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Where Are The Small Next Gen Android Phones?



Every week we learn about a new Android smartphone, packed with a speedy dual core processor, new tech and in the case of the Galaxy Nexus — Ice Cream Sandwich.

What do the HTC Vigor,  Galaxy Nexus and Droid RAZR have in common? The biggest thing theses devices have in common is their large screens. While the HTC Vigor and Droid RAZR have manageable 4.3″ displays, the Galaxy Nexus is a pocket filling 4.65″.

When looking at the Samsung Galaxy Note, which has a 5.3″ display, we asked How Big is too Big?, which sparked conversations with many high demand users I know. These Android fans are looking for a new phone, but want to know, where are the pocketable Android smartphones?

Galaxy Nexus Display - Large

The Galaxy Nexus display is too large for many users.

I recently talked to one Android user who is contemplating the iPhone 4S because he wants a next gen phone that is compact. Up until a week ago, this user was set on getting the Galaxy Nexus, but the 4.65″ display is just too big. He asked me if I knew of any smaller display Android devices coming down the pipe, but I couldn’t think of any high-end Android device with a screen less than 4.3 inches.

Currently, Android manufacturers a race to have the best phone, a phone that can compete with the iPhone 4S for marketshare. In this race to the top, Samsung, Motorola and HTC are focused on delivering the biggest screen. Thankfully this time around we are seeing resolution take stage too, but what we aren’t seeing is any new small or compact Android smartphone.

Android smartphones clocking in under 4″ are targeted directly at women, like the HTC Rhyme, or shipping with older processors that don’t interest power users.One reason the iPhone has enjoyed such great sales is because it appeals to both men and women, and packs in many high level features in a small package. One of the great things about high resolution displays, is the ability to show more information on a smaller screen.

Droid Incredible 2 size compare

Will we see a Droid Incredible 3 with everything these users want?

In the end, these users are basically asking for the HTC Incredible 3, with a dual core processor, 4G LTE and no screen size bump. We had heard some ramblings of a December release of the Incredible 3, following a May Droid Incredible 2 launch, but nothing since then.

This should allow Android device manufacturers to deliver a device with a 3.5″ to 4″ display that shows more on the screen than on the 4.3″ screens of devices that came to market just a few months back. This same technique allows the MacBook Air to show a lot of information on the 11″ and 13″ displays, more than you would typically see on a 13″ notebook.

Android screen size

Bigger is better?

4.3″ is just right for me, but I am enjoying the more pocketable size of the iPhone 4S, which makes up for the smaller screen with a higher resolution Retina display. At this point, we’ll have to wait for CES to get a glimpse of any Android smartphones that pack NFC, dual core processors and Ice Cream Sandwich into a body with a small screen. Hopefully at least one device will bring these speedy internals to market with a 4″ high resolution display.

Are these individuals in the minority? Or are you looking for a high-end Android smartphone with a 4″ display too?

Image via aussiegall on Flickr

[poll id=”32″]



  1. Han

    10/31/2011 at 8:26 am

    No, you’re not alone. The 4.65″ screen size is the biggest turnoff for me as far as the Galaxy Nexus. Which is why I’m strongly considering the HTC Rezound, since it is reported to have the same resolution. Though 4.3 is still too big. If you look at the specs of the Droid Razr and the Galaxy Nexus, the widths are essentially the same, and the height of the Razr is only about 5mm shorter. So the 4.3″ screen size doesn’t buy much in terms of compact-ness (thinness of the Razr aside). 4.0″ would be perfect for me, but nothing seems to be “high end” this fall at that size.

    • Kenoshabrew

      10/31/2011 at 10:46 am

      From my understanding they did not increase the size of the phone over the Galaxy II S. They only stretched the screen to the corners and by getting rid of the dedicated buttons on the bottom and replacing them with soft buttons on screen, the device is no bigger. Watch the unveiling at the Tokyo show to see my source material.

  2. Anonymous

    10/31/2011 at 8:40 am

    No 5.3″ option… couldn’t vote….
    OEMs have been putting out phone with small screens… and small specs that made them barely usable (my brother threw away his xperia mini pro with great prejudice, and I can attest he was justified). I’ guessing that with very slick ass-hatedness, marketers have concluded than there’s no real market for small phones. Wrong… there’s no market for sucky phones.

    • I'm Amazing

      04/25/2013 at 6:30 pm

      Hehe, no 5.3″ option, good one.

