What Would you Give Up for a "Compact" Flagship?

  1. Red Bearded BA (Jason C.)
    US Brand Ambassador Nov 25, 2020

    Red Bearded BA (Jason C.) , Nov 25, 2020 :

    As soon as I heard about the new iPhone 12 Mini, I immediately began longing for a compact Android flagship. I remembered back to the days of yesteryear when the best Android phones on the market still fit comfortably into your pocket and could actually be used with one hand. I have small hands so these 6.5+ inch phones that have become the norm over the past couple of years are almost impossible for me to use with one hand, especially when they have crazy curved screens like the OnePlus 8 Pro, my current daily driver.

    So the inevitable question is: if Apple did it, why can’t Android OEMs make a truly compact, high-end phone?

    Android flagships are huge
    What was the last truly compact Android flagship that came out? The Pixel 5? Samsung S10e? Something from Sony a couple years ago? There’s a strong argument that could be made that none of those are actual “flagships” anyway.

    Obviously a smaller phone is easier to use one handed and is much more portable. That’s the entire point of a smartphone: to be a portable pocket computing machine. Something that can seamlessly fit into our daily lifestyle without becoming a burden.

    I’m about as average as you can get size wise, but I have small hands and sadly, as phones have gotten bigger, my hands haven’t grown to keep up.

    About 75% of the time I use my phone, I do so with one hand and I really don’t like being forced to use both hands to do even the simplest of things on my phone. I often get jealous of my wife when she pulls out her iPhone SE (2nd Gen) and does whatever she needs to do without having to put down her coffee or anything else she has in her hands.

    It’s rather annoying to have to either delay responding to something (which often leads to forgetting to do it later) or to have to interrupt what I’m working on just to interact with my phone.

    Let’s not forget that some people actually still talk on their phones from time to time. I know I know, but don’t judge me. Holding up a tablet to your ear to talk on the phone has never been, and will never be, comfortable lol.

    Unfortunately, I honestly can’t remember a sub-6-inch Android phone that came out in the past few years that packed the same top shelf hardware as the bigger guys.

    Why is that?

    Sure, Apple has extremely talented engineers, but so does Samsung, and Google, and OnePlus, and Motorola, and all the other guys. So talent isn’t the problem.

    The iPhone 12 Mini proved that the technology exists, so that’s not the problem.

    Or is it?

    We can’t have it all
    As much as I would love a 5-6” smartphone with a snapdragon 875 with 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage with the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s camera setup and 2-day battery life running Android 11, that just isn’t going to happen.

    The simple truth is that for small phones to happen, there have to be compromises that most of us who clamor for them (myself included) don’t often stop to think about.

    Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

    1 - Battery life
    One of the biggest compromises that may or may not be obvious is the battery. By definition, a smaller phone means a smaller battery.

    Now hold on, since the display is smaller there’s less power needed from the battery right?

    Yes, but the truth is that screen size and battery size are not directly proportional. The tl;dr version is that screens are 2 dimensional and batteries are 3 dimensional so a decrease in screen size means an exponentially larger decrease in battery size.

    2 - Software
    This one kinda ties into battery life but it’s also a potentially huge compromise.

    iOS and Android are almost complete opposites when it comes to power efficiency. Apple has worked meticulously over the years to optimize power efficiency in iOS to allow for flagship-level processing with about half the RAM and battery draw required for Android.

    Android is a notoriously power hungry software which gets even worse when OEMs pile crazy amounts of superfluous stuff on top of it (lookin at you Samsung).

    All this means that a smaller device would still require the same amount of power as the larger flagships to be able to run as efficiently, but with less room for a battery and RAM means the software just can’t run as smoothly.

    Fragmentation for the win.

    3 - Display technology
    You also have to take into account the screen itself. If we go back to 12 Mini, sure it’s smaller but it’s only at a 60 Hz refresh rate (which is a completely different rant entirely) instead of the 120 Hz displays on current gen Android flagships so that’s another compromise.

    4 - Camera hardware
    This one might be a little more obvious but a smaller phone means that there’s less space inside for larger camera hardware. 3 and 4 cameras have become commonplace on many Android phones and are almost certainly a requirement to land in flagship territory.

    Reality is real
    Ultimately, the reason a compact flagship can’t exist is because smartphone technology is getting so good that OEMs are having to stretch really far to find ways to differentiate themselves.

    Trying to be at the forefront of mobile technology has forced phone sizes larger and larger and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

    Apple notoriously tightly controls the hardware and software in its phones so it can relentlessly tune and optimize its phones to enable things like the iPhone 12 Mini to happen.

