Which advanced smartphone at an almost budget price will best meet your needs for years to come – that Google Pixel 6awas just announcing what he had announced on his Google I/O 2022 event and available in July or brand new from Apple iPhone SEthe third incarnation of the compact budget handset released in March?

It’s a squeaker.

Based on our hands-on experience with the iPhone — dubbed “the best budget phone you can buy” in our review — and the raw specs just announced for the Pixel 6a, we’re comparing key categories to determine an interim winner. 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 will heavily influence buyers.

specifications

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
warehouse 128GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot no no
Tap to Pay Services Google Pay ApplePay
processor Google tensor A15 Bionic
R.A.M. 6GB 4GB
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

Bluetooth version 5.2 5.0
ports USB-C lightning
fingerprint sensor Yes, sensor under the display Yes, front mounting (home button)
water resistance IP67 IP67
battery 4,410mAh

18W fast charge

2,018mAh

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
Prices $449 $429
evaluate the result news 3.5 out of 5 stars

Design, display and durability

Google

The latest iPhone SE looks just like the ones before it and before it – just like the 2017, in fact iPhone 8. 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 brand new phone is roughly on par with Apple in this specification.

In other ways, however, the Google Pixel 6a screeches like its flagship sibling, the modern phone Pixel6. With sleek, updated two-tone lines and a camera bar that extends across the back of the sturdy metal frame, it has a clean, streamlined look. At 6.1 inches, the screen is significantly larger than the iPhone SE.

Winner: Google Pixel 6a

Performance, battery life and charging

iPhone SE 2022

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-busting 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, as is the Pixel 6 Pro flagship (which has an 8-core chip and a 20-core GPU) – so these two phones are bound to take it out.

The iPhone SE 2022 is used for almost a full day before the battery runs out. According to Google, the Pixel 6a has staying power because its adaptive battery prioritizes important apps, pushing it past the 24-hour mark. Additionally, just a few minutes of charging will harvest hours of power, Google says, but there’s no way to verify or compare that to the iPhone at this time.

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. Additionally, we’ve found that the Pixel 6’s battery life is poor and the Tensor processor could be to blame – while we’ve yet to prove that case, our money’s still in the iPhone.

Winner: Apple iPhone SE 2022

cameras

Google Pixel 6 camera view

If you buy your smartphone primarily for its tricked-out camera, none of these phones would 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. This is a winning combination for us.

Winner: Google Pixel 6a

software and updates

iPhone SE in the hands of a user.

The iPhone SE 2022 is included iOS 15while the Pixel 6a starts 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. Google promises that the Pixel 6a will receive security updates for five years, but the company hasn’t commented specifically on OS updates yet. Following the Pixel 6, we expect 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, let’s give the nod to the iPhone.

Winner: iPhone SE 2022

Special features

Close-up of the Google Pixel 6a camera.

Is 5G considered special these days? If so, 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 it 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 translation that takes place on-device instead of 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.

Winner: Tie

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 difference, except when you consider that the iPhone price is for a 64GB storage phone, while the Google price is for 128GB.

The iPhone SE 2022 is generally available right now, although you’ll have to cool your jets until July 21st when the Pixel 6a will be available for pre-order and July 28th when it ships.

Overall Winner: Google Pixel 6a

That Google Pixel 6a is a promising addition to the budget range of phones. It has a modern, updated look, an attractive, sophisticated design, and a slightly lower price point than that Apple iPhone SE 2022. While we don’t have solid proof of superior performance or battery life, the specs tell the tale of major improvements to the low-end Pixel lineup.

Superior camera specs and excellent low-light performance already give the Pixel 6a’s camera system an advantage, despite Apple’s superior image processing. The battery spec tops Apple’s, but until we test it ourselves, the spec is only an advantage on paper. Since we’re comparing specs, overall victory comes down to which phone has the best looks, the best shooting potential, and the longest battery life. For the time being, we are relying on the Google Pixel 6a.

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