The Pixel 7a has literally just come out; I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks already, and in this whole series of ‘Lifelong iPhone user switches to Android’, the Pixels have always been exciting (and tempting!) devices for me. And the Pixel 7a is no different!
And it's a perfect comparison to the iPhone SE, at £449!
Like many, I’ve been getting a bit bored of the iPhone recently: minor spec bumps, no design changes, and very little innovation has pushed me to seek what else is out there.
And it turns out, Android, has a whole lot to offer.
And since my wife has used an iPhone SE for a year, and I’ve been using a Pixel 6 and 7 for a while, I thought this would be an interesting comparison to make.
Because the iPhone SE is SUCH a bad choice to make here…
As far as specs go, they’re 2 totally different beasts and on paper, the Pixel offers quite a number of advantages.
- A larger, brighter 90hz OLED screen with 429PPI vs a smaller LCD screen at 326PPI,
- Two rear facing cameras, at higher megapixels vs just the one on the SE,
- You have Pixels’ latest generation Tensor G2 vs the, now 2 year old, but still current, A15 bionic as per the iPhone 14.
- Unlock via Face and Fingerprint vs just Touch ID.
- Better battery life, double the amount of storage, and also if you check the fine print - double the warranty of 2 years vs just 1 year from Apple!
In fact, on paper, the only areas the iPhone wins on specs is with slightly faster wired charging speeds and the fact you can opt for up to 256gb storage, even though that then puts the iPhone at over £150 more pricey than the Pixel 7a.
The fact that the iPhone SE comes with just 64Gb of storage is pretty dreadful in 2023. I restored all of my apps to the SE and discovered I have just 2GB of space left.
So, unless you're planning on a minimalist phone design with maybe three and a half apps, you’re going to want to spend even more money to upgrade to more storage.
And when you take into account that the cost of materials to make the iPhone SE is about £224, vs the Pixels cost price of around £336. Well, it kinda shows.
📲 Design and Form Factor
But specs aren’t the be all and end all of a device, and certainly not an Apple vs Android comparison here. Because there are so many nuances between the two.
For me, the iPhone SE is still a great option for those who want to stay in the Apple ecosystem. It’s a tremendously small phone, with all of the familiar features that the world has come to expect from an iPhone of any size.
But the Pixel 7a represents the next evolutionary step up for those, myself included, who want to experience life outside of the Apple core.
We get a design that’s so un-apple, that’s still small enough to hold and use with one hand, but with all around better features.
And with an edge to edge screen on the Pixel that makes the thick bezels around the iPhone SE look and feel a bit like a phone that's been dug up from the ground from times past.
And yes, the iPhone has the whole Apple Ecosystem thing going for it. But the Pixel has a LOT to offer, even at their budget level of the 7a.
The 7a has their flagship tensor processor, you still get all of the flagship features of their Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, but squeezed into this tiny form factor.
Other than a few hardware differences with the Cameras, it’s like if Apple squeezed an iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max into an SE.
The Pixels’ feature set is one that for me, I really enjoy, over other Android devices like Samsung Galaxy devices. And it’s why I’m really excited to see the Pixel Fold is coming out soon as well.
Now there are a tonne of features on the Pixel, so below are my top three features of the Pixel 7a and why you should consider picking the 7a up instead of the iPhone SE, along with some of the downsides around Android in general - and my thoughts on those.
The first feature that hands down, is just incredible, and I use it all the time, is the Google Assistant.
You can use voice dictation on pretty much any app, and it works SO well on the Pixel.
It adds all of the punctuation that you need into your messages, without having to say it. You can also quickly tap any misspelled words to correct them, you can add emojis, and I love that you can literally just say "send", to send messages without any awkward pause, or waiting for Siri to be all like “Would you like to send it?!”
Now I’ve heard stories from long-term Android owners about how Google Assistant can be quite unreliable at times. But to be honest, I'm not convinced they realise just how awful Siri is. The number of times I’ve been on a phone call, and Siri will kick in on my watch or phone. "I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that"
Yeah, that's because I was talking to my mother-in-law, not my watch!
And when you do try to dictate something with Siri, you might as well have just mashed the keyboard with a meat tenderizer, as that's just about as accurate as Siri's dictation abilities.
As an Apple user, it doesn’t feel like Siri has evolved at all since when it was launched. I really hope that changes, but right now, it’s just so far behind Google Assistant, it's laughable.
You can also use the assistant features such as Call Screening to have the Google Assistant answer your phone calls and ask who the person who’s calling is, and it’ll then transcribe what they say to your screen so you can decide to answer it or not.
