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Pixel 2 vs. iPhone: Why Google’s phone is the better upgrade
Sometimes, you just need a friend to convince you that you’re right. Over the past months, I’ve had a few friends who are “lifelong” iPhone users message me and ask about switching away from Apple. They want to break their biannual iPhone upgrade cycle and eschew the new iPhone X for the Google Pixel 2. One of my friends wrote me this:
“I’m really over Apple iPhones. I’m kind of into the Pixel 2, but that’s only on Verizon, right? I don’t like their unlimited plans. I like the iPhone X, but don’t want it.”
After receiving a handful of similar messages, I decided to take this Pixel pining seriously and share my experiences with both phones. This comparison is less about proving which phone is “better,” and more about why the Pixel 2 is a solid upgrade for someone who’s always owned an iPhone.
Note that rumors about the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are starting to surface and though we can reasonably expect the Pixel 3 to launch this October, these are still only rumors for now.
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The Pixel 2 makes it OK to leave Apple and skip the iPhone…
So much cheaper
Let’s start with cost. A new 64GB Pixel 2 is $350, £370 or AU$500 cheaper than a 64GB iPhone X. The chart below compares the prices for the Pixel 2 and iPhone X. The Pixel 2’s price is exactly the same as what a base level-iPhone used to cost until the iPhone 8.
Pixel 2 and iPhone X prices
Pixel 2 64GB
Pixel 2 128GB
iPhone X 64GB
iPhone X 256GB
I should acknowledge that Google makes a larger version of its phone with the same processor and camera called the Pixel 2 XL. A 64GB version of the XL costs $849, £799 or AU$1,399. At launch the Pixel 2 XL suffered some screen issues which the Pixel 2 did not.
Apple also makes the iPhone 8, which has the same processor and wide-angle camera as the iPhone X. A 64GB iPhone 8 costs $699, £699, AU$1,079, which is more in line with the cost of a Pixel 2.
But my iPhone friends weren’t interested in the Pixel 2 XL or the iPhone 8. For them, it’s either the iPhone X or the Pixel 2.
There seems to be a little confusion over which US networks support the Pixel 2. You can buy and finance an unlocked Pixel 2 from Google and use it on AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon and Google Project Fi. Some third-party retailers like Best Buy sell and finance unlocked Pixel 2 phones, too. And there’s always Verizon, which sells the handset to use only on its network.
The iPhone X can be bought and financed from Apple, third-party retailers and all major carriers.
Notch vs. forehead
Both phones are nearly identical in size. The iPhone X is a hair slimmer and smaller but has a bigger display — 5.8 inches compared to the Pixel 2’s 5 inches. The iPhone X is heftier, weighing 31 grams, 1.09 ounces more than the Pixel 2.
The design of the Pixel 2 is consistent with the way phones have looked for the past three to five years. On the front, there’s a pronounced forehead, chin and bezels. The corners are rounded and there’s a rear fingerprint sensor. Despite this dated formula, the phone’s fit and finish make it look contemporary — especially the small glass panel on the back that houses the camera.
I also love the plastic-clad aluminum texture of the Pixel 2’s lower back. It’s reassuring and comfortable to hold. I bring this up because I have an unspoken anxiety holding the iPhone X. I’m so afraid of dropping it. In a CNET drop test, the iPhone X’s glass back cracked on the first drop. But when I hold the Pixel 2, I don’t feel that same unease.
The iPhone X is basically all glass with a stainless steel band that really ties the phone together. It looks like a prop from a futuristic sci-fi movie or a piece of jewelry. The screen, aside from “the notch,” covers the front and is framed by the tiniest of bezels. The only buttons on the phone are alongside the edges.
In lieu of a home button, Apple added on-screen actions. During my first few days with the phone, I found these new gestures frustrating, but now they’re like second nature. Apple replaced the fingerprint sensor (previously built into the home button) with FaceID. The phone unlocks as soon as you look at the screen. It works like a charm for me, but if you think you’ll miss unlocking your phone with a fingerprint, the Pixel 2 is a better fit.
The Pixel 2 comes with a fast charger that can add 7 hours of battery life after 15 minutes of charging. The iPhone X supports fast charging, but doesn’t come with the cable or wall charger you’ll need to make it work. You have to buy a USB-C to Lighting cable ($25, £25, AU$35) and a 29-watt charger ($49, £49, AU$69).
The iPhone X is capable of wireless charging with a conductive charging mat (also not included). The Pixel 2 doesn’t support this, but with that 15-minute top-off mentioned above, I don’t think you’ll miss it.
Below is what comes in the box for an iPhone X and Pixel 2:
What’s in the box
Lightning to USB
USB-C to USB-C
Yes, with Lightning connector
Headphone Jack Adapter
Lightning to 3.5mm
USB-C to 3.5mm
Quick switch adapter
Neither phone has a headphone jack, but both come with an adapter so you can still plug in your wired headphones. The iPhone X also comes bundled with Lightning-connected earbuds, while the Pixel 2 doesn’t come with any. If you don’t have an old pair you can use, you’ll need to spend more money.
Apple also sells wireless earbuds called AirPods ($159, £159, AU$229), while Google offers its own wireless headphones called Google Buds ($159, £159, AU$249).
