Should I buy a new smartphone? iPhone 6S edition
September 10, 2015 4:16 PM   Subscribe

Should I upgrade my iPhone 5 to the new 6S, or an as-yet-unidentified Android phone? Biggest priority: SMALL size with best specs possible.

I have an iPhone 5; it works pretty well, sometimes freezes or abruptly quits image-intensive apps, but I haven't noticed any lag with new OS updates. I also like the size just fine--it fits in the back pocket of my jeans and just barely in the front pocket of some jeans, when shoved in sideways. I'm a petite and slim woman so my carrying capacity sans-purse is limited to size 2 women's jeans pockets, i.e. tiny. I also have similarly proportioned small hands and prefer to use my phone one-handed.

I am considering an upgrade so that I can give my mother my current phone. The new iPhone 6S just came out all shiny and alluring, but I've also considered switching to Android and it looks awfully overpriced next to Android phones. Price is a secondary factor over size and futureproofed specs, though.

iPhone 6S pros:
- easy to transfer my current phone setup
- flagship specs

iPhone 6S cons:
- larger than my current phone
- price
- continued second-class citizenship for work apps

Android pros:
- access to non-critical but useful work apps which are Android-only
- price

Android cons:
- pain of switching over from iOS
- most flagship phones I've seen are just way too large

Should I upgrade to the 6S? Or switch to Android? If the latter, can you recommend any specific models with flagship-level specs and sub-5" (the smaller the better) screen size?
posted by serelliya to Technology (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you want something truly compact, just off the top of my head, the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact and Z5 Compact would qualify. I don't think you can buy the Z5 Compact in the US yet.

If you want to trade some high-end features for lower cost, look at the Samsung Galaxy Alpha or A5.

You might also check out this phone size comparison site. When you go there, you might note that the iPhone 6S is way, way bigger than the iPhone 5, and almost certainly doesn't meet your pocketability criteria. If you are considering a phone that size, your choices on Android expand significantly.

I will say that you can almost certainly do everything you want on either OS. Apple does tend to be better about updating their devices than Android device makers.
posted by cnc at 4:30 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

The 2015 Nexus 5 is coming out at the end of the month, and it looks to be smaller than the iphone. I have the last generation Nexus 5 and I love it.
posted by Ragged Richard at 4:34 PM on September 10, 2015

The galaxy alpha kind of sucks, actually. It has mediocre battery life, a disappointing camera, and several other deficits.

I like this size of phone too. I had a 6 and a 6+, and looped back around to a 5S.

The z5 compact is about the same size as an iphone 5, just with a bigger screen. The 6/6s is actually pretty big, and is the same size of most 5in~ phones like the old nexus 5 and not appreciably smaller than 5.2~in stuff like the galaxy S6.

The Z3 compact is a great phone, but it's a huge question mark as to whether it will keep getting updated for very long. As it is, the iphone 4s and ipad 2 from over 4 years ago are getting ios 9. No android manufacturer has been particularly great about that.

What i'm about to do since cost is also a concern, is upgrade to a plain 6, not a 6S now that the new phones launch is going to massively depress the used market for them. A used Z3 compact is cheap, but a z5 compact is probably going to be over $500.

The new LG nexus will likely be a good deal, but probably wont be much cheaper than a used 6.

Another weird option that probably wont have as much staying power, but is very cheap now is a used 5S. I got one after i lost my 6+, and i'm shocked at how fast it is. It's not any slower than the 6+ was, and at times feels faster with animations not stuttering as much and stuff. It's getting to be an older device, being from 2013, but the 6 wasn't that much faster and the 6S is the only giant improvement in a while.

I really wish apple would just launch a worthy and updated successor to the 5c. Why is the ipod touch updated more than the 5s at this point, and two generations ahead of the 5c? what?
posted by emptythought at 4:48 PM on September 10, 2015

Best answer: I'm a die hard iPhone user (I have many android devices for work, and don't like them), but if small size is your priority, I can't in good conscience recommend the current iPhones. I have a 6, and the size annoys me daily. Enough that I've considered going back to the 5 or even 4.
posted by primethyme at 5:18 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

2nding waiting for the Nexus 5. It is rumored to be 5.1 inches, it will have stock Android and will be priced lower than the 6S.
posted by AugustWest at 6:46 PM on September 10, 2015

I am just about to swap my iPhone 5 for a Samsung Galaxy A8 this weekend. I have small hands, so the larger iPhone and Samsungs are hard for me to hold in portrait mode, and the A8 is very thin, so holding it feels fine. It's at the price and performance point where it's ahead of the iPhone 5, and just around or behind the iPhone 6, but a lot cheaper. The Samsung Galaxy 6 is much nicer, but it's way more performance than what I would need.

