iPhone SE (2022) vs. Google Pixel 5a: Which should you buy?

Iphone Se 3 Vs Pixel 5a First
Iphone Se 3 Vs Pixel 5a First (Image credit: iMore)

The 2022 release of the iPhone SE 3 made giant leaps in the processor department but didn't change much in regards to camera and display hardware. The software is excellent, there's no doubt, and it's the fastest, best-performing smartphone in this price range. When pitted against the Google Pixel 5a, however, there are definitely a few key features that Google does better. The Pixel produces better photos in low light, higher resolution photos in general, and it offers a dual ultra-wide lens. The Pixel also brings the longest battery life of any smartphone in its class. Which handset is better? You'll need a more in-depth analysis to decide.

iPhone SE 3 (2022) vs Pixel 5a: Key Differences

Here we have two completely different smartphones. As you can see, they basically have nothing in common:

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Header Cell - Column 0 iPhone SE 3Pixel 5a
DesignCeramic Shield front + back and aluminum frameCorning Gorilla Glass 3, metal frame
ColorsMidnight, Starlight, and (PRODUCT)REDMostly Black
Display4.7‑inch LED display6.34-inch OLED display
ProcessorA15 BionicSnapdragon 765G
Camera12MP Wide rear, 7MP frontDual lens 12.2MP main camera, 16MP ultra-wide, 8MP front
Storage64GB, 128GB, 256GB + 4GB RAM128GB + 6GB RAM
BatteryFast charging (20W charger sold separately), Qi wireless charging4,620 mAh, Fast charging
IP ratingIP68IP67
Headphone jackNoneNone
Size and weight5.45x2.65x0.29 inches, 144 grams6.1x2.9x0.3 inches, 183 grams
SoftwareiOS 15Android 12

As for differences, it's apparent that the iPhone SE 3 has a few more options when it comes to user preferences. The SE offers three different storage configurations and color choices as opposed to only one choice from Google. But what the Pixel lacks in choices, it makes up for in camera lenses, battery size, and display.

iPhone SE 3 (2022) vs Pixel 5a Design: Is bigger better?

Iphone Se 3 2022 Vs Pixel 5a Design

Iphone Se 3 2022 Vs Pixel 5a Design (Image credit: iMore)

The new iPhone SE 3 design is visually identical to the previous model released in 2020. The same three colors are available in standard white, black, and red shades. The Pixel 5a, on the other hand, only comes in one color dubbed "Mostly Black." The Pixel is considerably larger than the iPhone SE at 6.1 inches but it also has a brighter, more advanced OLED display. Both phones offer a metal frame and smooth rounded edges.

While the Pixel does have higher brightness and resolution, the iPhone SE produces excellent graphics and playback that are powered by the A15 Bionic chip.

Both models are small enough for one-handed texting but the SE is even more diminutive than the iPhone mini, while the Pixel is the size of a standard iPhone at 6.1 inches. Size preferences are personal, but I prefer a bigger screen. And while the Pixel does have higher brightness and resolution, the iPhone SE delivers excellent graphics and playback that are powered by an A15 bionic chip, which I'll talk more about in the next section.

As for durability, the iPhone wins here with its ultra-tough ceramic shield screen and backplate. This glass is hard to crack and stands up to more drops and rough treatment than the Pixel's Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

iPhone SE 3 (2022) vs Pixel 5a Performance: Apple silicon wins again

There's no beating Apple's A15 Bionic chip for speedy performance. The iPhone SE 3 is packing the most powerful chipset known to smartphones, and it shows. The SE flies through any function smoothly, supporting excellent gameplay, video recording and editing, and high-performance apps of any kind. This chip is also what supports smart camera features like HDR 4 and cinematic mode.

The iPhone SE 3 is packing the most powerful chipset known to smartphones, and it shows.

In current benchmark testing, the Snapdragon processor housed in the Google Pixel 5a doesn't even come close to Apple silicon in overall performance. The Pixel does make up for this in other ways, such as added RAM and a much larger battery. In fact, the Pixel outstrips most smartphones on the market when it comes to battery life. It can provide up to 15 hours of continuous use and will last most users about two days between charges. Although the iPhone SE 3 hasn't yet been benchmarked in real-time tests, its much smaller battery will likely only last for 10-12 hours of heavy use.

iPhone SE 3 (2022) vs Pixel 5a Camera: Smartware versus hardware

Iphone Se 3 Vs Pixel 5a Camera

Iphone Se 3 Vs Pixel 5a Camera (Image credit: iMore)

Although Apple has added some nifty smart features into the iPhone SE 3 camera, there is no doubt that the Google Pixel has the better camera hardware. Here you have a dual-lens 12.2MP main camera and 16MP ultra-wide lens. The sensor allows for high detail and good results in low-light situations. It also has 7x digital over the SE's 5x digital zoom, but neither smartphone offers optical zoom.

Although Apple has added some nifty smart features into the iPhone SE 3 camera, there is no doubt that the Google Pixel has the better camera hardware.

The result of all this is that the Google Pixel 5a can produce higher-resolution imagery and better shots in low light. It can also shoot with an ultra-wide lens whereas the iPhone can only shoot in wide. So while Apple's computational photography software still makes for beautiful, color-rich shots, the Pixel produces better image quality overall. That smart Apple software does shine when it comes to video, however.

Both handsets produce 4K video, but Apple's video software offers features like cinematic mode, a technology that automatically redirects the focus according to which subject is in the mainframe. The iPhone SE provides better image stabilization, as well as slow-mo and time-lapse modes, neither of which is available on the Pixel.

iPhone SE 3 (2022) vs Pixel 5a Price: Neck and neck

Iphone Se 3 Vs Pixel 5 A

Iphone Se 3 Vs Pixel 5 A (Image credit: iMore)

The pricing between the iPhone SE 3 and Google Pixel 5a is very similar. The Pixel is slightly more expensive, starting at $449 while the iPhone SE starts at $429. This is understandable considering the larger size of the Pixel, not to mention the superior camera. The iPhone is simply a smaller phone for a slightly smaller price. When comparing these with the flagship smartphones from the same brands, these prices are quite reasonable indeed.

iPhone SE 3 (2022) vs Pixel 5a: Which should you buy?

Iphone Se 3 Versus Pixel 5a

Iphone Se 3 Versus Pixel 5a (Image credit: iMore)

As is so often the case, it's not entirely clear which one of these lower-tier smartphones is absolutely superior to the other. Each has its advantages and your own choice may depend on how you use your devices. For frequent travelers, that big battery in the Pixel 5a is a huge plus. This handset can go for as long as two days without charging. It also has a bigger, better display that's ideal for visual content, and a more capable, dual-lens camera for high-resolution photography.

On the other hand, the iPhone SE 3 lends itself well to everyday use with the A15 Bionic chip that can handle absolutely anything you throw at it with smooth speed. It has all the perks that come with iOS 15, such as photo styles and live text, as well as multiple choices for colors and storage capacity. If you like to record a lot of videos, the SE also supports shooting 4K video in Apple's nifty cinematic mode for breathtaking narratives.

Since both devices come in at a very similar price range, this choice will depend on which features you value during everyday use, as well as which operating system you prefer.