Google Pixel 6a vs iPhone SE (2022): Affordable showdown

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Pixel 6a vs iPhone SE (2022)


Google's reinvigorated gusto for retaking the flagship market kicked off with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro in late 2021, but the mid-range Android market was also ripe for the taking despite the overcrowded market. The Google Pixel 6a, the latest in its range of affordable phones, is definitely a phone worthy of your attention.

The phone is quite the improvement over the Pixel 5a in many ways, and is definitely reestablishing Google's positions in the sub-$500 market segment. In fact, we feel that the Pixel 6a is one of the best offerings in the mid-range segment, bringing excellent value that might even surpass many more expensive phones. 

Starting at $449 for the 128GB of storage, the Pixel 6a could potentially be one of the bestsellers this holiday season. However, in the same pricing range resides another interesting device—the third-generation iPhone SE, which starts at $429 for the 64GB version and $479 for 128GB, and offers a relatively easy entry point into the Apple ecosystem. 

So, the latest iPhone SE or the Pixel 6a, which one of those two affordable troopers should you buy?

Read more:

Pixel 6a vs iPhone SE (2022) in a nutshell:
  • Google Tensor (5nm) vs Apple A15 Bionic (5nm)
  • 6GB RAM vs 4GB RAM
  • 128GB base storage vs 64GB base storage
  • Dual 12.2 vs 12MP single camera
  • 6.1-inch FHD+ OLED vs 4.7-inch HD+ IPS LCD
  • 4,410mAh vs 2,018mAh batteries

Table of Contents:

Pixel 6a pros and cons


  • Great value for money
  • Fast processor
  • Excellent camera
  • Great 6.1" size that does not feel too big
  • Clean Android, timely updates
  • Pleasing "staccato" haptic feedback
  • Pleasing loudspeaker quality


  • Lacks a zoom camera
  • Pixel reputation for bugs and issues does not inspire confidence
  • Only runs at 60Hz
  • Headphone jack is gone
  • No charger in the box

Pixel 6a at Best Buy: save $150 with activation

The Pixel 6a is also available at BestBuy. You can get it with a carrier plan from AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.

Google Pixel 6a: save with trade-in

AT&T is offering the Pixel 6a with an installment plan and the phone is now at its regular price. You can save with trade-in, though.
$13 06 /mo
Buy at AT&T

Google Pixel 6a: save up to $399 with an eligible smartwatch

DEAL: Buy the Google Pixel 6a device and get up to $399.99 off a Smartwatch.

iPhone SE (2022) pros and cons


  • Affordable price
  • Light, thin and compact
  • iPhone with a button classic vibe
  • 5G connectivity with C-band support
  • Super fast processor
  • Camera is great for day shots, video


  • Feels dated
  • LCD screen instead of AMOLED
  • Screen feels too small for a modern phone
  • Battery life is improved, but still below average
  • Camera lacks night mode, has no ultra-wide lens
  • Only 64GB base storage

iPhone SE (2022) at Walmart

The iPhone SE from 2022 is available at Walmart for the major carriers. This one is the Verizon version, currently retailing at just $5 a month for 36 installments. Keep in mind that not all storage variants are available at the moment.

iPhone SE (2022) at AT&T: get 64GB for just $5 a month

Deal: The iPhone SE 3rd generation from 2022 is discounted at AT&T at the moment. All storage variants are discounted. No trade-in required.
$5 /mo
$11 95
Buy at AT&T

Apple iPhone SE (2022)

Apple's iPhone SE (2022) is also available at BestBuy with a carrier plan from either AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon. You can save if you trade in an eligible device.

Read more:

Design and Display Quality

From a design standpoint, the Pixel 6a and the iPhone SE (2022) couldn't be more different. 

On one hand, we have the Pixel 6a, a phone that fully embodies Google's renovated design language and philosophy. The latter debuted along with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, Google achieved sort of a unique design with a very distinct camera strip at the rear which also acts as a separator for the two-tone paint job. Luckily for everyone who enjoyed the new Pixel look (me included), the Pixel 6a is yet another reiteration of a mostly successful design that stands out. Just like the Pixel 6, the Pixel 6a has a flat display, which not only brings the costs down, but is also preferable when it comes to overall utility benefits. 

On the other hand, the iPhone SE (2022) is yet another (hopefully the ultimate) iteration of the iPhone 8 design, which is definitely getting a bit long in the tooth in 2022. Albeit compact, the iPhone SE (2022) doesn't have anything particularly exciting in its design language going for it. 

We have big bezels on the top and bottom, accompanied by a capacitive home button with Touch ID embedded within. At least the phone has its compact size as a definite plus, making it possibly the most capable compact phone in 2022. Still, the iPhone SE is quite possibly the last truly thin phone that resides among thick giants - even the iPhone 13 mini is noticeably thicker.

