Compared: iPhone SE versus Galaxy A51 versus Pixel 3a

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2020
Apple's 2020 iPhone SE delivers premium-tier features at a low price, posing a serious threat to rival devices like the Pixel 3a and Galaxy A51. Here's how the three stack up.

Apple's new iPhone SE offers a serious competitor to most Android handsets in the same price range.
Apple's new iPhone SE offers a serious competitor to most Android handsets in the same price range.


All three devices retail in the $300 to $500 price range, and they all come with most of the features you'd expect in the tier. But to figure out whether the iPhone SE actually wins out in a side-by-side comparison, let's take a closer look at the specifications and features of the three devices.

Apple iPhone SE, Google Pixel 3a, Samsung Galaxy A51

It's hard to compare specifications straight-across, from the iPhone to an Android device. Apple's RAM management differs, and clock speeds of processors aren't one-to-one comparisons.
iPhone SE (2020)Google Pixel 3aGalaxy S20 A51
Price$399$399$500
Dimensions (inches)5.45 x 2.65 x 0.296.0 x 2.8 x 0.36.24 x 2.90 x 0.31
Weight (ounces)5.225.196.07
ProcessorA13 BionicQualcomm Snapdragon 670Samsung Exynos 9611
RAM3GB4GB6GB
Storage64GB, 128GB, 256GB128GB
up to 512GB via microSD
Display type4.7-inch Retina HD5.6-inch gOLED6.5-inch AMOLED
Resolution1,334 x 750 at 326 ppi2,220 x 1,080 at 441 ppi2,400 x 1,080 at 405ppi
Rear Cameras12-megapixel wide angle12.2-megapixel wide angle48-megapixel standard
12-megapixel wide-angle
5-megapixel macro
5-megapixel depth-sensing
Front Cameras7-megapixel8-megapixel32-megapixel
BiometricsHome button Touch IDRear-mounted fingerprint sensorDisplay-embedded fingerprint sensor
PortsLightning
No headphone jack
USB-C
Headphone jack
USB-C
Headphone jack
Connectivity4G LTE
Wi-Fi 6
4G LTE
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
4G LTE
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Battery SizeNot disclosed, up to 13 hours of video playback3,000mAh4,000mAh
Special featuresDualSIM, Qi wireless chargingGoogle Maps AR, timelapse videosAvailable in 5G
ColorsBlack, White, RedBlack, White, PurplePrism Crush Black, Prism Crush White, Prism Crush Blue

Design and display

Unlike its Android counterparts, the iPhone SE has a glass back and an aluminium chassis.
Unlike its Android counterparts, the iPhone SE has a glass back and an aluminium chassis.


The iPhone SE and the Google Pixel 3a are similarly stacked in terms of their physical design. Both feature fairly prominent bezels and fingerprint sensors. Google has mounted its sensor on the rear, while the iPhone SE's fingerprint sensor is still embedded in the Home button.

Both Android devices in this comparison are noticeably bigger than the 4.7-inch iPhone, with better screen-to-body ratios. Apple's iPhone SE is going to feel smaller in the hand, which could bode well for fans of smaller devices, but it isn't going to offer the "all-screen" design of modern flagships.

While the Galaxy A51 does feature an impressive 6.5-inch display size due to its edge-to-edge design and hole-punch camera, the iPhone is the only device that has a metal -- rather than plastic -- chassis and a glass back.

When it comes to display performance, the iPhone SE looks noticeably subpar on paper. It's the only device with an LCD display, and has the lowest pixel density and resolution of the three. But keep in mind that Apple LCD displays have always been top-notch. Lower-resolution displays also tend to relate to better battery life, and after a certain point, it's hard for the human eye to differentiate between pixel densities.

Performance

The A13 Bionic is the fastest smartphone chip on the planet. And it isn't even close.
The A13 Bionic is the fastest smartphone chip on the planet. And it isn't even close.


Performance is likely to be the one area in which the iPhone SE reigns supreme compared to devices in a similar price range, even though it might have less RAM on paper. With an expected 3GB of RAM and Apple's A13 Bionic, the iPhone SE is undoubtedly the fastest smartphone in this shootout. We don't have benchmark specifications for the iPhone SE specifically, but test results for Apple's A13 Bionic chip are already available.

In Geekbench 4 testing, the A13 Bionic clocked in with a single-core score of 5,432 and a multi-core score of 13,554. That is, to this day, the highest mobile processor score. Even if you dial that back a bit, like the original iPhone SE did versus the iPhone 6s, it isn't even remotely close.

