Both Google and Apple brought meaningful generational improvements to their top-of-the-line models this year. Changes in build and physical properties join the usual updates in the camera department and a mandatory upgrade to the internals. But with both the Pixel 8 Pro and the iPhone 15 Pro Max getting better than their predecessors, which of the new models is better for you?
For starters, you can compare the complete specs sheets here or directly continue with our editor’s assessment below.
Starting off with the Pixel, the 8 Pro is more or less the same size and weight as the 7 Pro. Some things have changed, however, and those include the switch from a glossy glass back to a frosted one, as well as adopting a flat front compared to last generation’s curved panel.
The new iPhone 15 Pro Max also comes with its share of subtle changes, key among those being the switch from stainless steel to an aluminum/titanium build. The new titanium frames are now matte as opposed to glossy and are ever so slightly rounded at the edges. The display glass also features the slightest of curves towards the periphery – it’s still flat for the purpose of screen protectors, but the new design makes it feel more refined to the touch and, most importantly, it’s lighter and easier to operate than past Pro Max’s.
Both phones are quite large, but the Pixel is a bit more so, going by the numbers – nearly 3mm taller and 0.5mm thicker than the iPhone. That said, the blockier styling of the Pro Max does leave in you the impression of a bigger handset. The iPhone is also a tiny bit heavier, but you’re unlikely to feel the 8g of difference – last year’s 14 Pro Max was would have been tangibly heavier than the Pixel.
Google and Apple both rely on Corning-made protective layers, but the Pixel 8 Pro is covered by Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on both sides, while the iPhone 15 Pro Max has Apple-exclusive Ceramic Shield on the front and unspecified type of glass on the back. Both models carry an IP68 rating for dust and water protection, but the iPhone has been tested down to 6m underwater, while the Pixel only covers the standard’s 1.5m requirement.
Neither model comes in particularly exciting colorways, save for the Pixel 8 Pro’s Bay option (a sky blue hue).
Overall, we’d say that the iPhone 15 Pro manages to convey more of a ‘premium’ presence than the Pixel 8 Pro. That said, the Pixel has gotten a bit more refined this year, and we’re also really digging its hero color.
At this level, it’s understandable that both phones will have spectacular displays, and that is indeed the case. When it comes to the iPhone 15 Pro Max, not a lot has changed since last year, but the 14 Pro Max was already so far ahead of the curve that no further efforts were really required this year. The Pixel 8 Pro, on the other hand, brings significant improvements in brightness over the 7 Pro, and possibly in refresh rate handling.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Pixel 8 Pro was good for 954nits when you crank the brightness slider all the way up – among the second highest number we’ve seen outside of auto brightness modes. The iPhone 15 Pro Max comes in next in line here with its 846nits – still excellent, of course, just not as high.
The 15 Pro Max does regain the lead when you enable the adaptive mode – we got 1,787nits for the iPhone here, and ‘just’ 1,600nits for the Pixel 8 Pro.
The iPhone has a minor edge in color calibration, but both are near-perfect when displaying sRGB content in the right mode. The iPhone offers support for Dolby Vision, on top of the HDR10 and HDR10+ standards that the Pixel complies with.
A new addition to Android, starting with the Pixel 8 family, is the HDR effect you get in the gallery and compatible apps for content that has the metadata to enable it – OLED iPhones have been doing that for years.
Both phones have adaptive refresh rate implementations that allow them to continuously vary the refresh rate to strike the best balance between a smooth user experience and battery efficiency. On the Pixel 8 Pro we finally saw a 1Hz reading (the 7 Pro could supposedly go all the way down to 10Hz, but we never really saw it drop below 60Hz), while we’ll have to take Apple’s word that the 15 Pro Max does 1Hz. Subjectively, both devices offer a remarkably fluid experience.
The Pixel 8 Pro got a 1% battery capacity increase this year, and its number now stands at 5,050mAh. The iPhone 15 Pro Max, on the other hand, got treated to a way bigger 2.7% upgrade and now features a 4,441mAh cell. Jokes aside, both capacities are essentially unchanged.
When it comes to endurance, battery capacity is only part of the equation, and our test results prove that the combined effects of the other variables have a more significant impact. That is to say, the iPhone 15 Pro Max lasts significantly longer than the Pixel 8 Pro in both of our screen-on tests, ultimately posting a lot better overall result for longevity.
