Google Pixel 2 vs iPhone 8: The next generation of smartphone combat

Google Pixel 2
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

At its October Pixel event, Google made a point that may have surprised followers of the smartphone wars: You can’t expect massive hardware changes every year. That didn’t stop Google from unveiling a bevy of new devices, however, including new versions of its flagship smartphone: The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. While the Google Pixel 2 will look familiar to owners of the original, it does make a number of small improvements to a device that we consider the pinnacle of Android smartphones. So how does it compare to the latest incarnation of Android’s rival, the iPhone 8? We break down each phone’s capabilities in search of an answer.

Specs

The Pixel 2 sports a shiny, new Snapdragon 835 processor. It’s a ferocious chip in a tiny package, with eight cores, and a 2.45GHz clock speed. While we haven’t had a chance to formally review the Pixel 2, the 835 offers a marked improvement over the already impressive Snapdragon 821 found in the previous Pixel phone. The Pixel 2 comes with 64GB or 128GB storage, and 4GB of RAM. Given the improvements over the original Pixel, the Pixel 2 should be able to handle any smartphone games you want to run on it, and Google is even pushing it as a solid device for virtual and augmented reality.

The iPhone 8 uses Apple’s new A11 Bionic chip which, true to its imposing name, is a beast. In our tests using Geekbench 4 and the AnTuTu benchmarking tool, the iPhone 8 blew away the competition, including the Snapdragon 835-equipped Galaxy S8. The iPhone 8 does have a mere 2GB of RAM, however, and we found the augmented reality apps devoured the battery life.

Overall, the iPhone 8 is more powerful, but both phones should be able to handle any app or game you would conceivably throw at them.

Winner: iPhone 8

Display, design, durability

Google Pixel 2 v iPhone body
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

In our review of the iPhone 8, we noted that the design, aside from some minor refinements, is basically the same as that of the previous generations. In this instance, that’s not as great a knock against it, since the Pixel 2 — much like the Pixel — emulates the iPhone’s general design. Both embrace minimalist color schemes, but the Pixel 2 has a two-tone back. Both phones are IP67 dust- and water-resistant, and both lack headphone ports; if you want to listen to music privately, you’ll need Bluetooth headphones (such as Apple’s AirPods or Google’s new Pixel Buds), or a USB-to-headphone jack adapter.

If you want to blast music from your phone for all to hear, both the Pixel 2 and iPhone 8 rock powerful (for smartphones) speakers in stereo configurations.

The displays are where the differences really start to appear. The iPhone 8 has a 4.7-inch LCD screen with a resolution of 1,334 x 750 pixels. The Pixel 2 sports a 5-inch AMOLED display, meaning it can display deeper blacks, has better contrast, and a higher pixel density (1,920 x 1,080).

Although the Pixel 2 may draw on the iPhone design for inspiration, its two-tone design and sharper display give it the edge.

Winner: Pixel 2

Battery life and charging

One of our biggest complaints about the iPhone 8 was the battery life; its battery weighs in at 1,821mAh and you’ll need to charge it up at the end of most days. The Pixel 2 has a much larger 2,700mAh battery, and even with a bigger, sharper screen to power it should outlast the iPhone 8. Both support fast charging, though you’ll have to pay extra for the right cable and adapter to fast charge your iPhone 8. The iPhone 8 also supports wireless charging, which the Pixel 2 doesn’t. But overall, the Pixel 2 edges this category.

Winner: Pixel 2

Cameras

Both phones come with the standard front and back camera setup. The Pixel 2 has an 8MP front camera with an f/2.4 aperture, and a 12MP rear camera with an f/1.8 aperture. The iPhone 8 sports a 7MP front-facing camera with an f/2.2 aperture and a 12MP main camera with an f/1.8 aperture. Both offer optical image stabilization, but the Pixel 2 uses machine learning to enable a bokeh mode, similar to the iPhone 8 Plus’ Portrait Mode, which, sadly, the iPhone 8, lacking the Plus’ dual-camera, cannot match.

We have not yet had a chance to formally review the Pixel 2’s camera, however, respected image-rating site DxOMark gave it the highest rating it has given to a smartphone camera, a score of 98 (slightly higher than the iPhone 8’s 94 rating). The site singled out the Pixel 2’s color rendering and consistent exposures for praise.

Winner: Pixel 2

Software

Google Pixel 2 v iPhone software
Simon Hill / Digital Trends
Simon Hill / Digital Trends

Few debates get more heated than iOS vs Android, with partisans of each side marching in lockstep to tear down the other, so if you champion either system, you probably already know which phone to get. For the neutral among you, the Pixel 2 runs the latest version of Android, Android 8.0 Oreo. In our review of Oreo, we noted that it is not a radical update, instead streamlining the interface while offering some nifty, if non-essential, features such as Vitals and picture-in-picture mode.

Apple’s iOS 11 offered users a redesigned control center, with quick access to a number of critical features. It also added a number of new photo-editing options and effects, for those who want to step up their Instagram game.

Overall, you can’t go wrong with either operating system; both have similar strengths and few noteworthy weaknesses. It all comes down to whichever you feel more comfortable using.

Winner: It’s a draw

Price and availability

The iPhone 8 is currently available, and comes in two models: A 64GB model for $700, and a 256GB model for $850. You can buy an unlocked model, or get one from any of the major carriers in the U.S.

The Pixel 2 is currently available for pre-order. You can purchase a 64GB model for $649, or a 128GB model for $749. Google is also offering a bonus for a limited time: If you purchase a Pixel, you will get a Google Home Mini for free through October 19 or while supplies last.

If you want a lot of storage space, the iPhone 8 is your best option, albeit at $850. The Pixel 2 is cheaper, and the inclusion of a free Google Home Mini is enticing. That’s nice added value!

Winner: Pixel 2

Overal Winner: Pixel 2

Both phones are lovely, and the choice will likely come down to whether you prefer iOS or Android — although if you are an iPhone loyalist it seems like you might be better served waiting for the upcoming iPhone X.

While both phones are powerful (the iPhone 8 perhaps more so) the Pixel 2’s superior display, stylish look, and mighty camera, as well as its lower price, combine to make it the more attractive option.