In terms of colors, the Pixel 6a, we have Charcoal, Chalk, and Sage, which correspond to black, white, and green. Meanwhile, the iPhone SE (2022) is available in three colors itself: Midnight (black), Starlight (white), and Product RED (red).

And what about the displays of the two phones? As commanded by the vastly different designs of the two phones, the Pixel 6a and iPhone SE (2022) definitely fall in quite different categories. The Pixel 6a's 6.1-inch display is a FHD+, and unlike its bigger brothers, doesn't have a high-refresh display. Just as the times of old, 60Hz is all you get, but this shouldn't be an issue given its affordable price tag. At the same time, the iPhone SE (2022) has a 4.7-inch HD+ display with much less real estate in tow, and no other notable "goodies" of its own as well. 

From a quality perspective, it is rather hard to pick the iPhone's LCD over the more contrast-y and vivid look that OLEDs give out, so the Pixel 6a has the upper hand here.

Display Measurements:

Both phones use fingerprint sensors to unlock, but the Pixel 6a is much more modern in this area as it's coming with a new-generation under-display fingerprint sensor. The iPhone SE (2022), on the other hand, relies on the ol' reliable Touch ID biometric sensor that was dominant on the iPhone scene just a few years ago. 

Performance and Software

Apple A15 vs Google Tensor G1: Not a fair battle, really

Google's first custom chip, the Tensor, has trickled all the way down to the Pixel 6a. While it's not a benchmark-crunching powerhouse, it's a fairly decent chipset with no immediately noticeable drawbacks. Its core strength lies in AI-assisted operations and machine-learning straight on the device, without having to process data on Google's servers, making it a vastly different beast in different areas than the Apple A15, which is powering the Apple iPhone SE (2022).

The latter is a true powerhouse, also responsible for the iPhone 13-series' outstanding performance. The A15 is hardly matched by the Tensor in most of the synthetic benchmarks we run, including Geekbench 5 and 3DMark. While the A15 definitely mops the floor with the Tensor, for regular everyday usage the latter isn't lagging behind at all. 

While the iPhone SE comes with 64GB in the base version and has 4GB of RAM on board, the Pixel 6a boasts 128GB of non-expandable memory right off the bat, but it's worth mentioning that you can outfit the iPhone with 128 or 256GB of storage if you wish so, for a price. The 6GB of RAM are a fair point for the Pixel 6a, but due to the different ways iOS and Android utilize RAM, you might not necessarily do much more on the Pixel than on the iPhone. 

Performance Benchmarks:

Geekbench 5 Single Higher is better
Google Pixel 6a 1038
Apple iPhone SE (2022) 1738
Geekbench 5 Multi Higher is better
Google Pixel 6a 2704
Apple iPhone SE (2022) 4749
3DMark Extreme (High) Higher is better
Google Pixel 6a 1620
Apple iPhone SE (2022) 2382
3DMark Extreme (Low) Higher is better
Google Pixel 6a 1011
Apple iPhone SE (2022) 1737


Never bring a single camera to a dual-camera battle 

The Pixel 6a, just like the Pixel 6, features a dual camera setup, consisting of a 12.2MP Sony IMX363 1/2.55" image sensor, with 1.4 μm pixel size, ƒ/1.7 aperture, and a 77° field of view. 

Sound familiar? Well, it's the same camera that was found on the Pixel 5a. It's still a very, very decent camera that does much more than the hardware specs imply thanks to Google's imaging algorithms and definitely has that signature Pixel look that has become legendary on the Android scene. There's also a ultra-wide camera at the back, but it's a 12MP Sony IMX386 sensor with an ƒ/2.2 aperture and 114° field of view.

Thanks to the Tensor's machine-learning capabilities, the Pixel 6a can use the Enhanced Magic Eraser feature, which can erase and modify the colors of objects and people in images. The 6a also includes Night Sight for taking images in low-light circumstances, as well as Google's own Real Tone function, which aids the camera in capturing skin tones as precisely as possible.

At the same time, the iPhone SE (2022) comes with a single 12MP camera with an F18 aperture. Hardware-wise, it's the same one that's been gracing the previous iPhone SE (2020), but thanks to the А15 Bionic and the fresh new ISP on deck, you can benefit from computational photography, with pictures optimized for color and detail.

At the same time, the Smart HDR 4 engine that's coming with the A15 Bionic enhances color, contrast and noise. You also have support for Photographic Styles to tweak the color of your photos and essentially create custom photo filters that apply to the stock camera app by default. 

