Google Pixel 8a vs. iPhone SE: Which budget phone is better?

iphone se vs pixel 8a
(Image credit: Future/Google)

Google unveiled the Pixel 8a shortly after Apple's "Let Loose" event, and now we're left wondering, "Doesn't Apple have an affordable phone too?" Yes, it hasn't been updated in a while, but how does the fresh new Google Pixel 8a compare with the Apple iPhone SE?

The Pixel 8a replaced the Pixel 7a — both launched at $499. The Pixel 7a sits atop our best budget phones page, so we're hoping the Pixel 8a slots right in. Meanwhile, the iPhone SE ranks as number 2 on that same page. This battle might be won before it starts, but there may be one thing that can save the iPhone SE.

While we can't decide on a winner until the Pixel 8a comes in, the question remains: Which phone is better, the Google Pixel 8a or the iPhone SE?

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Google Pixel 8a vs. iPhone SE specs
Row 0 - Cell 0 Google Pixel 8aiPhone SE
Display6.1 inches (2400 x 1080) 120Hz Adaptive4.7 inches (1334 x 750) 60Hz
Storage128GB / 256GB64GB / 128GB / 256GB
CPUGoogle Tensor G3 (4nm)A15 Bionic chip
Rear camera(s)64MP Quad PD wide, 13MP ultrawide12MP Main
Front camera13 MP7MP
Dimensions6 x 2.9 x 0.4 inches5.5 x 2.7 x 0.3 inches
Weight6.6 ounces5.1 ounces

Google Pixel 8a vs. iPhone SE: Price

The Pixel 8a costs $499 and is outfitted with the Google Tensor G3 chip, a 6.1-inch (2400 x 1080) 120Hz display, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, 64MP Quad PD wide and 13MP ultrawide rear cameras, and a 13MP front camera. (By the way, we knew much of this when Pixel 8a information leaked.)

The iPhone SE starts at $429 and is outfitted with an A15 Bionic chip, a 4.7-inch (1334 x 750) 60Hz display, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a 12MP wide rear camera, and a 7MP front camera.

If you need to save every last dollar, then the iPhone SE is the preferable choice, but you cannot argue that the Pixel 8a is stacked with specs for just $70 more.

Google Pixel 8a vs. iPhone SE: Design

The Pixel 8a and iPhone SE look radically different in both size, color, and overall design.

Woman holding Pixel 8a

(Image credit: Google)

The Pixel 8a weighs 6.6 ounces and measures 6 x 2.9 x 0.4 inches, but the iPhone SE weighs just 5.1 ounces and measures 5.5 x 2.7 x 0.3 inches. While the iPhone features a lighter and thinner design, it also offers a smaller display (I'll get into that later).

They share a black-and-white color scheme, but the Pixel 8a sports Aloe (green) and Bay (blue) colors, while the iPhone SE comes with only one additional color: red.

The Pixel 8a and iPhone SE get IP67 dust and water protection, meaning they can survive 30 minutes in water at depths of up to 1 meter (3 feet). That may not matter unless you're diving with your phone. Both also feature Corning Gorilla Glass 3 drop protection.

The Pixel 8a is a larger phone with more color variety, while the iPhone SE benefits from a smaller design that fits better in your pocket.

Google Pixel 8a vs. iPhone SE: Display

The Pixel 8a has a 6.1-inch, 2400 x 1080, 120Hz Adaptive display, while the iPhone SE features a 4.7-inch, 1334 x 750, 60Hz display. These two phones have a huge size, resolution, and refresh rate gap.

Google Pixel 8 in Bay Blue

(Image credit: Laptop Mag / Sean Riley)

Even when we get into the finer details of the specs, there are significant discrepancies. The Pixel 8a's display features 430 PPI (pixels per inch) versus the iPhone's 326 PPI. You'd want a higher PPI for a smaller screen, but we didn't get that here.

The contrast ratio is also wild. The Pixel 8a is rated for a >1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. Unfortunately, we don't know how much less than 1,000,000 it is, but it's certainly better than the iPhone SE's 1400:1 contrast ratio.

Google also claims that the Pixel 8a can achieve up to 1400 nits of brightness (HDR) and 2000 nits of brightness (peak). However, the iPhone SE is rated for only 625 nits of brightness.

Google Pixel 8a vs. iPhone SE: Features

Let's compare the Google Pixel 8a and iPhone SE to see what else is packed into them. Two different operating systems can make for a lot of differences.

iPhone SE 2022

(Image credit: Future)

Let's talk performance first. The Pixel 8a is rocking the Google Tensor G3 chip, the same chip featured in the Pixel 8. On the Geekbench overall performance test, the Google Pixel 8 scored 3,744. The iPhone SE, chipped with the 2022 A15 Bionic CPU, scored 4,482. That's mostly sad for Google.

According to Google, the Pixel 8a gets 24+ hours of battery life, but if we look at our Pixel 8 results, it'll be closer to 9 hours and 43 minutes. Meanwhile, the iPhone SE lasted 7 hours and 38 minutes on our battery test. 

The Pixel 8a features 64MP Quad PD wide and 13MP ultrawide rear cameras and a 13MP front camera. Meanwhile, the iPhone SE is outfitted with a single 12MP rear camera and a 7MP front camera.

You not only get an extra camera with the Pixel 8a, but the megapixels across the board are higher. However, the aperture on the iPhone SE's rear camera is slightly better, with f/1.8 (lower is better) versus the Pixel 8a's f/1.89. That just means the iPhone SE is slightly better at taking low-light photos... well, as far as aperture goes. That doesn't account for the Pixel's more advanced low-light software.

Google Pixel 8a vs. iPhone SE: Which should you buy?

So, which is better for you — the Pixel 8a or the iPhone SE? Newer is not always better, but in this case, it most certainly is. If you want more performance, the iPhone SE is the better choice, but the Pixel 8a offers much more for a slightly higher price.

The Pixel 8a supports more cameras, a bigger display, and a longer battery life (probably). And despite the minor discrepancy in aperture, the Pixel 8a's cameras will likely take better shots overall.

Rami Tabari

Rami Tabari is an Editor for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline attached to the latest Souls-like challenge.