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New iPhone SE might be Google’s worst nightmare

Published Apr 16th, 2020 6:50AM EDT
iPhone SE vs. Pixel 5
Image: Apple

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  • The 2020 iPhone SE comes with the same powerful chip as the iPhone 11, making the handset faster than most competitors, Pixel 4 included.
  • The Pixel 5 is rumored to feature a cheaper Snapdragon processor than the Galaxy S20 and OnePlus 8 phones.
  • In such a scenario, the iPhone SE would be speedier than Google’s new Pixel.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

Apple launched the second-gen Pixel SE on Wednesday, putting an end to all the “iPhone 9” rumors. The phone is indeed exactly what we expected. It has the guts of an iPhone 11 packed inside of the chassis of the iPhone 8. It has the same camera as the iPhone XR, but it’s powered by Apple’s A13 chip that’s found inside the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. It comes with 3GB of RAM, according to early estimates, or as much RAM as the iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, and iPhone XS. And finally, it rocks the Touch ID fingerprint sensor you love. Like the iPhone 8 series, the new iPhone SE features a glass sandwich design, which means there’s a wireless charging coil inside the handset, but wired charging is as fast as iPhone 11 at 18W. Finally, the handset comes with IP67 water and dust certification. Starting at $399, this is the best affordable iPhone ever and a device that will simply destroy mid-range Android rivals. Just a few days ago, I told you how the $399 Pixel 4a will be no match for the iPhone SE. At the time, the iPhone SE specs above were only rumors. But now that Apple confirmed everything, the iPhone SE shapes up to be not just a better alternative than the Pixel 4a, but also a phone that could turn out to be the Pixel 5’s worst nightmare.

For the first time in Google’s short Pixel history, the Pixel 5 might not rock the best available hardware. Rather than going for the Snapdragon 865 chip that powers the Galaxy S20 and OnePlus 8 Pro, Google will reportedly use the cheaper Snapdragon 765 in this year’s Pixel 5 series. We’ve told you time and again how disturbing this rumor is, and explained why Google may have gone for the cheaper alternative. But the iPhone SE’s arrival changes everything.

The Pixel was never able to challenge the iPhone’s supremacy when it comes to speed, and that’s because Google’s newest phone isn’t a response to the latest iPhone. By design, every Pixel phone launches in October, a few weeks after the newest iPhone hits stores. While the newest iPhone rocks a brand new chipset, the latest Pixel runs on the same processor employed by every flagship that launched from January to October — and that Qualcomm chip is usually a response to the previous year’s Apple A-series chip. The only exception to that rule was the original Pixel, which launched with a variation of the Snapdragon 820 of the Galaxy S7 series, the 821.

Image source: Geekbench

Take the Pixel 4’s Snapdragon 855 that also powered several other high-end Android of 2019, including the Galaxy S10, OnePlus 7 phones, and the Note 10. That’s the chip that rivals the A12 in the iPhone XR and XS phones. The iPhone 11’s chip alternative from Qualcomm is the Snapdragon 865 that’s in this year’s phones. The 865 can’t outperform the A13 (or the A12) even though it might score higher in multi-core tests. In real-life comparison, the Galaxy S20 processor wasn’t able to keep up to the A13, and it’s the extra RAM that helped Samsung’s phone win.

Image source: Geekbench

The Pixel 4, with its Snapdragon 855, is no match for the A13 in the iPhone 13 in benchmarks (image below) and real-life tests. As a result, Pixel 4 will be slower than the new iPhone SE as well.

Image source: Geekbench

If the rumors are right and the Pixel 5 will sport a Snapdragon 765G, the handset won’t outperform the Snapdragon 865 in tests, and it’ll definitely not be able to outscore the iPhone 11, Pro, and SE. And forget about comparing the Snapdragon 765G against the A14 chip that will power iPhone 12 phones. The following screenshot shows a benchmark comparison between the iPhone 11 and the upcoming Motorola Edge, which will have the 765G inside.

Image source: Geekbench

And, again, the iPhone SE starts at $399. That puts tremendous pressure on Android handset makers, and especially the Pixel 5. If the rumors are correct, then Google will have a hard time justifying a flagship price for a device that won’t match the hardware of other Android flagships, especially in a world where the iPhone SE exists.

When I compared the rumored iPhone SE to the rumored Pixel 4a, I said the only reason why you should choose the latter is loyalty to Android and the Pixel brand. But if you’re shopping for budget phones and you don’t care about the operating system, the iPhone SE is a clear winner. The same thing goes for Pixel 5. The only reason to choose a mid-range Pixel 5 over a high-end iPhone is platform preference.

The Pixel 6 could fix many of Google’s problems, as it’s rumored to be the first Pixel phone to feature a custom chip made. But Pixel sales might have to suffer for one more year

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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