The iPhone SE doesn't need Android to be the perfect Google phone

iPhone 11 Pro and Pixel 4 XL
iPhone 11 Pro and Pixel 4 XL (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Okay, before you all start burning me alive with your hot takes and iSheep remarks, hear me out for a minute. This is an idea I first considered after hearing something my former colleague Rene Ritchie once said in one of his myriad articles, tweets, YouTube videos, or podcast appearances (he has so much content, I can't remember exactly when or where he brought this up). If you think about it, one of the best Google experiences that you can have on a phone is on an iPhone. After all, Google makes basically all of its apps available on iOS, and those Apple versions are often updated more quickly and receive features faster than their Android counterparts.

While this idea isn't original, I thought it was worth revisiting in light of the newly announced iPhone SE (2020). It's true that you could use Google's great apps on any iPhone, but there hasn't been a recent iPhone that has been quite as compelling to workshop this idea with than the affordably priced SE. Starting at $399, it is going right up against some of the best Android mid-rangers, and in most ways, it flat-out eats their lunch.

State of mid-rangers on Android

Android devices, and in particular mid-range Android devices, have traditionally been synonymous with value-conscious consumers, and for good reason. These devices often offered better screens, fancier features, and more eye-popping designs than iPhones that cost two, three, or even four times as much.

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For the past several years, Android users have had a plethora of outstanding options to choose from in the $200-$500 space from OEMs like Motorola, Nokia, OnePlus, and even Google itself. But within the past week, this state of affairs has been challenged by none other than Apple, with the 2020 version of the iPhone SE.

I do think many Android OEMs will meet the challenge from iPhone SE head-on over the coming year.

While Android OEMs are going to have to rethink their approach for the mid-tier, I have full confidence that many will be able to quickly recalibrate to meet this new challenge from Apple head-on. After all, we still have yet to see what exactly the Pixel 4a will bring to the table.

However, if you are someone who loves all things Google but is not necessarily super loyal to a specific device manufacturer or OS, or if your primary concern is budget and value above all else, you may actually want to consider moving to the iPhone SE. Think that's crazy? Think that's blasphemy? Well, the initial response to the device from the AC forums has been more receptive than you might think.

The Google experience, on iPhone

Google iOS apps

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android CentralC'mon Apple, there are WAY more Google apps on iOS than this. (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Even though we all knew that a new iPhone SE was coming, I think a lot of the tech industry, and particularly the Android press, had our collective socks knocked off at the value proposition of the new budget iPhone.

The 2020 iPhone SE came as a slap to the face of mid-tier Android OEMs.

Yeah, yeah, it looks super dated and doesn't have the best screen technology out there (which mid-ranger does?), but what you get for the price is superb. Apple's latest processor is objectively faster than the best from Qualcomm, it guarantees software updates and support FOR YEARS, and all of the benefits that come with being part of the Apple ecosystem make it a compelling sell, even to an Android fanboi. I mean, what are you really missing out on here? Not much, in my opinion.

Sure, you can't customize iOS to anywhere near the extent that you can Android, and some of the other limitations and UX/UI design decisions may be baffling for someone who's used to Android. But, you do still get pretty much any and every app you can find on Android (including the best of Google), as well as iOS platform exclusives and apps that launch there first.

Speaking of those Google apps on iOS, the last time I checked (which was this morning), there are more than 60 Google apps available in the iOS AppStore, including favorites like Gmail, Google Calendar, and YouTube, down to more obscure apps like Google Analytics, Google Shopping, and the newly available Google Podcasts. Oh yeah, don't forget about Waze and (soon?) Fitbit!

I regularly have between six and nine Google apps on my iPhone home screen at any given point, but I also have another twelve to fifteen that I use less frequently and are tucked away in a folder on the second page. I thought it would be interesting to populate my home screen with all of my Google apps, and you know what? It's doesn't seem that crazy of an idea at all (although I do wish Apple would have an app drawer — the clutter is just too much!).

Google Apps Iphone

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Great Googly Moogly

I don't think I'm that much of a weirdo or an edge case when I say that I like using tech products and services from a variety of manufacturers and across several ecosystems. In my home, I've got Macs and Chromebooks, iPhones and iPads, Galaxys, Motos, Echos, and Nest products. I think Outlook is arguably the best email client around, and Alexa is my favorite voice assistant. But on the whole, I find myself using Google's apps and services more than any other company's, and one of the reasons is that they generally offer a consistent, reliable, and enjoyable experience regardless of the device on which I'm using them.

Google apps generally offer consistent, reliable, and enjoyable experiences on multiple platforms.

I said in an earlier editorial that I was considering picking up the new OnePlus 8 when it is available on my carrier (T-Mobile). I still stand by that statement, and it's a move I'm actively debating. But you know what? I'm also pining for the Google Pixel 4a. And I also not-so-low-key really really want a Product Red iPhone SE. Maybe I'll go full-on tech bro and get both the Pixel 4a and the iPhone SE for the same price or less than one of the new OnePlus handsets, maybe not. None of these phones are available for me on my upgrade plan right now, and I'm trying to be responsible with my money during these uncertain times. But in an ideal scenario, I would plan to have one of each of these awesome new mid-rangers, and if that happens I'll then be able to really see what the better overall Google experience for me is.

I'm not saying that Android users should flock to Apple, or that many well, despite how good a value the iPhone SE is. But I do think it's a compelling option for those who are on the fence. You may (vehemently) disagree, and you know what? That's ok too.

iPhone SE 2020

iPhone SE 2020

With the A13 Bionic under the hood along with IP67 water resistance and wireless charging, the iPhone SE turns the value category on its head. There's no Android equivalent to the kind of power you're getting here, and when you consider the fact that you get at least four years of software updates on iOS, the iPhone SE is a fantastic alternative to Android phones.

Jeramy Johnson

Jeramy was the Editor-in-Chief of Android Central. He is proud to help *Keep Austin Weird* and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand.