Google Pixel 4a vs. iPhone SE (2020): Which should you buy?

Google Pixel 4a
Google Pixel 4a (Image credit: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

Google Pixel 4a

Google Pixel 4a

With the Pixel 4a, Google is following up on the excellent Pixel 3a from 2019. There are a lot of major improvements here, such as a more modern design, newer chipset, more RAM, and additional storage options. It also delivers one of the best Android experiences around, shipping with a clean build of Android 10 and a promised three years of guaranteed updates.

Google Pixel 4a

Android's best value

OLED display with slim bezels
Excellent camera performance
Has a headphone jack
Clean build of Android 10
Three years of guaranteed updates
No wireless charging
Less impressive processor

iPhone SE (2020)

iPhone SE (2020)

The iPhone SE is one of the most popular smartphones on the market right now, and for good reason. Powering the device is Apple's A13 Bionic processor, which allows for two important things — flagship-grade performance and years of reliable software updates. On top of that, you also get a great 12MP camera, wireless charging, and IP67 dust/water resistance.

iPhone SE (2020)

If you want an iPhone

A13 Bionic processor is stupidly fast
Reliable rear camera
Qi wireless charging
IP67 dust/water resistance
Unmatched update support
Tired design
Doesn't have a headphone jack

If you're shopping for a quality smartphone that won't break the bank, the Pixel 4a and iPhone SE are two of the very best ones you can get. With the Pixel 4a, Google's crafted a solid upgrade over 2019's Pixel 3a. This year's phone has a better design, performance, and storage options while still delivering an outstanding camera experience. Comparatively, the iPhone SE's secret sauce is its A13 Bionic processor. Along with unmatched performance, this also ensures that the phone keeps getting important software updates for five years or longer.

The Pixel 4a builds on an already excellent formula

The idea behind the Pixel 4a is pretty simple. 2019's Pixel 3a stood tall as one of the best smartphone values for well over a year, so all Google had to do was modernize that phone for 2020 standards and keep everything that's great about it. That's exactly what the Pixel 4a delivers.

Compared to the iPhone SE, one of the biggest advantages of the Pixel 4a is its display. The bezels are considerably smaller, the OLED panel is more colorful than the iPhone's LCD one, and the 2340x1080 resolution is much sharper. In other words, it's better in just about every way.

Powering the Pixel 4a is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 processor paired with 6GB of RAM, and while it's not as technically impressive as what you get on the iPhone SE, it's more than good enough for most apps and games. Other key specs include a 3,140 mAh battery (which allows for surprisingly good endurance), 128GB of storage, and a USB-C charging port with a 3.5mm headphone jack for wired audio.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Google Pixel 4aiPhone SE
Operating SystemAndroid 10iOS 13.4
Display5.81-inchOLED2340 x 10804.7-inchLCD1334 x 750
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 730Apple A13 Bionic
Rear Camera12.2MP12MP
Front Camera8MP7MP
Battery3,140 mAh1,821 mAh
Charging18W wired charging18W wired chargingQi wireless charging
PortsUSB-C3.5mm headphone jackLightning
Dimensions144.2 x 69.4 x 8.2mm138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm
ColorsJust BlackWhiteBlack(PRODUCT)RED

Just like the 3a before it, the main reason the Pixel 4a is so impressive is its camera. The 12.2MP sensor might not sound all that special on paper, but it's capable of cranking out excellent shots whether it be day or night. The iPhone SE's camera is good, too, but the Pixel 4a outdoes it.

Tying all of this together in a nice little bow is the Pixel 4a's software. It ships with a clean build of Android 10 out of the box, which is made better by three years of guaranteed updates and monthly security patches. That's just about the best level of software support you'll find in the Android space, making the Pixel 4a a great choice if you plan on keeping the phone for a few years.

But the iPhone SE has one serious advantage

iPhone SE 2020

Source: Apple (Image credit: Source: Apple)

Then there's the iPhone SE — the mid-range phone that got everyone talking. Apple typically isn't known for offering good value for your money with its products, but the 2020 version of the SE completely changes that.

If there's one big talking point for the phone, it's the processor. Powering the iPhone SE is Apple's A13 Bionic chip, which is the exact same one you'll find in the $1,000 iPhone 11 Pro. This means the iPhone SE is one of the fastest phones you can buy and won't be held back by any app or game you throw at it. The Pixel 4a holds its own quite well, but there's no matching the power of the A13 Bionic.

Outside of the legendary performance, having the A13 inside of the iPhone SE also means you can look forward to at least five years of consistent software updates. The Pixel 4a does well in these regards, too, but the iPhone SE has it beat.

Rounding out the iPhone SE experience is Qi wireless charging, an IP67 rating for dust/water resistance, and a refreshingly compact size that you can actually use comfortably in one hand. Assuming you can get over the outdated design, the iPhone SE is hard to ignore.

Google Pixel 4a vs. iPhone SE (2020) You can't go wrong with either phone

Pixel 4a

Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

Both of these phones are fantastic for their mid-range prices. If you're a fan of Android and want a device that does it all while retaining a modest price, the Pixel 4a delivers. The iPhone SE does the same thing, save for the fact that it runs iOS.

That's ultimately what this all comes down to. Both the Pixel 4a and iPhone SE are easy recommendations — it's up to you to decide which operating system you prefer.

We could nitpick endlessly about the Pixel having a better camera or the iPhone having a better processor, but at the end of the day, you'll be happiest with the phone that has the software you prefer.

Joe Maring

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.