And the ability to translate between languages on the fly is an absolute dream when travelling.
The next feature, let’s call it that, on the Pixel 7a is the camera.
You get a 64MP Main camera lens, and a 13MP ultrawide.
I know everyone has their personal preference over what makes a good photo, but I LOVE how photos look on the Pixel.
They’re more vibrant, the focus is great, and I just find myself taking more - well - instagram-worthy photos on my Pixel than I do on the iPhone, even on the iPhone 14 Pro Max!
Yes, it can sometimes miss with edge detection on portrait photos, but when you put the iPhone SE and the Pixel 7a side by side, I just don’t think there is any competition and I would take the Pixel 7a over the iPhone SE, hands down.
You get a tonne of camera features on the Pixel as well, Night Sight, Long Exposures, Panorama and Google Lens where you can snap a photo of almost anything, and it’ll use it's search features to literally tell you what it is! Want to know what that bird is called? Snap a pic and Google will tell you!
It's a pigeon, Pete, come on!
And the fact that you’re shooting photos in 64MP on the Pixel vs 12MP on the iPhone, just means you have a bit more freedom to crop in without the image getting all pixellated.
With that said, filming video is the one area where most people will agree, that the iPhone just does better.
But when it comes to the Pixel 7a vs the iPhone SE. I actually disagree. I think the Pixel 7a gives you equally good video, but it takes it a step further because of having the two lenses, as well as the ability to pause recording. Something you don’t get on iPhone. So yeah, I think for the first time in a very long time - I’ll rate the Pixel ‘As Good’ if not 'Better' than the iPhone for video, at least against the iPhone SE.
Customisability and the Always on Display
The third thing, it’s a really simple one, but having an Always On Display is just so useful.
The number of times I’d just tap my iPhones screen to see the time, or check the notifications was just crazy. In fact, my finger is now worn down to a little stump because of this. And this could have all been avoided if all the older iPhones I owned had an AOD!
But the Pixel 7a comes with it’s always on display which means you can just glance to see the time, date, weather and the recent notifications. It's a subtle but really useful feature!
Now of course we have a tonne of other features on the Pixel, Face Unblur, Magic Eraser, the whole customisability of the phone…
But there are some downsides to the Pixel 7a...
Shutter lag is something that I experience, on most Android phones. And there’s a couple of ways this happens.
Firstly, with a Pixel, your phone actually takes the photo when you lift your finger OFF of the button, NOT when you press the button. Weird, right!? Compared to the iPhone, which takes the photo when you first touch the button.
The second, is that if you just tap away mindlessly on the shutter button, the iPhone will take far more pictures and the Pixel will definitely miss a few.
In any case, you’re better off just holding the button down, and the Pixel does what looks like recording a video. But if you go into that video and swipe up, you can get to each photo that basically makes up the video, then save whichever frame you like as a full image. Neat!
Not as Fast
Many people, myself included, also think that Android phones are just a slow and horrible experience of a phone.
But you also have the benefit here of Google Tensor 2 vs the 2 year old A15 Bionic in the iPhone, and my wife actually had one of these phones, and it can get quite slow at times.
She hated the camera, she found it extremely slow and the battery life was awful.
Even in a 'fresh out the box' app-opening test, the Pixel is MUCH faster than the iPhone SE.
So as far as performance goes, again, the Pixel wins, hands down.
Some Improvements Needed!
But with all the good things, there are a few things worth mentioning that make me kinda sad:
- The back of the Pixel 7a is an absolute dust magnet due to the material it’s made from.
- The 90hz display weirdly is switched OFF by default.
- The screen isn’t the brightest to look at in direct sunlight.
(BUT given this is £50 more expensive than last years, 6a, I think this is well worth the upgrade. In fact, based on inflation, I'd imagine that in that respect, it's actually CHEAPER than last year's 6a!)
You can pick up the Pixel 7a HERE, for just £449!
And, if you're a madman, you can pick up the iPhone SE HERE.
But as I’ve already said, it’s not ALL about the specs.
There’s a lot of value placed on being in the Apple ecosystem. The seamless integration of everything. And Pixel, and Android in general, still has a way to go in respect to their Ecosystems.
Honestly I think Google and their Pixel range have the best chance, though Samsung’s also slightly ahead in my eyes.
But there’s the Pixel Buds, Pixel Tablet, I already have a number of their Pixel smart display devices around the house - so they’re getting there. But nobody is currently able to match Apple on their Ecosystem, not yet anyway.
And if you want to see what I mean, you should definitely check out this video on my YouTube channel!
What would you go for? The iPhone SE or the Pixel 7a? Let me know!