Samsung's octa-core Exynos 9611 received a single-core score of 1,690 and a multi-core score of 5,544 in the same test. Qualcomm's Snapdragon 670, seen in the Pixel 3a, achieved similar results with single- and multi-core scores of 1,863 and 5,256 respectively.

Apple's iPhone SE offers a premium level of performance for under $400, something that virtually all Android devices will struggle to compete with. To keep up with Apple's A-series chips, Android makers typically need to pack in more RAM and the latest processors. For devices in this relatively low price range, that isn't always possible.

Cameras

The Galaxy A51 is the only device in the shootout with a multi-lens camera array.
The Galaxy A51 is the only device in the shootout with a multi-lens camera array.


The Samsung Galaxy A71 has a quad-lens camera setup, which makes it seem like it would run circles around the competition in terms of photography. But Google's Pixels have always done more with fewer cameras. It appears that Apple is taking a similar approach with the iPhone SE, which comes equipped with iPhone 11 Pro-style computational photography features to make up for its admittedly boring camera specifications.

On Apple's spec sheet, the company says that the iPhone SE will feature Portrait Mode and next-generation Smart HDR. While Portrait Mode has appeared on single-lens iPhones, next-gen Smart HDR is restricted to the iPhone 11 lineup.

Keep in mind that the iPhone SE has a similar camera setup to the iPhone XR, which achieved a higher DxOMark score than Samsung's Galaxy A71 -- a device in the same lineup as the Galaxy A51 but a tier higher.

While DxOMark reviews for the iPhone SE and Galaxy A51 are still pending, we can infer that the Galaxy A51 is going to receive a similar score to its Galaxy A71 stablemate. And, the higher-tier Galaxy A71 actually scored lower than the previous-generation Galaxy A9 from 2019.

When the iPhone SE gets into the hands of consumers, they'll find a much better photography experience than expected.

Other considerations

The Pixel 3a, seen above, and the Galaxy A51 don't carry any sort of IP water-resistance rating.
The Pixel 3a, seen above, and the Galaxy A51 don't carry any sort of IP water-resistance rating.


In some areas, the iPhone SE's closest Android counterparts have advantages. But despite its affordable price tag, Apple's entry-level offering has premium features that you won't be able to find on Galaxy and Pixel devices of the same price range.

For example, the iPhone SE is the only device of the three to actually have an actual IP water- and dust-resistance rating. It has an IP67 rating, which means it can withstand up to a meter of water for 30 minutes. It's also the only device to feature Qi-based wireless charging.

As was alluded to earlier, it features premium materials like aluminum and glass, instead of the polycarbonate plastic frames of both the Galaxy A51 and Pixel 3a.

The iPhone SE also runs on iOS, which Apple maintains tight control of. Compared to Android, iOS tends to be better-optimized and it definitely receives software updates much more frequently and for longer than its rival operating systems.

Google Pixel 4a rumors

A render of the upcoming Google
A render of the upcoming Google "Pixel 4a." Credit: OnLeaks


Stacking the iPhone SE against the Google's "Pixel 4a" may be a fairer comparison, since the Pixel 3a is running slightly older hardware. But taking the latest Google Pixel 3a rumors into considerations, the iPhone SE is still setting a high bar.

Even equipped with an updated Snapdragon 730 processor, per Android Authority, there's no doubt that the iPhone SE's A13 Bionic will still run laps around the rumored Pixel as far as performance.

Again, the iPhone SE also has Wi-Fi 6 and an IP67 rating -- two features Google is expected to leave off the upcoming smartphone. Apple's entry-level device also has a suite of camera upgrades that, for the first time, could put the budget-friendly iPhone lineup neck-in-neck with Google's upcoming pixel.

In other words, the iPhone SE may be the budget handset to beat this year, at least based on some of its exclusive features. It's not clear, at this point, whether the "Pixel 4a" is going to bring enough to the table to do that.

Our conclusions

The second-generation iPhone SE may end up becoming one of Apple's most important devices of 2020.
The second-generation iPhone SE may end up becoming one of Apple's most important devices of 2020.


The original iPhone SE turned out to be a surprise sleeper hit in the smartphone industry, thanks in no small part to its small footprint, feature richness and low price. Apple's new iPhone SE is likely to see a similar reception, particularly in the midst of a pandemic-spawned recession.

It features the right mix of premium features for under $400, a price that will open up Apple's newest hardware to a wider segment of the market. It isn't last generation's hardware and software, either. It represents some of the best Apple currently has to offer, with minor tradeoffs to bring the price down.

