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iPhone 15 Pro Max or Pixel 8 Pro – which is right for you?

With both phones released just a few weeks apart time to take a closer look…

iPhone 15 Pro Max or Pixel 8 Pro - which is for you

When Apple announced the iPhone 15 Pro Max in September we all knew there would be a rush for people to get their hands on it.

In the tech space, each year’s iPhone release is one of the highlight moments – and this year was no exception. It was clear that Apple had decided to chase down the pro-market and make those users their main focus. When you see what they have done with the cameras this year it makes it pretty obvious that this is who the 15 Pro Max is squarely aimed at.

But let’s not forget that Google has just released their flagship phone too – the Pixel Pro 8 which is no slouch either and is packed full of AI wizardry. So could the Pixel 8 Pro be good enough to make me, a die-hard iPhone user switch?

Displays

My first experience of Android ever was earlier this year when I used the Pixel 7 Pro. One of the things I liked about it best was the curved display. It was so gorgeous to hold and I loved that whatever you were watching seemed to wrap around the entire front of the display.

This year though the two phones have swapped over their design ideas – the Pixel 8 Pro now has squared-off edges whereas the once boxy iPhone is now all soft and rounded. For me, Apple has won the design battle this year with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. It’s comfortable to use for long periods and makes the most of the super thin bezels it now has.

Both are plenty bright enough too. In normal use, both the iPhone 15 Pro Max & Pixel 8 Pro will give you 1600 nits HDR of brightness – but when pushed outdoors in direct sunshine the Pixel wins out with 2400 nits of peak brightness against the iPhones 2000 nits. These 400 nits do make a difference.

The glass on the front of the iPhone 15 Pro Max is Apple’s Ceramic Shield which although they say is the toughest yet is already showing signs of some micro scratches on mine. The Pixel 8 Pro uses Gorilla Glass Victus 2 and so far is holding up better.

The Super Actua Display display looks a little more vibrant to me but skin tones look better on the Super Retina HDR panel on the iPhone.

On the back gone is the super-glossy look that the Pixel 7 had and both phones now have a classier matt glass finish.

The polished shiny edges of the Pixel 8 Pro show fingerprints more and I am concerned that over time will show scratches more too. On the other hand, the new Titanium chassis on the 15 Pro Max stays fingerprint-free free day long and the matt etched finish feels beautiful to touch and hold.

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Performance of iPhone 15 &

Of course, when you are spending this kind of money the performance of these two phones becomes another area that could prove decisive when it comes to you making your choice.

Google seems to have made massive advances in their chip this year and in using the phone over the past two weeks the new G3 Tensor chips seems to be performing well and pushing the boundaries of on-device machine learning.

Google has packed the Pixel 8 Pro full of some ground-breaking AI technology which we’ll look at more in a little while, but the good news is that the G3 Tensor seems to be up to the task and so far has never left me hanging which is presumably helped by the 12 GB of RAM on this phone.

On the 15 Pro Max, we get another new chip – exclusive to the Pro Max the A17 Pro. It’s Apple’s first 3nm chip with a 6-core CPU, 6-core GPU and a new 16-core Neural Engine. The iPhone 15 Pro Max only has 8 GB of RAM but Apple has utilised every ounce of it.

Although there is nowhere near as much on-device AI going on with the iPhone, for me both chips have remained cool and performed well in normal day-to-day use.

Some of the apps that are being developed for these phones now will start to push these chips which is why so much effort is being placed on developing them. Apple claims that the 15 Pro Max uses hardware-accelerated ray tracing for the first time giving the best-ever gaming experience with some AAA games coming to iPhone soon.

All the computational photo tricks that Google has packed into their Pixel 8 Pro such as Best Take, Magic Editor & Magic Eraser only work so well because of the power that the Tensor G3 offers.

Side by side it’s honestly hard to decide on a clear winner when it comes to performance with both being snappy, responsive and quick – but one area that the Pixel 8 Pro is a clear winner in is its speech-to-text capabilities. It remains class-leading.

Both phones allow you to have multiple apps open at the same time and switch between them quickly without any delay or stutter and give you decent multitasking.

The cameras

Ok – so this is the big one – how do the cameras on the two phones compare?

Last year was the first time I had used a Pro iPhone as my main phone and I could not have been happier. Shooting RAW 48 MP pictures gave some amazing results. This year with the 15 Pro Max there have been some meaningful improvements to the camera and in particular the sensor.

