These days, phone makers seem to be in a hurry to slap $1,000 price tags on their latest flagship phones. But Google maintains some measure of pricing restraint with its new Pixel 3. The latest Pixel’s price tag may be a $150 increase over the price of the Pixel 2, but the new phone still costs $799 — certainly not inexpensive, but not as costly as the other phones in its class.
Apple, not exactly known for offering discounts on its hardware, has a relatively-inexpensive-for-its-class device of its own in the $749 iPhone XR. Shipping later this month, Apple’s newest iPhone figures to invite comparisons to the Pixel 3 since both phones are in the same price range and rely on their cameras to provide standout features.
Which sub-$800 handset deserves your attention (and dollars)? Here’s how the Pixel 3 and iPhone XR stack up.
|Pixel 3||iPhone XR|
|Price||$799, $899||$749, $799, $899|
|Screen Size (Resolution)||5.5 inches (2160 x 1080)||6.1 inches (1792 x 828)|
|CPU||Snapdragon 845||A12 Bionic|
|RAM||4GB||3GB (based on regulatory filings)|
|Storage||64GB, 128GB||64GB, 128GB, 256GB|
|Rear Camera||12.2-MP (f/1.8)||12-MP (f/1.8)|
|Front Camera||8-MP wide-angle (f/2.2); 8-MP telephoto (f/1.8)||7-MP (f/2.2)|
|Battery||2,915 mAh||2,942 (based on regulatory filings)|
|Size||5.7 x 2.7 x 0.3 inches||5.9 x 3 x 0.3 inches|
|Weight||5.3 ounces||6.4 ounces|
|Colors||Clearly White, Just Black, Not Pink||White, Black, Blue, Yellow, Coral, Product Red|
At first glance, the iPhone XR/Pixel 3 debate looks like the latest entry in the new game smartphone fans are playing: Notch or Not? The screens on the phones have similar aspect ratios — 19.5:9 on the XR, 18:9 on the Pixel 3 — but they achieve these elongated displays in different ways.
Apple gets more screen real estate out of the XR by including a notch at the top of the display; Google’s Pixel 3 features a chunkier bezel. Which look you prefer depends on how you feel about notches.
The iPhone XR offers more screen space at 6.1 inches to the Pixel 3’s 5.5-inch display. But that allows the 5.7 x 2.7 x 0.3-inch Pixel to be more compact than the 5.9 x 3 x 0.3-inch iPhone XR. The Pixel 3 is lighter, too (5.3 ounces versus 6.4 ounces for the iPhone X).
Both phones have glass backs, though Google deserves credit for using a two-tone design that blends matte and glossy textures. We found in our hands-on time with the Pixel 3 that it doesn’t pick up fingerprint smudges as easily as some other phones.
MORE: 9 Reasons the Pixel 3 Beats the iPhone XS
There’s a lot more color on the iPhone side of the aisle. The Pixel 3 comes in the traditional Clearly White and Just Black options, along with a newcomer, Not Pink. By comparison, Apple offers a veritable rainbow of choices with the XR — black, blue, white, coral, yellow and a Product Red version.
The biggest difference between these two phones is their screens.. While Apple opted for a 6.1-inch LCD panel on the iPhone XR, probably as a cost-saving move, Google’s Pixel 3 phone uses a 5.5-inch OLED screen. That should mean richer colors and truer blacks on the Pixel 3, though LCD-based phones tend to have brighter screens.
In addition to the Pixel’s OLED advantage, Google’s new phone also offers sharper resolution than the iPhone XR — 2160 x 1080, compared with 1792 x 828 on Apple’s upcoming handset.
MORE: 6 Reasons You Should Skip the iPhone XS for iPhone XR
That notch on the iPhone XR isn’t just there to help Apple squeeze in more screen space. It also houses the TrueDepth front camera that enables Face ID for unlocking your iPhone and confirming mobile payments. The Pixel 3 has no such technology, instead relying on a fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone.
The biggest battle between the latest phones from Apple and Google will likely come down to cameras. We won’t be able to see how the phones fare against one another until the iPhone XR arrives at the end of the month, but Google is already throwing down a marker with the AI-powered capabilities of the Pixel 3’s lone rear camera.
That camera offers a Top Shot feature in which the Pixel 3 will be able to recommend the best possible photo taken from all the exposures captured by the camera. (Think of it as a way to avoid taking a photo, only to find out that someone was blinking the moment you pressed the shutter.)
MORE: Camera Face-Off: Can an iPhone Beat a DSLR?
Super Res Zoom using computation photography in lieu of an optical zoom to reframe an image as a close-up, sharpening details for a crisper shot. And a month after launch, the Pixel 3 will gain a Night Sight feature that uses AI to boost the color in low-light shots so that you get a brighter, though still natural-looking image.
The iPhone XR has a single rear camera, too, a departure from the dual-lens setups on the iPhone XS and XS Max. That means no 2x optical zoom, but other features that impressed us when we tested the iPhone XS and XS Max are here, including Super HDR. That feature captures multiple exposures and stitches them together with the result being photos that can capture details in shadows and show off brightly lit objects.
