Con­trary to pop­u­lar belief, not all flag­ship smart­phones have huge dis­plays and are called “shov­els”. Some man­u­fac­tur­ers inten­tion­al­ly release, along with such devices, quite pow­er­ful, but com­pact smart­phones that have many fans. Let’s con­sid­er the most inter­est­ing among them and com­pile a rat­ing table accord­ing to the tech­ni­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics.

Pho­to: flickr.com

Main evaluation criteria

All the smart­phones dis­cussed below were eval­u­at­ed accord­ing to cer­tain cri­te­ria, and on their basis an over­all rat­ing was com­piled:

CPU. Man­u­fac­tur­ers install pow­er­ful chips in flag­ship mod­els that can han­dle the most demand­ing games and mul­ti­task­ing. How­ev­er, the per­for­mance of gad­gets from dif­fer­ent brands can vary sig­nif­i­cant­ly.

Cam­era. Mod­ern smart­phones have more than two cam­eras with a res­o­lu­tion of 48 megapix­els or more. But there are excep­tions. For exam­ple, on the iPhone 12, the main sen­sor has a res­o­lu­tion of 12 megapix­els, but this does not pre­vent it from tak­ing high-qual­i­ty pic­tures. For many users, the qual­i­ty of the front cam­era and the max­i­mum res­o­lu­tion for video are impor­tant. Some flag­ships are capa­ble of shoot­ing not only in 4K, but also in 8K.

Screen. There are two main dis­play tech­nolo­gies — AMOLED and IPS. The for­mer have wider view­ing angles and give a rich pic­ture, but are more expen­sive. IPS is cheap­er, but infe­ri­or in image con­trast to AMOLED screens. Also, in the case of flag­ships, the diag­o­nal is impor­tant, but since we are con­sid­er­ing com­pact gad­gets, we will not chase record sizes. Also, when eval­u­at­ing the qual­i­ty of the screen, we took into account the max­i­mum fre­quen­cy, which reach­es 90–120 Hz.

Auton­o­my. It direct­ly depends on the capac­i­ty of the bat­tery, mea­sured in mAh. But every­thing is not so clear. Smart­phones with the same bat­tery can have very dif­fer­ent bat­tery life due to dif­fer­ences in screen sizes, dis­play tech­nolo­gies, and oth­er fac­tors.

RAM. The more it is, the eas­i­er the smart­phone copes with mod­ern games, demand­ing appli­ca­tions and mul­ti­task­ing. In mod­ern flag­ships, the amount of mem­o­ry reach­es 8–16 GB, but not every­one needs such high per­for­mance in real life.

Val­ue for mon­ey. Anoth­er impor­tant para­me­ter that flag­ship buy­ers pay atten­tion to. The fact is that a high price is not always jus­ti­fied, and some­times we have to pay just for a pro­mot­ed brand.

iPhone SE is a compact smartphone from Apple

In Rus­sia, this gad­get began to be sold in the spring of 2020. It imme­di­ate­ly attract­ed the atten­tion of fans of com­pact phones because of its size and weight of 148 g: 67.3 × 138.40 × 7.3 mm. The dis­play received a res­o­lu­tion of 1334 x 750 pix­els and a diag­o­nal of 4.7”.

The smart­phone runs on the iOS 13 oper­at­ing sys­tem and has 64, 128 or 256 GB of inter­nal mem­o­ry. Sup­ports the instal­la­tion of one SIM-card and eSIM, but there is no slot for microSD.

The bat­tery capac­i­ty is only 1821 mAh, but this is enough to use the gad­get in music lis­ten­ing mode for 40 hours. The heart of the smart­phone is the pro­pri­etary Apple A13 Bion­ic proces­sor.

iPhone SE (2020) received a lacon­ic body design with one main cam­era. Pho­to: appleinsider.ru

The main cam­era sen­sor received 12 megapix­els and a 6‑lens f / 1.8 lens. The front cam­era has only 7 megapix­els and f / 2.2 aper­ture. Unlike the old­er broth­er iPhone 11, the cam­era in the SE is devoid of night mode.

