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October 10, 2017

Google Pixel 2 XL vs. Apple iPhone 8 Plus

by John_A

Just when you thought it was safe to pick your smartphone upgrade, Google drops a bombshell. Google’s new Pixel 2 XL is a stunning phone, packed with the latest version of Android 8.0 Oreo, a powerful Snapdragon 835 processor, and a massive 6-inch screen paired with an almost bezel-less display. If you’re looking for an update to your phablet, or are looking to sample the delights of a large-screened phone, then the Pixel 2 XL has to be on your watch list.

What about the rest of the market? Apple’s iPhone 8 Plus is the king of hill in the phablet market — even if that title is hotly contested with the likes of the Galaxy Note 8 knocking around. While we can’t honestly compare the two phones until we’ve got our mitts properly on the Pixel 2 XL and spent a good amount of time with it, we can at least compare what each phone is bringing, and whether it’s worth buying the iPhone 8 Plus now, or holding your pennies until the Pixel 2 XL is available.

Specs

Google Pixel 2 XL

iPhone 8 Plus
Size
157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm (6.22 x 3.02 x 0.31 inches)
158.4 x 78.1 x 7.5 mm (6.24 x 3.07 x 0.30 inches)
Weight
175 grams (6.17 ounces)
202 grams (7.13 ounces)
Screen
6-inch P-OLED display
5.5-inch IPS LCD Retina HD display
Resolution
2,880 x 1,440 pixels (538 ppi)
1,920 x 1,080 pixels (401 ppi)
OS
Android 8.0 Oreo
iOS 11
Storage
64GB, 128GB
64GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot
No
No
NFC support
Yes
Yes (Apple Pay only)
Processor
Snapdragon 835, with Adreno 540
A11 Bionic with 64-bit architecture, M11 motion co-processor
RAM
4GB
3GB
Connectivity
4G LTE, GSM, CDMA, HSPA+, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
4G LTE, GSM, CDMA, HSPA+, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
Camera
12.2MP rear, 8MP front
Dual 12MP rear (both with OIS), 7MP front
Video
Up to 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 120fps, 720p at 240fps
Up to 4K at 60fps, 1080p at 240fps
Bluetooth
Yes, version 5.0
Yes, version 5.0
Fingerprint sensor
Yes
Yes, TouchID
Other sensors
Barometer, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, Active Edge
Barometer, gyroscope, accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor
Water resistant
Yes, IP67 rated
Yes, IP67 rated
Battery
3,520mAh

Fast-charging with 7 hours in 15 minutes of charge

2,675mAh

21 hours of talk time, 13 hours of internet, 14 hours of video playback, and up to 60 hours of audio playback

Fast charging offers up to 50 percent charge in 30 minutes (with separate cable).

Wireless charging (Qi standard)

Charging port
USB Type-C
Lightning
Marketplace
Google Play Store
Apple App Store
Colors
Black, Black and White
Gold, Space Gray, Silver
Availability

Best Buy, Unlocked from Google, Verizon

AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Apple

Price
$850
$800
DT review
Hands-on review
4 out of 5 stars

The Pixel 2 XL comes with Qualcomm’s latest processor, the Snapdragon 835. We’ve previously seen this processor in many flagship Android smartphones, such as the Galaxy Note 8, the LG V30, and the OnePlus 5. It’s a stunningly powerful processor, and the 835 is sure to provide a smooth experience to Pixel 2 XL users for the lifespan of the phone.

But no matter how powerful the Snapdragon 835 is, it can’t compare to Apple’s new A11 Bionic processor. The previous generation of iPhones were equipped with the A10 Fusion processor, which is still capable of beating the latest generation of Snapdragon processors — so it comes as no surprise that the A11 has already obliterated the competition.

The way iOS and Android handle RAM is very different, and it makes comparing amounts of RAM on these phones tricky. As a general rule of thumb, iPhones are able to have less RAM on-board, due to the close integration between software and hardware that just isn’t possible with the wide variety of hardware set-ups available on Android phones. As such, we can’t really say that the 3GB of RAM on the iPhone 8 Plus is trumped by the 4GB available on the Pixel 2 XL — it just doesn’t work that way. Both phones should have enough RAM to keep them running smoothly throughout their lifespan.

Both devices come with 64GB of storage in their base model, and neither phone packs a MicroSD card slot to expand that space any further. You can get a 128GB model for $100 more for the Pixel 2 XL, but the only other option for the iPhone 8 Plus is a 256GB model for a $150 more. It’s worth noting that for $950, you can either get a 256GB iPhone 8 Plus or a 128GB Pixel 2 XL — you get a lot more storage with Apple.

