I couldn’t help but notice during the Google I/O 2022 keynote when Google was announcing the Pixel 6a that they were making an effort to show off Night Sight for the camera. I mean, the Pixel 5a had that too… and the Pixel 4a… so why spend time on it?
I will tell you why. Google was trying to make the point in a less subtle way that they had a feature that Apple’s budget phone lacked. The new iPhone SE 2022 doesn’t offer any sort of night mode, which is a pretty big oversight for a modern phone – yes, even for one of the best cheap phones out there.
The Pixel 6a, which will launch in July for $449 / AU$749, has other major advantages over the iPhone SE. So much so that the Pixel 6a versus iPhone SE battle might not even be fair once we put the phones face to face. Here are all the ways the Pixel 6a is beating the iPhone SE and where Google is falling behind.
The top screen of the Pixel 6a
Let’s start with the display and the design. The Pixel 6a’s screen is actually smaller than the Pixel 5a at 6.1 inches versus 6.3 inches for last year’s model. But that sized panel is still gigantic compared to the puny 4.7-inch panel of the iPhone SE. Sure, some people prefer to own one of the best small phones, but at this point most people prefer a bigger screen.
Additionally, the Pixel 6a’s panel uses OLED, which is superior to the iPhone SE’s LCD. So you should expect deeper blacks, wider viewing angles and richer colors. Although we’ll have to wait and see on the brightness.
That brings us to another key benefit of the Pixel 6a: what’s around the display. In the case of Google’s phone, the answer isn’t great. The bezels are visible but you get closer to a full-screen experience. Meanwhile, the iPhone SE has chunky bezels and a chunky chin that only Jay Leno could love. To be fair, this area houses the Touch ID button, but I’d rather have that sensor built into the screen.
And that’s exactly what Google is doing with the Pixel 6a. The fingerprint reader sits below the display, which should hopefully allow for quick unlocking. However, I’m a bit skeptical about the slow drive on the regular Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.
May the best camera phone win
Another area where Google is already beating Apple is in cameras. Note that I said cameras in the plural. The Pixel 6a packs a 12.2MP main camera and a 12MP ultra-wide lens, while the iPhone SE makes do with a single 12MP rear shooter. Thus, Google wins on versatility when shooting.
This extends to shooting at night or in the dark as we’ve already mentioned. And Google has a few other photo features in the Pixel 6a that the iPhone SE lacks, including Magic Eraser to remove unwanted objects or subjects from your photos.
Magic Eraser is just a feature enabled by the Tensor chip that powers the Pixel 6a, which is the same processor that drives the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. This takes a page straight from Apple’s playbook, as the iPhone SE uses the A15 Bionic chip inside the iPhone 13. Other Tensor-enabled capabilities include much faster speech recognition and Live Translate. .
However, I don’t expect the Tensor chip to outperform the iPhone SE on benchmarks or in intensive gaming. And that’s because we already know that the A15 Bionic is a more powerful chip based on our iPhone 13 vs Google Pixel 6 face-off. But I think buyers who are at least open to Android will be willing to live with this compromise.
Pixel 6a vs iPhone SE: A matter of value
The iPhone SE is technically cheaper, as it starts at $429 / AU$719. But take a closer look, because you only have 64GB of storage to start with. The 128GB version costs $479 / AU$799, which is $30 / AU$80 more than the Pixel 6a, which comes with the 128GB standard.
If there’s one area where the Pixel 6a could fall flat against the iPhone SE, it’s battery life. The Pixel 5a didn’t offer the longest endurance, and the Pixel 6a has a smaller battery (4,410mAh vs. 4,680mAh). But the software and the chip also play an important role in the execution.
Of course, we’ll be testing both phones side-by-side when the Pixel 6a releases in July to see which phone really wins. But right now, Google’s Pixel 6a resembles higher budget phones in (several) ways. If you’re already swayed, here’s how to pre-order the Google Pixel 6a ahead of launch.
Also check out my interview on Cheddar about the Pixel 6a and all the products announced at Google I/O 2022.