The design of the iPhone SE is very sim­i­lar to the iPhone 8, released three years ear­li­er (in 2017). The cas­es are almost iden­ti­cal, so even cov­ers from 8 fit on SE. At the same time, the gad­get received a mod­ern proces­sor and a good cam­era. In terms of price and qual­i­ty, this smart­phone deserves a fair­ly high rat­ing, which is often a rar­i­ty for Apple prod­ucts.

  • Proces­sor: 8/10
  • Cam­era: 7/10
  • Screen: 7/10
  • Auton­o­my: 8/10
  • RAM: 5/10
  • Val­ue for mon­ey: 8/10
  • Aver­age score: 7.2

The most compact Android flagship — Samsung Galaxy S10e

The flag­ship mod­el of Sam­sung, which debuted back in 2019, but remains rel­e­vant in 2020 and even 2021. At the time of release, it cost about $750, and now you can buy it for less than $300. two rear cam­eras instead of three, and the pres­ence of a side fin­ger­print sen­sor instead of a sub-screen one. With a weight of 150 g, the dimen­sions of the case are as fol­lows: 69.9x142.2x7.9 mm. The size of the AMOLED dis­play with a res­o­lu­tion of 2280 x 1080 pix­els is 5.8 inch­es.

Thanks to its com­pact dimen­sions, the Galaxy S10e fits com­fort­ably even in a small hand, for exam­ple, a wom­an’s. Pho­to: flickr.com

The pow­er of the Exynos 9820 proces­sor is still enough for many smart­phone users today, although its per­for­mance may not be enough for mod­ern games at high set­tings. RAM can be 6 or 8 GB, and the amount of inter­nal stor­age is 128 or 256 GB. There is a slot for installing a microSD card. In terms of image qual­i­ty, the Galaxy S10e is not much infe­ri­or to its old­er broth­er, although it lacks one rear cam­era (two instead of three):

  • main — 12 MP, f/1.5, f/2.4
  • wide-angle — 16 MP, f / 2.2
  • front — 10 MP, f / 1.9

Even tak­ing into account the fact that the phone was released two years ago, it looks rel­e­vant even now. The dis­play is sur­round­ed by a very thin bezel around the perime­ter and has a front cam­era neat­ly built into the upper right cor­ner.

  • Proces­sor: 9/10
  • Cam­era: 8/10
  • Screen: 8/10
  • Auton­o­my: 7/10
  • RAM: 7/10
  • Val­ue for mon­ey: 8/10
  • Aver­age score: 7.8

iPhone 12 mini is a compact new Apple

Fans of the brand who once loved the iPhone SE should like the iPhone 12 mini. By the name it is clear that Apple decid­ed to use this gad­get to grab a part of the com­pact flag­ship mar­ket, and they suc­ceed­ed. It is note­wor­thy that the smart­phone turned out to be not so small as the SE was. The size of the AMOLED dis­play is 5.4 inch­es. Based on this, the dimen­sions of the smart­phone are as fol­lows: 64.2x131x5x7.4 mm. The device weighs 135 g.

The smart­phone, depend­ing on the ver­sion, has on board from 64 to 256 GB of inter­nal mem­o­ry. But the oper­a­tional is always the same amount — 4 GB.

The iPhone 12 mini is notice­ably small­er than its old­er broth­er in the line­up. Pho­to: www.gsmarena.com

The Super Reti­na XDR screen at a res­o­lu­tion of 2340 x 1080 pix­els pleas­ant­ly sur­pris­es with image qual­i­ty. There is sup­port for True Tone, HDR and a wide P3 col­or gamut, like the old­er broth­ers of the line. The alu­minum-glass body looks good. The smart­phone is avail­able in five col­ors: white, black, red, blue and light green.

The screen refresh rate is lim­it­ed to 60 Hz, but this helped to achieve high­er auton­o­my, although the sit­u­a­tion is ambigu­ous with it. The bat­tery capac­i­ty is 2227 mAh, which is less than its direct com­peti­tors on Android, but the phone still deliv­ers good results. For exam­ple, when watch­ing a YouTube video, the bat­tery will last for 14–15 hours, and in games it will sit down in about 3 hours.

