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iPhone Xs vs Google Pixel 3: Battle of the flagship smartphones

Pete Clark
17 Sep 2018
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It's time to see who comes out on top in the battle between this year's most extortionate smartphones

‘Affordability’ is a word that barely features in the dictionary of the world’s biggest tech companies, and Apple and Google are two of the biggest culprits. The iPhone Xs officially debuted at the former’s autumn keynote on 12 September, and the highest-end 512GB model will set you back a mind-boggling £1,349. Thankfully, at that price, you will receive one of the best smartphones on the market. The handset features longer battery life, a return for the colour-accurate Super Retina display of the iPhone X and an all-new 7nm A12 Bionic chip with a six-core processor.

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Meanwhile, Google is primed to release its own handset to rival the iPhone Xs. The all-new Pixel 3 is set to be launched in New York on 9 October. Although the phone hasn’t officially been released yet, a number of leaks have enlightened us as to what can we can expect from Google’s next effort.

So, how do Apple and Google’s flagship smartphones compare? Below we give you a side-by-side lowdown on the handsets in an attempt to find out.

iPhone Xs vs Google Pixel 3: Design

What can I say about the design of these two smartphones? They’re both made out of metal and they both have enormous glass displays. Isn’t that the design of every flagship smartphone released in the last five years?

The iPhone Xs looks, well, a lot like the iPhone X, which looked a lot like the iPhone 8, which looked a lot like the iPhone 7, and so on. You catch my drift. But seriously, the iPhone Xs has retained the all-metal body of its predecessor, as well as the notched 5.8in edge-to-edge screen and softly-rounded corners. Apple has found a winning formula with the iPhone, and it doesn’t look like straying from it any time soon.

The only drawback is that the Xs will initially only be available in three shades in the UK. Silver and Space Grey are two colour options that seem to have been around for longer than Apple itself, but at least the Gold finish represents a slightly more exciting option.

Rumours suggest that the Pixel 3 will have a big old notch at the top of the handset, as well as a huge bezel at the bottom. The latter in particular is a bit of a faux pas in the world of modern smartphones. Most of the big companies have figured out the right formula for reducing bezels without compromising quality.

Its safe to say that the leaked design hasn’t gone down too well. One blogger compared the Pixel 3 to a “Frankenstein hardware experiment” made up of the discarded design elements of the Samsung Galaxy S9 and the iPhone X. Of course, the phone hasn’t officially been released yet, but the huge number of leaks have almost certainly confirmed that what we’ve seen is the real deal. Unless Google has been deliberately leaking fakes to wrongfoot everyone as one conspiracy theory suggests...

On the basis of this evidence then, it’s a clear win for the iPhone Xs in terms of design.

iPhone Xs vs Google Pixel 3: Specs

The two handsets are broadly similar in terms of display. The standard iPhone Xs features a 5.8in 2,436 x 1,125 Super Retina OLED display and incorporates HDR10 and Dolby Vision natively, meaning you’ll get the most out the movies and shows that support it.

The Pixel 3 has a slightly smaller 5.5in 2,160 x 1,080 equivalent - the eagle-eyed might have noticed that’s a 2:1 aspect ratio. An OLED display is likely, but it’s impossible to comment on the specifics of the display at this point. For this reason, the iPhone Xs edges ahead in this category for the time being.

Apple is very proud of what it has put inside the Xs. The handset features its latest chip - the 64-bit A12 Bionic with an 8-core neural engine. The A12 Bionic has a six-core processor: two are high-performance cores that deliver 15% more power, while the remaining four are ‘high-efficiency’ cores. The A12 has a quad-core GPU, upgraded from last year’s A11 Bionic. All of this is tied together by the aforementioned octa-core Neural Engine chip.

The meaning of all this? In simple terms, faster performance and longer battery life. What more could you ask for?

The Pixel 3 looks almost certain to be powered by Qualcomm’s latest flagship processor, the Snapdragon 845. The Pixel 2 missed out on this super-speedy chip, and unless Qualcomm has something else up its sleeve, we expect it to bring the Pixel 3 into line with other flagship devices such as the Sony Xperia XZ2 and the OnePlus 6.

Again, we’ll have to wait and see how the A12 Bionic performs upon release. If it is to surpass the performance of the Snapdragon 845, then it has a serious job on its hands.

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iPhone Xs vs Google Pixel 3: Features

It being the century of the selfie, phone cameras have never been more important. The Xs doesn’t disappoint, the rear camera featuring a dual-setup f/1.8 12-megapixel wide angle and f/2.4 12-megapixel telephoto lens.

Apple was keen to tell us about its new Smart HDR settings, which are an upgrade on any previous iPhone. The Xs will benefit from the more powerful A12 Bionic chip, so if it doesn’t look like much has changed on the surface, you should see minor improvements in the photographic performance of the handset.

The Xs will also allow you to adjust the depth of field after taking a photo - something Tim Cook and Co were keen to make a song and dance about at the launch.

Strangely enough, though, the Pixel 2 has featured this and more for well over a year already. Although little is known about the Pixel 3’s rear camera technical specifications, we can expect at least a minor upgrade on its predecessor’s 12-megapixel rear camera, which Nathan’s review labelled “the best smartphone camera ever” back in October 2017. It may have been surpassed by Huawei and Samsung’s flagships since, but it would be unsurprising if Google took the crown once again with the Pixel 3.

The Xs’s selfie camera is a f/2.2 7-megapixel RGB sensor with Bokeh mode, where the leaked Pixel 3 images show a dual 8-megapixel lens setup, one having a f/1.8 aperture and the other a wide-angle f/2.2 lens. We suspect Google could be shooting for a more secure facial authentication feature here, but that’s as yet unconfirmed. It’s clear to see, though, that the Pixel 3 edges in front of the Xs in terms of photography.

Elsewhere, the iPhone Xs features IP68 protection technology. That means you can submerge your new £1000 toy at a depth of 2m for 30 minutes - and why wouldn’t you?

Improved battery life means the Xs will last 30 minutes longer than its predecessor, the iPhone X, and the handset is available in 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB, which is more than we’ve ever seen on any previous iPhone.

As I’ve mentioned, less is known about the Pixel 3. However, you can expect to see wireless charging, ‘Active Edge’ sides which will allow you to launch your phone by squeezing it, and high-end USB-C earbuds included in the price.

Since what we know about the features of the Pixel 3 is still unconfirmed, we’re calling it a draw on this one.

iPhone Xs vs Google Pixel 3: Price

Now, this is where it starts to get ugly. The iPhone Xs will set you back £999, £1,149 and £1,349 for the 64GB, 256GB and 512GB models respectively - I’m not sure much more needs to be said.

The Pixel 3’s price is not known, but given that the Pixel 2 debuted at £629, we can expect it to cost a damn sight less than its California-born equivalent. You can find all the latest rumours and leaks regarding the price of the Pixel 3 here.

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iPhone Xs vs Google Pixel 3: Verdict

On the basis of this evidence, it looks like the Pixel 3 is struggling in the battle of the flagship handsets. That said, it’s hard to completely write-off a smartphone that hasn’t even been officially announced yet.

The iPhone definitely takes the crown in terms of design, and we’re excited to see how the new A12 Bionic performs against the Snapdragon 845 found in many of its rivals. If photography is your jam, however, then the Pixel 3 will likely be the handset for you.

Who knows, perhaps Google could pull off a blinder on 9 October and defy all of our expectations? But for now, it’s Apple 1-0 Google.

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