So while this year will turn out to be a major one for Apple's premium "iPhone 12" flagships, it's likely that the humble iPhone SE will be one of the most important devices that the company releases in 2020 -- and a dangerous competitor to most Android handsets in this price range.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    iPhone SE: A real iPhone priced really cheap. Supported for 5 years minimum. Fully supports authentic Apple devices such as Apple Watch and Airpods. Security and privacy. Authentic App Store.

    Pixel: A cheap knockoff iPhone from a spy company. Created by the company who provided the first knockoff iPhone software complete with Apple gesture control. Created to data mine users.

    Samsung: A cheap knockoff iPhone with bloatware, intentional lack of security updates and support abandoned in 2 years. Runs Google's knockoff iPhone software.
    lkrupphypoluxachiaStrangeDayschasmwatto_cobraMisterKit
  • Reply 2 of 16
    I wonder why no mid-range phone (SE is now a good exception) has wireless charging. I found the feature surprisingly convenient and it’s a big argument for me now. 
    chasmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 16
    LoirotLoirot Posts: 2member
    Basically the same question I asked in another thread.

    Its says in the article: "Keep in mind that the iPhone SE has a similar camera setup to the iPhone XR,.."
    Is there any reliable evidence to back this up? There have been lots of rumours in the last few days that SE's camera hardware would be the same as XR, but, as far as I know, Apple hasn't confirmed it. 

    iPhone 8, X, XR and the new SE obviously have the same lens and their sensors have the same resolution. However, iPhone 8 and X have a 1/3
    ″ sensor with 1.2µm pixel size. iPhone XS and XR have a 1/2.5″ sensor with 1.4µm pixel size.

