Almost any high-end affordable smartphone will best suit your needs for years to come – the Google Pixel 6a, just announced at Google I/O 2022 and available in July, or Apple’s all-new iPhone SE, the third incarnation of the compact budget phone, Released in March?
Based on our hands-on experience with the iPhone — which our review called “the best budget phone you can buy” — and the just-announced initial specs of the Pixel 6a, we’re comparing the main categories to determine the tentatively winning phone. Our judgment does not take into account the inherent preference for iOS or Android, or even the preference for a smaller phone, both of which will strongly influence buyers.
|Google Pixel 6a||iPhone SE (2022)|
|measuring||152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9 mm (6.0 x 2.8 x 0.35 in)||138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm (5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 in)|
|Weight||178 grams (6.3 ounces)||144 grams (5.08 ounces)|
|Screen Size||6.1 inch Corning Gorilla Glass 3||4.7 inch Liquid Retina display|
|screen resolution||1080 x 2400 pixels (429 ppi)||1334 x 750 pixels (326 ppi)|
|Operating System||Android 12||iOS 15|
|storage||128 GB||64 GB, 128 GB, 256 GB|
|micro memory card slot||no||no|
|Click to pay Services||Google Pay||Apple Pay|
|Healer||Google Tensor||A15 Bionic|
|camera||12.2 MP dual pixel rear, 8 MP front||12 MP wide rear, 7 MP front|
|video||4K at up to 60fps, 1080p at 240fps||
4K at up to 60fps, 1080p at 240fps
|ports||USB-C . port||Lightning|
|fingerprint scanner||Yes, sensor under the screen||Yes, front-mounted (home button)|
18W fast charging
20W fast charging
Wireless charging (Qi)
|App Market||Google Play Store||Apple App Store|
|Network support||Major American Airlines||Major American Airlines|
|Colors||Sage, chalk, charcoal||Midnight, starlight, red product|
|revision score||News||3.5 out of 5 stars|
Design, width and durability
The latest iPhone SE looks the same as the one before it and the one before it – in fact, it’s the same iPhone 8 of 2017, with the relatively thick screen bezels and TouchID home button, it has an old but good look. The small 4.7-inch LCD panel lacks the grainy black contrast and glossy colors that newer OLED screens offer. The 60Hz refresh rate is standard on the flagship iPhone 13 Pro. The new phone from Google is on par with Apple for these specifications.
In other ways, though, the Google Pixel 6a screams modern phone like its flagship sibling, the Pixel 6. With updated, smooth two-tone stripes and a camera strip that spans the back panel of its durable metal frame, it has a streamlined design with a sleek look. The 6.1-inch screen is significantly larger than that of the iPhone SE.
Winner: Google Pixel 6a
Performance, battery life and charging
With the A15 Bionic chip, the iPhone SE leaves a pile of Android phones in the dust. The A15 Bionic’s CPU (with a hexa-core CPU and quad-core GPU) is comparable to the flagship iPhone 13, in other words, a massive, standard beast running Apple’s latest iOS. It plays challenging games smoothly and promotes impressive longevity and Apple’s long-term software support. The Pixel 6a chipset is Google Tensor, which is the same as the main Pixel 6 Pro (with an 8-core, 20-core GPU) — so these two phones are bound to negate it.
iPhone SE 2022 gets almost a full day of use before the battery runs out. Google says the Pixel 6a has constant power because its adaptive battery prioritizes important apps, pushing it past the 24-hour mark. On top of that, just a few minutes of charging reaps hours of energy, Google says, but there’s no way to check it or compare it to an iPhone right now.
Let’s not overlook the iPhone SE 2022 charging at 20W, faster than the Pixel 6a’s 18W. The Pixel 6a does not have wireless charging while the iPhone SE 2022 features 7.5W wireless charging support. On top of that, we’ve noticed that the Pixel 6’s battery life is poor, which could be caused by the Tensor processor — while we haven’t proven this case yet, for now, our iPhone is still money.
Winner: Apple iPhone SE 2022
If you bought your smartphone primarily for the trick camera, neither of these phones will justify your purchase. But that doesn’t mean you won’t get great shots from both. iPhone SE 2022 has a single 12MP sensor, and with the help of Apple’s A15 Bionic image signal processor, it produces brilliant photos, daylight shots, Smart HDR, Deep Fusion, computational photography, shooting modes, and low-light video recording. In the absence of a dedicated night mode, the iPhone SE can face dark shooting environments.
The Google Pixel 6a has two sensors – wide and ultra-wide – and offers some professional photography features including a custom night mode, true-to-origin skin tone, and a magic eraser for extracting foreign objects or people from your photos. This is a winning combination for us.
Winner: Google Pixel 6a
Software and updates
The iPhone SE 2022 comes with iOS 15, while the Pixel 6a is launching with Android 12. It will be easy to upgrade both phones to their new OS versions later this year. Apple is known for its multi-year support for older devices. Google promises that the Pixel 6a will get five years of security updates, but the company hasn’t been specific about OS updates just yet. Taking a cue from the Pixel 6, we’re expecting at least three Android updates for the 6a from Google. When we get our hands on Google’s Pixel 6a, we’ll see for ourselves what Tensor can do, but for now, we’re giving the iPhone a nod.
Winner: iPhone SE 2022
Is 5G a special feature these days? If so, rest assured that you’ll get high-speed internet on both phones if you live in an area where 5G is available, even though the iPhone SE doesn’t support mmWave-based 5G.
Google’s Tensor Chips is designed with machine learning in mind. For this reason, Pixel 6 phones can use direct voice dictation for text messages and advanced call screening. Google also promotes instant translation that takes place on the device rather than the internet, thus preserving your privacy. Tensor is also behind the Titan M2 co-security processor, which bolsters Google’s efforts to tighten security.
However, Apple lives on and breathes security, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (the A15 Bionic chip features a 16-core Neural Engine paired with a quad-core GPU and 6-core GPU), so forgive us for that category.
Price and availability
Both phones are marketed as cheaper options against the flagships, with the iPhone SE 2022 priced at $429 and the Pixel 6a at $449. This is a marginal and insignificant difference, except when you consider that the iPhone is priced for a 64GB storage phone, while Google’s is 128GB.
The iPhone SE 2022 is currently available globally, although you’ll have to cool your planes until July 21 when the Pixel 6a is available for pre-order and July 28 when shipping.
Overall winner: Google Pixel 6a
The Google Pixel 6a is a promising addition to the budget phone lineup. It has a modern, updated look and feel, an attractive and attractive design, and a somewhat less expensive price tag than the Apple iPhone SE 2022. While we don’t have strong evidence of superior performance or battery life, the specs tell the story of major improvements down to the lower pixel range.
Indeed, superior camera specs and low-light excellence give the Pixel 6a’s camera system an edge despite Apple’s superior image processing. Its battery specs beat Apple’s but until we test it ourselves, the specs are only an advantage on paper. As we compare the specs, the overall winner is which phone has the best look, the best photo-capability, and the longest battery life. So, we’ll put odds on the Google Pixel 6a – for now.