Google Pixel 4a vs iPhone SE: Can a cheap Android handset beat Apple’s best-ever budget iPhone?

The iPhone SE might be Apple’s unexpected hit of 2020, but there’s a new competitor in town: the Google Pixel 4a. But Google’s newest mid-range handset is going to need a lot more than a low price to take on Apple’s mighty budget blockbuster. Here’s how the two phones measure up.

Google Pixel 4a vs iPhone SE: Design

I never thought I’d see the day when Google designs a nicer phone than Apple, but it is hard to deny the Pixel 4a’s good looks. It has relatively slim and uniform bezels all around thanks to its hole-punch camera, an extremely compact and light frame, and a classy all-black exterior. Even with a far-bigger display, the Pixel 4a has very similar dimensions and weight as the SE:

Pixel 4a: 144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm, 148 grams
iPhone SE: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm, 143 grams

When it comes to the back of the phone, the SE has the advantage. Not only does the Pixel 4a have an ugly and largely unnecessary camera array, it’s also made of plastic and comes in just one color, black. The SE, on the other hand, comes in three colors and is made of glass, so it feels more luxurious and is less prone to scratches. Even the camera bump is nicer on the SE, with a single circle surrounded by an aluminum ring.

google pixel 4a 6 Chris Martin/IDG

The Google Pixel 4a has a much higher screen-to-body ratio than the iPhone SE.

But the front is all that really matters when buying a phone, and the 4a excels. The iPhone SE isn’t an ugly phone by any stretch, but it certainly shows its age compared to the 4a. From the gigantic bezels to the small display, the iPhone SE simply isn’t as modern as the Pixel 4a, and Google has put some pressure on Apple to update its design with the SE 2.

Google Pixel 4a vs iPhone SE: Display

Along with the iPhone SE’s outdated design comes an outdated display. Nearly every other phone has better screen specs, and the Pixel 4a is no exception:

Pixel 4a: 5.81-inch Full HD+ OLED, 1080×3240, 443ppi
iPhone SE: 4.7-inch HD LCD, 750×1334, 326ppi

The Pixel 4a also supports HDR, 10,000:1 super contrast ratio, and of course, the true blacks of OLED displays. The iPhone SE’s screen is probably the best LCD ever made for a smartphone, but it can’t hold a candle—or even a high-res photo of a candle—to the Pixel 4a.