Which advanced smartphone at an almost affordable price will best suit your needs for years to come – the Google Pixel 6a, first announced at Google I/O 2022, or Apple’s iPhone SE, the third incarnation of the compact budget phone, that was released in March? It’s a squeaker.
Based on reviews of both phones, we compare key categories to determine a winning phone. Our verdict doesn’t take into account an inherent preference for iOS or Android, or even a preference for a smaller phone, both of which are sure to influence buyers heavily.
|Google Pixel 6a||iPhone SE (2022)|
|size||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|
|screen resolution||1080 x 2400 pixels (429 pixels per inch)||1334 x 750 pixels (326 pixels per inch)|
|operating system||Android 12||iOS 15|
|storage||128GB||64GB, 128GB, 256GB|
|MicroSD card slot||no||no|
|Tap to Pay Services||Google Pay||ApplePay|
|processor||Google tensor||A15 Bionic|
|camera||12.2 MP Dual Pixel Wide rear, 8 MP front||12MP Wide rear, 7MP front|
|Video||4K with up to 60 fps, 1080p with 240 fps||
4K with up to 60 fps, 1080p with 240 fps
|fingerprint sensor||Yes, sensor under the display||Yes, front mounting (home button)|
18W fast charge
20W fast charge
Wireless charging (Qi)
|App Marketplace||Google play store||Apple App Store|
|network support||Major US airlines||Major US airlines|
|Colours||Sage, Chalk, Charcoal||Midnight, Starlight, Product Red|
|evaluate the result||4 out of 5 stars||3.5 out of 5 stars|
Design, display and durability
The latest iPhone SE looks just like the ones before it and before it — just like the iPhone 8 from 2017, actually. With its relatively thick screen bezels and TouchID home button, it has that oldie-but-goodie look. Its small 4.7-inch LCD panel lacks the inky contrast and brilliant tones delivered by newer OLED screens. The 60Hz refresh rate is standard on the iPhone 13 Pro flagship. Google’s new phone is roughly on par with Apple in this spec, but gets extra points for an OLED screen and slightly higher resolution.
In terms of looks, the Google Pixel 6a, like its flagship sibling the Pixel 6, is a modern phone. It has a neat, streamlined look with sleek, updated two-tone lines and a camera bar that extends across the back of its sturdy metal frame. At 6.1 inches, the screen is significantly larger than the iPhone SE.
Winner: Google Pixel 6a
Performance, battery life and charging
With an A15 Bionic chip, the iPhone SE leaves a bunch of Android phones behind. The A15 Bionic CPU (with a six-core CPU and a four-core GPU) is comparable to the flagship iPhone 13, in other words, a benchmark-beating beast with Apple’s latest iOS. It runs demanding games smoothly and boasts impressive longevity and Apple’s long-term software support. The Pixel 6a chipset is the Google Tensor, the same as the Pixel 6 Pro flagship (with an 8-core chip and a 20-core GPU), and our test confirms that this chip’s performance in both productivity and also increases by one level in games.
The iPhone SE 2022 is used for almost a full day before the battery runs out. According to Google, the Pixel 6a has longer staying power because its adaptive battery prioritizes important apps. In our testing, the Pixel 6a’s battery life proved mediocre. While our reviewer calls it a “one-day phone,” in practice, the 4410mAh battery sometimes ran low after just around five hours.
Let’s not forget that the iPhone SE 2022 charges at 20W, faster than the Pixel 6a’s 18W speed. The Pixel 6a doesn’t have wireless charging, while the iPhone SE 2022 supports 7.5W wireless charging. We found the Google Tensor running hot inside the Pixel 6a. Even when looping through the Alexa and Target apps, the Pixel 6a got noticeably warm on both the metal frame and plastic back. No damage done, but not great either.
Winner: Apple iPhone SE 2022
If you’re buying your smartphone primarily for its tricked-out camera, none of these phones justify that purchase. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get great snaps of both. The iPhone SE 2022 features a single 12-megapixel sensor and uses Apple’s A15 Bionic Chip image signal processor to produce outstanding images, daylight photography, Smart HDR, Deep Fusion, computed photography, photographic styles and low-light video recording. Without a dedicated night mode, the iPhone SE can struggle with darker shooting environments.
The Google Pixel 6a has two sensors – wide and ultrawide – and touts some pro photography features including a dedicated night mode, Real Tone for authentic skin tones, and Magic Eraser to remove foreign objects or people from your pictures. However, we found that the Pixel 6a struggled in low-light environments as well. The camera’s night vision lightens up images, but photos taken in this mode aren’t as sharp as we expected. That said, we still give the Pixel 6a the camera credit for its wealth of creative features.
Winner: Google Pixel 6a
software and updates
The iPhone SE 2022 will ship with iOS 15, while the Pixel 6a will launch with Android 12. Both phones can easily be upgraded to their respective new OS versions later this year. Apple is famous for its multi-year support for older hardware. The Pixel 6a ships with Android 12 and gets three years of major OS upgrades and five years of security updates. That’s a pretty good deal for Google, but it still doesn’t meet Apple’s longevity standards. The iPhone 6S, released in 2015, is still running the latest iOS 15 seven years later.
Winner: iPhone SE 2022
Is 5G considered special these days? If so, you can rest assured that you’ll get high-speed internet on both phones if you live in a region where 5G is available, although the iPhone SE doesn’t support mmWave-based 5G.
Google’s Tensor chipset is built for machine learning. That’s why Pixel 6 phones can use live audio dictation for text messaging and advanced call screening. Google also promotes real-time translations that take place on-device rather than online, protecting your privacy. Tensor is also behind the Titan M2 security coprocessor, which bolsters Google’s efforts for tighter security.
However, Apple lives and breathes security, machine learning, and AI (the A15 Bionic chip has a 16-core Neural Engine paired with a 4-core GPU and a 6-core GPU), so forgive us for that let’s get into this category.
price and availability
Both phones are marketed as more affordable options positioned across from the companies’ respective flagships, with the 2022 iPhone SE priced at $429 and the Pixel 6a at $449. This is a marginal and insignificant price difference, except when you consider that the iPhone price is for a 64GB storage phone, while the Google price is for 128GB. Both the iPhone SE 2022 and the Google Pixel 6a are available right now, although the Pixel is available for pre-order until July 28th.
Overall Winner: Pixel 6a
The Google Pixel 6a is a promising addition to the budget phone range. It has a modern, updated look, an attractive, sophisticated design, a larger footprint, superior camera specs, and a lower price point than the Apple iPhone SE 2022. Based on the specs alone, we gave the Pixel 6a the benefit of the doubt. In reality, however, the superior specs didn’t result in a better phone – just a cheaper, bigger one. The Pixel 6a’s battery life proved to be so-so, the chip runs hot, low-light photography was disappointing and the support longevity is nothing special. When it comes to choosing between an Apple iPhone SE 2022 and the Google Pixel 6a, it’s a competition between performance, durability, stylish looks, operating system preference and price. In the end, the two tend to balance each other out, with an Android fan not hesitating to go for the Pixel 6a, while an iOS fan will go straight for the SE 2022.