This year you get three focal lengths to choose from on the 15 Pro Max – with the main camera offering you the option to shoot in 24mm, 28mm or 35mm plus of course we now get the 5x optical zoom for the first time as well.

The Pixel 8 Pro has a 50 MP main camera and on the face of it is a more conventional set-up. The Pixel only gives you the choice to shoot in the 4:3 or 16:9 ratios whereas with the iPhone 15 Pro Max, you can also shoot square images.

Both phones give you all the pro settings you could wish for – and the Pixel even gives you a white balance setting as well if you want to get into the weeds. Honestly, the only thing holding you back with either of these cameras is your imagination and creativity.

The picture quality is so close between these phones now that much of the decision about which is better will come down to personal choice and preference.

The video straight out of the Pixel has nicer colours in my mind but of course, being able to shoot log ProRes footage on the iPhone means that with some effort in post, you’ll end up with a far better quality video.

With the Pixel though it once again comes down to AI – and later this year Google has promised us Video Boost & Night Sight. Although this will be done off device, if it delivers on its promise it could start to give the iPhone a run for its money.

Although the results promise to be stunning – and of course all done for you with no need for any editing knowledge with AI, my only concern is how long it will take to upload your videos to Google’s servers before they can start to be processed. I have noticed that Google Photo seems much quicker to sync than the Photo app on my Mac it could be a different story when it comes to a 10 or 15-minute video.

Battery

Batteries have come a long way recently and both of these phones have shown improvements over their respective predecessors.

I have never been interested in benchmarks – I guess they have their place but I think it’s more important & relevant for me to tell you about real-life battery results.

I have been leaving home with both of these phones now for the past few weeks and using them for normal, daily tasks – streaming music & podcasts, taking pictures & videos, navigation, taking calls and consuming content. Both of these phones can easily last a day which has been the benchmark that we’d been looking for. Neither of my phones has gotten noticeably warm during an average day – but the iPhone 15 Pro Max still seems to have good and bad battery days whereas the Pixel 8 Pro seems more consistent.

OS

Both companies are now bringing as much as possible under one roof to make certain they are developing apps and an ecosystem that best suits their processors. The refinements for both Apple & Google are noticeable this year.

Android 14 feels so smooth on the Pixel 8 Pro and is the best Android experience I’ve had. iOS 17 has been pretty bug-free since launch and seems to be making the best use of the A17 Pro chip.

You can now customise the iPhone a little more than before and make it feel more your own – but Apple will only let you go so far. If you are the type of person who loves spending their weekends fiddling around with settings and going deep on customisation then the Android life will better suit you.

I think because of my history with iOS I still prefer it to Android and the added layers of security that come baked in with Apple and iOS appeals too.

Google has stepped up its support this year and now is the match for Apple. Both companies say that they will now support these phones with security and updates until 2030! How crazy does that sound when you say it out loud though? Apple we know will carry that through – but Google does have a chequered history when it comes to delivering on their promises.

For various reasons, I’ve recently had to contact both Apple & Google customer support and the Apple experience has won out – hands down. Apple immediately started a screen-sharing session with me and sorted my problems out. Google made promises of a return call which never happened and I was left chatting with what I assumed to be a bot (which they denied) for about 4 long, tedious hours without ever resolving the situation.

I’m newer to Android and their updates protocol but Apple seems to respond quicker with rolling out security and bug fixes.

Which is for you

If price is the guiding light for you – there is not much between them any more.

If we look at a like-for-like 256GB model – the Pixel 8 Pro will run you £1059 and the iPhone 15 Pro Max £1199 – although with the Pixel you get the option of a 128GB model which is only £999.

Much of the choice of which phone you’ll end up with will be down to two things – iOS versus Android and whether you like to be in control or you are happy for on and off-device AI to assist and get involved.

Whilst we can’t hold back the storm of AI – for the time being at least, I am happy to stick with my iPhone 15 Pro Max. The pro side of the video set-up alone and being able to make it into a professional rig is enough to win me over.

I love what Apple has done with the design of this year’s iPhone and I stand by the fact that I reckon this year could yet go down as a classic.

The Pixel 8 Pro is fantastic – but this year Apple has done enough to keep me loyal.

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