  3. BrianB13

    10/31/2011 at 8:41 am

    Why would women want a small screen when they have huge hand bags and purses to put them in?  You are right though.  Almost every woman I know has an iPhone and that’s why I have labeled it a chick phone.  I’m getting a Nexus as I want a 4.5″ – 4.6″ screen.  It doesn’t seem like the Nexus is all that much bigger than the 4.3″ display phones.  The iPhone is just too small.  The Galaxy Note is too big in my opinion.

  4. Yoric Hunt

    10/31/2011 at 9:12 am

    The Nexus has on screen buttons, which disappear under certain circumstances, e.g. watching a video. This means no need for physical buttons at the bottom of the screen. Therefore the form factor of the Nexus is more like a 4.3 inch device.

    • Hacsac22

      10/31/2011 at 10:30 am

      YES!! atleast somebody else gets it!!!

  5. Anonymous

    10/31/2011 at 9:44 am

    It should be noted however that it is the dimensions of the device that matter and not the screen size. The Nexus has a different screen ratio, no physical button, and a small bezel that should put it around the size of a 4.3 inch screen. The overall dimensions of the phone is what is important.

    Now that being said these phones are by no means small. They are still huge phones. If I were to have my preference, I think that the average 4 inch screen phone is around my ideal dimensions. If ICS allows a phone to have a 4.3 inch screen while still having the total dimensions of a 4 inch phone, then that would be perfect to me.

    • Guest

      12/22/2011 at 11:02 pm

      I agree completely.  I want a bigger screen but the Nexus and the Razr are both uncomfortable for me to hold… and I have big hands.  Some say you get used to the bigger size but I just don’t want to… and don’t want to carry around such big devices.

  6. Hacsac22

    10/31/2011 at 10:28 am

    Why arnt a lot of people.understanding this…. the galaxy nexus has a 4.65 display but the frame around he screen is smaller than most 4.3inch phones today and around .35 inches of the screen is dedicated to the buttons which appear and disapear when needed so you could say the phone is a 4.3 if it makes you feel better about it. Just look at your android phone now and image the screen covering the physical buttons and that is what the galaxy nexus will look like.

  7. thebrob1983

    10/31/2011 at 1:13 pm

    I just did a focus group a week ago and they had about twenty six new phones on display with shapes and sizes from squares to rectangles and screen sizes from 2.5 inches all the way up to 6 …they even had one that looked like a sidekick with a screen that pops out when u press a button …there’s a lot of cool stuff coming next year just be patient….but for people like me big guy big hands I need a phone with a huge screen and fast access….my thumbs almost cover half of an iPhone

    • whozatmac

      10/11/2012 at 11:15 am

      The problem with focus groups is they always end up with the initial impression but never how people feel about phones in the longer term. When I got my 4.3″ Inspire 4g I was all about the huge display. When I carried it around for months I started to get annoyed by the size. It doesn’t rest comfortable in the pocket. Now I have a 3.7″ with the same display resolution and a hardware keyboard. (doubleshot) It’s awesome.

  8. Fuckyou

    10/31/2011 at 10:45 pm

    I have big hands and I’m not a pansy. Tired of reading these sissies saying the screen is too big. Bring a big screen, with a big battery too!

    • Someone

      12/20/2011 at 5:46 am

      you are probably a closet homosexual.

      • Magneto

        04/18/2013 at 10:57 am

        And he’s also compensating.

  9. Keith Duff

    11/04/2011 at 5:37 am

    I almost purchased a 4S just because it’s the only phone out there that is reasonably sized. The old Palm/hp Pre was a good size and the basically never released Palm/HP Veer would have been awesome – but that’s dead now too.

    I live in a Google centric world and iOS5 I great, but I don’t want to deal with syncing to my Google contacts, etc.  If I could, I’d buy a 4S for the design and size and load the Andorid Ice Cream Sandwich OS on it.  Or maybe HP will resurrect the Veer with either WebOS or Android and with both CMDA and GSM radios so I can use it on Sprint and around the world like the 4S.  That would be great.  Or maybe someone else can just copy that design…    

  10. Kris Meister

    11/15/2011 at 4:57 pm

    I think battery life is a main reason we don’t see the fastest processors in small phones. The smaller batteries wouldn’t last long with those large CPUs.

  11. Yrock777

    11/19/2011 at 10:26 am

    the nexus is a half inch taller and quarter inch wider than the droid x.  IMHO….the 4 inch size would be perfect.  I’ve been holding out since January for a new phone…1st the bionic, then the razr and now the nexus.  I’m tired of waiting for the phone that “has it all”!!  I wanna be able to carry the darn thing in my pocket,  phone makers!!!

