Rebirth of the small phone

Small just might be the new big… again. After years of seeing phones get bigger and bigger, it seems like we might finally be seeing a trend toward smaller phones, even in the premium sector.

Small phones never really went away. You can get phones roughly the size of the original iPhone if you want, but until recently small size usually meant small capabilities. Smaller sized phones were generally made by lower-tier manufacturers like Kyocera, not by big names like Apple. And they certainly weren’t prestige symbols.

The last time small was cool

The first cell phones, you might recall, were really quite big. The first portable phones were briefcase models which were about the size of a large box of cereal. The “small” phone was Motorola’s DynaTAC, shown here:

Later generations would call this the “brick” phone because it sure was as heavy and large as a brick. Phones got smaller and lighter at a rapid pace, until the early 2000s when the phone universe was dominated by flip phones like the Motorola T720:

and “candybar” phones like the Nokia 3310:

So named because they were about the size of a Snickers bar. Small and thin was in… until the mid-2000s.

Fat, but smart

Institutional memory might tell you that the first chunky smartphone was the iPhone. In truth, Blackberry’s products had been ruling the universe for a few years before the iPhone’s debut in 2007. Examples like this Blackberry…

…were much fatter and larger than the average phone at the time. But, they had a lot more capabilities so that was the tradeoff. And, it was a tradeoff that presaged about 15 years of ever-growing phones

Phones as big as a piece of toast

Phones grew larger and larger throughout the 2010s. Among the larger ones were the iPhone 12 Max and the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. Both phones sport screens close to 7″ diagonal and that’s pretty similar to holding a paperback book or piece of toast to your face. These phones have really great screens that let you do practically anything you can do on a laptop, but finding a place for them in a pocket or purse can be a little bit of a challenge.

While everyone loves a big screen, those with smaller hands have long complained that in order to get a premium experience, you need a phone that can’t be used one-handed. For now, that may be changing.

Enter the iPhone 12 Mini

What you see here are Apple’s new phones for 2020. Some of them, anyway. These are the smaller of the group. The two on the left are iPhone 12s, similar in size to most of the iPhones you find today. The one on the right is the iPhone 12 mini. It’s the first iPhone in a long time that will give you a premium experience in a phone you can hold in one hand.

iPhone 12 mini is about the size of an iPhone 5, which was in its day hailed for being larger than older phones. But, compared to today’s superphones, it’s a svelte little slab. And this might just point us to the future of phones.

If you’re looking for a pocketable phone that doesn’t scrimp on speed or features, it looks like you finally have an option. It may have taken a while, but it’s finally here.

It’s easier to make a big phone

Big phones have room for big batteries and lots of components. It took a lot of work to get all the hardware — even a 5G modem — into a small phone and still allow for reasonable battery life. But, Apple did it and did it well.

One just has to ask if they’ll stop there. Is there a market for a phone the size of the iPhone 4, the smallest phone Apple ever made? Would you buy one? I personally think there would be enough takers, even if the phone didn’t come with 5G or multiple cameras. In fact I think that if Apple issued the iPhone 4 pretty much just as is, with a little bit bigger processor, people would buy it. This was a very comfortable phone to hold and just the perfect size for people who don’t want to live their lives looking at a screen.

The best thing is, you have a choice

Whether you’re an Apple fan or Android lover, you have a choice. There are eminently pocketable phones, foldable phones, even phones the size of small phone books (irony, right?) … the choice is up to you. How can you get the phone of your dreams? Don’t bother going out. Just call the experts at Solid Signal. We’re AT&T Preferred Dealers and we’re ready to get you set up with the phone you really want. All it takes is one call to 888-233-7563 to get started!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.