Simplified versions of top smartphones from the best representatives of the market cost less than $500. They are aimed at those buyers who are not aiming for top features, but want to get a quality smartphone. Also, given the prices of flagships, not everyone can afford one. Such devices as, for example, the iPhone SE and the simplified Pixel are immediately mentioned here. Google is just starting to take pre-orders for the Pixel 6a, so let’s see how it compares to the iPhone SE.

To begin with, a table with the main characteristics of both gadgets:

iPhone SE Pixel 6a
Dimensions and Weight 138.4×67.3×7.3 mm, 144 grams 152.2×71.8×8.9 mm, 172 grams
RAM and Storage 4/64, 4/128, 4/256 GB 6/128 GB
CPU Apple A15 Bionic Google Tensor
GPU Apple GPU Mali-G78 MP20
Wireless modules Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC Wi-Fi 6e, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC
Displays 4.7-inch IPS
Resolution: 1334×750
Aspect ratio: 16:9
Refresh rate: 60 Hz
6.1-inch OLED
Resolution: 2400×1080
Aspect ratio: 20:9
Refresh rate: 60 Hz
Rear camera module Wide-angle sensor: 12 MP, ƒ/1.8 Wide-angle sensor: 12.2 MP, ƒ/1.7
Ultra-wide: 12 MP, 114°, ƒ/2.2
Front camera 7 MP, ƒ/2.2 8 MP, ƒ/2.0
Battery 2018 mAh 4410 mAh
Operating System Apple iOS 15 Google Android 12
Recommended Price $429, $479, $579 $449

The first thing that catches the eye when comparing these smartphones is size. The iPhone SE is offered in a much smaller body with glass on both sides and a metal frame. At the same time, it has an outdated design that is already 5 years old (or 8, if you count from the iPhone 6 model, which differed in the material of the back). The larger Pixel 6a looks much fresher, repeating the appearance of the “older” models. It is made simpler: it also has glass in front and a metal frame, but it has a plastic panel behind. Both models offer protection against moisture and dust (IP67 and IPx7).

The size of the case is dictated by displays. The Pixel 6a has the advantage here, as it uses a much larger screen (6.1 vs. 4.7 inches), which also has a higher resolution, with a pixel density of 429 vs. 326 ppi on the Pixel side.

Pixel 6a vs. iPhone SE — how are some of the best smartphones under $500 different?

Displays also differ in matrix types. iPhone SE should satisfy fans of IPS matrices, and Pixel 6a – fans of OLED. The latter should be the better solution in this case, as it is newer and usually preserves images better in direct sunlight. The display in the iPhone SE is unlikely to have undergone significant improvements in recent years. And an additional bonus in the Pixel is support for the Always-On function, which is not available even in the flagship iPhone 13 Pro.

As for multimedia capabilities, these smartphones together can offer stereo sound, but they do not have separate headphone jacks. It is interesting that Google kept the classic port in place for quite a long time (last year’s Pixel 5a still had one), but this time it still abandoned it.

Pixel 6a vs. iPhone SE — how are some of the best smartphones under $500 different?

As a quick unlock, these smartphones use fingerprint scanners. The difference lies in the technology. The iPhone SE uses a capacitive sensor in the Home button below the display. The Pixel 6a has an optical scanner built into the display. None of these competitors have a face scanning function.

There are also enough internal differences. iPhone and Pixel are equipped with in-house chips. The iPhone SE has a six-core A15 Bionic (2+4), which differs from the flagship version by only one graphics accelerator core (4 versus 5). All three configurations of the smartphone have 4 GB of RAM and from 64 to 256 GB in storage (NVMe). Pixel 6a has a new eight-core Google Tensor (2+2+4), which is no different from the flagship version. This model comes in one variant with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage (UFS 3.1). Again, none can get memory supplement.

Pixel 6a vs. iPhone SE — how are some of the best smartphones under $500 different?

As for communications both have 5G support. But otherwise, the Pixel 6a does a little better, supporting Wi-Fi 6e and Bluetooth 5.2, when the iPhone SE only has Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. Both models can pay for goods and services via NFC, but the Pixel can also use this sensor to sync with other devices. This functionality is limited on the iPhone.

Of course, the operating systems here are different — iOS 15 and Android 12. The importance of system differences remains at the discretion of potential buyers. But it’s worth noting something else: in the past, Google didn’t support its smartphones for as long as Apple does. But if you buy a Pixel 6a now, you can count on 5 years of support. It already sounds much better than before. Apple makes no such promises, but you can still have the current version of iOS 15.6 on the 2015 iPhone 6s.

Pixel 6a vs. iPhone SE — how are some of the best smartphones under $500 different?

Points for cameras can be safely given to the Pixel. The iPhone SE has only one main camera, while the Pixel 6a has wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle lenses. The main modules of both smartphones are almost the same on paper, but in practice the Pixel will probably be better, because at least it has a Night mode, which is not available in the standard iPhone application. The front cameras are also similar in terms of characteristics.

The larger body also allowed the Pixel 6a to gain a battery advantage, which is twice the size of the iPhone SE. Fast charging is supported in both cases (iPhone SE – 20 W, Pixel 6a – 18 W), but in addition, the iPhone SE can charge at induction stations (Qi), which the Pixel 6a has not learned how to do.

And finally, the price. Coonfigurations with the same storage capacity cost roughly the same: $479 for the iPhone SE and $449 for the Pixel 6a. In both cases, these are very good smartphones, but each of them has its own compromises. If the issue of the difference in operating systems is not fundamental, the Pixel 6a can offer more camera capabilities, larger displays and battery, as well as a much fresher design. In turn, the iPhone SE is noticeably more compact, more convenient to use, has better case materials and charges at induction stations.