The cheapest iPhone has a more powerful processor than the most expensive Android phone

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

Apple has updated the little iPhone SE for 2020, and even an Android fan has to see that it's a great phone at an even greater price of $399 for the base model. It's essentially an iPhone 8 with one big difference: it has Apple's A13 Bionic chip buried inside. And that's a big deal for a number of reasons.

I expect that some people are going to tell me about single thread versus multi-threaded performance and how the A13 GPU isn't that great or how iPhones have much lower resolution screens so the chips don't have to work as hard. All this is true, but another thing is true: the A13 is a stronger chip than the Snapdragon 865 for daily use in every category — we've seen this applied in real life in the iPhone 11 already. The only area it misses out is 5G, and that's because Apple just doesn't care about 5G yet. (The rumored iPhone 12 will almost certainly have a Qualcomm 5G chipset inside, for what it's worth.)

The Apple A13 is powerful enough to drive a laptop, let alone a smartphone.

Nerdy things like CPU threads aside, you'll notice how well the new iPhone SE performs when you use it. Everything in a modern smartphone from web browsing to camera performance to less-used things like AR depends on the processor. You need to crunch numbers really fast if you want your phone to respond really fast. The $399 iPhone SE will be able to do these things faster than the new OnePlus 8 Pro or the Samsung Galaxy S20+.

It sounds crazy to say that Apple including its expensive new chip in its budget phone makes sense, but it does. Apple has but a single processor to design, manufacture, support, store, and deliver. The cost over an older chip like the A11 is surely significant, but isn't going to be as high as supporting and shipping that A11 in what will likely be a very popular smartphone.

When iOS 16 comes out the iPhone SE will get it on day one. We'll see the same for iOS 17, too.

What sounds less crazy, and great to consumers, is that by using the A13 Apple can support the iPhone SE for years — and this phone will outlive the iPhone 8 it is slated to replace for a handful of extra years because of the new chip. Basically, if the iPhone 11 can get updated, so can the iPhone SE. This is cool to hear today, but it will be really important in three years when another version of iOS is released and your $399 iPhone gets it on day one.

Get an iPhone SE with Mint Mobile service for just $30/mo (opens in new tab)

All of these reasons are also why it's so important that Google finds a way to build its own chips for its smartphones. It's been recently rumored (again) that Google is doing just that and has designed a new 5nm chip that will soon begin production for 2021 phones. This would allow Google to provide as many software updates as it pleases as well as build an in-house version of Android tailored for specific hardware that it controls.

Apple is laying out a roadmap for exactly what Google needs to do with its own chips.

Building your own mobile chipset brings many advantages, and Apple is leveraging them today. Google really needs to do the same, and soon. It isn't guaranteed to be a win, as we've watched Samsung historically struggle with its in-house developed Exynos processors, but the potential upside is clearly there.

The iPhone SE may not be a better phone than something like the latest Pixel, Galaxy or OnePlus. It has a lesser screen, weaker single camera, doesn't have the wealth of OS features we've come to expect from an Android flagship, and you're still stuck with a lightning connector instead of a universal solution in USB-C. But when it comes to processor performance and future-proofing for software updates, the iPhone SE beats that Android flagship you're holding right now.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

148 Comments
  • Apple will win the war with this phone...
  • Win the war against who? There's too many Android phones out there
  • Apple has already won the war with this phone
  • No one wins wars in tech. One day one company is up. a few years later, a different company is up. It's an infinite game. There are no winners and losers because the game never ends.
  • Calm down lol
  • Poor, poor u12+..... 8-/
  • Apple wins this battle.
  • Apple brought a bazooka to a knife fight. This is lights out folks.
  • And with this all powerful chip, Apple still refuses to provide something as basic as split screen multi-tasking and pop up windows - something I use daily with my flagship Android OR any Android phone. At the end of the day, the average consumer is not concerned about the chip. Does it do what I need it to do?
  • I am sure if you walked around and asked people how many use split screen on a phone, it would probably be around the same amount as those who know what chip is in their phones. 
  • ding ding ding.
  • People are also looking at value for money... This is a home run, super powerful well built device with 5 years of security updates too... I know what my next phone will be it's a no brainer... You'd be a fool to by any Android phone over this in this price range...
  • If you want to use iOS. No matter what the processor is, it still runs iOS. There are plenty of humans that just prefer Android.
  • Thank you! I will always prefer android. I just cant get into ios.
  • Not just security updates, 5 years of full os feature updates. Big difference.
  • 5 years of OS version updates, is not always the full update that net phones get, sometimes because obvious hardware limitations (can't have X because it feels in Y hardware) but sometimes for less obvious reasons (can't have Z because the battery usage would be unacceptable to some engineers).
  • In apples case 5 years of os updates are exactly that. I have a 6s and it's running 13 perfectly and will get 14 this fall. The 6s is 5 years old now.
  • This is rarely the case on iOS, my iPhone SE does practically everything my iPhone XS Max can do.
  • I don't even use split screen multitasking on my OnePlus 7T and while split screen multitasking is nice to have, it's not essential at least for iPhone and I certainly don't care for multitasking, I care about battery life and standby time and most Android flagships are still lacking against the recent iPhones unless they have a mammoth battery and iPhones still crush Android phones that doesn't have a mammoth battery as well.
  • Eh the ram is what keeps devices from being updated, not just the processor. Hence why certain apple devices got updated while others didn't. But yeah apple crushes android with long term support up and down the line. 
  • Can this thing run Android instead of iOS? That's the only way I'd be interested.
  • Agreed. Hate iOS. Also, hate the form factor. Can't stand that outdated hardware.
  • "Hate iOS. Also, hate the form factor. Can't stand that outdated hardware" you're not the target market for this phone, you just can't face the truth that the iPhone SE 2 is more powerful than every Android phone,not only in the $400 price range but also every current Android flagship. The salt is strong with you and you're exactly 1 of a few reasons why I'm getting bored with Android and going back to iPhone in the summer (I will keep my OnePlus 7T as my secondary phone) as the app experience is still better on iOS, especially social media.
  • Get a life you clown
  • Take your own advice dumbass and stop trolling everyone who says anything nice about Apple.
  • I see your point here but what are the day to day, measurable ways in which Apple chipsets outperform Qualcomm? (Outside of software updates, which is no content) They win in synthetic benchmarks, but those are not correlated with something that we as consumers do. I have seen video editing/rendering tests where Apple chipsets do not pull ahead, and I wonder where we can see and measure their theoretical advantages.
  • @Palm_Tree_67 you're joking right? Apple has always crushed Android flagships in video editing/rendering, especially when it is the latest Samsung flagship which always struggles against the might of Apple's A series of chips. Remember the Galaxy Note 7 which got lapped in 2016 by the almost 1 year old iPhone 6s Plus.
  • Umm, the S7 series including the note were laggy out of the box. It's funny how you Apple fanboys pick the lesser devices to compare against. Have you taken an iPhone and run editing software side by side with a more competitive Android device? I did. Just this morning. And it was a tie. If you wanna run your supercharged Civic and see how well it does, why do you pick an SUV instead of a Corvette or a Ferrari? Oh, that's right. Because you'll have to make up excuses or claim the results are fake. By the way, my silver AT&T iPhone 6s Plus model number MN2Q2LL/A running iOS 13.4.1 is sluggish and crashed four times yesterday playing Amazing Frog, then locked up when the battery got low. But it says hi anyways, and wants to thank you for taking the blue pill. By the way, after the Amazing Frog issues, we switched phones and she used my iPhone 7 in a 2 hour competition in Alto's Odyssey. Well, almost two hours, as the iPhone 7 threw up the low battery alert after 1 hour and 48 minutes, while the Android phone still had 43% battery left. The iPhone 7 has a new battery (2 months) that was at 100% when we started, but I think it still did pretty good considering it's small size. It played pretty well too, and despite the low resolution screen showing dithering on the curves, and the slower launch time, and the occasional frame drop, and poor Alto crashing into rocks more frequently because you don't see them in time on the tiny screen, it's still a decent experience. Wait... didn't YOU say that iPhones were two years ahead? So, if that was, you know, TRUE, then the performance of the iPhone 7 SHOULD have been the same or better. How come it wasn't?
