Head to Head: Compact Phones

by Sandra Henshaw - , Last Updated on December 16, 2015, Buying Guides

Top of the line, flagship mobiles are obviously great devices, but if you’re looking for something to slip into your shirt pocket and carry around all day, then a 5.5 inch screen might be a little much for you. Fortunately, most manufacturers make smaller compact versions of their main devices, meaning you can get a lot of the cool features you’re looking for in a smaller package. However, you’re still going to be paying a fair amount of money for a compact phone. That’s why we’re taking a look at three of the top sellers to find out which is the best buy…

Meet the Competitors

Compact Phones

First up, we’ve got the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact. Sony have released a few compact devices, and this is the latest, it’s packed full of power, but it’s going to cost you around £400. Then there’s the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, though a mini version of the flagship Galaxy S6 is rumoured to be on the cards, in the mean time, the Galaxy Alpha is the top of the line compact device from heavy hitters Samsung. It retails for around £420. Finally, we’ve got the HTC One Mini 2, the cheapest of the lot at around £250. However, this is the most recent compact release from HTC, since they’ve not yet launched a compact version of their flagship M9.

Power and Operating System

We’ll get started with performance here, and the Xperia starts us off with a strong showing, sporting octo core processing power (made up of a quad core 1.5 GHz and quad core 2 GHz processors), plus 2 GB of RAM. Coming in second is the Galaxy Alpha, also getting octo core processing, though this time a slight drop to a quad core 1.8 GHz and quad core 1.3 GHz processor, alongside 2 GB of RAM. And finally, there’s the HTC One Mini 2, with quad core 1.2 GHz of processor power and 1 GB of RAM.

Though the Xperia is coming out on top, all three phones actually get pretty good performance. Even the HTC has enough power for the normal phone user. However, if you’re into high end mobile gaming or using picture or video editing apps, then you might want to go for the Xperia or the Galaxy.

As for operating system, all are Android models. The Xperia runs Lollipop out of the box but is equipped to update to Marshmallow, whilst the Galaxy and HTC run KitKat out of the box and will update to Lollipop. So not a whole lot of difference there.

Screen and Display Specs

Moving on to display specs, and since these are compact phones we’re not expecting to see huge screen sizes here. You are still getting a fair amount of retail space though, with the Alpha getting a 4.7 inch display, the Xperia a 4.6 inch screen, and the HTC a 4.5 inch screen. That should be plenty of room to play around with, and on screen typing should be no problem.

When it comes to resolution, there’s really little difference. All three phones get 720 x 1280 pixel resolution, so more or less the same, although there’s a small difference in PPI since there’s also a small difference in screen size. One small thing: the Alpha does get Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen tech, giving deeper colour reproduction, as opposed to the LCD screens on the Xperia and HTC.

Bottom line though, picture quality is great on all three and you’d be hard pressed to really spot a noticeable difference between them.


It should come as no surprise that the Xperia comes out on top of the camera stakes, the manufacturer do make some of the best mobile cameras around. When it comes to rear cameras, the Xperia gets a whopping 23 MP, whilst the HTC gets 13 MP, and the Samsung gets 12 MP. Moving around to the front, the Xperia gets a 5.1 MP front cam, the HTC trailing by a tad with a 5 MP device, and the Samsung gets only a 2.1 MP camera.

Clearly, if mobile photography is your thing, then the Xperia is really the way to go, though all three get the usual LED flash, autofocus and HDR.

Memory Issues

So, how much storage are we getting here? Internally, both the Xperia and the Alpha get 32 GB of built in memory, whilst the HTC gets only 16 GB. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story, since there’s the issue of external storage. The Xperia will support an SD card for up to 200 GB of extra memory, and the HTC will take an SD card for up to 128 GB of extra storage. The Alpha, however, will not, so there’s no extra space there to play around with.

If you’re looking for a device on which you’re going to be able to store your music collection, then the Alpha probably shouldn’t be your first choice.

Size and Weight

Finally, we’re looking for a compact phone, so size and weight do need to play a part in the decision as well. In terms of size alone, the Xperia comes out on top at 127 x 65 x 9 mm, followed by the Alpha at 132 x 65.5 x 6.7 mm, and then the HTC at 137 x 65 x 10.6 mm. None of these are huge phones, but that extra thickness on the HTC might bother some.

But when it comes to weight, the Alpha is clearly the winner, thanks mostly to its all metal build. It weighs in at just 115 grams, versus the 137 gram HTC and 138 gram Xperia.

Which is Best?

Frankly, all three phones are good buys. The Sony Xperia clearly comes out top of the power stakes, and that would probably be our first choice. The lighter Alpha has a more premium feel with that metal build, but the specs just don’t justify that price tag. But that older model HTC is not a bad buy at all, considering it’s around half the price of the Xperia and Alpha the One Mini 2 actually gets some very nice performance. If money’s no object, then the Xperia is the way to go, but if you’re on a budget the HTC One Mini 2 is a great buy!