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  • Google Pixel 8 in Rose
    Source: Google
    Google Pixel 8
    One of the best Pixels yet

    Heralded as the flagship for the masses, the Google Pixel 8 encompasses all of the company's best customized hardware and advanced software implementations to date. It's a truly top-tier phone that's not expensive and will continue to perform like a champ for many years.

    Pros
    • Unbeatable photos and editing abilities
    • Tons of novel algorithm-driven features
    • Seven years of full Android updates
    Cons
    • Lacks the Pro's manual photo controls
    • Slower core performance
  • iPhone 15 ink pink, showing front and rear
    Source: Apple
    iPhone 15
    It's hard to argue with Apple

    Is it really even an iPhone if it doesn't have a Lightning port? Thankfully, yes. Apple's latest iconic mobile device moves all the way into the modern smartphone connector era while offering some worthwhile (if somewhat incremental) hardware upgrades. If you love Apple devices, you'll love it.

    Pros
    • Top-notch SoC performance
    • Seriously advanced video capabilities
    • Finally supports USB-C
    Cons
    • Merely a 60Hz display
    • Doesn't push the envelope much
    • It runs on iOS

It's no surprise that the Google Pixel 8 and Apple iPhone 15, which are the flagship releases from each company, present refined user experiences, premium performance, and a slew of advanced, novel features. As you might imagine, they're also about as different as two phones can be. And while this is, in fact, Android Police, we're not in the business of bias — the iPhone's a fantastic device worthy of as much praise as any.

Naturally, if you're heavily invested in either ecosystem, moving to an entirely new operating system might be a hard sell. But if you've ever thought about switching sides, the Pixel 8 and iPhone 15 each offer their own great reasons to do so. Google's quickly maturing machine learning-based features (what it and many others call AI) further entrench it at the front of the pack of mobile phone photography.

In contrast, Apple's streamlined UI and carefully curated software ecosystem, along with its high-level video recording compression, color accuracy, and motion handling, continue to see praise from experts and everyday users alike. Anybody curious about switching from iOS to Android or vice versa would do well to see what the competition's up to these days.

Price, availability, and specs

Apple products, in general, tend to get criticism for their high prices. It's actually been a hallmark argument within the platform wars since even before Gen-Xers and Millennials fought in the great Mac vs. PC War of 2006. But it's time to cut some of the malarkey because an $800 iPhone 15 sticker price is completely reasonable in 2023, and even Apple's last few MacBooks have actually offered great value.

Are you getting exactly the same advanced hardware and novel R&D in an $800 iPhone as any $800 Android phone? Maybe not, but its overall implementation means you definitely won't feel let down by the cost. Especially given Apple's exceptional iOS support lifespan, $800 is not a bad asking price for such a slick device.

On the other hand, if Google's not careful, the $100 price increase on the Pixel 8 compared to the Pixel 7 could drive away Pixel diehards in droves. Just kidding. A little. The Pixel 7's $600 launch price all but ensured it would take one of the top prizes in the 2022 smartphone category, but then the Pixel 7a released and nearly overshadowed it with incredible value and only moderately stripped features. In response, Google's now delivered a big bump in performance and a clearly top-tier smartphone that is very much worth its new $700 price.

The iPhone 15 reached all major retailers' shelves on September 22, 2023, with the Pixel 8 following shortly after on October 12. As a pair of clearly refined, high-end, heavily engineered flagship devices, they each launched in every major market, vendor, and carrier almost immediately, and they're still readily available everywhere.

