Google recently announced its new budget Pixel 5a, which brings a new challenge to the 2020 iPhone SE, the lowest cost Apple smartphone.
Apple is by far the more popular manufacturer of the two but Google is well respected for its advanced camera app and this latest offering is expected to perform well in that area as well. A comparison of the features and specifications of each phone can help shoppers looking for the best value for their money.
Apple's iPhone SE was first released in 2016, a tiny phone with flat edges that foreshadowed the look of the modern iPad Pro and iPhone 12. This early iPhone SE had a 4-inch display, partly due to its home button, but overall it was just a very small device. The second-generation model was launched four years later.
The 2020 iPhone SE still has a home button and while small by modern phone standards, it is larger than the iPhone 12 mini. The newer iPhone SE has a 4.7-inch screen, and sturdy aluminum build with dual-ion exchange glass and the same A13 processor as the 2019 flagship iPhone 11. It's a good quality smartphone and a low-cost way to join Apple's ecosystem, a nice option for those considering a switch from Android and Wear OS to iOS and an Apple Watch.
Google's newest low-cost smartphone is the Pixel 5a and offers great value for Android users or anyone looking for a high-quality shooter at a budget price. In fact, the wide and ultra-wide cameras are identical to those of the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G, both known for excellent photography in almost any condition.
Compared to the iPhone SE, which has a single wide-angle rear camera, the Pixel 5a will win in every single shoot-off. It's not even close as Apple didn't include its computational photography in the iPhone SE. Without Deep Fusion and Night Mode, the iPhone SE's camera is relatively weak in anything beyond ideal conditions, while Google opens up the full power of its Night Shot, Astrophotography, and Super Resolution Zoom to Pixel 5a owners. The iPhone SE wins on price, however, starting at US$399(~SGD $544.44), undercutting Google's latest A-series phone by US$50, with the Pixel 5a starting at US$449 (~SGD $608.66).
Processor, Build Quality, Battery Life & Connectivity
Apple's iPhone often wins in comparisons of processor speed, spiking benchmarks with a faster chip than even the fastest Android phone. The Pixel 5a's upper mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G, released in 2020, can't keep up in a speed test although it will feel just fine for everyday use and the difference is likely to only be noticeable in challenging situations, such as when editing long videos or playing a graphically intensive game.
What's more interesting is a comparison of the build quality. Google uses tough Gorilla Glass 6 over the display of its budget phone, beating Apple's dual-ion glass. Both phones have an IP67 rating resulting in moderate protection from dust and water.
Battery life could be another differentiating factor and for anyone away from a charge for a long period of time, this can be critical. The Pixel 5a has a much greater battery capacity, 4,680 mAh versus the iPhone SE's tiny 1,821. Apple describes this as a binge-worthy battery but that is likely an exaggeration compared to normal usage. Besides the difference in capacity, Google's Extreme Battery Saver can stretch usable phone time to days.
Apple offers LTE while Google provides 5G, resulting in another win for the Pixel 5a. The iPhone SE's small form factor might be seen as an advantage by some, however, the 6.3-inch display of the Pixel 5a means the shopper is getting more for their money and clearly tips the scale heavily in favor of Google's phone.
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