TWO GOLIATHS TUSSLING for smartphone supremacy. One possesses vastly more experience of building handsets, while the other has classically focused on services.
How does this play out when you put the Pixel XL against the iPhone 7 head-to-head?
Pixel XL: 155x76x8.5mm, 168g, USB-C
iPhone 7 Plus: 158x78x7.3mm, 188g, IP67 certification, Lightning port
Both phones represent the larger end of the spectrum with proportions teetering close to phablet territory. The Pixel XL is quite a bit fatter than the Plus-sized iPhone, but it arguably feels better in the hand thanks to being almost 20g lighter.
We previously noted the Pixel’s similarities to the HTC 10. The combination of metal and glass gives the Pixel a solid, well-built feel, while the Plus has an all-metal design. Both represent tried and tested formulas, so you’d better move on if you’re looking for innovation.
Considering its premium price, and with so many other competitors jumping on the water resistance bandwagon this year (hello, Apple), the omission of protection is controversial. We suspect Google is holding back IP67/IP68 certification for v2, where it can go in hard. The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are IP67 certified for the first time.
Apple has done away with the traditional headphone port, opting instead for audio through the Lightning connector. The port has a heavy load, as it also manages all charging and data needs. The Pixel XL charges via USB Type-C. This is a neat piece of future-proofing on Google’s part, but the technology is in its infancy and additional cables are often hard to come by.
Google Pixel XL: 5.5in 2560×1440, 534ppi
iPhone 7 Plus: 5.5in 1920×1080 at 401ppi
Both handsets have 5.5in displays, but the Pixel’s screen wins on paper. That being said, this is the most impressive iPhone yet, and the display is 25 per cent brighter than on the iPhone 6S and benefits from added vibrancy. Google’s QHD resolution topples the iPhone’s Full HD, and offers increased pixel depth, but we’ll have to compare the two side-by-side to get a proper idea.
The Pixel also uses AMOLED technology which means it can take advantage of Google’s Daydream VR platform. Apple doesn’t have anything that even remotely competes at this time.
Pixel XL: Android 7.1 Nougat
iPhone 7 Plus: iOS 10
Google’s Nexus phones have all offered the purest Android experience of all, and this hasn’t changed with the switch to Pixel. Another boon is the incremental update, so instead of the first Nougat release you’ll get 7.1 as standard.
New updates will be done in the background and installed the next time the phone restarts. Nice. Nougat brings improvements to security and power-saving, a new split-screen mode plus a whole heap more.
Related: 8 of Android 7.0 Nougat’s new features
Both phones converge when it comes to AI. Pixel debuts the new Google Assistant, but also adds Duo (for video calling) and Allo (for instant messaging). Siri benefits from an upgrade on the iPhone 7 Plus as it now supports third-party apps.
Pixel XL: Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, quad-core (2x 2.15GHz, 2x 1.6GHz), 4GB RAM
iPhone 7 Plus: Apple A10 Fusion chip, quad-core 2.23GHz, 3GB RAM
The Snapdragon 821 is an incremental update to the 820 that’s featured in many of 2016’s handsets. Google quotes performance increases of up to 10 per cent. The 821 includes two 2.15GHz and two 1.6GHz processors, plus there’s 4GB of RAM to keep it company.
The A10 Fusion processor in the iPhone 7 Plus is currently the chip to beat. It blitzed the competition in our tests, and offers speed improvements of 40 per cent compared with the A9. Apple’s new GPU is 50 per cent faster too.
A fingerprint scanner lives on the rear of the Pixel, whereas the iPhone 7 Plus places it upfront inside the new taptic (haptic feedback) engine.
Pixel XL: 12MP rear-facing, f/2.0, LED flash, 8MP front-facing
iPhone 7 Plus: Dual 12MP rear-facing, f/1.8 and f/2.8, OIS, 7MP front-facing
Despite all the DXOMark fanfare, the Pixel XL can’t hold a candle to the formidable dual-camera setup on the iPhone. In this case, two is better than one. The iPhone packs a wide-angle 28mm lens with a 56mm telephoto lens. The Pixel XL is going to have to pack some pretty clever voodoo to deliver better images as the f/2.0 aperture won’t let in as much light, but it just might have the edge when it comes to pixel density.
Google’s effort also lacks optical image stabilising, and the two-element flash seems underpowered compared with the iPhone’s quad-LED (dual-tone) variety. We’ll put both cameras through their paces very soon.
Pixel XL: 3,450mAh
iPhone 7 Plus: 2,900mAh
The Pixel just pips the iPhone 7 Plus in capacity terms at 3,450mAh. However, the Plus has the largest battery to date in an iPhone, and you should get an extra hour over last year’s iPhone 6 Plus thanks to the efficient A10 Fusion processor.
Google promises seven hours of life in just a 15-minute charge. It’s a shame that Apple still hasn’t embraced quick-charging technology.
Pixel XL: 32GB/128GB
iPhone 7 Plus: 32GB/128GB/256GB
The Pixel XL matches the iPhone 7 Plus’ 32GB and 128GB storage options, but if you want any bigger you’re going to be disappointed. This year Apple has introduced a monster 256GB variant for the first time.
The Nexus line never offered support for microSD, and that tradition doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon.
Both handsets have impressive hardware. The Snapdragon 821 represents the top of the Android tree at the time of writing, and Apple’s A10 Fusion processor does the same.
Screen sizes are equal, but the Pixel XL just edges it with a QHD resolution. Google has really shouted about its new camera hardware, but we’re sceptical that it can better Apple’s dual assault.
Neither platform has had it better when it comes to the OS. Yet those with big appetites might struggle with the Pixel’s limited storage options. µ
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