Let's examine how they stack up in terms of specifications:


  • Google Pixel 8Apple iPhone 15
    SoCGoogle Tensor G3A16 Bionic
    RAM8GB LPDDR5X6GB
    Storage128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB
    Battery4575mAh3877mAh
    PortsUSB-CUSB-C
    Operating SystemAndroid 14iOS 17
    Front camera10.5MP, f/2.2 12MP
    Rear camera50MP, f/1.7, OIS (primary), 13MP, f/2.2, 126° FOV (ultrawide)48MP, 12MP ultrawide
    Dimensions150.5 × 70.8 × 8.9mm147.6 × 71.6 × 7.8mm
    ColorsRose, Hazel, Obsidian BlackBlack, Blue, Green, Yellow, Pink
    Display typeOLED, 60-120HzRetina OLED, 60Hz
    Weight187g171g (6.03 oz)
    Charge speed27W wired, 18W wireless20W, 15W wireless
    IP RatingIP68IP68
    Display dimensions6.2"6.1"
    Display resolution1080 × 24001179 x 2556 pixels

Design: Masterclasses in flagship durability

Apple iPhone 15 MagSafe
Source: Apple

I'll just go ahead and say it: I've always found iPhones to look a little bland, boring, and uninspiring. But I've also been told I have terrible taste, and the iPhone's incredible popularity means that the second one's probably right. The reality is that Apple's design department may not always push the envelope, but it's legitimately started and fostered its own self-trend design for over a decade and done a bang-up job the whole time.

Does the iPhone 15 look somewhat stark? Sure, it looks a lot like the iPhone 14, but not identical. The 15's slightly more rounded edges and frosted glass back give it a softer look and more ergonomic feel (at least without a case) than its predecessor, but those aren't the biggest design updates.

In a long-awaited move spurred by EU regulations, Apple finally caved and opted for a USB-C connector (not that it had any choice). Possibly even more noticeable is the removal of the half-iconic, half-despised camera notch. Instead, the new Dynamic Island offers notifications, clocks, and battery indicators a place to live without taking up any usable screen space. This new hole-punch camera, complete with the Face ID infrared array, is as unobtrusive as any normal selfie camera.

Google Pixel 8 in rose face down on a notebook

So if the iPhone's boring, the Pixel 8 must be a creative, stunning work of art, right? Right. Its history's a lot shorter, but Google's portable aesthetic very clearly shines through in its refreshed flagship. In fact, since it's a little smaller and more rounded, with a slightly more pronounced camera bar, the Pixel 8 looks decidedly more fluffy and Google-y than ever before (seriously, go ahead and try to tell me the Pixel Buds Pro case doesn't look like a marshmallow).

Is it attractive? You could say so. Is it markedly different from every other flagship? Yes. Does it definitely look better than the iPhone? Some think so, but that's entirely a matter of taste.

From a structural standpoint, the iPhone 15 passed the notorious JerryRigEverything stress test with flying colors, surprisingly even outperforming the top-of-the-line iPhone 15 Pro Max. Apple doesn't release its proprietary glass specs, so it's hard to compare to the Pixel objectively, but early indications suggest it's one of the most durable materials out there. It didn't bend, shatter, or give in to minor scratches. And, just as with the iPhone 14, the replaceable back glass gives you an out in case of disaster.

Experts are still putting the Pixel 8 through the wringer, but if the Pixel 8 Pro's durability offers any insight, this is the most resilient Pixel lineup yet. The front and back Gorilla Glass Victus 2 represent some of the finest materials science available to consumers, and Google's thoughtful engineering ensures the phone should hold up well over its impressive 7-year Android update lifespan. Its aluminum, plastic, and glass also come from recycled sources, which doesn't necessarily improve durability but is certainly nice to know.

Display: Google finally takes the display lead over Apple

pixel 8 phone showing weather app

The iPhone has led the industry in display quality for years, with high resolutions, wide color gamuts, and peak brightness levels that other smartphones could scarcely match. It can still implement those top-of-the-line displays, but in some cases, it chooses not to do so. Case in point, the iPhone 15 (and the 15 Plus, for that matter) refreshes at a fixed 60 hertz, and that's actually borderline uncool in 2023.

Otherwise, the only upgrade over the 14's display is an extra 800 nits of peak brightness. The iPhone 15 sports a still-excellent 460ppi pixel density, with support for both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and it's just 0.1 inches smaller diagonally than the Pixel, which isn't noticeable.

Google's Pixel 8 display, though, is something you could write home about. Its brightness matches the iPhone's 2,000-nit peak but can actually sustain more consistently for better everyday use in consistently bright lights. Its color coverage, pixel density, and 60-120-hertz adaptive refresh rate are all at or near the top of the class.

