at just 5.2 inches
  • Surprisingly good camera set

Cons

  • Internal memory is a little low
  • Could use a little more RAM

The Google Pixel 3 (Top Tier)

Google Pixel 3

Price: £650

Screen Size: 5.5 inches

Power: Octa-core processing, 4 GB of RAM

Camera Set: 12 MP rear camera, dual front cameras

The Google Pixel 3 is by far the most expensive phone on our list, but sometimes you just get what you pay for, and if you’ve got the cash, this is a fantastic choice. You get tons of power, with octa-core processing made up of two quad-core processors (a 2.5 GHz and 1.6 GHz model) and a full 4 GB of RAM. That means you get super speeds and fantastic performance.

At 5.5 inches the display maybe a little on the large side. But it’s an OLED display and full HD, getting 1080 x 2160 pixels. The front features a dual-lens 8 MP camera, and there’s an excellent 12 MP camera at the rear. And you get a full 64 GB of internal memory, though there’s no SD card slot so you can’t add in more. Oh, the Pixel 3 is also dust and water-resistant too.

The only real downside here is the lack of SD card slot, being able to add more storage is always convenient. And that rear camera could be a little better. But on the whole, this is a premium phone and should satisfy even the most demanding user.

Pros

  • Great power and performance
  • Excellent display
  • Waterproof and dustproof

Cons

  • Very pricey
  • No SD card slot, so you can’t add storage

The LG Q7 (Mid Range)

lg q7

Price: £350

Screen Size: 5.5 inches

Power: Octa-core processing, 3 GB of RAM

Camera Set: 13 MP rear camera

Okay, so the LG Q7 is at the upper end of the mid-range price point, but it’s still a bit of a steal. The Q7 gets some high-end features for what is still a mid-range price tag. You’re getting solid octa-core processing, with a quad-core 1.5 GHz and a quad-core 1.0 GHz processor, and a nice 3 GB of RAM. This all means that performance is snappy and responsive.

The display is 5.5 inches, which again could be a little large for some people. But it’s an LCD High Definition screen, coming in with 1080 x 2160 pixels. Up at the front, you’re getting an excellent 8 MP selfie cam, and there’s a solid 13 MP cam at the rear. Internally, you’re getting 32 GB of memory, but there’s an SD card slot that’ll give you up to 1 TB of additional storage.

The screen may be a little big for some, particularly if you’re buying for a child. And that rear camera could be a little better. But if you’re looking for top-end performance on a mid-range budget, then you’re looking for the LG Q7.

Pros

  • Excellent performance
  • Solid screen
  • Plenty of memory and storage

Cons

  • The rear camera could be a little better
  • Screen maybe a little big for some people

The Xiaomi Redmi 6 (Budget)

Xiaomi Redmi 6

Price: £110

Screen Size: 5.4 inches

Power: Octa-core processing, 3 GB of RAM

Camera Set: Dual 12 + 5 MP rear camera

Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi has started to make a name for itself in the UK for producing excellent phones at cheap price points, and the Redmi 6 is no exception. You get stunning octa-core 2 GHz processing power here, plus a full 3 GB of RAM, giving the Redmi 6 the performance specs of a phone at quadruple the price.

The screen comes in at 5.4 inches, and it’s an LCD screen. Resolution is a little disappointing though, at just 720 x 1440 pixels. But that camera set is amazing. Up at the front, you’re getting a 5 MP camera, but at the rear, you’re getting dual-lens cameras with both a 12 MP and a 5 MP lens onboard. Internally, there’s 32 GB of storage, plus an SD card for up to 256 GB of extra space.

On the downside, screen resolution could be better. But you’re getting a serious bargain with the Redmi 6. Top-end features and performance at a budget price, this is a fantastic compact mobile.

Pros

  • Tons of power
  • Excellent camera set
  • Top end performance and features

Cons

  • Screen resolution could use some improvement
  • Display may be a little large for some

The Sony Xperia XA2 (Mid Range)

sony-xperia-xa2-deals

Price: £180

Screen Size: 5.2 inches

Power: Octa-core processing, 3 GB of RAM

Camera Set: 23 MP rear camera

If you’re big into photography but can’t quite spring for a top-end phone, then the Xperia XA2 is going to be a great choice for you. The performance here is excellent, with octa-core 2.2 GHz processing and 3 GB of RAM making the XA2 nice and responsive.

The display comes in at just 5.2 inches, so it’s nice and portable. And that’s an LCD screen that is High Definition, with 1080 x 1920 pixels. But it’s the cameras that are standouts here. At the front, there’s a nice 8 MP selfie cam, but at the rear, there’s a huge 23 MP cam. You also get 32 GB of internal storage, plus an SD card slot to add up to 256 GB of extra space.

As for negatives, that’s a tough one. This is just a great combo of features for the price. Okay, a dual-lens camera would be nice, and maybe a tad more screen resolution. But the XA2 is a fantastic buy, and one that’s sure to please the budget-conscious as well.

Pros

  • Very solid performance
  • Great camera set
  • Plenty of memory and storage

Cons

  • Screen resolution isn’t the best
  • Rear camera isn’t a dual lens

The Nokia 5.1 (Budget)

Nokia 5.1

Price: £130

Screen Size: 5.5 inches

Power: Octa-core processing, 3 GB of RAM

Camera Set: 16 MP rear camera

Finally, another fantastic budget choice, and our second Nokia option, is the Nokia 5.1. You’ll get great performance here, with octa-core processing made up of two quad-core processors (2.0 GHz and 1.2 GHz) alongside 3 GB of RAM. This isn’t the fastest phone on the block, but it’s very responsive and should be more than speedy enough for the average user.

The display is a little large at exactly 5.5 inches. But it’s an LCD screen that gets full High Definition, with 1080 x 2160 pixels. The camera set is very nice as well, with an 8 MP cam up front, and a 16 MP camera at the rear. And you get 32 GB of internal memory, along with an SD card slot to add a further 256 GB should you need it.

For a budget phone, the Nokia 5.1 ticks a lot of boxes. The screen could be a little large for some people, and we’d like to see a little more RAM. But on the whole, this is going to be a great choice for budget-conscious shoppers.

Pros

  • Very solid performance
  • Nice camera set
  • Crisp, sharp display

Cons

  • The screen could be too large for some
  • A little more RAM would be nice