    A larger sensor means a thicker unit if the lens is the same. 8 and SE are the thinnest of the bunch and their camera bumps looks the same. Something doesn't fit right here. An obvious guess would be: could SE's camera hardware be from 8 and not from XR?
    edited April 2020
  • Reply 4 of 16
    tommy65tommy65 Posts: 56member
    I do agree with Loirot a lot is still uncertain. We have to wait for real benchmarks to see if the CPU and GPU perform similar to the other A13 devices. Also the battery capacity means similar time as the iPhone 8 before the new SE is in need of some extra fuel. To my opinion working daily on an iPhone 8 that is a miss. I did like my old SE battery lifetime and a bit of an update would have been nice though Apple.
    Apple did safe money here to fit in a similar capacity battery as the iPhone 8. This iPhone SE will sell well though because the 7&8 will be obsolete soon.
  • Reply 5 of 16
    sergiozsergioz Posts: 338member
    If I am Android user, I’ll be tempted to switch right now more then any other time! 
    chasmwatto_cobraMisterKit
  • Reply 6 of 16
    Kind of a silly "comparison." If you like Android and need a secondary or cheaper device, get a Motorola or Nokia (not a Samsung which will only get one update). If you like iOS and need a secondary or cheaper device this is as good an option as there is if you are fine with less than a 5' screen. Also, unlike the Android sites - which regularly recommend iPads over Android tablets and even recently admitted that the iPhone is better for productivity if you have a MacBook (but that Android is better for entertainment?!?) or the Windows sites that reluctantly admit the merits of Android and macOS and iOS - you are never going to find any Apple site that will acknowledge that any Android device is better - or even a good option - for any user in any context. So why even bother with articles like these? Go back to articles maybe 4 years ago prior to the iPhone 6. If you said you needed a larger screen and a stylus and a bunch of other features that weren't present in iOS at the time but were major differentiators for Android this site claimed: no one needs a stylus, screens bigger than 4' inches are tacky and trash, all the extra Android features are gimmicks etc. so no one "needs" a stylus or a bigger screen so no one should get a Galaxy Note or any other Android device. Immediately after Apple comes out with those features? Oh my goodness these are the greatest things imaginable that REALLY open up mobile computing! So, yeah right. Again. First off, there is no reason to make the comparison in the first place. Second, even if there were, there isn't a single Apple site on the planet that would actually acknowledge that an Android device is actually worthy of comparison. I don't know maybe it is the inferiority complex that Apple fans have that comes from Apple being dominated by Wintel for 30 years in the PC market that prevents Apple fans from being able to acknowledge the merits of the competition. Which again strangely Windows, Android and even Linux fans have no problem doing. Example: lots of Linux diehards will freely acknowledge the benefits of either getting the best Windows device you can find and dual booting - and will even recommend such that are ideal for it like the Dell XPS line - or state that Macs are "the next best thing" for those who can afford at least $2500 for one worth having. It is only Apple sites that pretend to "compare" their products with products from only platforms, shockingly "decide" that the areas where the Apple products are superior are the ones that truly matter to the comparison areas and the other areas are "gimmicks", "poorly implemented" or "no one uses them anyway" and then cites Apple marketing slogans as objective facts in "reviews."
    edited April 2020 holyone
  • Reply 7 of 16
    vvk1vvk1 Posts: 11member
    Anyone know if the new iPhone SE uses Intel or Qualcomm modem?
  • Reply 9 of 16
    gentooguy said:
    Kind of a silly "comparison." If you like Android and need a secondary or cheaper device, get a Motorola or Nokia (not a Samsung which will only get one update). If you like iOS and need a secondary or cheaper device this is as good an option as there is if you are fine with less than a 5' screen. Also, unlike the Android sites - which regularly recommend iPads over Android tablets and even recently admitted that the iPhone is better for productivity if you have a MacBook (but that Android is better for entertainment?!?) or the Windows sites that reluctantly admit the merits of Android and macOS and iOS - you are never going to find any Apple site that will acknowledge that any Android device is better - or even a good option - for any user in any context. So why even bother with articles like these? Go back to articles maybe 4 years ago prior to the iPhone 6. If you said you needed a larger screen and a stylus and a bunch of other features that weren't present in iOS at the time but were major differentiators for Android this site claimed: no one needs a stylus, screens bigger than 4' inches are tacky and trash, all the extra Android features are gimmicks etc. so no one "needs" a stylus or a bigger screen so no one should get a Galaxy Note or any other Android device. Immediately after Apple comes out with those features? Oh my goodness these are the greatest things imaginable that REALLY open up mobile computing! So, yeah right. Again. First off, there is no reason to make the comparison in the first place. Second, even if there were, there isn't a single Apple site on the planet that would actually acknowledge that an Android device is actually worthy of comparison. I don't know maybe it is the inferiority complex that Apple fans have that comes from Apple being dominated by Wintel for 30 years in the PC market that prevents Apple fans from being able to acknowledge the merits of the competition. Which again strangely Windows, Android and even Linux fans have no problem doing. Example: lots of Linux diehards will freely acknowledge the benefits of either getting the best Windows device you can find and dual booting - and will even recommend such that are ideal for it like the Dell XPS line - or state that Macs are "the next best thing" for those who can afford at least $2500 for one worth having. It is only Apple sites that pretend to "compare" their products with products from only platforms, shockingly "decide" that the areas where the Apple products are superior are the ones that truly matter to the comparison areas and the other areas are "gimmicks", "poorly implemented" or "no one uses them anyway" and then cites Apple marketing slogans as objective facts in "reviews."
    Actually, market success hasn’t been about tech content for many years. It’s about giving a superior user value and -experience. Those two things have a lot to do with timing, and Apple has an excellent track record of timing.

    You have to know the users, and care for the users, more than the tech itself. So, it can still be good judgment to downplay the importance of a stylus one year, only to praise it a few years later.
    watto_cobratmay
  • Reply 10 of 16
    gentooguy said:

    Actually, market success hasn’t been about tech content for many years. It’s about giving a superior user value and -experience. Those two things have a lot to do with timing, and Apple has an excellent track record of timing.

    You have to know the users, and care for the users, more than the tech itself. So, it can still be good judgment to downplay the importance of a stylus one year, only to praise it a few years later.
    It isn't just the stylus. It is everything. Every. Single. Thing. There was even a crazy article that claimed that Samsung only made bigger phones because their R&D/engineering wasn't good enough to make small phones well (Apple's small phones were the epitome of great and classy design requiring mastering fine details that Samsung was incapable of as Samsung was only capable of oversized garish blingy trash ... seriously columnists on Apple sites like this did claim that. Now ALL modern iPhones far more resemble Samsung Galaxy phones than the iPhone 5 or any predecessor ... they even adopted Samsung's curved screens). And then there was the LCD versus AMOLED debate that only went away when Apple dropped LCD for AMOLED. Then there was NFC ... not needed until Apple added it. (NFC is used for much more than mobile payments ... such as a replacement for bluetooth to connect to headphones and speakers.) Mobile payments ... gimmick until Apple Pay. Multiple accounts on a single device which Apple finally adopted 8 years later (and even then only on iPads). And so forth. Right now we are allegedly hearing that only Apple is capable of getting 5G right ... never mind that Apple is going to be using the same Qualcomm 5G modem that Samsung, LG, Motorola, Google and the rest will be using.