The Pixel 8 Pro does rehabilitate itself somewhat in the charging speed, though it’s hardly a record-holder itself. It takes the Google phone some 26 minutes less to reach a 100% state of charge, though the intermediate results aren’t that much better. Still, 53% in half an hour sounds better than the iPhone’s 46%.
Mind you, the maximum power rating for both phones is a bit iffy, depending on how you interpret the fine print in the manufacturers’ specifications. Either way, the Pixel should be quicker to fill up.
Both phones support wireless charging, with Google specifying a maximum power rating of 23W with the Google Pixel Stand, while the iPhone maxes out at 15W when using the proprietary MagSafe puck. Using generic Qi-compliant pads will mean 12W max on the Pixel (if the pad itself supports the Extended Power Profile) and 7.5W on the iPhone.
Both phones have hybrid stereo speaker setups where the earpiece is also an extra speaker that forms a stereo pair with the ‘dedicated’ speaker on the opposite end of the handset. We got a slightly lower rating for loudness on the Pixel than we did on the iPhone, and we’d also give the nod to the Pro Max for output quality, but it’s an exercise in splitting hairs – these are some of the best-sounding phones on the market.
You can compare how the two phones sound in controlled acoustic conditions with the samples below. Just make sure you have your headphones on and the volume is at max level.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is powered by the custom Apple-designed A17 Pro chipset – which is, unsurprisingly, their best yet. Google, too, started incorporating their own SoCs a couple of years ago, and the Pixel 8 Pro is using the Tensor G3 chip. Comparing performance between the two is difficult on many levels, starting with the fact that the two phones run on different operating systems, but also because of Google’s continued focus on ‘optimization’ over raw results (though ‘optimization’ is also a buzzword in the Apple universe, admittedly).
What’s easier to put side by side is memory configurations, and that’s where we have a beef with the Pixel 8 Pro for having a 128GB base storage version – Apple finally realized that the Pro Max should start at 256GB this year and Google should have too. Either phone can be specced all the way up to 1TB, though, so there’s parity in this respect. The Pixel does come with 12GB of RAM to the iPhone’s 8GB, but the OS specifics render this difference moot.
We did run the usual benchmarks on both devices, and the Pixel is indeed trailing behind the iPhone in these tests. Then again, the Pixel is also trailing other Androids in these same benchmarks.
A bit more telling is the comparison under sustained loads, where the iPhone, itself not a particularly solid performer, fares better than the Pixel. We got a 70% vs. 62% stability rating in the GPU-focused 3DMark Wild Life stress test, and about 78% vs. 53% in CPU stress tests (albeit using different benchmarks on the two platforms).
Pixel 8 Pro
Neither phone will be keeping you waiting in actual use, of course, and both feel really smooth and responsive in real-life operation.
When it comes to software support in the long run, Apple has been the benchmark, usually offering 5 years of major OS upgrades. This year, however, Google made a promise that the Pixel 8 family will get 7 years of software support – making promises isn’t quite like delivering on them, but the Pixel 8 Pro just might still be receiving new software when the 15 Pro Max no longer does.
The Pixel 8 Pro and the iPhone 15 Pro Max are both expert cameraphones, and you can count on all-around greatness from them, whether it’s photos or videos that are more important to you. The two even have mostly the same camera systems, each consisting of a large-sensor primary module, an autofocusing ultrawide, and a telephoto that offers 5x zoom. That said, there are subtle differences in the way the two capture the world.
The Pixel has the livelier color reproduction, next to the characteristically more reserved in terms of saturation iPhone output. Pixels tend to have a slight lean towards cooler tones, while the iPhone can be a bit warmer, at least this year. Overall though, it’s largely a matter of preference which ‘look’ is better, and there’s no truly right way to do it.
In the matters of sharpness, there’s probably a bit more of an objective distinction, but even then, the differences remain very minimal. We’d give the nod to the Pixel’s ultrawide, while the main camera on the iPhone just maybe has a small advantage, in part thanks to its 24MP mode. At the 2x zoom level, where both phones leverage an extra layer of computational magic, we’re getting similarly excellent results, perhaps with marginally better definition out of the Pixel. Comparing the telephotos, we’re seeing about the same sharpness and detail, but the Pixel has an edge in noise performance.
Daylight samples, Pixel 8 Pro: 0.5x • 1x • 2x • 5x
Daylight samples, iPhone 15 Pro Max: 0.5x • 1x • 2x • 5x
In low light, the balance doesn’t change radically, though some further differences in approach get illuminated. Most notable is the iPhone’s more conservative Night mode implementation – it’s less eager to kick in, and even when it does, it doesn’t liven up the images quite as much as we’d like. The Pixel’s shadows get brighter and reveal more detail – it’s particularly noticeable in darker scenes in general, and even more so on ones captured on the ultrawide.
