Google Pixel 4a vs. iPhone SE: Can a cheap Android handset beat Apple's best-ever budget iPhone?
Macworld|October 2020
Look out Apple, there’s a new low­cost competitor in town.
MICHAEL SIMON

The iPhone SE might be Apple’s unexpected hit of 2020, but there’s a new competitor in town: the Google Pixel 4a (go.macworld.com/4arv). But Google’s newest midrange handset is going to need a lot more than a low price to take on Apple’s mighty budget block­ buster. Here’s how the two smartphones measure up.

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 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.

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.

The Google Pixel 4a has a much higher screen-to-body ratio than the 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Along with the iPhone SE’s outdated design comes an outdated display.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, 1080x3240, 443ppi

iPhone SE: 4.7-inch HD LCD, 750x1334, 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.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM MACWORLDView All

Apple Teams With A-cold-wall On Beats Studio3 Headphones

The limited edition headphones will go on sale soon for $350.

1 min read
Macworld
November 2021

Hot Stuff

What we're raving about this month

1 min read
Macworld
November 2021

Google may have built a better iPhone with the Pixel 6

The Pixel 6 isn't just a new phone-it's a whole new outlook.

4 mins read
Macworld
December 2021

TWELVE SOUTH HOVERBAR DUO

When you're using your iPhone or iPad to do a task or for a FaceTime call, you need to place it in the proper position.

1 min read
Macworld
December 2021

iCloud email won't send? Here's what to check to fix it

iCloud has restrictions that could prevent your email from being sent.

1 min read
Macworld
December 2021

BATTERY PACK ZMI POWERPACK NO. 20: COMPACT EXTERNAL BATTERY CAN CHARGE A MACBOOK

The ZMI PowerPack No. 20 (Model QB826G) is the closest thing I've seen in many years to the kind of outboard laptop battery popular in the days when batteries burned through stored energy as quickly as sparklers. The PowerPack No. 20's prosaic name hides its massive output: up to 210 watts across three output ports simultaneously!

3 mins read
Macworld
December 2021

Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X

The DT 900 Pro X headphones are aimed at content creators: folks working on the production of music, podcasts, and similar pursuits in home studios and on the road.

1 min read
Macworld
December 2021

AirPods vs. AirPods Pro: Which is right for your ears?

Don't know whether to buy the AirPods (2nd gen), AirPods (3rd gen), or AirPods Pro? Here's how they stack up.

4 mins read
Macworld
December 2021

iPhone 13 and iPad mini benchmarks don't tell whole story

Benchmarks of Apple's newest devices reveal a different kind of chip.

4 mins read
Macworld
November 2021

Andover Audio Songbird: This budget-priced music streamer is no featherweight

This low-priced audio component compares favorably to the likes of Sonos and Bluesound-at a fraction of the price.

7 mins read
Macworld
November 2021
RELATED STORIES

Health The growing influence of Apple on healthcare

In a 2019 interview with Mad Money’s Jim Cramer, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “If you zoomed out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question, ‘What was Apple’s greatest contribution to mankind?’” After a short pause, he answered his own question: “It will be about health.” Two years on, his vision is already becoming a reality for the company.

5 mins read
AppleMagazine
December 03, 2021

THE BEST PRODUCTS OF 2021

You need only one list this holiday season when you’re buying tech gifts. Here’s PCMag’s annual collection of the 101 most exceptional products tested and rated by our experts in the past year.

10+ mins read
PC Magazine
December 2021

Beats Fit Pro: Solid ANC

A bass-heavy alternative to the AirPods Pro

9 mins read
PC Magazine
December 2021

Tivoli Audio Model One Digital (Gen. 2)

PRODUCT REVOLUTION

1 min read
Innovation & Tech Today
Fall 2021

Modula5

PRODUCT REVOLUTION

1 min read
Innovation & Tech Today
Fall 2021

ITALIAN COMPETITION WATCHDOG FINES APPLE, AMAZON $225M

Italy’s antitrust watchdog has fined Apple and Amazon a total of more than 200 million euros ($225 million) for cooperating to restrict competition in the sale of Apple and Beats branded products in violation of European Union rules.

1 min read
Techlife News
27, November 2021

APPLE SUING ISRAELI HACKER-FOR-HIRE COMPANY NSO GROUP

Apple announced it is suing Israel’s NSO Group, seeking to block the world’s most infamous hacker-for-hire company from breaking into Apple’s products, like the iPhone.

2 mins read
AppleMagazine
November 26, 2021

Do It Yourself

Apple opens a new era for device repairs

6 mins read
AppleMagazine
November 26, 2021

DID SHERIFF RAILROAD SEX CREEP CUOMO?

Prosecutor bares potential defects in criminal case

3 mins read
Globe
November 29, 2021

Pivot: Scott Galloway

Super-Apps Are Inevitable Get ready for the first $10 trillion tech company.

6 mins read
New York magazine
November 22 - December 5, 2021