At the time of writ­ing the review, the cost of the iPhone 12 mini is com­pa­ra­ble to the iPhone 11 Pro, which can also be attrib­uted to com­pact smart­phones, albeit with some stretch.

  • Proces­sor: 9/10
  • Cam­era: 8/10
  • Screen: 9/10
  • Auton­o­my: 8/10
  • RAM: 8/10
  • Val­ue for mon­ey: 7/10
  • Aver­age score: 7.8

Samsung Galaxy S10 is still a popular flagship

This smart­phone is not new. The com­pa­ny released it back in 2019, but it is still in demand, like the younger broth­er Galaxy S10e. The smart­phone is equipped with a 6.1″ Dynam­ic AMOLED HDR+ dis­play with a res­o­lu­tion of 1440 x 3440 pix­els. The screen has amaz­ing col­or repro­duc­tion and con­trast. Bright­ness is enough for com­fort­able use of the smart­phone even in sun­ny weath­er.

The flag­ship Sam­sung Galaxy S10 has a fair­ly strict and con­ser­v­a­tive design. Pho­to: root-nation.com

The heart of the gad­get is the Sam­sung Exynos 9820 proces­sor. This is a chip made using the 8 nm process tech­nol­o­gy and hav­ing 8 cores:

  • two Sam­sung Exynos M4 up to 2.7 GHz
  • two Cor­tex-A75 up to 2.3 GHz
  • four ortex-A55 up to 1.9 GHz

The RAM in the smart­phone is 6 GB, and the inter­nal stor­age is 128 and 256 GB. On the back of the case there is an oblong cutout with three cam­era mod­ules:

  • 12MP por­trait tele­pho­to, f/2.4
  • 12MP wide-angle, f/1.5 and f/2.4
  • 16 MP ultra-wide angle, f/2.2

The front cam­era has a res­o­lu­tion of 10 megapix­els with an aper­ture of f / 1.9. This is a wide angle sen­sor with aut­o­fo­cus. The qual­i­ty of the pic­tures will be appre­ci­at­ed by all self­ie lovers. Even in motion, the pic­tures are quite clear.

In terms of auton­o­my, the Galaxy S10 can­not be called a record hold­er. The bat­tery with a capac­i­ty of 3400 mAh lasts an aver­age of a day. If you active­ly use the cam­eras or play games, the bat­tery will sit down much faster. It charges up to 100% in about an hour and a half.

  • Proces­sor: 9/10
  • Cam­era: 9/10
  • Screen: 9/10
  • Auton­o­my: 8/10
  • RAM: 8/10
  • Val­ue for mon­ey: 8/10
  • Aver­age score: 8.5

Samsung Galaxy S20 is a popular flagship in 2020

Like the pre­vi­ous mod­el Galaxy S10, twen­ty with some stretch gets into our rat­ing of com­pact smart­phones. It is much larg­er than the same iPhone SE, but Android sup­port­ers have few alter­na­tives.

A large 6.2‑inch AMOLED screen occu­pies almost the entire use­ful area of ​​​​the front of the case. By default, the dis­play runs at 60 Hz, but this can be changed to 120 Hz. The screen is sur­round­ed by the thinnest frame with a cutout for the front cam­era in the mid­dle. The gad­get is quite com­fort­able in the hand, despite not the most com­pact dimen­sions of 69.1x151.7x7.9 mm.

Along with a qual­i­ty dis­play, this smart­phone offers users a pow­er­ful Exynos 990 chip that can han­dle all mobile appli­ca­tions and the lat­est games. The 4000 mAh bat­tery is enough to com­fort­ably use your phone all day long. Fast and wire­less charg­ing func­tion is pro­vid­ed.

