Google has just unveiled its latest cut-price smartphone, the Pixel 6a. But how does it compare to Apple’s tempting iPhone SE 3?
The Pixel 6a has launched just months after the iPhone SE (2022) hit shop shelves. So out of the two, which one is worth buying if you want an affordable handset from one of these two tech giants?
Based on our hands-on experience with the iPhone, and the specs just announced for the Pixel 6a, we’ve put them head to head, comparing them in key categories, so that you can decide for yourself.
Design and Screen
The latest iPhone SE has a very familiar design; in fact it looks exactly the same as its predecessor, and has hardly changed since the introduction of the iPhone 6.
That means it’s got a very small 4.7-inch screen by today’s standards, and that’s not all; it’s an LCD panel, so lacks the excellent contrast levels delivered by an OLED screen, and it also has a bog standard 60Hz refresh rate that has not been enhanced for extra smoothness. The display is one of the big weaknesses of this handset.
By comparison, the Pixel 6a resembles a more modern phone – its premium sibling, the Pixel 6. It’s somewhat more interesting to look at, with a camera bar than spans the rear panel, and moreover it has a metal frame which should help it be a bit more robust than previous plastic models in the series. The screen measures 6.1-inches, which is not particularly large, but it’s still got a significant size advantage over the diddy iPhone SE.
The camera is a key asset to both of these phones. The iPhone SE 2022 has a single 12-megapixel sensor, and we found that it takes excellent daytime shots, which are further enhanced by its brilliant image processing. However, it did struggle a bit more when taking lowlight shots, lacking a dedicated night mode.
On the other hand, Pixel phones are renowned for their excellent night photography skills so we’ll be expecting much more from it in this department. This handset has two sensors, a 12.2-megapixel wide and a 12-megapixel ultrawide, rather than just the one – and it’s got the exact same selfie set-up as the Pixel 6 (an 8-megapixel f/2.0 sensor). What’s more, it boasts some of the same cool photography features as other models in the range, including Real Tone to capture authentic skin tones and Magic Eraser to remove distracting objects from your images.
The iPhone SE is hard to beat when it comes to bang for your buck; with an A15 Bionic chip, it leaves many Android flagships in the shade, let alone mid-range devices. Not only does it offer fantastic performance, eclipsing the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in benchmarking tests and running demanding games very smoothly, but we’re expecting impressive longevity from it in hand with Apple’s typically long-term software support.
That said, the Pixel 6a is no slouch either when it comes to performance standards. Its chipset is the Tensor, the same one found in the Pixel 6 Pro flagship, and when testing that phone we found that “apps open instantly, games run chug free, even with their graphics settings maxed”, so we’re hoping for similarly high standards from the Pixel 6a too.
The iPhone SE 2022 has improved battery life compared to its predecessor, but it’s still not a particular strength of the handset. Its undemanding screen means that it doesn’t drain from video use as quickly as some other devices, and we did always manage to get a full day’s use from it without requiring a recharge, but gaming notably drained this phone’s cell pretty quickly.
The Pixel 6a has a typical battery capacity of 4410mAh, and Google claims that it lasts “a really, really long time” – but we’ve yet to test that claim against real-world usage. Apparently the Adaptive Battery feature allows it to save a significant amount of juice by prioritising your most important apps, so that it “can last over 24 hours”. What’s more, Google claims that “with just a few minutes of charging, your phone gets hours of power.”
Both of these phones have been manufactured as lower-cost alternatives to their manufacturers’ respective premium phones. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, they both have similar price tags attached; the iPhone SE 2022 costing $429 (£419) and the Pixel 6a costing $449 (£399). If price is the deciding factor for you, then there’s very little separating these two contenders.
The iPhone SE 2022 is currently available in stores and online, while the Pixel 6a will be available for pre-order on July 21, and will hit shop shelves on July 28.
The iPhone SE and the Pixel 6a share some similarities, with a hard focus on the chipset and the camera capabilities above all else. That said, the Pixel 6a has a far more modern and appealing design, though we’ll have to fully test out its battery and camera to see just how good these key features are, but with the price being so similar, its likely that the crucial deciding factor will come down to whether you prefer iOS or Android as a mobile operating system.