Image quality

So, what are the differences in image quality? 

Let's kick off with a regular daytime photo. Overall, the two images below give off the same colorful vibes, but the Pixel 6a is noticeably more detailed in the shadow areas of the images, like the leaves and the underside of the trees:

Here's another pair of sample images, which showcases the differences in color temperature between the two phones. The iPhone traditionally gives off a warmer tone, while the Pixel appears colder in comparison.

Here are some more daytime samples. 

When the light goes down, things are a bit different. One big missing feature on the latest iPhone SE is Night mode. Yep, the iPhone SE (2022) lack a dedicated night mode, making low-light images blurry, with bleak colors and detail. The Pixel 6a, on the other hand, has a dedicated night mode... and as you can see in the sample images below, this makes an, ahem, night and day difference in favor of the Pixel 6a!

Yet another pair of samples that corroborate that:

Here's the full roster of our Pixel 6a vs iPhone SE (2022) night-time camera samples.

When it comes to selfies, the Pixel has the edge in low-light conditions, but in bright daylight, both produce more than passable selfies. In fact, it's hard to pick one over the other:

Video quality

This is the video quality on the Pixel 6a compared to the iPhone SE (2022).

Battery Life and Charging

The difference in battery capacity between the Pixel 6a and the iPhone SE (2022) is staggering. Actually, Google's upcoming phone has more than twice the capacity of the iPhone SE: 4,410mAh versus 2,018mAh.

In this case, the difference in capacity definitely makes a difference. Despite the efficiency of the A15 Bionic and the smaller, less power-sucking display, the Pixel 6a outshines the iPhone SE in terms of battery life. 

In our tests, the iPhone SE battery life has proven to be somewhat disappointing. The phone scored 4 hours and 28 minutes during the video streaming test, 11 hours and 53 minutes in web browsing, and 4 hours and 29 minutes in 3D gaming. Overall, somewhat disappointing results, but that's probably the maximum you can squeeze out of the petite 2,108mAh battery inside. 

Meanwhile, the Pixel 6a gets 8 hours and 51 minutes in our video streaming test, 13 hours and 51 minutes in the web browsing, and some 6 hours and 48 minutes in our 3D gaming test, which are all excellent numbers!

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:

Video Streaming (hours) Higher is better
Google Pixel 6a 8h 51 min
Apple iPhone SE (2022) 4h 28 min
Web Browsing (hours) Higher is better
Google Pixel 6a 13h 51 min
Apple iPhone SE (2022) 11h 53 min
3D Gaming (hours) Higher is better
Google Pixel 6a 6h 48 min
Apple iPhone SE (2022) 4h 28 min

Charging-wise, the Pixel 6a comes with 18W charging support, and no charger in the box, similar to the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. Charging time will mostly depend on what charger you use for topping up. 

Meanwhile, the iPhone SE supports up to 20W charging speeds, and according to our testing, a 15-minute top-up restores 30 percent of your battery life using an authorized Apple charger, a 30-minute top-up restores around 55 percent, and a complete charge from 0 to 100 takes roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes. 

Charging time (minutes) Lower is better
Google Pixel 6a 113
Apple iPhone SE (2022) 109

It's also worth mentioning that you get Qi wireless charging with the iPhone SE (but no MagSafe), and no wireless charging on the Pixel 6a.

Specs Comparison

For a full specs comparison, check out the dedicated Pixel 6a vs iPhone SE (2022) specs comparison. 

Summary and Final Verdict

Overall, the Pixel 6a is shaping up to have the upper hand in almost any aspect when compared with the iPhone SE (2022). With a more versatile camera setup, modern design, larger battery, and a slightly more affordable pricing for the same amount of storage, the Pixel 6a makes getting an iPhone SE (2022). Nevertheless, the A15 Bionic is much more mature than Google's fledgling Tensor ecosystem, and overall the iPhone SE (2022) could be a much safer bet than the Pixel 6a in the long run in terms of software support. 

On the topic of availability, you will definitely be much more likely to stumble across an iPhone SE (2022) in a location near you than on Google's Pixel 6a, especially on a more global scale. The pretty limited availability has been one of the often cited drawbacks of the Pixel family, and Apple's wider supply network means that even if you want to pick the Pixel 6a over the iPhone SE, you might not be able to due to the most mundane reason of all - it might not be available in your region or in a store near you.

So, which one should you get?

If you've given thought to getting inside the Apple ecosystem, then the iPhone SE (2022) would be the safest and most affordable way to do so. On the other hand, if you simply want to get the better value-for-money offering, which beats the iPhone in many areas, like image quality and battery life, as well as has a much more modern design, it really is hard to beat the Pixel 6a. 
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