So what’s the takeaway here? Whatever phone you go with, you’ll need to embrace dongle life. But…
Android Oreo is good
The biggest change you need to consider is not the physical phones themselves, but how you’re going to switch operating systems — namely to Android. For seasoned iPhone owners, older versions of Android had a reputation of being chaotic and less secure. Early Android, depending on the phone, could be a dumpster fire full of bugs, belated updates and bloatware apps from carriers and manufacturers.
But that has changed with Android Oreo. It runs just as well on the Pixel 2 as iOS 11 does on the iPhone X.
You might also miss Apple-centric features such as iMessage and FaceTime — especially if you have friends and family who use them heavily.
But other than leaving behind the blue bubbles, Android Oreo and iOS 11 are well matched in every way when it comes to features, security and ease of use.
Since Google makes both the hardware and software, like Apple, the company is good about sending regular updates to Android.
Both phones have Portrait Mode, which gives pictures an artificial shallow depth of field mimicking photos taken with a DSLR camera and a fast lens.
The iPhone X creates this effect better. Portraits have a gradual transition between the subject and the background which looks more like a DSLR portrait. Apple also lets you adjust lighting effects after the fact to make a portrait photo really pop.
The Pixel 2 separates the background and foreground with a laser-like precision. This can sometimes look a bit artificial or Photoshop-ish. But there is something dramatic and appealing about the results, too.
The front-facing camera on each phone also has Portrait Mode, too. Here, the Pixel 2 bests what the iPhone X can produce in every way. Pixel 2 selfie portraits are just as good as what its rear camera can produce. iPhone X selfie portraits unfortunately don’t always nail the “background blur” effect.
The iPhone X’s A11 chip blows away the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor in the Pixel 2. In actual use, though, it’s hard to tell the difference. Neither phone feels slower than the other.
Pixel 2 and iPhone X speed tests
GeekBench 4 single-core
Geekbench 4 multi-core
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited
In our looped video battery tests, the Pixel 2 lasted 13 hours, 28 minutes compared to the iPhone X lasting only 11 hours, 45 minutes. That’s not a huge difference. In real life, I never had trouble with either phone getting through a full day of use without charging.
The Pixel 2 comes with a connector to transfer media and files from your old iPhone to your new Google phone. Also if you run out of space for your photos and videos, know that you get unlimited Google cloud storage with your purchase of the Pixel 2.
The phone can also be used with a Daydream View headset ($149, £99, AU$149). The headset is covered in cloth and has a tiny Black Mirror-style remote. You can access VR content from YouTube, Netflix, the New York Times (my favorite) and more. Though it’s fun to use, I ended up using the Daydream View as much as my slow cooker — a lot for the first few weeks, but hardly at all ever since.
Lastly, the Pixel 2 supports ARCore apps and features Google Lens software that can overlay information about the world around you using the camera and Photos app.
The iPhone supports iOS AR apps and has FaceID, which allows for Animoji messages. Other than that though, it’s pretty scant on integrating with AR and VR platforms.
AppleCare for the iPhone X costs $200 and provides coverage for 2 years from date of purchase from any kind of damage. Google’s “Preferred Care” costs $129 and covers the Pixel 2 for 30 months. But it lacks the convenience an actual Apple Store provides. While there isn’t a Google Store with a Google Genius Bar for fast repair turnarounds, there is a round-the-clock live customer support system in place, which Pixel users can access in the Settings on the phone.
Other phones exist, but…
Even though my friends are torn between a Pixel 2 and an iPhone X, it’s worth acknowledging that an iPhone 8 and Pixel 2 are a better match-up in regards to price and design. The iPhone 8 has a polished take on the same reiterative design used by the iPhone 7, 6S and 6.
The insides of the iPhone 8 are pretty much identical to those of the iPhone X. In our battery tests, the iPhone 8 lasted an hour longer than the iPhone X when playing a looped-video at half brightness. Both phones have the same wide-angle camera, but the iPhone X also has a second rear camera and FaceID.
Pixel 2 XL
The Pixel 2 XL has a larger screen at 6 inches compared to the Pixel 2’s 5-inch display. The bezels on the 2 XL are notably thinner, giving it a more modern look and feel than its little brother the Pixel 2. On the inside, everything is the same except the battery. The 2 XL has a 3,520mAh battery while the Pixel 2 has a smaller 2,700mAh one.
The Pixel 2 and its stock version of Android have a simple and clean mojo that appeals to an iPhone user more than Samsung’s “add everything” approach.
4 months away
Keep in mind we’re just past the halfway point between Apple and Google’s last phone launches and their next ones. Apple typically releases a new iPhone in September, while Google has launched both of generations of the Pixel in October. But 4 months can be a long wait to upgrade your phone. Ultimately this comes down to you.
Best Android phone for iPhone lovers
The Pixel 2 is the most iPhone-like phone I’ve seen on Android. It’s a solid choice for someone used to living the Apple life. Upgrading to the Pixel 2 means that you’ll save money, get the best phone camera for photos and have a device that doesn’t needed to be coddled. Plus, Android Oreo packs a level of fit and finish that would surely surprise the most devout iOS user.
Once you decide to switch, all you need to do which color Pixel 2 you want.
Editors’ note: This story was originally published March 14, 2018, at 4 a.m. PT. One of the main questions I got about this article was how secure Android is versus iOS. Here is a story that CNET has since published that explores how Google has made Android as secure as iOS.