  • It's my next phone. Unless Google has a better response than pixel this year.
  • Not happening. Google gives 2 years update at best.
  • 3 years. My original Pixel received 3 platform updates and got its last security update in December of 2019.
  • Wow. My 6s is getting ios 14 this fall.
  • The only thing I'm watching for is if the Pixel 4a takes significantly better low-light photos than the second generation iPhone SE.
  • Nah. IPhone will do just as good as the pixel 4a
  • Take it easy Apple lover...we know you love the brand, here you have: https://www.imore.com/
  • Take it easy Jeremias. I love tech. And this new iPhone kills the budget mid range android offerings becuase of value. I have android devices too. If you cannot handle the facts, don't read. So, please, tell me a phone that is 399 that compares to what apple has in the new se.
  • You mean the foot-long bezels, ~720p screen and 1800mAh battery? It can be all yours you clown
  • It doesn't look like the SE has a dedicated Night Mode like the iPhone 11 models.
  • No that's one ommision they missed the boat on.
  • Yeah there is no way around this. Be bitter if you must, but Apple crushed this, at just the right moment too.
  • There's a lot of good decisions, such as ip67 water resistance, a really good SoC, focus on camera, WiFi6, Qi wireless charging...
    But there are also some not so great things such as the screen only being 4.7" 1334 x 750 resolution with huge top/bottom bezels or it being advertised as having "similar battery performance to the iPhone8", which was one of that phone's weakest points. A lot of people are going to be happy with the phone I'm sure. But there will also be plenty for whom the screen or battery will likely be deal breakers.
  • The last paragraph pretty much says it all. "The iPhone SE may not be a better phone than something like the latest Pixel, Galaxy or OnePlus. It has a lesser screen, weaker single camera, doesn't have the wealth of OS features we've come to expect from an Android flagship, and you're still stuck with a lightning connector instead of a universal solution in USB-C. But when it comes to processor performance and future-proofing for software updates, the iPhone SE beats that Android flagship you're holding right now." So, if you want the latest processor, and plan to keep it for a long time, this is a good deal. The camera is probably fine, but I just can't get past the outdated screen. Take an extra $50 and put in a screen with decent bezels. The screen isn't even full HD?
  • It really depends on where your priorities are for future proofing. You might not care about updates as much, but really want a feature already in Android, even if you keep your phones for 5 years. Which is kind of your point, but I just want to make it clearer I guess.
  • The screen on my iPhone 8 is just fine and looks much better than the specs claim.
  • Honestly this is very impressive. The iPhone SE for $400 is going to murder Android phones in the same price range. If I could get this phone to run Android it would be my next purchase, LOL.
  • Between the $400 and $500 price-range, I don't think there's any new/current Android phone I'd recommend to anyone instead of the new iPhone SE.
  • There's no Android phone that's anywhere near the iPhone SE 2020 in specs or processing power. Apple just killed all of its Android rivals in the $400 price range and with 5 years of software and security updates being the knockout blow.
  • I mean the Pixel 3a gives it a run for it's money (processor isn't as good, better battery, screen, RAM). I'm guessing the 4a will be better than the 3a, so I think it will beat the iPhone SE2, except in CPU and longevity (Google does ~3 years to apples ~5 years). It'll be a good match.
  • No wireless charging, no ip rating, the battery is only larger in number, the iPhone will last longer due to snapdragon inefficiency. Ram is a moot point as well since ios uses ram very efficiently as well.
  • The Pixel 4a won't have wireless charging either which no mid range Android phone has that either.
  • Apple didn't kill off anything though and Android is still going to have higher worldwide market share well after the hype dies for the SE. Literally every single spec on the SE is worse than pretty much any 2019-2020 Android phone released over $300. Apple wins on software support but most people couldn't tell you which iOS or Android update they are on and don't really care. Major update support is way over hyped and completely overrated IMO. Plenty of phones stop getting updates and still work perfectly for years with zero issues with every app in the Play store working great.
