The Best Small Phones for 2021

China iTech Ghana
Wednesday, October 6, 2021 | views Last Updated 2021-10-06T05:35:14Z

If popular phablets feel too big, take a look at our top-rated phones that fit comfortably in your hand and your jeans pocket.

For years, smartphones have been slowly expanding in size, to the point where it's hard to use them with just one hand. Flagships are inevitably huge: Apple and Samsung have saved their best cameras, biggest batteries, and most capacious storage for the 3-inch-wide hand-buster phones in Apple's Max series and Samsung's Note or Ultra models. But it's still possible to find small, good phones that will fit in your hand, give you all the features you want, and generally not break the bank.


The iPhone 13 (left) is significantly smaller than the iPhone 13 (right)

How Big Is Too Big?

Smartphones have grown, but our hands haven't. Back when LG launched its G2 smartphone, the company said that 2.8 inches is about as wide a phone as most people can comfortably hold and use one-handed. That might be why the base size for Samsung's flagship S phone models has hovered between 2.7 and 2.8 inches since the Galaxy S3. 

Apple has had a 2.65-inch-wide option since the iPhone 6. (For a while, Samsung also had a "Mini" phone line, but it was rarely for sale in the US.)

Palm breadth tells you how wide a phone can be before it falls out of your hand; thumb length tells you how wide a screen can be to be usable in one hand. According to an old NASA study cited by HealthLine, the average hand breadth for women is 3.1 inches, while for men it's 3.5 inches. The Center for Construction Research and Training estimates a bit lower, at 2.91 inches for women and 3.3 inches for men. 

A 2012 New York Magazine story cites a US Army study claiming the average thumb length is 2.74 inches in men and 2.49 inches for women. So that 2.8-inch phone width cited by LG is just a hair wider than the full reach of the average male thumb.

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