  12. Christiann

    11/30/2011 at 9:15 pm

    I got a Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro SK17i. It’s nice and small with a 1 ghz processor, and while it’s heavier than I’d like, I love this little phone. Also some of the other Sony Xperia phones are nice, small Androids: The Xperia Mini, the Xperia Live, and the Xperia Active. I’m wondering if Sony Ericsson the only game in town for faster, smaller Android phones.

    • Leland Robinson

      12/10/2011 at 8:49 am

      I was looking to buy a SK17a early next year, I love how small it is. And because the mid spec innards not pushing graphics to a WVGA or greater screen, it runs like one of the big boys. And it has a keyboard to boot.(On a side note, why do they always make big screened phones with no physical keyboard?)

  13. A_Girl

    12/01/2011 at 8:43 pm

    I’ve been hanging onto my original Droid for far longer than I want, specifically because every new friggin’ phone is so HUGE!  I do NOT want a bigger screen!  I also don’t use the slide-out keyboard, so I don’t really want the Droid 3, even though it’s among my favorites, size-wise.  Yes, I carry a purse, but that doesn’t mean I want to put more, bigger stuff in there.  Plus, when I’m out snowboarding or cycling or whatever, I want the phone to fit in a reasonably sized pocket.  If someone doesn’t come out with a smaller Android phone before my Droid eventually bites the dust, I will go iPhone, even though I strongly prefer Android.

    • Also_A_Girl

      02/15/2012 at 8:57 am

      I am 100% in agreement with you.  I love Android, but will switch to iPhone if they don’t come out with something soon.  I also still have the original Droid.

  14. FritzNewton

    12/16/2011 at 5:17 pm

    Good article–especially the point the a Retina display can make up for less screen real estate  What’s baffling is that one of Android’s advantages over Apple is multiple screen sizes.  So if someone wants to link form factor with his masculinity, he’s free to do so.  Personally, I like compact: “mobile phone” and “tablet” should be two different products.

  15. Anonymous

    12/18/2011 at 8:17 am

    The one and only reason I got an iPhone is because of the small screen size. I love the android operating system, but hate the ridiculously large screens most of the phones have.

  16. Naos

    12/28/2011 at 3:02 am

    +1 for smaller top specs android phones !

  17. Soulmonkey3

    01/01/2012 at 9:42 am

    I’m waiting and hoping for a dual processor Android 4.0 phone with a 3″ display and dimensions closer to the old non smart phones. Something that actual fits in a medium sized hand and I can comfortably tap anywhere on the screen with the thumb of the hand you’re holding the phone with.

    • Soulmonkey

      01/01/2012 at 10:09 am

      Maybe Sony xperia ray size. Maybe this year!!

  18. Sishort

    01/31/2012 at 10:44 am

    Here here. 3 months on with MWC around the corner and no hint of a decent small screen high res Android. I’ve not seen anything to tempt me away from my HTC Desire yet, especially as I’ve got it running CM7 and I now have more internal memory.

    Come on guys, Samsung to surprise us all with the Galaxy SIII sporting a 4″ super HD screen??

  19. Pradeep

    01/31/2012 at 2:23 pm

    I am looking for a android GPS small phone, that I can use to track my fitness/runs with available android apps. There are other gps devices available (MOTOACTV, Nike+ GPS sportband..), but those are not phone, so I will need to carry two devices. Hope to see a handy durable sport focused android phone soon

  20. Mike Stewart

    02/09/2012 at 3:08 am

    Sony Xperia Ray is currently the only choice.  3.3″ LCD / 1Ghz / 512mb / TriBand 3G

  21. matt

    02/13/2012 at 7:42 am

    Everyone’s saying it’s the same size as a 4.3″ with a smaller border.  But for me the point is the 4.3s are too big as well.  Why do u need a screen that big?  I don’t even have a problem running Google Maps/Navigation on a 3.7″ display.  If you wanna watch films get a tv or a tablet.  OK everyone’s different there are some users it’d appeal to, but for most people it’s more than enough and we want something portable instead.  The problem is all the high-end phones are massive slabs, there’s not much choice.  There aren’t many, if any,  high-spec reasonable size.

  22. Grankin

    03/07/2012 at 12:40 pm

    3.5″?  Too big!  I’m perfectly happy with the 2.5″ screen on my Palm/HP Pre, the whole phone being just under 4″ in length.  I’d love to have something that size with a high-res screen and an Android OS, for I am getting sick & tired of the bugs that keep cropping up in WebOS 2.2.4, forced upon all Pre2 users by HP.

    • Grankin

      04/25/2012 at 11:22 am

      replying to myself:  turns out, the “bugs” in WebOS 2.2.4 were a product of the AT&T SIM card (according th HP’s techs).  I managed to lose that card when swapping cards in Panama, and AT&T replaced it.  The new one has NO problems.

