The new Pixel 6a is an impressive phone packing a lot of exciting flagship components, like the Tensor chipset, with lower-cost hardware materials and older cameras. Overall it seems like a competent phone, but there are some drawbacks. For instance, if you’re used to a high refresh rate display, dropping down to the 60Hz panel on the 6a could be jarring.
It should be noted that Apple only sells the iPhone 11 with 64GB of storage, and by the fall, it will be replaced by the iPhone 12.
Design and size
Phone size is pretty subjective, but we’ve trended towards larger devices over the last few years. The new 6.1-inch screen sizes of the iPhone 11 and the Pixel 6a seems like the most appealing of all the screens. However, it’s expected that the 6a’s OLED panel will look a lot nicer than the older LCD panels Apple uses in low-cost phones.
Since both the iPhone 11 and 6a are very similarly sized, we expect both to feel decent in hand, but the glass back of the iPhone 11 is likely more premium than the Pixel’s polycarbonate.
One notable thing that all three phones share is that they use metal sides which is nice to see.
If you desperately crave a smaller phone, the iPhone SE is for you, but most people will likely enjoy the screen and phone size of the Pixel 6a the most.
Battery life is a little more up in the air. Personally, I’ve found the Pixel 6 to be about average in my limited testing, and the iPhone 11 is surprisingly good. That said, the smaller screen and lower refresh rate combined with less RAM could make the Pixel 6a last a few hours longer than the 6.
The iPhone SE’s battery, on the other hand, is fine. It’s a small phone, but it also has a tiny screen and runs iOS, so the battery life is pretty solid.
All three phones support moderately slow fast-charging at around 20-watts, so there are no notable differences here. It’s likely that the smaller battery on the iPhone SE will charge the fastest, though.
All three phones are using older camera systems, but I’d be hesitant to call them outdated. The 6a and the iPhone 11 both have a standard camera and an ultrawide lens. The iPhone SE only has the standard camera.
The Pixel 6a uses the essentially same 12-megapixel sensor primary camera that Google used from the Pixel 3 to the Pixel 5a. It’s a solid lens/sensor combo, but it’s not the 50-megapixel powerhouse on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. This stings because usually, the Pixel a-series of phones is known for sharing the same camera hardware as the flagships. That flipped this time when Google sacrificed the camera in the name of performance and brought over the Tensor chip instead.
The iPhone 11 and SE also use 12-megapixel cameras. Both are very comparable and stand up fine in day-to-day use. Overall, Google’s camera system might be a little more fun with things like ‘Magic Eraser’ and ‘Real Tone.’
There’s not a lot to say here. All the phones should hold up decently well over the years, but the iPhone 11 is the most outdated of the three.
The iPhone SE is likely the model I’d trust to last the longest since it’s got an A15 Bionic inside. The Google Tensor chipset inside the Pixel 6a is also a flagship chip, but in benchmarks, it actually trades blows very closely with the iPhone 11, according to a benchmarking website called Nanoreview.net. Tensor is likely better, but by less than you’d think.
Overall I expect the Pixel 6a to perform similarly to the Pixel 6 in most cases, which is to say that it will be enough for most people. Still, mobile photo editors might notice an increase in photo export and editing times.
iPhone 11 — $679
iPhone SE (2022) — $579
Pixel 6a — $599′
It’s worth noting that both of the iPhones start with 64GB of storage. The Pixel 6a instead is packed with 128GB. The SE with that much is $649 and the iPhone 11 goes up to $749.
There’s a mid-range phone for everyone
I’m tempted by the Pixel 6a. I think the modern look combined with the dual-camera system and likely vibrant screen would sway me if I was looking at this from a hardware standpoint.
Obviously, most people will likely be swayed by their operating system of choice, and to that, I will say that sometimes the most fun part of switching to a new device is learning some of the fun tricks of the OS.