Apple has to beat this Google phone

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With less than two months to go until Google I/O 2024, the Pixel 8a doesn’t have any more secrets after the big specs leak this week. Maybe the price is the only real mystery remaining. But we’ve had Pixel 8a reports claiming Google will increase the cost again. Last year’s Pixel 7a was also more expensive.

Even without those price leaks, the Pixel 8a specs leak implies a price hike is not just to be expected but warranted. The Pixel 8a is going to be a cheaper Pixel 8 variant. The main camera hardware is the biggest differentiator between them, according to the leak. Its predecessor costs $499 before discounts, while the Pixel 8 starts at $699. The Pixel 8a will probably sit between them.

With Samsung’s decision to keep the Galaxy A55 away from the US market, the Pixel 8a has a real chance of making a difference for Google. Add to that the supposedly massive expansion in Europe, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pixel 8a became a best-selling handset.

All of that makes me think that Apple’s iPhone SE 4, that’s supposedly coming next year needs to beat the Pixel 8a. That’s it, that’s the job.

I no longer need a flagship iPhone

Soon after I got the iPhone 14 Pro in September 2022, I said that I could have easily skipped the Pro without missing a beat. Yes, the Dynamic Island, 120Hz display, A16 chip, and triple-lens camera are all great features to have.

But the iPhone 14, which matched the iPhone 13 Pro hardware, would have been a great upgrade for someone moving up from the iPhone X. Yes, I’ve held onto the first iPhone with the notch for that long.

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island
iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island in action. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The iPhone is so powerful that I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the A15 and A16 for most use cases. Also, I set the maximum refresh rate to 60Hz for iPhone 14 Pro battery testing soon after my purchase and never set it back. That will tell you how good the screen experience is. I don’t really need ProMotion if that 60Hz screen works great and can improve battery life.

With that in mind, I’m certain a $500 iPhone SE 4 would be a great phone next year. I could use an iPhone “mid-ranger” without worrying about performance.

The Pixel 8a will be crazy good

The Pixel 8a does raise the ante for Apple in a few big ways. First, the phone will feature a 120Hz screen, which is a first for the Pixel A series. The Pixel 7a had a 90Hz display. On that note, the Galaxy A55 also packs a 120Hz screen. So does the Nothing Phone 2a.

I just said that I use the 60hz mode on the iPhone 14 Pro and have no problem with it. That should be true for the iPhone SE 4, too. But from a marketing perspective, it can be a problem for the iPhone.

Secondly, the Pixel 8a will feature a two-lens camera on the back identical to its predecessor. The iPhone SE 4 will reportedly have a single rear-facing camera, even though it’s supposed to look like the iPhone 14 and iPhone 15 models. That iPhone size can accommodate a dual-lens camera on the back. Apple could always argue that a single camera is enough. But Google’s Pixel A phones happen to be great camera phones.

Google Pixel 8 Display
Pixel 8a will look and feel a lot like the Pixel 8 seen above. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The Pixel 8a will feature almost the same chip as the Pixel 8. That’s a win for consumers, who are likely to get years of Android updates out of this $500+ phone. On top of that, generative AI features are guaranteed since we’re looking at the same hardware. But it’s going to be just cloud-based AI for the Pixel 8 and similar devices.

Apple has a big advantage here. Even if the iPhone SE 4 were only to receive the A16 or a version of the A17 Pro, it’d still be a superior chip to Google’s Tensor G3. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple gave the iPhone SE 4 the A18 chipset that will power the iPhone 16/Plus this year. The iPhone will likely support any genAI features in iOS 18, including on-device ones.

Finally, the Pixel 8a price will be another challenge for the iPhone SE 4. Even if higher than the Pixel 7a. Apple still sells the iPhone SE 3 in its stores, starting at $429. It’s a design I still love, but one I can’t really defend in 2023. The iPhone SE 3 is only a great purchase if you can score it for way cheaper from a carrier or electronics retailer.

By the way, the iPhone SE 3 is still as powerful as the iPhone 13, as they share the same A15 chip.

The pressure is on Apple

What I’m getting at is that the iPhone SE 4 will probably cost more, likely between $499 and $599. Right now, the 128GB iPhone 13 costs $599. The iPhone 14 will take that spot next year. If that’s the case, it might match Google’s rumored $500+ price.

But Pixel A phones see discounts online much sooner than iPhones. Also, by the time the iPhone SE 4 launches, Google might be readying the Pixel 9a release. Even if the Pixel 9a doesn’t happen, an almost one-year-old Pixel 8a will be even cheaper by the time the iPhone SE 4 launches. And it could still be a better deal for some.

Then again, maybe the iPhone SE 4 will lose value faster than flagship iPhones. And that’ll be good news for buyers.

iPhone SE 3 color options
Yes, Apple still sells this phone in 2024. Image source: Apple Inc.

There’s a lot of speculation here from yours truly, and it’s all based on current rumors. While Google can’t change the Pixel 8a, Apple has plenty of room to maneuver with the iPhone SE 4. Whatever happens with the next-gen iPhone SE, I think it’s very clear we’ve reached a point in smartphone history when budget phones are truly remarkable.

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