It boldly and faithfully reproduces every kind of content, including sports, games, cartoons, and 24-hour C-SPAN marathons. We promise we tried to find something really wrong with it to complain about. We came up with this: According to Android Police expert Manual Vonau, the increased curve radius on the corners makes the Pixel 8's "one of the roundest screens I've ever seen on an Android Phone, giving it an iPhone-like look at the very first glance." Sacrilege? Maybe. But it didn't negatively affect our display experience at all.

Software: Meet the newly crowned ruler of long-term software support

Two iPhones have the iOS 17 iMessage app displayed. One shows animated stickers while the other shows custom stickers
Source: Apple; Steven Winkelman

The gulf in software implementation between the Pixel 8 and iPhone 15 is only slightly narrower than the Grand Canyon. Of all the ways you can differentiate these phones, software's the most important, and in some ways, the hardest to quantify. Some people like Android. Some people like iOS. And it's OK to change your mind, especially as Google continues to refine and focus its own Android implementation.

With that said, neither magic nor blind devotion drives most preferences for one platform or the other. Apple's made a decent living for itself with a streamlined user interface that simply works. You buy a brand-new iPhone, turn it on, put in your details, and you almost instantly have all your own contacts, files, histories, cloud services, streaming apps, recording tools, and settings profiles at your fingertips. It's got most of the apps most people need, right out of the box.

And when you do need software that's not pre-installed, the Apple Store will prove the safest place to play around with unfamiliar apps, a sort of walled Garden of Eden, if you will. Apple's tightly controlled ecosystem and computational efficiency closely rely on its developers falling in line in terms of app performance, battery usage, design aesthetic, and security. If it's in the Apple Store, it's safe because Apple told us so, and frankly, we believe it.

google-pixel-8-google-chrome-hero

Google didn't give birth to Android just to give up the ghost in 2023. Quite the opposite's true, with an ever-more-streamlined UI and refined design elements. Interestingly, Google's own Android implementation actually leans a little more toward iOS than competitors like Samsung's OneUI do. It's not quite as customizable or wide open as most AOSP forks typically presented over the last several years.

But the real software victory for Google comes with its in-house machine learning developments and algorithm-based features. People call them AI, which they really aren't, but some of Google's proprietary features sure do feel like magic. Opening the eyes of the one person who blinked in the family photo, unblurring hopelessly out-of-focus snapshots, and automatically perfecting HDR and white balance has never been as easy as with Google's Pixel 8.

google-pixel-8-pink-1

It seems like people use iPhones forever. One of my friends still uses an iPhone 5 (which is impressive yet scary from a security standpoint). Apple typically supports iPhones for six years or more, although it doesn't often give a set end-of-life date of release. This generous policy has outstripped every Android OS developer and smartphone manufacturer in the world.

Until now. Google just broke the mold, announcing at least seven years of full Android OS updates for the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro. This surprising, refreshing move is actually one of the things we'd point to when an iPhone lover asks if they should switch sides. We love Google's decision here and hope it catches on.

Performance: Two different approaches to processing power

apple-iphone-15-a16-bionic
Source: Apple

Apple's Bionic SoC outperforms nearly everything else on the market by a statistically significant margin. The A16 isn't its absolute fastest, but it's still a powerhouse. One reason Apple packs such a big gun is the iPhone's consistent 6+ years of software longevity, which necessitates a look to the future, considering that app codes will get even more resource-intensive than they are now.

On the other side of the coin, the iPhone doesn't actually appear to suffer from what we'd normally call a paltry 6GB of RAM. Apple's strict software development guidelines and app requirements mean Apple phones and tablets don't need a ton of overhead since everything's so well optimized. For example, while Apple's claim that 8GB of RAM in a MacBook is "analogous to 16GB on other systems" might be a marketing exaggeration, it is based on a kernel of truth.

The less powerful but more novel Google Tensor G3

The custom, recently released Tensor G3's performance differs from the A16's in both quantitative and qualitative ways. By the numbers, benchmarks make it clear the Bionic would win in a sprint, with more effective single- and multi-threaded performance across the board, and usually by a large margin.