      Nevertheless, I’d be more than pleased with a similarly-sized Android phone, for it would have a whole lot more longevity that this Palm orphan.

  23. Justin

    03/11/2012 at 7:53 pm

    While I totally agree with the general message of the article, I have to point out two things:

    1. As many have already said, the Galaxy Nexus doesn’t REALLY have a 4.65″ screen. Well, it does, but it’s not a fair comparison. Much of the screen real estate replaces the outdated capacitive buttons that the SGS and SGS2 have. It’s essentially a 4.3″ screen.

    2. What are you talking about with the MacBook Air having a high resolution display? The 11″ MacBook Air has a native resolution of 1366×768. Pretty standard (my $600 Acer laptop from 2010 sports the same spec). The 13″ model has a native resolution of 1440×900. Again, standard on that size. Apple makes very, very crisp displays for the iPhone and the iPad. However, their notebook/desktop displays are run of the mill. That’s not really a knock at Apple, though. PC operating systems aren’t really optimized for the very high pixel densities that we see in phones. If you slap a 1080p display on an 11″ MacBook Air, everything (text, especially) will be way too small. We’ve hit a point of diminishing returns at that form factor, so there’s no need to spend a lot of money for some worthless extra pixels. Same with TVs. I’ve always wondered why people are impressed with a 50″ HDTV being 720/1080p. So what? My 24″ CRT monitor from 2004 supported resolutions greater than 1080p. Shoot, the 4.65″ display on the Galaxy Nexus is 720p!

    That said, this article makes a wonderful point: phones are getting way too big. A lot of men don’t want to put bricks in their front pockets. A lot of women don’t want to fumble around with a phone they can’t hold. They need to start mixing in some smaller form factor phones with next gen spec.

    I would encourage anyone reading this to go check out the Samsung Illusion at a Verizon store. It’s an entry level device that COULD have been great. Essentially, it’s a 3.5″ shell of the Galaxy Nexus (curved display and all) with first generation SGS core components, a iPhone 3GS display, and a crappy camera without a flash. I WISH this device had some better components. It is seriously the most perfect form factor I’ve ever seen on an Android device. The hardware that it has could PROBABLY run Ice Cream Sandwich decently (my Samsung Captivate does just fine running ICS with the same specs), but being that it’s such a low end device it has zero developer support on XDA so in all likelihood you’ll be stuck with the stock Gingerbread ROM with TouchWiz. Not exactly a winner for the future, but I would still recommend giving it a look if you don’t need the best hardware out there. THIS is the form factor that I wish Samsung would put some focus into. I don’t even want to upgrade from my 4″ Captivate right now because there’s nothing out there that I truly want to put in my pocket due to size.

  24. Somebody

    04/25/2012 at 11:01 am

    I feel the same way – my current phone is a Nexus One, and I’m constantly running out of memory on it now (only 512mb/512mb configuration, it sucks).  I think it’s 3.5″ or 3.8″, can’t recall, but it’s very pocketable and useable.  I’d love to get a Galaxy Nexus, especially now that Google is selling them unlocked.

    But MAN it is just TOO gigantic!

  25. cushcalc

    05/22/2012 at 10:24 pm

    I would also like to see a high-end, small Android phone. I have a Galaxy Note, and I love it, but one-handed use while walking 2 dogs is not safe. And now that I have a 7″ Galaxy Tab 2 and an iPad 3, a very compact but feature-rich phone is attractive to me. May have to go back to iPhone.

  26. cushcalc

    05/22/2012 at 10:45 pm

    Just found a number of possibilities by searching, of which this is the most intriguing:
    Sony Ericsson Xperia ray ST18a – 3.3″ 480×854 display which gives it a PPI of 296.9, 111 x 53 x 9.4 mm, 100grams, 512 RAM, 1GB ROM, 1GHz Scorpion processor, Adreno 205 GPU, MSM8255 Snapdragon chipset, 8MP camera.

  27. phill

    06/13/2012 at 11:58 am

    I think you’re all missing the point. these new devices are not used very often to make phone calls. the screens need to be big to use: email ,internet browsing, face book et al, games, sat-nav, movies, tv, ebooks,1000’s of apps, oh yes and a large keyboard. I think the name should be changed to smart devices that you can use as a phone if you want. if you want a small phone, buy one, they’re really cheap these days

  28. Kevin

    06/20/2012 at 11:47 am

    I am very happy with the size of my $100 LG Optimus T phone, 3.2inches. The screen could fill up more of the phone but I think this size is ideal for me. One of these days I will upgrade to a faster phone if someone makes one that is small and isn’t more than a $250.

