Budget smartphone comparison: Google’s $449 Pixel 6a vs. Apple’s $429 iPhone SE

Google last week launched the Pixel 6a, a $449 budget smartphone designed to compete with more affordable smartphones like Apple’s iPhone SE. We picked up a Pixel 6a to see how it stacks up against the iPhone SE in terms of design, performance and camera technology.

The Pixel 6a has a 6.1-inch 1080p OLED display, which means it’s quite a bit larger than the 4.7-inch ‌iPhone SE‌. The Pixel 6a’s screen is also higher quality because the ‌iPhone SE‌ still uses years-old LCD technology.

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Compared to the Pixel 6a, the ‌iPhone SE‌ looks dated. It has thick bezels at the top and bottom, while the Pixel 6a uses a much more modern punch-hole design for the camera with minimal bezels. The ‌iPhone SE‌ has a Touch ID Home button that’s better than the under-display fingerprint sensor in the 6a, which was slow and inaccurate in our tests.

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With its glass back panel, the ‌iPhone SE‌ supports Qi-based wireless charging, but it lacks the MagSafe technology found in more modern iPhones. The Pixel 6a has a plastic back that isn’t as premium-feeling and it doesn’t work with wireless charging, but the smartphone has a much higher battery capacity of 4500mAh.

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Apple put its latest A15 chip in the ‌iPhone SE‌, while the Pixel 6a uses a Google-designed Tensor chip. It’s hard to do a one-to-one comparison due to the software differences between the two devices, but both felt fast with no performance issues or hiccups.

As for the camera setups, the ‌iPhone SE‌ has a single wide-angle lens, while the Pixel 6a has both a standard wide-angle lens and an ultra-wide-angle lens. We did a photo shoot with both smartphones, and as we often find with modern devices, both cameras performed admirably with just a few differences between them.

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In low-light indoor situations, the Pixel 6a produces images that are more in line with the real-world look, while the ‌iPhone SE‌ will brighten things up a bit more. The ‌iPhone SE‌ trends warmer, with images from the Pixel 6a coming out more neutral.

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With images that have bright colors, the ‌iPhone SE‌ tends to have more vibrancy and sharpness, but when it comes down to it, both are high quality and it’s a matter of preference.

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As for portrait mode, the Pixel 6a just does a better job. There is strong bokeh with sharp edges, better color accuracy and no blurring of parts of the image that are not meant to be blurred. Both smartphones also have selfie cameras that offer similar performance.

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If you’re not locked into Apple’s ecosystem and are looking for an affordable smartphone with a modern feature set, the Pixel 6a wins over the ‌iPhone SE‌ hands down, maybe with the exception of the processor. However, the Pixel 6a runs Android, so it’s not ideal for those who own Apple devices, nor is it the best choice for those who prefer smaller smartphones due to its 6.1-inch size.

What do you think of the Pixel 6a? Tell us in the comments.

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