But the Pixel 8 is actually engineered in large part around its novel Tensor G3 chipset. Its primary CPU cores don't get as fast as the iPhones, but there are two more high-performance ones. And the real magic lies in Cortex-X3, the biggest brain behind Google's cutting-edge feature set. Without it, none of those cool magic picture editors or face-unblur tools would exist. And although it lacks the raw power of the Bionic, the Pixel 8 should fare OK over its even longer software support span.

We encountered few performance issues during day-to-day use of the Pixel 8, with generally lag-free operation and smooth animations. Apps installed and loaded quickly, pictures snapped instantly, and at no point were we frustrated by any significant slowdowns. By comparison, though, the Pixel 8 clearly doesn't deliver the same kind of flagship processing power as the latest iPhone.

And while it never got alarmingly hot, we did notice the Pixel 8's back getting warm on multiple occasions. Upon further investigation, we and other reviewers noted throttling during stress testing, which is an unfortunate indictment of the Tensor G3's less-than-stellar thermal management. To possibly assuage fears here, you can always hope that Google improves thermal efficiency down the line with continued Android improvements. But only time will tell.

Battery life: Turning the tides of time between charges

google-pixel-8-bottom

The Pixel 7's battery life was fine, but nothing special. We hoped the Pixel 8 would improve on that enough to make all-day use more attainable without periodic top-offs. Instead of just improving a little, Google opened our eyes with a battery that we could barely ever empty.

The Pixel 8 battery is only about 200mAh larger, so what happened? The ever-improving Android power management and Google's relatively strict OS implementation certainly have something to do with it, but the star here is the Tensor G3 chipset. What it lacks in raw performance compared to the iPhone, it makes up for in efficiency. If you don't spend significant time on your Pixel 8 throughout the day, it's completely possible to go 48 hours without needing a full recharge.

That's not to say the iPhone 15's battery stinks. To the contrary, it's still one of the best out there. A full day of reasonable use poses no problem, and quick top-ups can have a big effect. From empty, you can actually refill the iPhone 15's battery halfway in just 30 minutes using a 20-watt adapter. Fans of wireless charging will appreciate the support for Qi in addition to proprietary MagSafe chargers, although the latter can reach 15 watts and the former only 7.5.

So while the iPhone 15 rightfully boasts great battery life (even better than 15 Pro's, in fact), it can't quite meet the Pixel 8's, in yet another area where Google seems to be breaking even with or pulling away from the OG trendy smartphone manufacturer.

Cameras: Two great cameras with different specialties

fitbit-charge-6-with-google-pixel-8

Again, Google's algorithm work sends the Pixel series to the front of the pack in terms of pictures and videos. Aside from the increasingly long list of mind-blowing AI-powered features, Google also equipped it with an upgraded 50MP primary sensor that picks up about 20% more light than its previous version. It also ports over the Sony ultrawide sensor from the Pixel 7 Pro for a slightly larger field of view. Even the selfie camera gets more megapixels.

Between the AI features, enhanced sensors, and powerful G3 SoC, we struggled to find any issues with the Pixel's camera performance. Its low-light performance outshines every other smartphone, and its newly implemented Ultra HDR capture makes significant leaps in realistic image contrast.

Compared to the Pixel 7, the Pixel 8's new Samsung GN2 sensor lets in roughly 20% more light. Coupled with its 50MP resolution and pixel binning, this puts the Pixel 8 just behind the front of the pack (with the Pixel 8 Pro leading) in terms of low-light image capture. Camera app response is, predictably, as good as it gets, with immediate snapshots and quick editing tools.

The big story here, of course, is Google reframing the smartphone picture-taking process entirely. Instead of spending valuable time navigating tools and touching up photos, the Pixel 8 should see you taking one photo, or a burst of photos, and getting a perfect snapshot so you can continue to make more memories. So, if you're really into great pictures and love getting the best out of each snapshot without tons of effort, the Pixel 8's hard to pass up. It offers so many opportunities to bring digital images more in line with realism that it's essentially a playground for on-the-go photo editors.