Both phones are first-rate, top of the line flagship phones with a lot to offer, and they’re both likely to offer amazing performance over a long period of ownership. However, the sheer power of the A11 Bionic processor, as well as the option of 256GB of storage in the top model (for the same price as the top storage option of the Pixel), make the iPhone 8 Plus too much for the Pixel 2 XL to handle in terms of pure specifications.

Winner: iPhone 8 Plus

Display, design, and durability

Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

Since you’re deciding between these two phones, it’s a good guess that you’re looking for a larger phone, or “phablet.” The iPhone 8 Plus is slightly taller and wider, though the Pixel 2 XL is thicker than the iPhone.

The iPhone 8 Plus largely sticks to the same design theme since the iPhone 6 Plus, but there’s a few changes. Largely it’s the addition of a glass back which supports wireless charging. It’s still a good-looking handset, but the 2017 smartphone trend is the bezel-less design, where the edges around the screen are as minimal as possible. Apple is using this design with the iPhone X, so the iPhone 8 Plus ends up looking a little dated. The 5.5-inch screen has a 1,920 x 1,080 LCD IPS display that delivers the usual clean and sharp finish that we expect from Apple’s smartphones, and the addition of True Tone technology from the iPad means that the screen continues to look great in any environment, with the sensors shifting the color temperature of the display to match your surroundings. It’s a nifty trick, but it’s still not a huge change from what we’ve seen previously.

In contrast, the Pixel 2 XL is quite different from its predecessor. While the very original (and divisive) look from the Pixel has survived — the iconic glass strip at the top of the rear — the fingerprint sensor is now on the bottom. Unlike the iPhone 8 Plus, Google has tried to embrace the bezel-less future, even if it falls short when compared to competitors like the LG V30 and the Note 8. A massive 6-inch OLED screen dominates the front of the phone, with dual front-facing stereo speakers. The power button is found on the right-hand side of the device (and is colored a bright orange if you choose the black and white color option), with the volume rocker found just underneath.

On the durability front, both devices come with an IP67 rating, so you can expect them to handle short dips in the water with few ill effects. Neither phone now comes with a 3.5mm jack, but you’ll find a headphone jack adapter in the box so you can still connect your devices without needing to go fully wireless. If it helps, both phones use the new Bluetooth 5 standard, which offers faster data transfer and better range. The glass back on the iPhone and the strip at the top of the Pixel are both going to be worries for anyone who’s accident-prone, and although both Google and Apple have proclaimed that these areas are well protected, we still recommend cases for the iPhone 8 Plus and the Pixel 2 XL.

Overall, this isn’t a terribly difficult category to score. In most areas, the phones are neck-and-neck, with IP67 ratings, a lack of headphone jack, and gorgeous displays being the order of the day. However, the ageing design of the iPhone 8 Plus is why we’re giving the Pixel 2 XL the win.

Winner: Pixel 2 XL

Battery life and charging

The iPhone 8 Plus is a part of the first range of iPhones to have wireless charging thanks to the all-glass back. Currently, the iPhone accepts 5 watts via wireless charging, but it will be able to take in 7.5 watts after an update before the end of this year. Battery capacity is smaller than the battery on the iPhone 7 Plus — down to 2,675mAh from 2900mAh. Apple is adamant this drop in pure numbers won’t translate to any real loss of the battery power, as the improvements made to the A11 processor over the A10 have made it more power efficient. We’ve certainly seen the iPhone 8 Plus last us a full day of use, with some change if you’re not using it too heavily. Charging speed was a disappointment, though. Apple claims that fast charging is capable of charging to 50 percent in 30 minutes, but it’s not possible with the cable present in the box. Our tests saw the included cable charge the phone from 36 percent to 100 in an hour and a half.

The Pixel 2 XL does not come with wireless charging, but it does come with a beefier 3,520mAh battery. We’re yet to get our hands on the handset to test the performance for ourselves, but based on the smaller capacity of the original Pixel XL battery, we expect that the battery will last at least a day. Fast charging is where the original Pixel shines, and we expect that to continue with the Pixel 2 XL. Google currently claims that fast charging the Pixel 2 XL will give it seven hours worth of charge in fifteen minutes, but we’ll have to really test those claims when we get chance.

While the iPhone 8 Plus does come with wireless charging and all the convenience that brings (you still need to buy your own), the lack of a faster charger in the box, the larger battery on the Pixel 2 XL, and Google’s fast charging pedigree mean the Pixel gets the win. It’s a close call, though, and we’ll test them more thoroughly.

