The Sony Xperia X Compact. Business Insider/Jeff Dunn Back in 2010, Dell launched a smartphone called the Streak. It had a 5-inch display.
At the time, a phone that large was pretty much unheard of. “Is anyone really willing to carry an object this big all the time, as one would have to to use it as a phone replacement?,” read one Business Insider preview .
Man, how people change.
Of the many things the smartphone has killed, perhaps the most tragic is our definition of the word “compact.” Today, if a phone has the Streak’s 5-inch screen, it qualifies as small. If a manufacturer that isn’t named Apple even tries to sell a phone smaller than that, it qualifies as newsworthy.
So let’s talk about the Sony Xperia X Compact. It has a 4.6-inch display. It’s smaller than, say,an iPhone 7, but it’s only really “small” in relative terms. There is still only one Good Phone that is genuinely compact, andthat’s the iPhone SE, which itself partially exists to wring upgrades out of legacy iPhone owners clinging to the past.
But in a world where smartphones are content consumption devices first and foremost, the Xperia X Compact is the only new Android phone that (1) is decently powerful, and (2) can get away with the third part of its name. It’s as small as you’ll get on Google’s side of the fence. It works on GSM networks (i.e., AT&T and T-Mobile), and it’s available now for $499 unlocked.
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Business Insider/Jeff Dunn The Xperia X Compact’s size will either be its biggest strength or its biggest annoyance. For me, it’s refreshing. You can use it while holding onto the rail of a crowded subway cart. You can take a photo with it without putting down your drink. You can tuck it in a shirt pocket when something calls for attention. You can actually keep a good grip on it, which makes it less likely to fly from your hand unexpectedly.
These are simple conveniences that make a difference in the real world. Living with a phone the size of the Xperia X Compact (or iPhone SE) is a genuinely unique experience in 2016. Yes, a smaller screen isn’t as fun for watching video. Yes, the keyboard is little more cramped. Yes, you’ll see one less email in your inbox at any given time. (How tragic.) Some people won’t get by this, and that’s normal.
People tend to hold their smartphones close to their faces, though. After a little bit, the sacrifices I made onscreen felt trivial next to the perks of having smaller hardware. Doing capital-w Work on a smartphone is constantly clunky anyway, regardless of how big its screen is. And again, it’s not like this phone is tiny.