Nonetheless, the iPhone 15 remains among the best no-nonsense, point-and-shoot picture-taking phones in the world, even if it's not quite on the Pixel's level. Like the rest of Apple's gear, it works, it works great, and it works the first time.

The iPhone 15's video recording superiority

google-pixel-8-magic-editor-hero

It's not fair to praise the Pixel without giving the iPhone its due. Apple's own imaging suite has always been nothing short of fantastic, and the iPhone 15 continues that tradition. Its sensor-shift image stabilization and excellent low-light capture do bring it within the Pixel 8's ballpark, and for most people, that's more than enough for a completely satisfying capture. We're also pleasantly surprised at the upgrade to a Quad-Bayer sensor like the one in the iPhone 14 Pro, which enables smooth 2× zoom and enhances pixel binning effectiveness.

Rather than focusing on still images, the iPhone's always been renowned as a handheld video camera. Its HDR performance is up there with the best, and you'll experience less noise and more consistent motion handling than with nearly any other smartphone. Of particular note, the iPhone's video stabilization continues to beat most of the competition.

And there's even more under the hood of the iPhone 15 that should entice video recording enthusiasts and even some professionals. Most Android phones, including the Pixel 8, use a codec called HEVC, which produces great visual fidelity at efficient file sizes. HEVC (also known as H.265) works great for video playback but has shortcomings on the recording end. In contrast, the iPhone lets you record via the ProRes compression method, which sacrifices less data than the HEVC processing smartphones use. Technically, it's not quite lossless, but it gives savvy videographers a lot more data to work with, so they can get each scene edited just right.

Then there's LOG color encoding, an even more enthusiast-grade recording feature. Broadly speaking, it significantly enlarges the camera's ability to capture a more dynamic range of colors. This feature is not meant for playback, as it may lead to inaccurate color reproduction without editing. Again, it's intended for those who are serious about their iPhone videos.

Between the ProRes codec and LOG color, the iPhone 15 is head and shoulders above the Pixel 8 in the hands of a capable video enthusiast.

Which one's right for you?

If you like iOS, you probably love it. If you like Android, chances are you have a love-hate relationship with it, yet could never imagine the heresy of using Apple software (we're exaggerating). The iPhone 15 is a fine phone and possibly a great one. It may not necessarily be the standout, revolutionary generational upgrade that'll convince you to make the leap from Android to iOS, but it exemplifies Apple's strengths and minimizes its weaknesses. It's an especially great choice if you take a lot of videos and aren't interested in Google's novel machine-learning tools.

On the other side of the coin, the Pixel 8 smooths out some of the wrinkles that come with other Android implementations and adds new software features that even Apple can't out-innovate. For that matter, Apple didn't upgrade much compared to the iPhone 14 (although it didn't particularly need to). Now that Google's base flagship surpasses Apple's in both display quality and, amazingly, long-term OS updates, we give it a minor edge, particularly if you're a photo bug. It even has those extra-round, iPhone-looking corners.

Google Pixel 8 in Rose
Source: Google
Google Pixel 8
Top pick

One of the two best Pixel phones yet

You might be shocked to hear this, but we think the Pixel 8 is a better phone for most people than the iPhone 15. Battery life, display quality, operating system lifespan, and camera versatility outshine the iconic Apple in big ways. Plus, we had a hard time finding any Pixel problems.

But as the constant refrain goes, the iPhone 15 is a really great phone. It takes full advantage of Apple's streamlined UI and curated ecosystem, delivering better performance than some of its specs might indicate. The 15's video recording abilities shine as brightly as ever, with battery life and long-term performance ensuring the newest base model iPhone will remain excellent for many years. If Google's novel additions aren't enough to sway you, the iPhone 15 will definitely make you happy.

iPhone 15 ink pink, showing front and rear
Source: Apple
Apple iPhone 15
Best for Apple fans

Still an iPhone, still great

We know to expect great performance, excellent images, and an unrivaled UI experience from a new iPhone, and the 15 doesn't disappoint. If you're not curious about the Android side of life, the iPhone 15 is a great upgrade to an aging Apple slab.