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Portrait Mode test: Can any smartphone beat the iPhone X?

With pictures being worth a thousand words, everyone loves to take photos and share them on social media for boasting purposes and validation from others. That instant validation, however, is few and far between when photos aren’t crisp or clear. Poor-quality photos shouldn’t be that big of an issue anymore, though, thanks to the inclusion of Portrait Mode on smartphones.

Mimicking the fast aperture lenses found on modern SLR cameras, this mode essentially blurs the background in photos while focusing on the foreground. Smartphones use software trickery to achieve this look in photos, and while this sounds like it couldn’t produce images that look as good as though captured with professional cameras, Portrait Mode is actually capable of producing stunning photographs.


Yet, while Portrait Mode is a great way to capture photographs, the technical aspect of the method varies from smartphone to smartphone. So, to truly know which smartphone is the best when it comes to capturing stills in Portrait Mode, we put four of the best phones through a series of photography-based tests.

The test itself isn’t that rigorous; four different sets of photos were taken using the iPhone XGalaxy Note 8, Google Pixel 2XL, and the Mate 10 Pro. The results of the test however, are quite conclusive.

Each phone can capture excellent photos while Portrait Mode, but the iPhone X and Pixel 2XL separate themselves from the rest of the pack by consistently producing quality shots. In fact, the quality of the photos taken by the iPhone X and Pixel 2XL are so similar that’s it’s hard to tell the differences between the two because they are so subtle.


To find a clear-cut winner between the iPhone X and Pixel 2XL, we turned to social media. By posting four photos from the different tests and not specifying which smartphone took what photograph, Unlockr followers chimed in with their answers to which photo of the set was the best. Overwhelmingly, photos taken by the Pixel 2XL were hailed as the best, which means the Google phone’s Portrait Mode trumps the one on the iPhone X.

Again, this wasn’t a very scientific test, and is in large part based on personal preference. Plus, each smartphone used in our test managed to produce quality photos while in Portrait Mode. Nonetheless, the Pixel 2XL still stands out among its competitors.

David Cogen — a regular contributor here at Digital Trends — runs TheUnlockr, a popular tech blog that focuses on tech news, tips and tricks, and the latest tech. You can also find him on Twitter discussing the latest tech trends.

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