    As for users ... well at some point you have to acknowledge that the billions of people who buy Android devices can't all be wrong. (And again, that is just rehashing the "those are gimmicks anyway/those features were implemented wrong until Apple did it right" argument that I mentioned above.)

    Especially the ones who buy flagships that cost as much as or more than Apple devices. 

    But keep in mind: my point never was "Apple devices are always going to be the best every single time." If you feel that way, fine, I won't argue. Because ... there is no need to. It is just subjective opinion. My objection was pretending to "compare" the two when you really aren't. 
    edited April 2020
  • Reply 11 of 16
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,786member
    gentooguy said:
    Kind of a silly "comparison." If you like Android and need a secondary or cheaper device, get a Motorola or Nokia (not a Samsung which will only get one update). If you like iOS and need a secondary or cheaper device this is as good an option as there is if you are fine with less than a 5' screen. Also, unlike the Android sites - which regularly recommend iPads over Android tablets and even recently admitted that the iPhone is better for productivity if you have a MacBook (but that Android is better for entertainment?!?) or the Windows sites that reluctantly admit the merits of Android and macOS and iOS - you are never going to find any Apple site that will acknowledge that any Android device is better - or even a good option - for any user in any context. So why even bother with articles like these? Go back to articles maybe 4 years ago prior to the iPhone 6. If you said you needed a larger screen and a stylus and a bunch of other features that weren't present in iOS at the time but were major differentiators for Android this site claimed: no one needs a stylus, screens bigger than 4' inches are tacky and trash, all the extra Android features are gimmicks etc. so no one "needs" a stylus or a bigger screen so no one should get a Galaxy Note or any other Android device. Immediately after Apple comes out with those features? Oh my goodness these are the greatest things imaginable that REALLY open up mobile computing! So, yeah right. Again. First off, there is no reason to make the comparison in the first place. Second, even if there were, there isn't a single Apple site on the planet that would actually acknowledge that an Android device is actually worthy of comparison. I don't know maybe it is the inferiority complex that Apple fans have that comes from Apple being dominated by Wintel for 30 years in the PC market that prevents Apple fans from being able to acknowledge the merits of the competition. Which again strangely Windows, Android and even Linux fans have no problem doing. Example: lots of Linux diehards will freely acknowledge the benefits of either getting the best Windows device you can find and dual booting - and will even recommend such that are ideal for it like the Dell XPS line - or state that Macs are "the next best thing" for those who can afford at least $2500 for one worth having. It is only Apple sites that pretend to "compare" their products with products from only platforms, shockingly "decide" that the areas where the Apple products are superior are the ones that truly matter to the comparison areas and the other areas are "gimmicks", "poorly implemented" or "no one uses them anyway" and then cites Apple marketing slogans as objective facts in "reviews."
    I won’t read a block of text like that, but I picked out “stylus” — your comment is ignorant to the difference between a phone stylus, and the Pencil, which is a drawing and notation tool. Can’t believe this even has to be explained. iPhones and iPads don’t need a stylus. It’s a specific use case. 
    watto_cobratmay
  • Reply 12 of 16
    This SE2 iPhone has no real advantages over the original SE. What is gained by "upgrading" the old SE for this SE...? Truly? The iOS it runs is the same and by golly it's a phone, a mobile phone with a mediocre camera. Plus, we've yet to see in-use real world technical specs; i.e., are the aerials as badly designed on this iPhone as has been discovered on costlier in-bred cousins. iPhones are rapidly becoming the gormless hillbillies of cellular tech.
  • Reply 13 of 16
    sergioz said:
    If I am Android user, I’ll be tempted to switch right now more then any other time! 
    If you was a androyd user, switching away to this iteration of an iPhone from a annedroyd would prove the stupidity of electric sheep-dreamers beyond a doubt.
  • Reply 14 of 16
    hentaiboyhentaiboy Posts: 1,252member
    Street price on the A51 is less than $300. Does that change the equation?
    KITA
  • Reply 15 of 16
    KITAKITA Posts: 392member
    hentaiboy said:
    Street price on the A51 is less than $300. Does that change the equation?
    For that matter, the actual Pixel 4 is $449 right now unlocked.


  • Reply 16 of 16
    acejax805acejax805 Posts: 109member
    Android users won't be swayed to swap to iOS because the hardware was never the issue; the software is a major bottleneck for most users. Simple, day one features that are missing from iOS that Android users have become accustomed to. It's not an option for most Android users. 
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