  • It has the a13 chips t which kills anything snapdragon, it has wireless charging, only android flagships costing 3 times as much have that, it has full ip68 rating again only the flagships for the most part have ip68 or better. The screen. When is the last time you zoomed into use your screen so much that you needed 4k or better. ?
  • Major update support is not overhyped, most major updates have included a feature which has been very useful to me. It'd be awful to be on a phone that only gets them for 2-3 years, software updates these days have more weight to them than hardware updates
  • Yeah no I wouldn't call it "murder". That 720p LCD screen is just too bad of a compromise and those bezels are horrendous. Right now you can buy flagship-level phones with a Snapdragon 855 (not the latest but one of the best in Android still) with way better specs in every way besides raw processing power (which doesn't matter unless you are a benchmark addict) for around $400 or less.
    Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G for $ 399.99: https://www.gsmarena.com/xiaomi_mi_mix_3_5g-price-9602.php
    LG G8S ThinQ for $ 389.00: https://www.gsmarena.com/lg_g8s_thinq-price-9608.php These phones are just better overall handsets. When it comes to update support though, which I think is completely overrated and overhyped IMO, Apple does win.
  • You do realize the SE is a mainstream device, and the others you mentioned are not all that way. The G8s is but even that one cannot hold a candle up to the performance of this measly lil SE. The article focuses on bang for buck. Pound for pound dollar for dollar the new iphone 8.1/SE 2020 or whatever just did circles around all the Androids out there to date...
  • Looks like my mom's old 2007 iPod touch. Are we sure this isn't a 2007 iPod touch?
  • And your mom's 2007 iPod touch gets more updates and is faster than your current android phone. So there is that.
  • How do you know what my phone is? I have a pixel so I get updates immediately. Thanks
  • So, it is faster than your phone and gets updates for a longer period.
  • Oh btw. Thanks for proving my point. 👍
  • And it lacks features I use everyday including pop-out windows for messaging and video pop-outs. It also is missing a good screen.
    One thing Samsung has that no one else has is individual app volumes, it's one reason I can't change now.
    Apple has update longevity, but the rest is on par or worse than Android phones (and yes, I include CPU, the 865 is as fast in everyday use as the A13.) It's almost like we've gotten to the point that the differentiators are smaller than the similarities, and you just have to pick the device that works best for your needs and use style.
  • That's great! Will this CPU be throttled to half speed after 2 year of use because of power management design issues?
    (The answer is yes)
  • Android would do the same, if they even bothered to continue updating/selling their phones beyond a few years.
  • Hahaha so true
  • The CPU only gets throttled when the battery has degraded enough that the phone could turn off prematurely before the battery has depleted. Android will do the same thing, because if it didn't, you'd have the same issue
  • Well, this post means that we're changing our name to Apple Central (mic drop).
  • I'm very impressed. They killed it with the processor. Android phones can't do that and compete on price. Funny that Apple is leading the sub-$400 segment too on value.
  • One of the best values and puts every Android phone to shame. Apple knows how to build solid device and overall experience is great on any of their device.
  • Game, set and match for Apple with this phone, Android OEMs on the ropes again and OnePlus isn't immune either now.
  • Its just a good CPU... small screen, not bad cam, less RAM, and on the top of that a jailed OS!
    Good for non tech people and old parents!;D
  • Also good for people who want the fastest phone with updates for way longer than an android phone costing three times as much. Also the small screen has a better image quality than most so called flagship android phones costing 3 times as much. So yeah. It kicks ass
  • You are annoying man...
  • all apple lovers are...
    and they keep spamming their hate on android
  • Sorry the facts upset you so much. Squirm away. I have android devices too. But I'm not blind to the value of the iPhone.
  • Must be hard to type with your head up Tim Cook’s ass. Get a life you plonker
  • You are blind. This screen is 1334 by 750 pixels, which is less than 1080p. It is also LCD. I don't get the point of having this longevity if in 2 years your battery is dying and every mid-range phone has 1440p screen
  • Google just got killed again by Apple, thanks for playing Google.
  • Maybe Android. But not Google. Switching between iOS and Android is easy if you're in the Google services ecosystem.
  • And you need to make 100 comments about this. You are a clown.
  • #BrianStuart2 Of you're course typical Android fanboy resorting the name calling because of what? You're a pathetic, sad and bitter OS fanboy.