Winner: Pixel 2 XL

Cameras

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The iPhone 8 Plus sports nearly the same camera as the iPhone 7 Plus, with a few improvements via software. It has two 12-megapixel cameras — one wide-angle f/1.8 aperture lens and one f/2.8 aperture telephoto lens, both with optical image stabilization. It’s a fantastic camera set-up, and much like the iPhone 7 Plus, it was good enough to get it our current top spot as the best smartphone camera. Most of the improvements and additions can be found within the camera’s Portrait Mode. Added is Portrait Lighting, giving you access to five lighting filters to apply to your portrait shots to give each a different feel; Natural Light, Studio Light, Contour Light, Stage Light, and Stage Light Mono. HDR mode is now permanently-on, cutting down on those overblown skies and giving a deeper range of color. In terms of video, the 8 Plus can shoot 4K video in a variety of frame rates (24, 30, and 60 frames-per-second), and can also shoot slow-motion 240fps video at 1080p quality. The 7-megapixel front-facing camera is similarly impressive, but is again pretty much unchanged from the iPhone 7 Plus.

The Pixel 2 XL only packs a single camera on the rear of the device, and you might expect that to put it at a disadvantage against the dual-snappers of the iPhone 8 Plus. That doesn’t seem to be the case — the Pixel 2 XL’s camera has broken camera-testing site DxOMark’s previous rating record, scoring an incredible 98 out of 100, making it the best smartphone camera ever tested. That single lens is a 12.2MP camera with an f/1.8 aperture, and we expect it to give the iPhone 8 Plus some serious competition for the top of our camera charts once we get our hands on it. The real star for Google is their impressive software, which is capable of adding the selective blur (or “bokeh”) effect that dual-camera set-ups are delivering. The front-facing 8-megapixel camera also benefits from this software, meaning you can take Portrait Mode selfies.

It’s worth noting the iPhone also scored highly on DxOMark’s tests, coming in with an amazing score of 94. We look forward to putting the Pixel 2 XL’s camera to the test, but until we’ve had a chance to really put it through the gamut, we can’t call this category yet.

Winner: Tie

Software

Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

Regardless of whether you pick up the Pixel 2 XL or the iPhone 8 Plus you’re going to be getting the best of what each platform offers. The Pixel 2 XL will come with Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box, and will benefit from timely security and OS updates straight from Google. The iPhone 8 Plus will come on Apple’s latest iOS 11, with longer support from Apple in regards to updates. Your choice here really comes down to familiarity and which software you tend to prefer. Since both devices come straight from the OS manufacturer, we expect both will benefit from that and come with the smoothest and fastest versions of each OS.

Both Google and Apple are making strides with augmented reality (AR). If you go for the Pixel, you’ll get access to a preview of ARCore. iPhone owners will get to play with ARKit apps. However, Google has their fingers in more pies than Apple, as the Pixel 2 XL will ship with Daydream VR support — if you’re into virtual reality, the Pixel is a solid bet for mobile VR. The Pixel 2 XL also has a neat feature called Active Edge, which is the same “Edge Sense” trick on the HTC U11. Essentially, you can squeeze the phone to trigger the Google Assistant.

It’s apples vs. oranges here. This one’s a tie.

Winner: Tie

Pricing and availability

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The iPhone 8 Plus is currently available, having launched on most major providers in the U.S. Buying the base level handset will set you back $800, with 64GB of storage space. Upgrading to the larger 256GB model will increase that price to a staggering $950 — perilously close to the $1000 barrier set by the iPhone X. Those prices vary across carriers, and you can read more about buying the biggest new iPhone in our iPhone 8 Plus buying guide.

The Pixel 2 XL is up for able to pre-order, and you can snag one from Best Buy, Google, and Verizon. Picking up a Pixel 2 XL will start at $850 for 64GB of storage, and upgrading to the 128GB model will increase that price by $100 to $950. However, Google is offering a Google Home Mini onto every purchase, which retails for $50. You can find all of your options in our Pixel 2 XL buying guide.

Both of these phones come at an extreme premium, with the top level of each phone coming in just under $1000. For that price, the iPhone comes with twice the available storage space, and has a much wider range of carriers to purchase from. The Pixel 2 XL is a Verizon exclusive, and while it can be unlocked for use on any carrier, it’s a pain that buyers may not be willing to put up with — and we can’t blame them for that. For those reasons, the iPhone 8 Plus takes the final round.

Winner: iPhone 8 Plus

Overall winner: Tie

It’s a tie, because there are a few too many variables that are too close to call. Both smartphones are powerhouses with heavy-hitting performance, with great cameras though we’ll have to do more testing to confirm which can take a better photo. Your choice is likely to be based on which ecosystem you’ve spent the most time in. If you’re dead set on staying with Apple, then it’s definitely worth checking out the iPhone X as an upgrade choice. It’s pricey, but it has the next generation looks that the iPhone 8 Plus is lacking, and comes with all of the same technology and power — it even has a bigger and better display. But if you can get a better deal on an iPhone 8 Plus, or simply need the phone right now, then there’s no shame in plumping for the iPhone 8 Plus. It’s still a great phone.

If you’re on Android, the Pixel line is the cream of the crop as you can expect a great marriage of hardware and software, as well as fast Android version and security updates.




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