How about you walk with me down memory lane. Remember that time in November 2007 when Sergey introduced us to Android? That barebones video was a reaction to project Purple which we all know as one of the most iconic keynotes by Steve Jobs in January of that same year.
What’s interesting to see is Google playing catchup to a party they weren’t really late for. Not sure if you knew but the company originally acquired Android two years earlier, which if you do the math, is about the time Apple began one of their most secretive projects ever. Heck, I don’t even know how Steve managed to keep the iPhone a secret from Eric Schmidt, who sat on Apple’s board, all while being Google’s CEO.
Why does this matter? Because if you see Google’s first prototype for Android, code-named The Sooner, it was built around competing with BlackBerry and Windows Mobile. It’s clear that Google knew that project had to be scrapped in January, because that second prototype code-named the Dream was such a last minute scramble, that it took Google a full extra year to go from that basic mess to what we knew as the HTC Dream, AKA the T-Mobile G1.
Nearly 15 years have passed, and it seems Google keeps playing this same catch-up game. First it was only a software partner, but then built the Nexus One in 2010. Then that whole project got shelved for the Pixel, all while Apple’s 15-year formula continues to stand strong. Yes, that’s how long this rivalry disguised in partnership has lasted, and yet I think this is the first time that Google has figured itself out enough to not just compete, but win.
In one corner we have the iPhone 13 Pro Max, Apple’s best iPhone ever, and also a showcase of excess to all the company’s capabilities. In the other we have the Pixel 6 Pro, the best phone Google has ever made, and a very important step into the character the company needed.
Yes, I already know you’re going to say this comparison isn’t fair because there’s such a dramatic price difference between these phones, but the reason why it makes sense is because there are actually three important similarities between them.
- These are the best phones made by both companies;
- Their major selling points incline a lot to their camera capabilities;
- This is the gateway to getting the latest version of either Android or iOS for each company.
It’s definitely not Google’s fault that Apple wants to charge so much more for a similar product, but then again that’s why we do these comparisons.
Visually these phones are night and day when it comes to their design language. They’re both just as massive as they are gorgeous in unique ways, but this is a rare case where even if the Pixel is my last choice when it comes to weight distribution, I do feel it does a better job than the iPhone.
See, even if the Pixel is 3mm taller and about 1mm thicker, it manages to be a crazy 30 grams lighter given its use of aluminum over Apple’s stronger Stainless Steel. Sure the iPhone might be using more expensive materials, but in the real world it’s not like the benefits are exponential if neither extends enough to protect either the Ceramic Shield, or the Gorilla Glass Victus.
Neither is easy to handle with one hand, but my points go to the Pixel for how the curves serve for slightly better ergonomics, and how the Visor camera array wobbles less on a table. I’ll praise Apple for how MagSafe can serve awesome purposes around it, but that requires optional accessories.
Once you flip them around the tables turn in my opinion. Yes they both use beautiful AMOLED panels with the exact same variable refresh rate up from 10 to 120hz, and you could even say the Pixel has a slight edge over the iPhone because of its Always-On capabilities and extra pixel density. Where I feel Apple wins is in its implementation as the iPhone brings double the contrast ratio, which you can totally tell in how detail just pops.
I also feel it handles brightness extremes better, all while sipping less power than the Pixel in my daily testing. Even if they both have dual-firing speakers, I feel the iPhone provides richer results, and is less prone to be muffled by your fingers.
Once you switch to Internals, I think it’s safe to almost call this a tie. Google did have a rocky start with Tensor, but those bugs have been ironed out. They might not be at A15 Bionic level, but if we’re honest, this iPhone doesn’t take full advantage of it either. Then you know things like RAM is irrelevant. What you care about is that they both start at the same base storage, have the same water resistance, offer all flavors of 5G, have some sort of fast wired and wireless charging, but then the Pixel brings newer versions of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Once you switch to Software, the tie sort of continues, but not in a positive way. You could make the argument about iOS vs Android, but I think it should go beyond that. See, both Apple and Google have the most un-ergonomic way to approach large phones. Yes, each has some sort of gesture to help you reach things, but it doesn’t change the fact that there’s lots of wasted space, with controls you can’t reach with one hand, and very little flexibility to customize things to your liking. It seems both companies fell victim to thinking that simply blowing up their beloved smaller phones of the past was a good idea.
As for the operating systems themselves, a lot is a matter of taste. I do find Google’s implementation of Android to be more useful, with the Google Feed to the left of the launcher, easy access to a search bar at the bottom, and little things like music detection on the Always-On display, along with the At-A-Glance widget serving you timely information coming up. You’ll hate the fact that if you don’t like some of these elements you can’t really disable them and get some canvas back, but at least third-party launchers are an option here. As for iOS, I do like the consistency of the widgets, I do prefer the smarter approach to the App Tray, and even if Google has been growing its ecosystem, it’s still doing baby steps compared to how seamless it is to own Apple products and see them work together. It’s up to you whether you feel the relevance of iMessage and FaceTime matter enough over the plethora of alternatives that never survive more than a few years from Google.