  • I despise Apple. Their phones are boring and dated looking and they refuse to use USB C. I have spent untold dollars for lightening cables for my kids iphones over the years because they don't last and have been to the Genius bar countless times for repairs due to faulty products. I have also had the opportunity to play with every version of the iPhone because of my kids and girlfriend and I honestly don't understand the infatuation with their phones or other products. I am literally the only one in my entire family and my business partner is the only one in his family that use an Android phone. All of my kids have Duo on their iphones so we can video call and I can see my grandkids and I keep waiting for Apple to ban that app so they can try to force those Android users to buy an iPhone because that's the way they operate. My S20 5G is as fluid as Apples best and my daughter and her husband both agree after playing with my phone. For several years now at family gatherings while we're all taking pictures at least one person will say pictures always seem to look better on your phone. Maybe it's the camera or maybe it's the screen or possibly both, but I have heard this dozens of times and I love it.
  • I buy great third-party cables from companies like Aukey and Anker. Why would anyone pay that Apple markup for cables!?
  • Those Apple trolls should be banned...they are annoying...
  • Wahhhh. Whiny fanboys of any brand should be the ones who are banned
  • So everyone ditch your android phones and buy iPhone. Everyone give in and use the one and only phone brand. Everything else is worthless. The other will shut down their phone division and just leave it to apple since they seem to be the only ones that know what they are doing.
    Nothing that any other brand have done in the last 10 years means absolutely nothing in comparison to what apple have. Apple is 50 years ahead of everyone, nothing absolutely nothing in any other multi million currency R&D comes close.
    No need for competition, just yield. Android Central has already given up to the power.
    We will all be happier using this one brand.
  • Haha the apple lemmings came out the woodwork for this one.
  • I have been an Android groupie since the beginning. I always had the latest and greatest. I finally got fed up with the Android tablet experience and broke down and got a 2018 iPad 6th generation. I presently use the galaxy s10e and my wife is happy with the Note10. The new Galaxy s20 really has nothing all that compelling for me to make the upgrade. They both work fine and have some nice features. They also have some irritating issues.
    The Android OS is not the the smoothest. Compatibility with other devices and compatibility limitations is also a problem. After two weeks with a2018 iPad I’m admitting defeat. I’m going to wait until the Fall to see the next iPhones look like. If they are not much different than the previous models I will be switching to iPhone.
    Android has had every opportunity to make a comparable & smooth OS that works on most phones. The user experience is like night and day. Not even close. I surrender.
  • You must be on crack
  • Nope just a logical thinker and open minded. Everything he said was true.
  • I think this is your very personal choice. Because as for me, I can't stand the restrictions you have to face in iOS. I had the opportunity to use some iPhones, but as for me Android will always be better for this reason.
  • I think 90% of people here really don't get it. 1) No, the iPhone SE 2020 isn't a better phone than the fairly recent generation Android phone sitting at your desk or your pocket right now. It's essentially an iPhone 8 with the innards of an iPhone 11 designed for the sole purpose of appealing to iPhone users who want a new iPhone with the latest hardware but did not feel like going to the iPhone X-design with its notch, lack of TouchID, reliance on gestures or other reasons. The lower price also helps it appeal to would-be iPhone buyers who want an iPhone with current-gen hardware but don't want to pay an arm-and-a-leg for an 11. 2) It's all about the processor. Not just how powerful it is (seriously, phones have gotten powerful enough that even a run-of-the-mill Snapdragon 660-powered phone runs daily tasks just fine) but mainly how that same processor is shared between the iPhone 11 line including the 11 Pro. 3) And that really ties into one thing; long-term updates. Even the best Android phone in terms of updates (the Google Pixel) gets full-tier OS updates for 3 years guaranteed. Because this $399 iPhone shares the same processor as the much-more expensive 11 Pro, in theory, this should be easier to maintain support for over a long period of time. The sheer grunt also helps make it age far more gracefully. It's very likely that the SE 2020 will be supported as long as its 11 and 11 Pro siblings, which is also incidentally far more than most $400 Android phones, which (while getting better) usually gets about 2-3 years of OS updates at best. It's fine if you don't like Apple or the iPhone. The new SE isn't designed to wow anyone in metrics other than its price and its processor for that price. But the sheer amount of salt in this comment thread just because it's Apple is astounding. It's as if no one has matured their thinking over the past few years. Each platform has its ups and downs, and whether you prefer one or the other is entirely up to your preference.
  • Someone making sense. 👍😁
  • It's not all about the processor. 99% of consumers don't know or care what an A13 or any other processor is.