    Most Android OEMs don’t make their own chips or memory and Google has certain requirements companies have to meet in regards to the software.

    All this adds up to the fact that it’s simply not possible to keep the same type of flagship quality experience on a smaller phone.

    We forced phones to get bigger because we constantly demanded “bigger and better” specs and features.

    What even is a “Flagship?”
    Here’s a thought though: what if we redefined what a “flagship” phone is?

    What if a “flagship” phone was really just a phone that did everything you need it to do really well?

    For years, I always had to have the latest smartphone. I even carried about 2 phones for a long time because I needed to have the best of both iOS and Android.

    But I’ve noticed recently that my perceptions have changed a bit (I suppose you could chalk it up to getting married and having a kid) and what I felt like I had to have, isn’t necessarily what I need in my smartphone anymore.

    Essentially what I need is a phone that has fast, clean software, decent battery life, and a good camera. And by good I mean it doesn’t have to be the absolute best on the market or give me features that I’ll never use.

    As far back as I can remember, every single photo I’ve taken on my smartphone has either ended up in a text message or on social media.

    Every. Single. One.

    The simple truth is that almost any smartphone you can buy today will give you pictures that are good enough for that.

    And you know what, there are plenty of small phones that can do all those things quite well.

    So what about you? What are you willing to give up to have a more compact phone? Or would you rather deal with a larger sized phone to have all the best specs? Let me know in the comments!

  2. sfomin
    Nougat Nov 25, 2020

  3. YRJ
    The Lab - OnePlus 7T Reviewer; Community Hero 2020 Nov 25, 2020

    YRJ , Nov 25, 2020 :
    And that's exactly why you can't have a small phone!
    (I forgot to ask, do you want a small phone?)

    Caomhin, jstiggie, Gav_W86 and 38 others like this.
  4. Dresa91
    User of the Year 2016; Most Active User 2020 Nov 25, 2020

    Dresa91 , Nov 25, 2020 :
    I would buy it!!!
    best example: Sony Xperia Compact Series!! so great: flagship specs in a smaller body, less money

    jstiggie, kaihp, Naveen PD and 24 others like this.
  5. Red Bearded BA (Jason C.)
    US Brand Ambassador Nov 25, 2020

  6. Rajnish_Dhull
    Ice Cream Sandwich Nov 25, 2020

    Rajnish_Dhull , via OnePlus Nord Blue Marble , Nov 25, 2020 :
    But not everybody needs/wants a FLAGSHIP.

    I want 2021 Nord with

    - 5.6-5.8 inch screen
    - 765G ( even 750 is fine )
    - 2 back good camera
    - 1 front camera
    - side mounted fingerprint scanner is fine
    - 30 w fast charging minimum
    - and battery 4,000 ( if they somehow fits 5,000 mah that will become the most desirable phone ).

  7. SRD.
    KitKat Nov 25, 2020

    SRD. , via OnePlus 7T , Nov 25, 2020 :
    I'll give up nothing. I would indeed give up idea of buying a Compact flagship 😂.
    Thanks for the great thread though ❣️

  8. Liehjan
    Marshmallow Nov 25, 2020

    Liehjan , Nov 25, 2020 :
    I would not buy it, I love big phones with big screens... I could handle a 6.9" phone screen easy :cool:

  9. SeanPlus
    Ice Cream Sandwich Nov 25, 2020

    SeanPlus , Nov 25, 2020 :
    Gosh - a compact phone you say? Piqued my interest, but do I really have to give anything up?

    90hz instead of 120hz is ok I suppose. A smaller display would mean less drain on the battery, so battery size can be reduced as long as we get a day's usage and Warp Charge 30T (min). Not bothered about NFC and wireless charging. Needs to comfortably run games like Fortnite and PUBG, and have forward-facing stereo speakers to boot.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2020

  10. McJader
    KitKat Nov 25, 2020

    McJader , Nov 25, 2020 :
    I think the iPhone SE is too small.
    It should be a bit bigger than that but not as big as 6.5"

  11. sfomin
    Nougat Nov 25, 2020

    sfomin , Nov 25, 2020 :
    bingo! you on to something :D

    see above ;)

    Dresa91, asishgrwl, YRJ and 1 other person like this.
  12. Texasaggie1
    US Brand Ambassador Nov 25, 2020

    Texasaggie1 , Nov 25, 2020 :
    First off... awesome article, well written and engaging. LOVED IT. I've got some feedback mostly based on my distaste for apple. 🙄🤣

    I'm a mac user but apple as a company is so annoying. They are the KING of the tech gaslighters. (Hi, it's 2020 and we just rolled out actual widgets blah blah blah. Isn't it wonderful how advanced we are?). So some things you said about them made me gag a little in my mouth. But that's just me!!! I'm probably the biggest hater.

