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Over the past months, I haven’t been shy about expressing my appreciation for the Pixel 5’s physical dimensions. After years of carrying larger and larger phones, which culminated with the Pixel 4 XL, it felt great to go back to a smaller device that just fits in my hands and my tiny female pants’ pockets, and where I don’t have to stretch my thumb like Mrs. Incredible to reach the opposite top corner. However, for a brief moment, it looked like we were starting to dig the grave to bury the idea of smaller phones, but there’s a new wind blowing and it breathed new life into the category. We’re now seeing both the death of small phones and their rebirth at the same time.
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An ever-evolving definition of “small”
(I’ll preface this whole section by a general “no puns intended” disclaimer.) Size is subjective, and what seems tiny to me might be huge to you. The Pixel 5 is probably as small as I can personally go without compromising usability, i.e. without having to referee a thumb war each time I type a message. For other users, the Pixel 5 jumps the line into the larger phone territory and they’d much rather stick with something like the iPhone Mini series.
What makes a small phone?
It’s hard to define what a smaller smartphone should be. Many companies have tackled the idea in different manners, from the Sony Xperia Compact line-up to Google’s regular Pixel and XL separation, the iPhone Minis, and more. Some decided that the more compact form factor should come with a spec and price drop as well, others preferred to avoid any compromises in the experience save for the display and battery. I prefer the latter approach, but I’m sure others will say they’d rather buy a small and cheap phone because that’s all they need. So if we can’t define it by its features, could we do that by its size? Probably not either.