My major data is cloud-based, so transferring data is not a huge issue. I went with Samsung Galaxy because as ridiculous as this sounds - they're everywhere. You can get covers and cables and they're pretty much a default Android phone. You can google almost any help questions on them, and they're easy to get repaired. I want something I can just use, not something I have to fuss over. Then the A8 because I held a bunch of models in my hand, and it was the right price point on my mobile plan, and my Android-tech friend said it had enough performance to do well for at least 1-2 years ahead.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:11 PM on September 10, 2015

Best answer: If the new Nexus 5's screen is 5.1", that's bigger than the 6 and 6S's 4.7".
posted by zsazsa at 8:08 PM on September 10, 2015

Best answer: zsazsa: "If the new Nexus 5's screen is 5.1", that's bigger than the 6 and 6S's 4.7"."

I am wrong. It is rumored to be 5.2" so bigger than the 6(S).
posted by AugustWest at 8:40 PM on September 10, 2015

Best answer: I was an Android user who switched to the iPhone 6 a few months ago. I love this phone. The 4.7" size is perfect, I find – big enough that the fine resolution really pays off, yet small enough to chuck into purses and wallets. The rounded edges are awesome in-hand.

Like so many Apple users describe, the best part of it is that it just works. I was also surprised that you have more control, not less, over app behavior with the iPhone. On Android, if an app update needs more privacy access (contacts, location, etc.), well, you have a choice between "OK" and not installing it. Whereas with an iPhone, you can say "nope you don't get to see my contact list, but you can still install and work properly" because Apple makes them do that.
posted by MarionnetteFilleDeChaussette at 11:42 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You should be aware that an Android device will be physically smaller than an iOS device with the same screen size. The bezels can be narrower because they don't need to house that giant home button. My Nexus 6 (with a 5.9" screen) is a bit smaller than the iPhone 6 plus (with a 5.5" screen).

I'd strongly recommend getting some devices into your hands at your carriers store or a Best Buy, even if you don't intend to buy it there.

BTW, granular permissions control is (reportedly) being built into the next version of Android, due out this fall. That's really the only place where iPhone has more control than Android, though.

N.B. I should note that I loathe almost everything about iOS.
posted by builderofscience at 1:47 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

The iPhone 5s will still be available, if you want a same-size cheap phone just slightly better than what you have now (better camera, thumbprint sensor). It's cheap enough and has enough features that you can use it to hold out another year if you don't like any of the Android options enough yet.
posted by mikepop at 6:29 AM on September 11, 2015

Response by poster: The iPhone 6S is absolute max size in terms of outer dimensions that I'm willing to consider. It doesn't fit in my front pocket, but it does fit (barely) in my wristlet/wallet.

I'll try out the new Nexus 5 when it launches, because I do prefer stock Android, but I'm sad that it's reported to be larger than the 6S :(
posted by serelliya at 10:36 AM on September 11, 2015

This lets you put phones side by side or in stacks to see their sizes. You can calibrate the site to your own actual phone to get as close a sense without holding it in your hand.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 11:10 AM on September 11, 2015

Best answer: Sony seems to be the last manufacturer making quality small phones with decent specs. Every other small phone is a bargain phone with an old OS and insufficient processor/memory. There are rumors that an iPhone 6c may come out late this fall, but if that's true it is likely to have the same problems: plastic and cheaper than flagships.

Unfortunately, Sony doesn't seem to be taking the U.S. market seriously, and haven't released a phone compatible with Verizon's network.

So the people that want a pocketable phone just have to suffer with 3 year old phones I guess. We aren't a big enough market for anyone to care. And most phone buyers are just comparing specs and saying "that number's bigger, I'll get that one"
posted by stobor at 3:29 PM on September 12, 2015

Hey typing this on a Samsung galaxy note 5 bought yesterday. Samsung has a neat cable and transfer app that made moving data over from my iPhone 5 about ten minutes work. It feels easier to hold one-handed than the iPhone 6s.

Figuring out the Android OS is taking more time though, but I've got faster typing with Swype and set up google now for my Siri replacement. Within apps is fine, it's just retraining finger muscle memory for navigating around between and setting up all my alarms and triggers again. I'm googling how do I do this in galaxy instead of iPhone a lot, but hey $750 cheaper.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:09 PM on September 12, 2015

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