    It's not fragmentation in android it's diversity. Diversity is beautiful and chaotic at the same. And sometimes it sucks esp for security reasons. But it's not all bad.

    Lastly, I'm going to throw out something based on the newly released iPhone mini.... It has a smaller screen but it is at least twice as thick as a normal phone if we look at ratios of existing phones screen size versus their thickness. So I think it's possible to have a smaller high refresh rate screen and a good battery on a smaller android phone. The battery becomes thicker. Therefore the phone just ends up being thicker like the iPhone mini is. With the smaller screen you won't even notice the thickness. It will feel great in the hands. 😁


  13. dsmonteiro
    Community Consultant Staff Member Nov 25, 2020

    dsmonteiro , Nov 25, 2020 :
    When was released the last Android phone that fits that description, though?

  14. Dresa91
    User of the Year 2016; Most Active User 2020 Nov 25, 2020

    Dresa91 , Nov 25, 2020 :
    2018, Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact.
    Probably next year: new Sony Xperia Compact Series https://androidnext.info/?p=7635
    (Not the prem processor, but upper/premium midrange)

    but they will come. Apple gave the best example with SE Series AND iPhone 12 Mini

    Antonio_Luis, woSch, TibiTibi and 4 others like this.
  15. camohan
    Nougat Moderator Nov 25, 2020

    camohan , Nov 25, 2020 :
    Before buying the OnePlus One, I used lot of Sony Xperia phones like Xperia P, Xperia SP even Xperia mini and they were good but after using a bigger screen size phone it is difficult for me to go back to the smaller version.

    But I'm sure there are a group of people who will still prefer smaller foam factor.

    Having said that a phone bigger than the current size for the want of more technology could not be good.

  16. JelleZon
    OnePlus Accessory Tester Nov 25, 2020

    JelleZon , Nov 25, 2020 :
    Yes! I would much appreciate a more compact flagship

    BlackJet, script, woSch and 6 others like this.
  17. YRJ
    The Lab - OnePlus 7T Reviewer; Community Hero 2020 Nov 25, 2020

    YRJ , Nov 25, 2020 :
    But the question is what are you willing to give up on to achieve that?

    Because as it is, you cannot have a compact phone with an 865 and top of the line specs. Corners have to be cut.

  18. nikhiltamse
    Froyo Nov 25, 2020

    nikhiltamse , Nov 25, 2020 :
    We Don't need slim phones, but small phones. Both are different. Just like apple took up the SE form factor again, OnePlus could do that too to achieve a small form factor. Also to be a flagship phone need not always have 3-4 cameras as you mentioned. Its sort of self-imposed rule by Android smartphone makers to be considered as premium. We all know that 2 of the cameras are mostly redundant in itself. Then why not be different and break that stigma? Like, Be different from others. OnePlus for me, was very different from other players in the beginning. But now it seems to be getting aligned with others for survival.

    I would love if OnePlus comes up with small form factor, somewhere on the lines of OnePlus X.

    The current phones feel huge in the hands.

    I get that a thick phone will not go well with the other lineups, but the saturation point is near, and the smartphones should look bulky again to accommodate more.

    TL;DR: Small Thick Phone is what smartphone makers should consider.

    kaihp, Jesodes, BlackJet and 11 others like this.
  19. fragargon
    Jelly Bean Nov 25, 2020

    fragargon , Nov 25, 2020 :
    Hey Jason,

    That's a really interesting point of vue, well written and honestly i understand what you mean.
    Nowadays I need to think where I'm going to hold the handset will on the move...
    Always need a jacket with bigger pocket... stuff like this.
    Today 's trend goes to a phablet.
    Looking around the web, it seems that some manufacturer share your thought about.

    The best small Android phones: Do they even exist anymore? (androidauthority.com)

    let me tag some who certainly share the small screen phone like @Mr. BG isn't it?
    Pixel4a?? ;)

    Ash0911, BlackJet, script and 9 others like this.
  20. Dresa91
    User of the Year 2016; Most Active User 2020 Nov 25, 2020

    Dresa91 , Nov 25, 2020 :
    Less battery.
    You have a smaller battery ;)