Galaxy S20 is not the most com­pact, but easy to use flag­ship from Sam­sung. Pho­to: digitaltrends.com

The man­u­fac­tur­er equipped the Sam­sung Galaxy S20 with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of inter­nal stor­age. There is sup­port for microSD cards, with which free space can be expand­ed up to 1 TB.

The Galaxy S20 is the first Sam­sung flag­ship to remove the 3.5mm jack. They also final­ly removed the sep­a­rate Bix­by but­ton, which only inter­fered with many. On the back, on the left, there is a ver­ti­cal block with three sen­sors:

  • main 12 MP, f/1.8
  • 12 MP wide-angle, f/2.2
  • 64 MP tele­pho­to, f/2.0

The front cam­era has a 10MP sen­sor with an f/2.2 aper­ture. It does not have aut­o­fo­cus func­tions, but there is a bokeh effect that works out very well.

  • Proces­sor: 9/10
  • Cam­era: 9/10
  • Screen: 9/10
  • Auton­o­my: 8/10
  • RAM: 9/10
  • Val­ue for mon­ey: 8/10
  • Aver­age score: 8.7

Sony Xperia 5 is a flagship with an unusual design

The elon­gat­ed shape of the case gives this gad­get an unusu­al look, and this is exact­ly what is the orig­i­nal fea­ture of the lat­est Sony smart­phones. The width of the case is only 68 mm, although the screen diag­o­nal is rather big – 6.1”.

Design is not the only advan­tage of a smart­phone. He received a high-qual­i­ty triple main cam­era, a pro­duc­tive Qual­comm Snap­drag­on 855 proces­sor and 6 GB of RAM. Also, the man­u­fac­tur­er has equipped the phone with stereo speak­ers that pro­duce high-qual­i­ty sound, but there is no 3.5 mm head­phone jack.

Thanks to the oblong shape of the body, the Sony Xpe­ria 5 looks very orig­i­nal and is con­ve­nient to use with one hand. Pho­to: ixbt.com

The amount of built-in mem­o­ry is 128 GB. There is also a free slot for installing a microSD mem­o­ry card. The main unit with cam­eras received three sen­sors:

  • main 12 MP, f/1.6
  • wide-angle at 12 MP, f/2.4
  • tele­pho­to 12 MP, f/1.6

The front cam­era has a res­o­lu­tion of only 8 megapix­els and f / 2.0 aper­ture.

The 3140 mAh bat­tery lasts for 20 hours of using the smart­phone in talk mode. When play­ing video, the bat­tery lasts for 16 hours, and in games the phone is dis­charged in 5–6 hours. A full bat­tery charge takes almost 2 hours. There is no wire­less charg­ing fea­ture.

  • Proces­sor: 8/10
  • Cam­era: 8/10
  • Screen: 8/10
  • Auton­o­my: 8/10
  • RAM: 7/10
  • Val­ue for mon­ey: 7/10
  • Aver­age score: 7.7

Rating of the best compact smartphones for 2021

Accord­ing to the results of the rat­ings that all the gad­gets dis­cussed above deserved, the fol­low­ing rat­ing table was formed:

Smart­phone iPhone SE Xpe­ria 5 iPhone 12 mini Galaxy S10e Galaxy S10 Galaxy S20
CPU eight eight 9 9 9 9
Cam­era 7 eight eight eight 9 9
Screen 7 eight 9 eight 9 9
auton­o­my eight eight eight 7 eight eight
RAM 5 7 eight 7 eight 9
Price qual­i­ty eight 7 7 eight eight eight
aver­age rat­ing 7.2 7.7 7.8 7.8 8.5 8.7

If you’re after Apple’s small­est, most afford­able smart­phone, the iPhone SE is the one to look at. If you are will­ing to pay a lit­tle more, the iPhone 12 mini will do. When choos­ing an Android device, the choice expands sig­nif­i­cant­ly. The Galaxy S10e will be the most com­pact and suc­cess­ful in terms of cost-per­for­mance ratio, but last year’s flag­ship Galaxy S20 is ready to fork out, although you can’t call it minia­ture with a screen diag­o­nal of 6.2 ″.