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Google Pixel 6a vs Apple iPhone SE: which is greatest?

So you’re on the lookout for a new phone, and know it’s a coin flip between Apple and Google. Smart move: no other phone makers have totally say about both hardware and software.

But you’re on a budget. So what’s it going to be – the newly revealed Pixel 6a, or the familiar yet up-to-date iPhone SE? We’re here to help.

Google’s latest hasn’t landed on our test bench just yet, but we’ve spent plenty of time with the iPhone, and scoured over spec sheets. Here’s the breakdown on which handset deserves your cash.

Google Pixel 6a vs iPhone SE (2022): price & release date

The iPhone SE is available to buy now. The 64GB variant will set you back £419/$429. There are also larger 128GB and 256GB versions, which cost £469/$479 and £569/$579 respectively.

The Google Pixel 6a is scheduled for release this summer. Google hasn’t confirmed exact dates for availability, but it did reveal that the sole 128GB variant will cost £399/$449.

Google Pixel 6a vs iPhone SE (2022): tech specs

Apple iPhone SE (2022) Google Pixel 6a
screen 4.7in IPS LCD 1334×750, 60Hz 6.1in OLED 1080×2400, 60Hz
rear cameras 12MP (wide) 12.2MP (wide), 12MP (ultra wide)
Front camera 7MP 8MP
processor Apple A15 Bionic Google tensor
R.A.M. 4GB 6GB
Storage 64GB/128GB/256GB 128GB
batteries 2108mAh 4410Ah
Dimension 138x67x7.3mm 152.2×71.8×8.7mm
weight 144g 178g

Design: glass or metal?

The updated, 2022 edition of the iPhone SE looks a whole lot like the previous one – and the one before that. It’s effectively using the same styling as the iPhone 8, which launched five years ago. The thicker screen bezels and TouchID home button make it look dated compared to newer Apple models.

It’s a far cry from the Pixel 6a, which shares its design with Google’s two other current-gen phones. There’s a camera bar on the rear covering the entire width of the phone, and a front that’s almost entirely screen. It looks every bit the modern smartphone.

The Google phone is bigger in all three directions, and weighs more too. If you’re after something thin and light, the iPhone remains the better option. But keep in mind everyone that sees you with it will know you cheaped out on Apple’s entry-level handset.

Screen: Size matters

Is bigger always better? Maybe not if you prefer a smaller phone. The iPhone SE is one of only a few small screen options left, with a 4.7in display that fits comfortably in almost any hand. The pixel, meanwhile, has a much bigger 6.1in panel.

The iPhone’s 16:9 aspect ratio, sizeable screen bezels and TouchID home button mean there’s not actually a whole lot between the two phones, though, so for the most screen for your cash, the pixel is a clear winner.

Google’s phone has a higher resolution, and has an OLED panel with punchier colors and better contrast. There’s no refresh rate advantage, though: both handsets are restricted to 60Hz.

Cameras: Double or nothing

The Pixel 6a has a two-lens rear camera, but the iPhone SE makes do with just one. Game over, right? Well, it’s not quite so simple. Apple’s A15 Bionic chip provides stellar image processing, with smarter HDR and improved low-light video recording.

Google has a few algorithms of its own, of course. Low-light shooting is something of a specialty, and it also has tools like magic erasers for deleting photobombers.

Both phones use 12MP main snappers, so there’s no clear advantage on pixel count. The Pixel 6a’s ultrawide fits more of your scene into shot, of course. We’ve yet to see its camera capabilities in person, so aren’t quite ready to declare a winner just yet.

Performance: No power shortage

Both phones have home-grown silicon. Google has used the Tensor chip seen previously in the more expensive Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, so the 6a should be able to blitz anything available in the Google Play Store right now.

Apple added its A15 Bionic CPU to the SE this year, putting it on par with the far pricier iPhone 13. This chip is an absolute monster, regularly topping benchmark tables and comfortably running the latest version of iOS.

The Pixel 6a will be no slouch, but if processing power and gaming grunt is your top priority, we think the iPhone takes the edge here.

Battery: It’s what you do with it

On paper, this might look like a clear win for Google. The Pixel 6a has a 4300mAh battery, while the iPhone SE makes do with a much smaller 2018mAh cell.

However, Apple has worked its magic with iOS to really stretch out battery life. The iPhone SE is good for 15 hours of video playback, putting it on par with the more expensive iPhone 12 Mini.

Google’s effort doesn’t have wireless charging, while the iPhone supports 7.5W top-ups on a compatible Qi charging plate. Where cables are concerned, though, Google takes the edge. It manages 30W rapid charging, with the iPhone only able to reach 20W.

Both phones should comfortably get you through an entire day without needing to plug in.

Initial verdict: advantage Google?

Apple’s most affordable model was updated earlier this year, but apart from performance and battery boosts, it was a minor refresh. It’s still rocking a small, low-res display, with chunkier bezels to account for the TouchID home button. While it can take good pictures thanks to Apple’s clever processing, there’s still only one rear camera.

The Pixel 6a, meanwhile, is a whole lot more modern. It shares a design with the more expensive Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, has a larger, higher-resolution display and an ultrawide camera in addition to a capable main snapper.

There are a few areas where Apple still has an edge, and its more tightly-controlled operating system is undeniably slick. But if you’re not already in deep with iOS, at this early stage we think the Pixel 6a is looking like the superior handset overall.

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