Pixel 3 XL vs. iPhone XS Max: Which plus-sized flagship reigns supreme?

Google Pixel 3
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Google Pixel 3 XL is finally here, boasting top-tier specs, a modern design, and a pure Google Android experience. But the Pixel 3 XL isn’t the only plus-sized flagship phone to be released in the past few months — Apple recently unveiled the iPhone XS Max, one of the most powerful iPhone devices ever made, and certainly the most expensive.

Which phone is better for you? Deciding between the two can be tough, which is why we pit the Pixel 3 XL versus iPhone XS Max in a head-to-head specs comparison to find out which is best.

Specs

Google Pixel 3 XL Apple iPhone XS Max
Size 158 x 76.6 x 7.9 mm (6.22 x 3.02 x 0.31 inches) 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7 mm (6.20 x 3.05 x 0.30 inches)
Weight 184 grams (6.49oz) 208 grams (7.34oz)
Screen Size 6.3-inch P-OLED 6.5-inch OLED
Screen Resolution 2,960 x 1,440 (523 pixels-per-inch) 2,688 x 1,242 (458 pixels-per-inch)
Operating System Android 9.0 Pie iOS 12
Storage Space 64GB, 128GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB
MicroSD Card Slot No No
Tap To Pay Services Google Pay Apple Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Apple A12 Bionic
RAM 4GB 4GB
Camera 12.2MP rear, dual 8MP + 8MP front Dual 12MP + 12MP telephoto rear, 7MP front
Video 4K at 30 frames per second, 1,080p at 120fps, 720p at 240fps 4K at 60 frames per second, 1,080p at 240fps
Bluetooth Version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB Type-C Lightning
Fingerprint sensor Yes No
Water resistance IPX8 IP68
Battery 3,430mAh 3,174mAh
App Marketplace Google Play Store Apple App Store
Network support T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint
Colors Just Black, Not Pink, Clearly White Silver, Space Gray, Gold
Price $899+ $1,100+
Buy From Google, Verizon Apple
Review Score Hands-on review 4 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Both the Google Pixel 3 XL and the Apple iPhone XS Max are top-tier flagship phones, but that doesn’t mean they have the exact same performance. While the Google Pixel 3 XL features Qualcomm’s latest chip, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 coupled with 4GB of RAM, the iPhone boasts Apple’s A12 Bionic — which is hailed as perhaps the most powerful mobile chip ever made — and is also backed by 4GB of RAM.

Because it can be hard to compare the two, we’re going to have to resort to benchmarks, and they’re pretty revealing. While the Apple iPhone XS Max offers a Geekbench score of a massive 4,794 single-core, and 11,123 multi-core, the Google Pixel 3 XL offers a single-core score of 2,426 and a multi-core score of 8,355, which is decidedly lower than the iPhone’s score. Safe to say, the iPhone simply outperforms the Google Pixel 3 XL, though that’s not to say you’ll run into performance problems on Google’s phone.

When it comes to battery life, the Pixel 3 XL has a 3,430mAh battery while the iPhone XS Max makes do with a 3,174mAh battery. It’s a marginal difference, and we expect both phones to need daily charging. Both devices offer a number of charging options, including wireless charging via the Qi standard and fast charging, but Google includes its fast-charging cable and adapter in the box, whereas you’ll need to spend a good deal of money with Apple to fast charge.

There’s no way around this one — the iPhone XS Max performs better than the Pixel. It’s the winner here.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS Max

Design and durability

google pixel 3 xl vs apple iphone xs max design

Design is important, and it feels like Google has dropped the ball a little this year. Say what you will about the notch on the iPhone, but there’s no way it’s uglier than the thick and bulky notch on the Pixel 3 XL. Then there is the bottom of the phone, which has a substantially large “chin.” The Pixel 3 XL doesn’t come close to the elegance of the edge-to-edge design of the iPhone XS Max. The back of the Pixel 3 XL looks very similar to its predecessor, with a two-tone look and a single-lens camera, as well as a fingerprint sensor a quarter of the way down the phone.

