Apple gave in. As every other smartphone ballooned, adding inch upon inch, birthing the horror realm of the phablet, the iPhone stood its ground at 3.5 inches—the world's best phone was still compact. Not anymore! And that's sad.
People want big phones, whether that's a good thing or not, and so, by God, Apple gave them what they wanted so it can make money. The iPhone 5 is reluctantly larger, stretching upward a bit rather than adding girth. It's a subtle growth—and it remains to be seen whether the iPhone's erstwhile hold-ability has been muddled—but you can categorically say the iPhone isn't small anymore. Four inches is now the baseline—the new small isn't small at all. And that means there isn't a single good actually small phone left.
Browse the smartphone offerings of the major cell carriers looking for a screen smaller than four inches, and behold the lowest pit of hell. Every single option is dreadful. Every. Single. One. Even typing their names is a tragedy: the ZTE Fury, the Kyocera Rise, the Pantech Marauder. These are the phones you resent AT&T giving you for free after you drop your real phone in the toilet. Some of them aren't even free. But if you want a compact phone, this is the future; the iPhone 4 and 4S are available for now, but soon they'll go the way of the 3GS. And we'll be left with these plastic miscarriages.
What you see below are literally the only non-old-Apple smartphones available under four inches on Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T. If you don't want a big phone, these are your only options. And every option is bad.
The Torch is one of the worst phones ever made, and the other two are throwaway, generic Android duds.
It's hard to look at these. You'd be better off not using a phone. Although the 3-inch Milano is approaching adorable Veer territory. With none of its charm.
The HTC Trophy is probably the least bad of these bad phones, but one of the worst ways you could possibly enter the Windows Phone world. The G-Force Commando Squad or whatever it's called is the phone they give you in the army if you've been bad.
Torch, no. Pantech, no. Old-ass Android, no.
Everything above is bad—don't let the pleasant typography fool you. We should've labeled these with Comic Sans or Baskerville or some shit. All of these phones have horrid, low-resolution screens. They're slow. They mostly run dinosaur versions of Android—which scales terribly to small screens—and will never, ever be upgraded. They're ugly. They're slow. Some are made by brands I wouldn't trust to build a wooden spoon. They're afterthoughts. And once the 4 and 4S are off shelves, it'll only be this kind of lobotomized smartphone detritus that's left fitting neatly in your hand, filling up that lovely 3.5-inch space the iPhone once epitomized.
So you better get used to large screens or get larger hands, because unless you want a bad phone, your next phone's going to be a big phone.