iPhone SE 2020 vs Pixel 4a: Clash of the $400 budget flagships

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If you are looking to buy a budget flagship phone (for lack of a better word) this year, our iPhone SE 2020 vs Pixel 4a comparison is exactly what you need to open your eyes to what you’d get if you picked from Apple or Google.

The competiting devices come at below $400 each (base models), so they are fairly well matched in terms of price. The question is, Which of them delivers better value? I have spent time looking at the specifications of both, and it is fascinating to see myself lean heavily towards Apple’s iPhone SE 2020, though the Pixel 4a carried the day. Here’s why.

iPhone SE 2020 vs Pixel 4a Comparison Table

iPhone SE 2020 vs Pixel 4a comparison
iPhone SE 2020 vs Pixel 4a comparison

Here is a quick comparison table that helps you compare the key features of both devices.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 Google Pixel 4a
4.7 inches, 750 x 1334 pixels, HDR10, LCD 5.81 inches, 1080 x 2340 pixels, OLED display
Aluminium frame, IP67 dust/water resistant (up to 1m for 30 mins). Ion-strengthened glass. Plastic build, Gorilla Glass protection
Touch ID fingerprint scanner (in Home button) Fingerprint scanner (rear-mounted)
Stereo speakers Mono speaker
Hexa-core, Apple A13 Bionic (7 nm), 2.65 GHz Octa-core, Snapdragon 730G (8 nm), 2.2 GHz
7MP selfie camera 8MP punch-hole selfie camera
12 MP,  (ƒ/2.2) rear camera with dual LED flash 12 MP,  (ƒ/2.0) rear camera with LED flash
64GB/128GB/256 GB internal storage options 128 GB internal storage options
1821 mAh battery + 18W fast charge + Qi wireless charging 3140 mAh battery + 18W quick charge
US$399 / ₦165,000 for 64GB variant. 

US$449 / ₦185,400 for 128 GB variant

US$349 / ₦144,000

iPhone SE 2020 vs Pixel 4a: Design

If the iPhone SE 2020 had been released in 2019, its design would have been perfect for squaring up against Google’s Pixel 3a, but in 2020 Google has finally upgraded the design of the Pixel 4a and we have a bezel-less look with a punch-hole camera in a corner at the top.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 looks like it belongs in the past. Apple could have reduced the top and bottom bezels to give the SE 2020 a 5 or 5.2-inch display – and a more modern look. But then, they’d have to come up with a new expression for the fingerprint sensor for TouchID.

Google wins the design round.

iPhone SE 2020 vs Pixel 4a: Display

What we have here is the age-old LCD versus OLED fight. iPhone SE 2020 has a 4.7-inch Retina display, which is LCD. GooglePixel 4a has a 5.81-inch OLED display. OLED delivers better/deeper blacks and depth and just out-punches LCD in many ways.

Once again, this round goes to Google.

iPhone SE 2020 vs Pixel 4a: Aluminium vs Plastic

Google has a bad reputation of using plastic for its Pixel devices and the available information says this is the same with the Pixel 4a. Unfortunately, that leaves it at the mercy of Apple iPhone SE 2020, which has an aluminium body with IP67 water/resistance. In plain English, the iPhone has a better build, feels better in the hand, and will survive splashes of water. The Pixel 4a is not even close.

iPhone SE 2020 wins the build quality section hands down.

iPhone SE 2020 vs Pixel 4a: A13 Bionic vs Snadragon 730G

What of raw processing power and performance? Apple has thrown in the most powerful processor in the smartphone world right now – the A13 Bionic. This is the same processor in the top iPhone model, iPhone 11 Pro Max.

On the other hand, as is Google’s practice, the Pixel 4a gets a non-flagship processor. This time, that is Snapdragon 730G. On a normal day, the current top Snapdragon chipset, SD865, does not hold up to Apple’s A13 Bionic. With an SD730G chipset, the Pixel 4a offers performance that is far behind what the SE 2020 does.

Plus, the AI capabilities of the A13 Bionic means better processing of everything, including audio, video and photos.

Once again, Apple wins this round hands down.

iPhone SE 2020 vs Pixel 4a: Photography and Video

Google Pixel phones have been known for their outstanding camera capabilities, and their budget models tend to follow closely in their stead. The Pixel 4a is expected to follow too. But Apple’s budget models have delivered stellar photography as well. We will have to wait to see what both models deliver this time.

Note though that if you want the best smartphone camera in the market, you won’t get it from either brand any more. Huawei, Xiaomi and OPPO are the brands to look at. Those Chinese brands have taken smartphone photography to the next level and left both Google and Apple straggling.

This round is inconclusive, as we have to wait for the two phones to be released and tested to provide a verdict on their cameras.

iPhone SE 2020 vs Pixel 4a: Battery Capacity

If there is one feature that has consistently let Apple iPhones down over the years, it is battery capacity. Apple has a ridiculous reputation for fitting their smartphones with appalling batteries. The SE 2020 continues that trend with its small 1821mAh battery. In its defence, that isn’t horrible when you consider the tiny 4.7-inch screen size. Still, the iPhone 8 had the same screen size and battery capacity and did not deliver sterling battery life. So, be ready to deal with that if you choose the iPhone SE 2020.

Google Pixel 4a render

In the other corner, Google Pixel 4a is likely to pack a battery with about 3,140mAh capacity. That is massive compared to the iPhone SE’s battery, but so also is the 5.8-inch display. In all, I would feel more comfortable with the Pixel’s battery.

This round belongs to Google.

iPhone SE 2020 vs Pixel 4a: Conclusions

In concluding this iPhone SE 2020 vs Pixel 4a face-off, at first look, Apple’s gladiator looks like better value to me than Google’s Pixel 4a. It is much more powerful, has better build quality, offers wireless charging, and like all Apple products, it has better after-market value.

Still, that small battery in the iPhone SE may put you off, and you might prefer the OLED display and the “liberty” of Android OS.

And then, there is a marked difference in price when you compare the 128 GB variant of the iPhone SE 2020 with the Pixel 4a. A $100 difference.

Apple iPhone SE (2020) white
Apple iPhone SE (2020) white

I would have loved to have the iPhone SE 2020 as my first iPhone after years of staying away from Apple’s ecosystem. The only other times I have used an iPhone were in 2010 (iPhone 3GS ) and 2016 (iPhone 5c). But if I had to choose on the premise of value-for-money, Google Pixel 4a would be my choice.  What will yours be?

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2 thoughts on “iPhone SE 2020 vs Pixel 4a: Clash of the $400 budget flagships”

  1. The Pixel 3a was such a disappointment and didn’t do as well as hoped. Are Google sure they’ve got it right with the 4a?

    The SE has its fans, and many people actually like and prefer 4.7″, which is why Apple stuck with it. Agreed, they could have tweaked the top and bottom bezel for that little bit more screen, I don’t really see a reason for it unless it’s covering up for something underneath.

    I’m not convinced by this Pixel 4a. For that price I can think of a good few other phones, especially with only 64GB for $399

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