Best Small iPhone iMore 2020
The original iPhone SE was the perfect size for a lot of people. It was small and compact, and you could easily use it with one hand without an issue. But times have changed, and we have gone to bigger phones over time. While we don't have a current-generation iPhone that's the same size as the original iPhone SE, there are still a few compact choices to choose from, including the new iPhone SE (2020) because it has the smallest screen size but gives you all of the latest and greatest from Apple at a super affordable price.
- Best Overall: iPhone SE (2020)
- Best All-Around: iPhone 11 Pro
- Best Value: iPhone 11
- Best Middle Ground: iPhone XR
- Best Large iPhone: iPhone 11 Pro Max
Best Overall: iPhone SE (2020)
The iPhone SE is back, and better than ever! While it may not have the same 4-inch screen as its predecessor, the 4.7-inch screen of the new iPhone SE (2020) is still the smallest offering from Apple right now. It also packs in a ton of future-proof internals at a fraction of the cost of an iPhone 11 Pro.
With the iPhone SE, you get a Retina HD display with True Tone, wide color, and Haptic Touch. Unlike the rest of the current iPhone lineup, you have the good old Home button with Touch ID for biometrics. That's not all! The iPhone SE has Apple's A13 Bionic chip with third-generation Neural Engine, so it's actually just as speedy at processing as the iPhone 11 line.
As far as the camera goes, the iPhone SE has a 12MP Wide camera on the back with digital zoom up to 5X and 4K video recording. It's also capable of Portrait mode, despite only having a single lens, though it only works with human faces. The front-facing TrueDepth camera also means you can take Portrait mode selfies as well. Portrait Mode on the iPhone SE includes the advanced bokeh and Depth Control, along with Portrait Lighting. Additionally, the iPhone SE now has Smart HDR capabilities thanks to the Neural Engine.
Like the more expensive iPhones, the iPhone SE has Dual-SIM support, is water resistant up to one meter for as long as 30 minutes, but it all comes with an incredibly low price tag. Seriously, for less than $400, you're getting the smallest iPhone packed with a ton of incredible features that will last a long time.
- 4.7-inch Retina HD LCD Display
- Keeps Home button with Touch ID
- Has A13 Bionic chip with 3rd-gen Neural Engine
- Portrait Mode with Depth Control and Portrait Lighting
- Incredible value
- Portrait Mode doesn't work on non-human faces
- No Ultra-Wide lens or Night Mode
- No Face ID
Small but mighty
The iPhone SE packs in the A13 chip, Home button with Touch ID, and a great camera with Portrait Mode.
Best All-Around: iPhone 11 Pro
If you want the latest and greatest iPhone while retaining a small and compact size, then the iPhone 11 Pro is your best bet. It has a 5.8-inch Super Retina XDR Display, which is the smallest of the new iPhone 11 line (the iPhone 11 is 6.1-inches, and the 11 Pro Max is a whopping 6.5-inches). The display is also OLED, so the colors and details look much nicer than the LCD display you get on the standard iPhone 11, especially true blacks.
Along with the small but gorgeous screen, you get the latest Apple has to offer. This includes the A13 Bionic chip with third-generation Neural Engine, Face ID, Ultra-Wide camera lens, and the incredible looking premium textured matte glass and stainless steel design. And with the iPhone 11 Pro, you still get the telephoto lens for 2x optical zoom, as well as Night mode. There are also some major improvements to the speakers, video playback (thanks to the OLED screen), and the battery life is 4-hours longer than the iPhone XS. And to top it off, the iPhone 11 Pro is water-resistant up to four meters for up to 30 minutes.
The iPhone 11 Pro offers the best that Apple has right now, and it's still compact enough for most people.
- 5.8-inch Super Retina XDR OLED Display
- A13 Bionic chip with 3rd-generation Neural Engine
- Face ID
- Ultra-Wide and Telephoto lenses, and Night mode
- Amazing battery life
- Starts at 64GB storage capacity
Compact with power
The iPhone 11 Pro is the second smallest iPhone with a 5.8-inch OLED screen, and it packs in the best Apple has to offer.
Best Value: iPhone 11
If you don't like the high price tag of the iPhone 11 Pro but still want a fairly compact device, then the iPhone 11 is a good option to consider. It features a 6.1-inch Liquid Retina HD display, though it's LCD and not OLED like the Pro models. However, it's still a good, high-quality screen that should suffice for most people.
The iPhone 11 is also great considering the price point, which is $300 less than the iPhone 11 Pro, but you get most of the same features. This includes the A13 Bionic chip, Face ID, Ultra-Wide camera lens, and Night mode. The battery life is also decent, as it lasts 1-hour longer than the iPhone XR, which had terrific battery life out of the previous generation iPhones. You also get up to 2-meters of water resistance for up to 30 minutes with the iPhone 11, in case you're often around water.
