Google has revealed a pair of new Pixel phones: the Pixel 3 and 3 XL. Much like Apple’s recently released iPhone XS and XS Max, they’re outstanding smartphones but with a few hardware upgrades over their predecessors.
They are flagships that well and truly compete with Apple and Samsung’s flagships. Dual front-facing cameras, reduced bezels, and chip upgrades are all present and correct, but it’s software that Google has decided to focus on with this year’s models.
How do they stack up against Apple’s latest batch? From notches to fingerprint sensors, there’s a lot that chimes between these handsets, and quite a few things that separate them.
The Pixel 3 has a front-camera for ‘group selfies’
While smartphone design has plateaued in recent years, camera technology continues to be a battleground for the flagships. These phones are no different.
The iPhone XS and XS Max both boast a pair of 12MP cameras: one wide-angle lens and one telephoto lens, both with optical image stabilisation, and with a f/1.8 and f/2.4 aperture respectively. On the front is a 7MP camera with a f/2.2 wide‑angle lens.
Google flips this formula. Instead of having a dual camera on the rear, the Pixel 3 and 3 XL both have a single 12.2MP camera. On the front, there is not one but two cameras: an 8MP wide-angle lens and a regular 8MP lens. The former, according to Google, has a 97° field of view; designed to makes it easier to fit all of your friends in a shot for ‘group selfies’.
According to Google, the rear camera doesn’t need to have two lenses because it uses various machine-learning techniques to create different types of photographs. The Pixel 3 and 3 X also use AI software to improve picture quality by increasing the camera’s focus as it moves around, and can take bursts of HDR photos before automatically picking what it thinks is the best images – a feature called Top Shot.
The Pixel 3 XL has a notch, but the Pixel 3 doesn’t
A glance at the Pixel 3 XL and you’ll be forgiven for mistaking it for Apple’s iPhone XS Max. The larger of Google’s smartphones come with an unmissable notch, slightly deeper and narrower than that on the iPhone, but a notch nonetheless. The smaller Pixel 3 doesn’t have one and instead has thicker bezels at the top and bottom of its display.
The Pixel 3 has a 5.5-inch display, whereas the Pixel 3 XL measures in at 6.3 inches. The iPhone XS and XS Max, for comparison, are 5.8 inches and 6.5 inches.
All use OLED displays, meaning they should have richer and more colourful displays than their LCD counterparts. If we’re splitting hairs, the Pixel 3 XL has the highest pixel density of the lot at 523ppi.
In terms of design, there’s not all that much between the different smartphones. The Pixel 3 looks the most distinct compared to the 3 XL and the two iPhones, but there’s nothing radical separating them when it comes to aesthetics. For colours, the Pixel 3 comes in pink, white and black, whereas the iPhone XS comes in gold, grey, and silver.
Unlike the iPhone XS, the Pixel 3 has a fingerprint sensor
While there were rumours about Apple working some under-screen fingerprint technology into its smartphones, this didn’t surface with the iPhone XS.
Instead, you’ll need to use FaceID to unlock Apple’s most recent smartphones. Google’s Pixel 3 has kept faith with the good old fingerprint sensor, which is mounted on the back of the device.
Android Pie offers scope for a camera to be used for facial recognition, but there’s no special FaceID equivalent with the Pixel 3. That also means there’s no Google equivalent of Apple’s Animojis to waste time with. If gurning animals are a deal breaker for you, then you’ll want to look at Apple’s handset – or Samsung’s Galaxy S9.
The iPhone XS is dual SIM
One of the most notable things about the iPhone XS and XS Max is that they’re the first iPhones to support two SIMs. That’s a big deal in emerging markets, particularly India, where there’s a greater reliance on ‘pre-paid’ phone deals. It also means you can have a personal and business number on the same phone. The Pixel 3, on the other hand, only supports one SIM.
They all boast about AI
The iPhone XS and XS Max both come with Apple’s A12 Bionic processor, which features a quad-core graphics chip and six-core CPU. It also has the second generation of Apple’s Neural Engine for powering machine-learning features on the smartphone, and which Apple has touted as a leader in AI hardware.
Google being Google, AI is also a core part of the Pixel 3. The processor in the smartphone is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip, and the Pixel 3 and 3 XL says it puts this to use across a range of AI-centric features, from optimising performance to tweaking photography.
The Pixel 3 has its own wireless charging stand
Unlike their predecessors, the Pixel 3 phones support wireless charging. Google has developed its own ‘Qi’ wireless charging stand for the purpose, which turns the phone into a smart display – allowing the user to use Google’s voice assistant to answer questions and scroll through photos.
The iPhone XS handsets also have wireless charging, but Apple has had a trickier time putting together its own charging station. The AirPower was expected to feature during the iPhone XS launch but has reportedly been set back to heating issues.
When it comes to wires, none of the phones have a headphone jack. The Pixel 3 has a USB Type-C port and chucks in a 3.5 mm headphone adapter. The iPhone XS, on the other hand, uses Apple’s Lightning connector.