Both phones feature an all-glass body, and both are water resistant — the Pixel 3 XL has an IPX8 rating, while Apple scores an IP68 rating. The iPhone XS Max utilizes stainless steel over aluminum for its frame, which makes it a bit more durable.

We like the iPhone XS Max’s design more. It’s the winner again.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS Max

Display

google pixel 3 xl vs apple iphone xs max display

The iPhone XS Max has a 6.5-inch OLED screen with inky blacks and well-saturated colors. Its 2,688 x 1,242-pixel resolution is not quite as sharp as the 2,960 x 1,440-pixel resolution on the 6.3-inch P-OLED Pixel 3 XL, but it is bigger and both phones have notches that eat into the usable screen. We hope there will be no repeat of the problems with the screen on last year’s Pixel 2 XL. We’re giving Google the benefit of the doubt until we can do further testing.

Winner: Tie

Camera

iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Google and Apple have been engaged in somewhat of a camera battle over the past few years, and traditionally the Pixel series has slightly outperformed the iPhone. Considering we’ve found the Pixel 2 XL to deliver equal if not better photos than Apple’s latest iPhone XS Max, we’re giving the Google Pixel 3 XL the win here temporarily until we can do more testing.

When it comes to specs, the iPhone XS Max features two 12-megapixel lenses, with one standard lens and one telephoto lens. On the back, the Google Pixel 3 XL only has one 12.2-megapixel lens, though with Google’s machine learning, it often proves to be enough. On the front, the Google Pixel 3 XL features two 8-megapixel lenses, while the iPhone XS Max opts for the TrueDepth camera, which has a 7-megapixel camera paired with a variety of sensors used for Face ID.

We’ll update this section after further testing the cameras on both phones.

Winner: Google Pixel 3 XL

Software and updates

pixel 3 xl vs 2 dsc 6644
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

We’re not going to go fully into the Android versus iOS debate here — it’s ultimately down to personal preference and the ecosystem that you’re more plugged into. We can say, however, that Android is generally able to do more than iOS — like install apps from third-party marketplaces and change the user interface with different launchers — but iOS is often a little more fluid and easier to use. For the vast majority of people, both Android and iOS will be able to do everything they need, but some will find they really prefer one over the other.

Both the Google Pixel 3 XL and the iPhone XS Max will deliver fast updates as soon as they’re available, and they should both get at least a few years of software updates (though iPhones often have a longer lifespan).

Winner: Tie

Special features

iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Google Pixel 3 XL and Apple iPhone XS Max both have a few interesting features on offer. For starters, the iPhone is now famous for its Face ID feature, which replaces the fingerprint sensor as the authentication method on the iPhone and allows you to use Animoji and Memoji.

The Google Pixel 3 XL, on the other hand, brings back the Google Pixel 2’s “Active Edge,” which allows you to squeeze your phone to activate Google Assistant or interact with notifications. There’s also the Pixel Stand, which wirelessly charges your Pixel 3 XL and turns into a bedside display with one-touch shortcuts and voice commands enabling you to pose questions and check your schedule. Google Assistant is also set to get the ability to screen your calls and filter out spam, or make calls for you to book appointments or restaurant reservations.

Winner: Google Pixel 3 XL

Price

This is perhaps one of the biggest points of difference — while the Google Pixel 3 XL starts at $900, the Apple iPhone XS Max starts at a whopping $1,100, which is no small price to pay. Safe to say, if money is of concern to you then the Google Pixel 3 XL may be the better choice for you. If you’d prefer to go for an iPhone but don’t want to shell out the cash, you could still go for the smaller iPhone XS, or the upcoming iPhone XR.

Overall winner: Apple iPhone XS Max

Both the Google Pixel 3 XL and the Apple iPhone XS Max are great phones, but there is no way around the improved performance and better design of the iPhone XS Max. We think the Pixel 3 XL tips the scales in the camera department and has some compelling A.I. features, but it doesn’t quite match up to Apple’s biggest. That’s not to say you should avoid the Google Pixel 3 XL — in fact, if you prefer an Android device, then the Google Pixel 3 XL is one of the best you can find.

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