March 8, 2012 4:00 AM EST

When we arrived in Bab Amr, we began to send e-mails to editors saying we were there. We were excited, happy. Of course, we were scared of the situation, but we were happy.

On the first morning, shelling began very close to us. One boom, then a second. After the third, the Syrians with us shouted, “You have to get out!” Then a fourth rocket hit. We lost Marie Colvin, the American reporter, and my friend Rémi Ochlik, a photographer. The correspondent for Le Figaro, Edith Bouvier, was badly injured, as was Paul Conroy, a British photojournalist.

You may not realize it, but one of your closest friends has a secret. Run down your list of buddies and see if you can spot him. He’s probably a simple man with simple tastes. When the rest of the boys order pitchers of beer, he’ll order a lowball glass of cheap whiskey, neat. When you head to the shooting range, he prefers pistols to rifles. He’s always liked Steve Nash and Tyrion Lannister. His hands are a tad smaller, his fingers shorter, his preferred pocket style a little more snug. His secret? He prefers smartphones with smaller screens. Today, this sort of preference is technological sacrilege. The manufacturers have decreed: bigger is, in fact, better. Even Apple seems poised to follow the herd. It didn’t have to be this way. Take a look at the top-rated phones from 2010, then compare them to today’s favorites. [protected-iframe id="03dcf162de5ffe42c74c2e1dd1170458-1359921-52105875" info="http://smartphones.findthebest.com/w/6EZZim0KjVX" width="550" height="400" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"] Keep in mind: that low-bar is the 3.5-inch iPhone, and it’s barely behind the pack. Even the big bad Motorola DROID X—the largest of the bunch—clocks in at a mere 4.3 inches: puny by today’s standards. The average of the 10? 3.96 inches. Jump ahead to 2014. Except for the iPhone, not one popular device drops below 4.5 inches. Samsung’s flagship Galaxy line has crept from 4.8 inches (the S3) to 5 inches (the S4) to 5.1 inches (the S5). Even HTC has abandoned modesty with its HTC One (M8) announcement, leaving behind its familiar 4.7-inch waters (the 2013 HTC One) for the raging sea of 5-inch-plus seamonsters (the M8). [protected-iframe id="142cb8a1336eefd0cae09f4e8adec7b3-1359921-52105875" info="http://smartphones.findthebest.com/w/1akpTQJHKxT" width="550" height="400" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"] So is the iPhone the last, best choice for the whiskey-sippers and small-pocket-wearers? Are there no other options for those who believe that the best things come in the smallest packages? There’s still hope. Here are 10 fun-sized smartphones with great reviews and happy customers, none of which were designed by Apple in California. [protected-iframe id="590a135c5734cbcfb8f6a7bfbf39f838-1359921-52105875" info="http://smartphones.findthebest.com/w/24dFSxEgyUJ" width="550" height="400" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"] 10. LG Optimus F3 Available through Sprint and MetroPCS, the LG Optimus is compact, affordable, and lightweight—the second lightest of this bunch. The camera’s nothing special, but the battery life is well above above average, particularly for a phone at this price. 9. Nokia Lumia 620 If you love the Windows Phone interface but don’t need* 41 megapixels, the Lumia 620 is your small, inexpensive solution. It also sports the smallest screen of the lot, ideal for users with particularly tiny hands. *hint: you don’t 8. HTC First Available through AT&T, the HTC First comes with Facebook functionality built right into the OS. You can post status updates, swipe your friends’ message baubles around the home screen, and cry silently as your social network reminds you how much more fun everyone else is having. Better yet, a buck or two of your $200 purchase might one day go to Facebook’s next fire-by-the-hip, multi-billion-dollar acquisition. 7. HTC 8XT The HTC 8XT is a phone for the misfits. It’s got a small screen (4.3 inches), runs on the third place OS (Windows), and is only available with the third place carrier (Sprint). Still, with a new contract you can swipe this bronze-medal-rebel for free. Here’s to the crazy ones. 6. HTC One Mini If you like HTC, but lost us at “Windows,” the obvious choice is the HTC One Mini, an AT&T exclusive more modest (and less pricey) than its famous older brother. 5. LG Enact While we’ve got our qualms with the name (note to LG: we’re sending texts, not enacting a declaration of war), the phone itself is solid. With a physical, slide-out keyboard and compact design, the LG Enact is an excellent choice for QWERTY loyalists. 4. Casio G’zOne Commando 4G LTE The Casio G’zOne Commando is a bit of a paradox: rugged, heavy, and full of hard consonants, yet small, cheap, and modestly-featured. If you spend more time scaling actual rock faces than playing Minecraft - Pocket Edition, this is your phone. 3. Motorola DROID Mini The once-proud DROID line still deserves a look, particularly if you like small screens. The DROID Mini is one of the more fully-featured fun-sized phones, with decent CPU performance and a 10 megapixel camera. And even if they’re bleeding money while Apple slurps up profits, at least they have that one snarky ad. DROID does. 2. Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini Perhaps the most obvious—and best—Android choice, the Galaxy S4 Mini is a can’t-go-wrong pick for shoppers who like Samsung products but worry the company’s best phones are turning into tablets. Just keep in mind that the specs, like the screen itself, will be tamped down from its more popular parent. 1. BlackBerry Z10 The best of the tiny bunch, the BlackBerry Z10 is the perfect undersized mobile device, with a focus on productivity over chart-bursting specs or millions of apps. Yes, your friends might tease you with a few BlackBerry-based barbs, but let them laugh. Unlike your Galaxy Mega 6.3 buddies, you won’t be compensating for anything.

The Syrian army targeted Bab Amr everywhere, anywhere. There was no way to get out. One night we visited families staying underground. There were 150 people in a basement with only small lights. They had some rice and a bit of water. Everyone had a family member who had been killed. We felt very bad, thinking, Please help us get out of here; we have lost our friends. But we couldn’t say that, because they had lost everything.

The Syrians who were looking after us were never outwardly scared. They were totally confident. They would prepare medicine in the middle of the room, while we were cowering behind a wall. They were not scared of anything.

Rémi’s death affected me a lot. And perhaps it will affect me even more later. His career was taking off. He had just won the World Press Photo award. He was becoming famous. I was sure he was about to work with magazines he’d dreamed of working for, like TIME. We were excited about getting to Syria. We thought we had a lot of work. I thought, O.K., we’re here, we’ve come for this, to be inside Bab Amr. There was no time to think that maybe we’d made a mistake in going there.

I really liked Rémi. I had a lot of affection for him. Perhaps because I’m older, I felt a bit like an older brother. But sometimes he was the one advising me, especially when we were in dangerous situations. And he just disappeared, so quickly.

Rémi was cremated in Paris on March 6, the first anniversary of the Syrian revolution.

MORE: A Reporter’s Escape from Syria

French photographer William Daniels was on assignment for TIME in the besieged district of Bab Amr. On March 1, after nine days there, he and Edith Bouvier managed to safely cross the border into Lebanon.

More Must-Read Stories From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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