I would say that in day to day use, the iPhone has an important edge over the Pixel. Surely Google has improved battery life through software updates, but it doesn’t come even close to how legendary the 13 Pro Max is. Not sure if Google just hasn’t tuned this Tensor Chip well, or if it has to do with the Always-On Display, but you can tell it drains power quicker. I wouldn’t say you’ll notice much of a difference in phone calls, but I do feel the iPhone handles data reliability better, and that’s even with LTE limitations on the same Google Fi network.
Obviously the last piece of the puzzle is Photography and Video, with this being the first time we finally have a Pro Pixel to compare to a Pro iPhone. Sheer numbers alone would make the point for Google having an easy win over Apple, but just keep in mind that more megapixels isn’t everything, and each company is at the top of their game in providing an extra kick with computational photography.
Once you look at the results on a monitor, this is a very weird case where you’ll have to pick the phone that does what you like most. I prefer the Pixel’s added contrast and handling of color and detail, even if you can mimic some of this through the Rich Contrast photo mode on the iPhone. For me this Pixel still is the king of photography, but then its choice for cameras is pretty weird. See, at 0.5x the iPhone grabs so much more with its ultra-wide than the Pixel can at 0.7x. Seriously, these short jumps even of 2 and 4x with the Telephoto are not as useful as the 3X jump the iPhone provides, but then you’ll appreciate the Pixel more once you zoom further as it just obliterates the iPhone in optical and digital compensation. Google also lacks that epic Macro functionality the iPhone provides, though a bit of play with the telephoto will get you a bit closer.
Once you switch to low light, the Pixel keeps winning in just how much clarity it’s able to pull from pretty harsh scenarios and from all focal lengths. Yes, I do agree that the sunflower effect from lens flares on the primary is pretty annoying, but so are the green flares on the iPhone.
I will say I prefer selfies on the iPhone as I do feel deep fusion handles skin tones far better than the extra contrast of the Pixel, but then I do prefer how Google handles portraits given the better crop, and I also feel I can trust the Pixel more for low light selfies than the iPhone.
Where I also feel the Pixel earns the Pro in its name is with the added tricks it can do for you. Motion Photos, Long Exposure and Astrophotography are all things only Pro manual controls can do, and yet the Pixel manages to automate for you in the coolest way, while Apple provides none.
Really the iPhone earns the Pro title for its video capabilities, but not necessarily for the tricks. Yes you get Pro Res and Cinematic video, but even if you were to stick to regular video, I do feel the sensors are large enough to provide some great bokeh, and the codec is good enough for the results to have this continue to be my favorite B Camera. The Pixel is not far behind by any means, but I do sense a lot better handling of detail and dynamic range coming from the iPhone.
Props to Google for being the only Android phone that comes even close, which you might notice most in Selfie video. The quality on both phones is very close, and where you really have to nit-pick to notice the iPhone handles a few small things better, but which I doubt you’ll notice once I add compression to this video export.
To conclude, it’s interesting to see Apple and Google finally go head to head in an almost fair fight, and yet realize that each company values different things. While Apple has drifted most of its Pro ideas to video, Google is all about doing the same for photography. I don’t think either is at the point where any real Professional would switch a real camera for a phone, but I think they both succeed in providing good enough Pro tools to the average consumer, with the Pixel going a step further in my opinion.
Obviously I have to call out a winner, and this is where my personal needs are the only reason I’d pick the iPhone 13 Pro Max. It does good enough photography, video is best-in class, social media is handled better by iOS, and even if it is more expensive, I also feel nails smartphone essentials like battery life and the display better than Google. I’m not saying it’s a better phone, and actually, this is the first comparison I do where the Pro Max wins.
I applaud Google for how it finally takes its hardware seriously, and if you’d rather save a bit of money, or if photography matters more to you than video, then I have no problem in recommending you go for the Pixel 6 Pro. If anything its shortcomings are a clear reason to wait for the next generation, and we all know the Pixel 7 Pro is coming very soon.
iPhone 13 Pro Max
iPhone 13 Pro Max packs Apple’s best processor, camera hardware, and a large screen within its gigantic Stainless Steel chassis to provide buyers with the unmatched iPhone experience. Check out all the deals on the device using the links given below.
Google Pixel 6 Pro
The Pixel 6 Pro is the more premium Pixel flagship. It has a 50MP main camera, a telephoto with 4x optical zoom, and a useful ultrawide sensor. It supports 120Hz and both the Pixel 6 and Pro come with 5 years of support by Google.