If you’re looking to buy a mid-range phone under $500, two of the most compelling options right now are the Google Pixel 6a and the iPhone SE 3 (2022). The former costs $449 and the latter starts at $429.
The Pixel a-series has always received praise for offering amazing value for money. And the iPhone SE series is a great gateway to get into the Apple ecosystem if you’ve never experienced it before. In this guide, we’ll compare both devices to help you get a better idea of which one is more suitable for you.
Dimensions and Build Quality
- Google Pixel 6a: 152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9 mm; 178 grams; IP67 dust and water-resistant
- iPhone SE 3: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm; 144 grams; IP67 dust and water-resistant
At first sight, the most notable difference between the two devices is their size. The Pixel 6a is much taller, wider, and heavier than the iPhone SE 3, so if you’re looking for a more pocketable phone, the latter will serve you better. The glass back on the iPhone also feels more premium than the plastic back on the Pixel with its glossy finish.
Both devices have an official IP67 rating for water and dust resistance. However, the Pixel 6a has Gorilla Glass 3 protection on the front whereas the iPhone SE 3 has the same glass as the iPhone 8. Speaking of which, it has a physical Home button too just like its predecessor.
- Google Pixel 6a: 12.2MP f/1.7 primary with OIS, PDAF, and 4K video at 60fps; 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide (114-degree FoV); Front: 8 MP f/2.0 with 1080p video at 30fps
- iPhone SE 3: 12MP f/1.8 primary with OIS, PDAF, and 4K video at 60fps; Front: 7MP f/2.2 with 1080p video at 120fps
You get a total of three cameras on the Pixel 6a and two on the iPhone SE 3. Sadly, this means no ultra-wide lens on the latter. Both phones use older camera hardware to cut costs; the Pixel 6a has the same main lens as the Pixel 4 and the iPhone SE 3 borrows its lens from the iPhone 8.
Thankfully, smartphone photography isn’t just about hardware. Since both devices have the latest version of their respective operating systems, they can take better shots than their predecessors. As far as image quality is concerned, there really isn’t a clear winner. Some prefer the iPhone’s realism while others love the Pixel’s DSLR-like shots and portraits. You know which camp you belong to.
Although, we do think that the Pixel 6a is a lot more versatile than its rival since it has all the useful Pixel camera features. For instance, you can use Magic Eraser to hide unwanted elements in your photos, such as a photo-bomber or a building, or use Real Tone to better represent different skin tones. That said, it’s hard to resist how well the iPhone handles video.
- Google Pixel 6a: 4410mAh battery; 18W fast wired charging
- iPhone SE 3: 2018mAh battery; 20W fast wired charging; 7.5W Qi wireless charging
Despite the iPhone SE’s lower battery consumption, it’s liable to have worse battery life than the Pixel 6a simply because it has less than half the total battery capacity of its rival. Great software can’t always make up for acute hardware deficiency.
That said, the iPhone SE 3 does have a slightly faster wired charging speed and also supports wireless charging thanks to its glass back. The plastic back on the Pixel 6a doesn’t allow it to have wireless charging. Sadly, neither of the devices comes with a charger in the box.
- Google Pixel 6a: 6.1 inches; OLED; 60Hz refresh rate; 1080 x 2400 resolution; 20:9 aspect ratio; 429 PPI; 83% screen-to-body ratio
- iPhone SE 3: 4.7 inches; Retina IPS LCD; 60Hz refresh rate; 750 x 1334 resolution; 16:9 aspect ratio; 326 PPI; 65.4% screen-to-body ratio
The iPhone SE 3 has a painfully inferior 4.7-inch LCD HD display and is no match for the Pixel 6a’s 6.1-inch OLED FHD display that’s more appropriate to current smartphone standards. But neither of the two devices has a high refresh rate, so there’s that.
Having a screen this small on any phone—let alone an iPhone—means that no matter what you’re doing, it’s not going to be an immersive experience, at least not as much as on the Pixel 6a. No doubt, the iPhone SE 3’s screen is its biggest weakness.
RAM and Storage
- Google Pixel 6a: 6GB RAM; 128GB
- iPhone SE 3: 4GB RAM; 64GB/128GB/256GB storage
The iPhone SE 3 comes with 4GB RAM which we would’ve dismissed if Apple wasn’t as good at RAM management as it is. Even with 4GB RAM, it can compete with the Pixel 6a’s 6GB.
As far as storage is concerned, the Pixel 6a is limited to 128GB, which should be more than enough for casual users. But if you need more space, you might have to lean towards the iPhone SE 3 which can be upscaled to 256GB.
But do note that the iPhone SE 3 starts at 64GB storage for the base model. If you want the 128GB variant, it costs $479, and the 256GB variant is $579. So, in reality, the equivalent iPhone SE 3 is more expensive than the Pixel 6a. Both devices lack a microSD slot.
- Google Pixel 6a: Google Tensor; 5nm fabrication; Mali-G78 GPU
- iPhone SE 3: Apple A15 Bionic; 5nm fabrication; Apple 4-core GPU
The Pixel 6a and the iPhone SE 3 are both really powerful devices and carry flagship processors; you can’t go wrong with either of them if you prioritize performance. The former has the same Google Tensor chip as found on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, and the latter has the same A15 Bionic chip as on the iPhone 13 series.
The iPhone SE 3 scores 700K+ on AnTuTu (v9), and though we don’t have the score for the Pixel 6a right now, you can confidently assume that it’s similar to the Pixel 6, which scores roughly the same as the iPhone SE 3. Whether you’re gaming or multitasking, both devices can handle heavy tasks with ease.
The iPhone SE 3 Is Too Unbalanced
If you want to introduce yourself to the Apple ecosystem, the iPhone SE 3 (2022) is a great place to start, but we can’t say that it’s a better deal than the Pixel 6a. The higher price for the same storage, the worse battery life, no ultra-wide lens, and the long-obsolete display with large bezels are more than enough reasons to skip this otherwise great phone.
Granted, the glass back and wireless charging are cool to have, but they’re also redundant. If you want to use the feature, you have to buy a separate wireless charger which defeats the whole purpose of buying an affordable phone. Although the Pixel 6a isn’t the most well-rounded phone either, it’s certainly a lot more recommendable to the average buyer than the iPhone SE 3.
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