  29. Anna

    06/21/2012 at 7:10 pm

    I’m an Android fan, but I’m seriously considering an iPhone because no Android phone seems to combine decent hardware specs with small size.

    And full ACK on the thing with small phones marketed to women. The way this is done is just blatantly insulting. The fact that I’m female and would like a small phone that fits into a relatively small pocket and is useable with one non-enormous hand does NOT mean that I
    * don’t want good hardware performance
    * want gaudy colours and pseudo-cute patterns instead of design that is useful and looks good
    * am too stupid to use standard phone features and want idiot-proof shopping apps.

    If phone manufacturers wanted to do specific “look how pretty” marketing, they could start by sticking to one damn form factor at least for one model line — which would make it economically feasible for accessories manufacturers to make more than the standard set of 5 ugly boring cases for them. Notice how for iPhones now there are cases in every fashion shop, right next to the handbags, co-ordinated and all?
    I want to use them, too. But with an Android phone.

  30. Bill

    06/23/2012 at 9:45 am

    I personally prefer a more compact smartphone and thus the iPhone is my best option. At the same time, I am invested in Google’s ecosystem and I love the control I have over my Android phone. I have been interested in the newest Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy SIII. It is an awesome phone, but holy crap it’s big! Too big. It has a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display. Sure it’s thin. It’s a low-rider that isn’t friendly with the road (aka my pocket). While there are some quality smaller Android phones out there already, I have not heard of any sleek compact Android phones coming down the pipe that would rock my pocket. Too bad.

  31. Chris P.

    06/25/2012 at 12:33 am

    I’m using Xperia Mini (ST15i) with 3″ screen. Fine with me since screen resolution is
    192 ppi. Clear and crisp compare to other phones also with 3″ display.

    4″ for me is big, iPhone’s 3.5″ display is standard size for me.

  32. phill

    06/30/2012 at 1:55 pm

    A new HTC device called the HTC Desire C has been made official and it will be coming to select carriers in the United Kingdom for cheap.

    The device, which was finally made official today, brings some likable features along with it. First, it offers up a 3.5-inch HVGA display, the same size as the display found on the iPhone 4S.

    The HTC Desire C also features Beats Audio, Near Field Communication support and a 5MP rear camera.
    However, the best part of the phone is probably the fact that it offers Android 4.0 Ice Cream out of the box.

  33. Klas2k

    07/05/2012 at 9:08 am

    Yes – +1 on that. Smaller phones, but still powerful !
    Of course phone screen sizes were drivern a couple of years back beacuse of mail and inet, but 3.5- 4 is plenty, especially with higer res. Iwant my phone to be abe to be slipped into pocket i my pants !
    If -i seriously wants to mail, i’ll do it from my ASUs slider or computer on screen kkeyboards sucks, even if they are big!
    A 3.5″ screen is enough to play games, write quick emails/commecnts and look for info on inet – -and enables the phone to be actually portable without a compliemnatry lorry :)

  34. CC

    07/07/2012 at 9:59 pm

    I totally agree! I bought an Experia Mini a while ago and LOVED it, because it fit into the CHANGE pocket of my jeans, and I hate carrying large objects. But unfortunately, because I did keep it in my jeans change pocket, it got washed in the washing machine and it now RIPs. My only option for the new Android software is a huge, clunky and ugly Nexus S, which I hate. I mainly use the GPS for driving and since Samsung never updates Android software, I’m stuck with using the clumsy and non pocket fitting NS. I cannot WAIT for Android to come up with a mini phone!

  35. RyanP

    07/25/2012 at 5:20 pm

    check out VZ’s HTC Incredible 4g. Just out 7/2012. Might be a winner for people looking for power in a just-the-right-size phone. I have an inc 1, and have loved it for 2+ years. Time for an upgrade, and the new one looks like the right combo of all things I want in a phone. 1.2Ghz dual core, 4″, 1 GB ram, removable batt and sd, dual cams, gps, and all the usual goodies like mail, calenader, exchange, etc. Want to read more reviews on it, but it looks very much like my next phone. I’m a bldg inspector. Can’t have a soft phone the size of a notebook to deal with.

    • kris

      09/19/2012 at 5:07 am

      4″ is too large for me. The newer experias are looking promising, but i’m worried Sony junks up the UI too much.

  36. FormX

    10/22/2012 at 9:37 pm

    SOny Xperia SX is where it’s at.

  37. Mail

    12/16/2013 at 3:44 am

    Throw more processor power, ram, storage to my Xperia GO..than it’s enough for me…durable and tough phone ever… :)

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