You’ll also be able to adjust the depth of focus on a portrait shot on an iPhone XR even after you’ve taken a photo, thanks to the phone’s computational processing skills.
Up front, the Pixel 3 offers two cameras to the iPhone XR’s single shooter. The second lens on the Pixel lets Google’s phone take wide-angle self-portraits, which should mean squeezing more people or background scenery into the shot.
We’ll also need to conduct some testing before we can definitively say which phone is the better performer. But the odds are in Apple’s favor.
Like the iPhone XS and XS Max, the iPhone XR runs on a new A12 Bionic processor designed by Apple. That 7-nanometer chip produces some of the fastest scores we’ve seen on synthetic benchmarks like Geekbench 4, and it also improved upon the already blazing-fast times of the A11-powered iPhone X in our video-transcoding test. The iPhone XR figures to reap the A12’s rewards, too.
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More important, A12-powered iPhones have outperformed Android devices running on the Snapdragon 845 mobile processor in our testing. And the Snapdragon 845 just happens to be what’s inside the new Pixel 3.
The Snapdragon 845 phones that have done the best in our testing tend to be stuffed with RAM, like the 8GB version of the OnePlus 6. The 4GB of RAM inside the Pixel 3 is certainly respectable, but we don’t anticipate it closing the considerable performance gap we’ve seen between devices running on the Snapdragon 845 and those A12-powered iPhones like the iPhone XR.
It’s the old Android-versus-iOS debate. And while that can often come down to which mobile OS you prefer, Google is hoping to tilt the debate in its favor with the AI-powered features baked into the Pixel 3.
With Google’s new phone, the Google Assistant will be able to screen incoming calls, providing a real-time transcript right there on your phone’s display so you can see if it’s a call you actually want to take or just another pitch from a telemarketer. Starting in November, Google will start rolling out Duplex support in different cities, which will enable the Google Assistant on the Pixel 3 to book appointments and make reservations on your behalf over the phone.
With Android 9 Pie included on the Pixel 3, Google’s latest phone will be the first to offer the new Digital Wellbeing tools that monitor your device usage, let you impose time limits and even silence your phone when you place your Pixel screen-down. Several of those capabilities match what iOS 12 offers in its new Screen Time feature, and the iPhone XR ships with iOS 12 preinstalled.
MORE: Best Android Camera Apps – Take Better Pictures on Your Phone
That means you’ll get iOS 12’s other enhancements when you get an iPhone XR, including the ability to turn yourself into a Memoji using your phone’s TrueDepth camera. iOS 12 introduces a Siri Shortcuts feature, too, that lets you build customized shortcuts with multiple apps via the iPhone’s digital assistant.
Apple doesn’t really trumpet the size of the batteries inside its phones — according to regulatory filings, the iPhone XR has a 2,942 mAh power pack — but it is promising longer battery life for its new phone. Specifically, Apple says the iPhone XR can last up to 90 minutes longer than the iPhone 8 Plus. That older phone lasted more than 11 hours on our battery test, so we’re eager to see if the XR lives up to Apple’s claims.
The Pixel 3 has a 2,915 mAh battery, slightly larger than the one inside last year’s Pixel 2. That’s encouraging since the Pixel 2 also topped 11 hours on our battery test.
MORE: iPhone XS and XS Max Battery Life: The Results Are In
Both the iPhone XR and the Pixel 3 can charge wirelessly, and both support fast-charging. The Pixel 3 includes a fast charger out of the box, though. With the iPhone XR, you have to buy one separately.
Price and Availability
As noted at the outset, the iPhone XR costs $50 less than the Pixel 3. And the difference in value becomes even more apparent as you increase capacity beyond the 64GB that comes in the base model of each phone.
Upping the storage on the iPhone XR to 128GB raises the price to the same $799 you’ll pay for a 64GB Pixel 3. If you want 128GB of storage on your Pixel, you’ll need to kick in another $100. That same $899 gets you a 256GB iPhone XR.
The Pixel 3 starts shipping on Oct. 18, though you can preorder the phone now from Google or Verizon. A day after the Pixel 3 arrives, Apple starts taking preorders on the iPhone XR, with that device shipping Oct. 26.
Regarding carriers, each of the Big Four carriers will offer the iPhone XR. Only Verizon sells the Pixel 3, though you can order an unlocked version of the phone at Google’s online store. With the Pixel 3, you can also sign up for Project Fi, Google’s wireless service where you only pay for the data you use. Project Fi isn’t an option for iPhone owners.
The good news is that smartphone shoppers who don’t want to spend around $1,000 for a new device have a couple of promising options below $800 in the Pixel 3 and iPhone XR. The bad news? We won’t know which phone tops the other until we can fully review them both. Look for camera capabilities, performance and battery life to be the deciding factors in this face-off.
But if we had to make a call right now, the iPhone XR looks like it’s the best option for those who want a big screen, Face ID and faster performance. And the Pixel 3 should be your best bet if you want a more compact design and more capable camera.
Credit: Tom’s Guide
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