In 2020, both Apple and Google unveiled budget phones in the form of the iPhone SE (2020) and Pixel 4a. The iPhone SE is more or less a watered-down version of the iPhone 11 in an older, more compact design. The Pixel 4a, on the other hand, followed in the footsteps of the first budget Pixel, the Pixel 3a, which launched in 2019 as Google’s first budget Pixel. Up until then, it had limited its Pixel lineup to flagship launches.
With the Pixel 4a, Google improved on the shortcomings of the Pixel 3a. Similar to the Pixel 4a, the new iPhone SE is modeled on the same principle, incorporating iPhone 11 hardware but with several compromises to deliver a more affordable price. In terms of pricing, the Pixel 4a costs $299, while Apple’s budget iPhone starts from $399. But, while the two phones are affordable remakes of their flagship counterparts, both Apple and Google follow a different strategy.
For hardware, the Google Pixel 4a’s Snapdragon 730G chip is a strong mid-range chip that can handle most tasks without much effort, but the iPhone SE (2020) does offer the stronger chipset. However, Apple’s smaller battery capacity falls short of the all-day mark. Additionally, the new iPhone SE also has a sub-par display with a lower resolution compared to the Pixel’s Full HD+ OLED panel. These factors contribute to making the iPhone SE (2020) the better phone for gaming but, in terms of overall entertainment and utility, the Pixel 4a is the better option. The one area where Apple does offer a distinct advantage is the build quality. Not only does the iPhone SE use a superior glass and aluminum construction, but it also features an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance.
For optics, the iPhone SE (2020) delivers the same results as the iPhone 11’s wide-angle camera, but it does have one major shortcoming, which is the lack of a Night Mode. On the front, the iPhone SE has a lower resolution selfie camera than the iPhone 11, which does suggest a compromise. The Pixel 4a has the same front and rear camera as the main Pixel 4, minus the telephoto shooter on the back. However, Google also includes Night Sight. Apple has a slight advantage on the video front, with the iPhone SE (2020) able to record 4K video at 60fps on the rear camera instead of 4K (30fps) on the Pixel 4a. Nonetheless, the Pixel 4a reaps the rewards of Google’s computational photography prowess.
Another major difference between the two phones is on the software front. Apple phones tend to offer better integration with other iOS devices. Additionally, problems with iOS are rare and it also offers better privacy and security features. the iPhone is an integral part of Apple’s product ecosystem and is the right choice for consumers with multiple Apple devices, like a Mac or an Apple Watch. However, Android is fast catching up to iOS’s software and hardware integration standard.
But the iPhone SE (2020) would be the better value buy, especially for long-term use. This is primarily because of Apple’s consistent software support. Most iPhones get a minimum of five years of software and security updates. For Android, three years of support is considered great and five is a long shot. Software aside, the mid-range chip on the Pixel 4a will show its age faster than the flagship chipset on the new iPhone SE. Apple also offers better trade-in programs, offering better exchange value when updating to a newer iPhone model. The Pixel 4a shows several gains in the camera, display, and battery departments, while the iPhone SE (2020), on the other hand, offers better software integration with other products and better value in the long run.