I have always had a preference for small, light, feature-full phones to nicely fit in my hand and pocket. One of the smallest phones I’ve ever owned was the incredible Sony Walkman W880i but with the rise of smartphones I had to move with the times so my current phone is the Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact.

XZ1 Compact quick specs

Size: 129 x 65 x 9.3 mm
Display: 4.6 inches
Weight: 141 g
Camera: 19 MP
Storage: 32GB + SD Card Slot

The XZ1 Compact has served me well since 2019 and I would consider it almost perfect for my needs in terms of size and functionality. It has a decent sized battery so that it will easily last a full day without charging. The camera does the job and the CPU and RAM is plenty for most tasks but the 32GB onboard storage is not enough and requires using an SD card to stores photos and other app data.

Saying all that the phone was released in 2017 and has not had an update since 2019 so still running Android 9 and feeling a bit slow and camera is noticeable second rate now. I could potentially use an unofficial LineageOS firmware but problems surrounding DRM keys and camera functionality make the prospect of trying it out unpalatable. For these reasons I have been on the lookout for a replacement small Android smartphone. And no I won’t consider Apple for various reasons, although the iPhone 13 mini looks good, if rather limited battery life.

So what am I looking for in my next phone? With a bit of give and take these were my criteria:

  • Compact - at most 145 x 70 x 9 mm
  • Lightweight - around 150g
  • Long battery-life - capable of lasting two days
  • Great camera
  • Mid to high-end CPU
  • RAM - 4GB+
  • Storage - 128GB+

The problem is that Sony no longer makes phones this size, only extra-long 21:9 phones, and other manufacturers have prioritised larger display phones. There is even a website calling for more small android phones. The closest sized phones as of a few months ago which were the Samsung S10E, Google Pixel 4a and at a push the Google Pixel 5.

After much deliberation and ruling out the lower specs of the Pixel 4a and the battery life of the S10E, I picked up a like-new Pixel 5 and despite the camera, display and speed all being excellent, the size and battery-life just didn’t quite gel with me and the fingerprint scanner on the rear was frustrating to use compared to years of using a side-mounted power button version. I was ready to accept these compromises but then a fault with the NFC occurred and I had to say goodbye to it and return it for a refund. Since then I switched back to my trusty XZ1 Compact and it feels ‘just right’!

That would have been the end of my story but just a week or so ago, Asus announced the Zenfone 9, a high-end phone in smaller form-factor. Although slightly larger 147 x 68 x 9 mm and heavier 170 g than my criteria, it has a great camera and battery-life so watch this space since this could be my next phone…