The iPhone does tend to fare better when zooming in thanks to a more lax take on noise reduction – the Pixel wipes out some of the detail alongside the noise, the iPhone keeps both, and we like that better. Those observations remain true for both the 2x zoom results from the main cameras and the 5x shots from the telephotos.
Low-light samples, Pixel 8 Pro: 0.5x • 1x • 2x • 5x
Low-light samples, iPhone 15 Pro Max: 0.5x • 1x • 2x • 5x
The iPhone has a long-standing reputation for being the go-to smartphone for video recording, and the 15 Pro Max is, indeed, a very capable tool for that. But then again, the Pixel is no slouch either. Both handsets will happily capture video up to 4K60 on all of their cameras, with the less common 24fps also available, next to the ‘default’ 30fps.
The Pixel has a small advantage in sharpness on its ultrawide and a minor edge at 1x, but the iPhone’s 2x footage is miles better. At 5x it’s more of a toss-up between the two when it comes to detail.
The iPhone tends to be more consistent in its color reproduction between zoom levels, while the Pixel’s ultrawide strays a little from the right path – not a lot, but it does get warmer than ideal.
Screengrabs, daylight 4K video, Pixel 8 Pro: 0.5x • 1x • 2x • 5x
Screengrabs, daylight 4K video, iPhone 15 Pro Max: 0.5x • 1x • 2x • 5x
In low light, often the first thing you see is lens imperfections. The iPhone’s primary is particularly bad at ghosting and internal flare, while the Pixel’s main camera is a bit better at controlling it, though hardly flawless. The Pixel’s telephoto, on the other hand, suffers badly from both ghosting and astigmatism – the heavy ghosting on the iPhone’s 5x camera is still not quite as bad. Generally speaking, you don’t want lights pointing straight at those cameras.
Those things aside, both phones return footage with fairly similar quality. The ultrawide clips have comparable level of detail as do the ones shot at 1x and 2x, with perhaps the Pixel’s results being that tiny bit sharper (or more heavily sharpened – one or the other). The iPhone is a bit better at 5x though.
What the iPhone is superior at across the board is dynamic range – it does a notably better job at containing highlights than the Pixel.
Screengrabs, low-light 4K video, Pixel 8 Pro: 0.5x • 1x • 2x • 5x
Screengrabs, low-light 4K video, iPhone 15 Pro Max: 0.5x • 1x • 2x • 5x
Both phones have excellent video stabilization. That said, we’d be inclined to give the iPhone the nod here, for its smoother handling of more extreme situations like running and the stabler telephoto results.
Here’s a glimpse of how the Pixel 8 Pro’s main camera compares in image quality to the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s in our Photo compare tool.
And here’s how the Pixel 8 Pro’s main camera compares in video quality to the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s in our Video compare tool.
As is often the case when pitting anything against an iPhone, the verdict rarely boils down to test results or performance in this field or that one. If you’re an iPhone person, you’ll likely choose the iPhone, and if you’re an iPhone hater, you’ll likely look the other way. This year more than ever, there are fewer differences that can influence this decision, even for those that can look past the iOS vs. Android divide.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max (left) next to the Pixel 8 Pro
The iPhone’s battery life is better, and its chipset is brawnier than that of the Pixel; that much is hard to argue. The Pixel’s slightly faster charging doesn’t quite offset the first point, but we can think of a couple of rather subjective Pixel victories too – one is for the only exciting colorway between the two phones, and the other is for the overall more universally likeable photo output of the Pixel.
A more tangible advantage of the Pixel 8 Pro is price. It’s $200/€350 cheaper than an iPhone 15 Pro Max for base storage versions. Even if you go for a 256GB storage version on the Pixel to match the base Pro Max, you’d still be saving around $150/€300 – not to mention that Pixels have been known to get discounted a few months down the line, unlike Apple’s products.
With the two phones virtually tied in most areas (and both essentially excellent), the Pixel is easily the better deal. That is, if you haven’t already decided at the iOS vs. Android juncture, which most of you probably have.
Get the Google Pixel 8 Pro for:
The most Android experience.
The Bay color option.
The lower price.
The more expressive photos.
Get the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max for:
The Apple ecosystem.
The better battery life.
The higher raw performance.
The slightly better video stabilization.