Android competes well with Apple

From iPhone SE back to Android: The nine lessons from it

Michael Simon

From Android to iPhone SE 2020 and back again to a new Android smartphone: Michael Simon compared the Google Pixel 4a with the iPhone SE in continuous use.

EnlargeiPhone SE vs. Pixel 4a

You can spend a thousand dollars or more on a smartphone if you want, but you really don't need it anymore. In the past few months, both Apple and Google have released impressive mid-range smartphones that cost less than $ 400 ( in Germany the iPhone SE costs over 400 euros, note d. Red ) and offer many of the features normally reserved for premium phones such as wireless charging, all-screen design, and impressive battery life.

But as with all products where Apple and Google compete, the iPhone SE and the Pixel 4a are not on par. But I wanted to see how different exactly they are. I've had it in constant use since I got the iPhone SE in early June. When the Pixel 4a landed on my desk, I took out the SIM card and went back to the Android world. Here is what I learned on this trip:

1. Speed ​​is not that important

The iPhone SE's biggest selling point is its processor. Apple has given its inexpensive SE the same A13 chip that is built into the flagship iPhone 11 Pro, and you can definitely feel the performance when starting apps and multitasking. It's a lot faster than the Snapdragon 730G in the Pixel 4a. But while using both, the Pixel 4a didn't really feel much slower in everyday use thanks to Android 10. Honestly, the people who buy these smartphones aren't going to be looking for top speeds anyway. That is certainly nice, but not necessary.

2. 64 GB of memory is not good enough.

The iPhone SE starts at $ 399, but most people should opt for the $ 449 model with 128GB of storage. System files and formatting take up 5 to 10 GB or even more, and when you factor in photos, videos and apps, 64 GB can fill up very quickly.

I didn't really realize how cautious I was with my storage space until I started using the Pixel 4a, which comes with 128GB of storage, twice as much as the $ 899 Pixel 4 XL. Where I've been wary of photos and apps on my iPhone SE, I haven't hesitated to install or download anything on the Pixel 4a.

EnlargeThe "Now Playing" notification has been an integral part of the program since Pixel 2.
© Michael Simon, IDG

3. Apple wastes Shazam

Since the Pixel 2, Google has built in a cool "Now Playing" function that automatically listens to the environment for music and detects what it is perceiving. It's a fantastic feature that Apple could easily imitate, and it wouldn't even have to create its own database or algorithm like Google did. Apple already owns Shazam Song Recognition and could use it to create a fast, private, and delightful feature for the iPhone that is just as good as it is on the Pixel 4a. Instead, the only feature added to Shazam is an automatic Apple Music playlist. Laa boring.

EnlargeThe Pixel 4a is the yin of Android and the yang of the iPhone SE

Also interesting: iPhone SE vs. Pixel 4a - comparison of the cheap homes

4. Google once has a better design than Apple

While the iPhone SE is certainly a well-built smartphone, there is no getting around its 2016 design with huge frames, a lot of wasted space, and a home button. The Pixel 4a, by contrast, looks very similar to the iPhone 11, with a near-complete screen design, a rear fingerprint sensor, and rounded corners on the display. It looks better and more modern than the iPhone SE, and it doesn't feel cheap either. After all, Apple is colorful, the Pixel 4a is unfortunately only available in black (although I really like the mint green power button).

Pixel 4a in the PC world price comparison

5. Night mode is essential

Google revolutionized night shots with Night Sight on the Pixel 3, and Apple followed suit with its own night mode on the iPhone 11. You can argue which mode gives better results, but it can't be denied that both are a huge leap forward for smartphone- Offer photography in low light. When you buy a Pixel 4a, you get the Night Sight too - and even without a dedicated image signal processor, this one is almost as good as it is on the flagship Pixel 4 XL. Apple inexplicably did not make night mode available on the iPhone SE and the camera suffers as a result.

EnlargeIt may look like the Pixel 4a has more cameras, but the reality is that each has only one lens on the back.

6. Wireless charging is too

When Apple finally released an iPhone with wireless charging in 2017, the Android world scoffed. After all, most of the better androids had offered the convenience of wireless charging for years. Three years later, almost every smartphone has this, and for good reason. Wireless chargers are cheap and a great way to ensure you never run out of power. But unfortunately you have to plug the Pixel 4a into a charger to charge it. I lost track of the number of times thoughtlessly putting it on one of my wireless chargers before reminding myself to plug in the cord.

iPhone SE in the Macwelt price comparison

7. Three years of updates are not enough

As is well known, Google promises Android version and security updates "for at least 3 years from the time the device first became available in the Google Store". That means anyone who buys a Pixel 4 is guaranteed to get Android 13 when it hits the market in 2022.

Apple makes no such assurance because it doesn't have to. When iOS 14 releases later this fall, it will be available to both new and old users of the iPhone SE, including those who bought their device in 2016. That's a huge benefit for Apple that Google should make up for.

EnlargeThe Pixel 4a and iPhone SE are very similar in size, but the Pixel has a much larger screen.

8. Apple's LCDs are better than Google's OLEDs.

You don't have to be a pixel purist to realize that the screens on the iPhone SE and Pixel 4a are quite different. First off, there's the size, which is 5 inches on the iPhone SE versus 5.8 inches on the Pixel 4a. You also get a higher resolution on Pixel 4a (1080p versus 720p), with a higher ppi density (443 versus 326). Google uses OLED compared to Apple's LCD, which means the blacks on the Pixel 4a are darker.

Despite all the advantages that the Pixel display offers according to the specification, I prefer the display of the iPhone SE to the Pixel 4a display. The lights are brighter, the colors are richer, and True Tone does a fantastic job of keeping the white balance in place. On paper, I liked the Pixel 4a's screen, but my eyes prefer the iPhone SE's screen.

9. Plastic isn't all that bad

The Pixel 4a is the first plastic-case smartphone I've used in a while, and I'm thrilled. It feels great, looks great, won't fingerprint, won't break if dropped, and saves a few grams in weight (143 grams, compared to the iPhone SE's 148 grams). Apple hasn't made a plastic phone since the "daring synthetic" iPhone 5C in 2015, but it may be time to give it another chance.