- 6.1-inch Liquid Retina HD LCD Display
- Fun colors
- A13 Bionic chip with Face ID
- Ultra-Wide lens and Night mode
- Decent battery life
- Starts at 64GB storage capacity
- Not OLED display
Apple's best for less
The iPhone 11 has most of what the Pro line offers but starts at $300 less. The 6.1-inch screen is still pretty compact too.
Best Middle Ground: iPhone XR
The iPhone XR is one of the better devices from the previous generation, alongside the XS and XS Max. With the iPhone XR, you are getting the 6.1-inch Liquid Retina HD LCD display, but like the iPhone 11, it's full-screen, so there are no bezels on the front, unlike the iPhone 8.
With the iPhone XR, you are getting last-generation tech, which includes the A12 Bionic chip with second-generation Neural Engine and Face ID. You also get superb battery life, since the XR lasts 1.5-hours more than the iPhone 8 Plus, which was already a beast when it came to battery. And while you only get a single 12MP Wide camera, the iPhone XR is capable of Portrait mode, but only with humans. So, unfortunately, you can't do Portrait mode shots of your pets or inanimate objects, but even getting Portrait shots with humans is impressive, considering it's only a single lens. But if you plan on taking selfies or doing video calls, be warned — the front-facing camera is only 7MP, but it does feature TrueDepth for Portrait selfies.
- 6.1-inch Liquid Retina HD LCD display
- Long-lasting battery life
- Single 12MP lens capable of Portrait mode
- Front-facing camera is also able to do Portrait mode
- A12 Bionic chip and Face ID
- Portrait mode only works on humans
- Front-facing TrueDepth camera is only 7MP
Best Middle Ground
When you need a compromise
The iPhone XR is a great middle option. It has a 6.1-inch LCD screen, capable of Portrait mode, and has great battery life.
Best Large iPhone: iPhone 11 Pro Max
If you are looking for the opposite of a small iPhone, then you can't go wrong with the iPhone 11 Pro Max. This behemoth of an iPhone features a whopping 6.5-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display and is the biggest offering from Apple right now.
The iPhone 11 Pro Max is just like the iPhone 11 Pro that we picked as Best Overall Small iPhone, but it just has the larger screen. So you still get the A13 Bionic chip with third-generation Neural Engine, Face ID, Ultra-Wide camera lens, telephoto lens for 2x optical zoom, and Night mode. The improvements to video playback and audio are also present, and you get up to 4-meters of water resistance up to 30 minutes. However, the iPhone 11 Pro Max has the best battery life there is, as it provides an extra 5 hours more than the previous-generation iPhone XS Max.
So if you want the best of the best and don't mind sacrificing a little bit of the compact size, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is the one to get.
- Large 6.5-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display
- A13 Bionic chip with 3rd-generation Neural Engine
- Face ID
- Ultra-Wide and telephoto lens, Night mode support
- Longest-lasting battery
- Very expensive
- Can be too big for some people
Best Large iPhone
Go big or go home
The iPhone 11 Pro Max is the biggest iPhone Apple sells, with a whopping 6.5-inch screen. It has incredible battery life.
It's small but packs a punch
It's no argument here — the best small iPhone that you can buy right now is definitely the iPhone SE (2020). Apple has set the new bar for affordable smartphones, and other companies could learn a lesson or two. The iPhone SE is the smallest iPhone that Apple currently sells, as it's one of the few devices out there with a 4.7-inch screen — most other devices these days are at least 5 inches or more.
Not only is the iPhone SE the smallest iPhone, but it is built to last! It retains the iPhone 8 design, so you have the Home button with Touch ID, but it also packs in the A13 Bionic chip with third-generation Neural Engine. This means it has the same processing power as the iPhone 11 line, but for much less, and comes in an impressive small size. The camera is a huge step up over the original because you get Portrait Mode capabilities for both the front and rear Wide cameras, and it includes Depth Control with Portrait Lighting. The only bad thing is that it works similar to the iPhone XR, in that Portrait Mode only works with human faces, so no cute pet or food portraits. Unlike the iPhone 11 series, you don't get Night mode, even though it uses the same A13 chip. But really, you just can't beat that size and price tag.
The iPhone SE was once the most compact iPhone on the market and while the new iPhone SE isn't quite as small, this is the closest you'll get.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Christine Romero-Chan has been using iPhones since 2008 with the OG iPhone. She's upgraded her iPhone every year to have the latest and greatest and certainly knows what iPhone is best for everyone. You can follow her musings on Twitter or check out her iPhone photography on Instagram.
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