Tech

Which flagship should you buy?

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The Google Pixel series has always been the darling of Android enthusiasts and smartphone camera geeks, but a combination of sub-par hardware and lack of global availability meant they were always niche devices, coming nowhere close to the commercial success or mainstream recognition of the iPhone.


However, Google’s made efforts to change that in the past couple of years, starting with the excellent Pixel 6 series, which introduced new premium hardware headlined by Google’s first-ever custom-built silicon. That momentum continues with the Pixel 7 series, easily the most well-rounded and refined Pixel phones ever made, with the Pro model finally offering the total package of premium hardware, refined software, and top performance.

But is it better than the iPhone? Namely, the top dog iPhone 14 Pro Max? Let’s find out.

Google Pixel 7 Pro
The Pixel 7 Pro is Google's top-of-the-line flagship of the year, featuring the second-gen Tensor SoC, a 120Hz LTPO display, a telephoto sensor, and a bigger battery.
Google Pixel 7 Pro

The Pixel 7 Pro is Google’s best phone ever, with a refined, premium design and Google’s second-generation silicon — plus awesome cameras, as usual. 

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
The iPhone 14 Pro Max is Apple's biggest and best smartphone, and in typical Apple fashion, it is both a powerhouse and an endurance beast.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max

The iPhone 14 Pro Max is Apple’s biggest and best smartphone, and in typical Apple fashion, it is both a powerhouse and an endurance beast.

Google Pixel 7 Pro vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: Pricing and availability

Both phones are on sale now at major online retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, and each company’s online stores. The Google Pixel 7 Pro starts at $899, and the iPhone 14 Pro Max starts at $1,099. Pricing is as follows:

  • Pixel 7 Pro, 128GB + 12GB RAM, $899
  • Pixel 7 Pro, 256GB + 12GB RAM, $999
  • Pixel 7 Pro, 512GB + 12GB RAM, $1,099
  • iPhone 14 Pro Max, 128GB, $1,099
  • iPhone 14 Pro Max, 256GB, $1,199
  • iPhone 14 Pro Max, 512GB, $1,399
  • iPhone 14 Pro Max, 1TB, $1,599

Google Pixel 7 Pro vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: Specifications

Specifications Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max Google Pixel 7 Pro
Build
  • Stainless steel mid-frame
  • “Ceramic Shield” front and back
  • Aluminum mid-frame
  • Gorilla Glass Victus back
  • Gorilla Glass Victus front
Dimensions & Weight
  • 6.3 x 3.05 x 0.31 inches (160.7 x 77.6 x 7.9mm)
  • 8.47 ounces (240g)
  • 6.41 x 3.02 x 0.35 inches (162.9 x 76.6 x 8.9mm)
  • 7.48 ounces (212g)
Display
  • 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED
  • ProMotion refresh rate between 1Hz and 120Hz
  • 6.7-inch QHD+ 120Hz AMOLED
  • Variable refresh rate between 10Hz to 120Hz
SoC
RAM & Storage
  • 6GB RAM
  • 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
  • 12GB RAM
  • 128GB/256GB/512GB
Battery & Charging
  • 4,323mAh
  • 20W wired fast charging
  • 7.5W wireless charging
  • 15W MagSafe wireless charging
  • No charger in box
  • 5,000mAh
  • 30W wired fast charging
  • 23W wired fast charging
  • No charger in box
Security Face ID Optical in-display fingerprint scanner
Rear Camera(s)
  • Primary: 48MP wide, f/1.8 aperture
  • Secondary: 12MP ultra-wide, f/1.8 aperture
  • Tertiary: 12MP telephoto, 3x optical zoom, f/2.8
  • Quarternary: LIDAR camera
  • Primary: 50MP wide, Samsung GN1, f/1.9, 1/1.31-inch
  • Secondary: 12MP ultra-wide, f/2.2
  • Tertiary: 48MP Periscope, f/3.5
Front Camera(s) 12MP 11MP
Port(s) Lightning USB-C
Audio Stereo speakers Stereo speakers
Connectivity
  • 5G (sub-6 GHz and mmWave)
  • Gigabit LTE with 4×4 MIMO and LAA
  • Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) with 2×2 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 5G (mmWave) for almost all regions and carriers except AT&T in the US
  • Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) with 2×2 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • NFC
Software iOS 16 Android 13
Other features Dual eSIM in U.S., Dual physical SIM elsewhere
  • Dual physical SIM in some regions
  • Face Unlock

Hardware and design: Nearly identical to last gen

Neither the Pixel 7 Pro nor the iPhone 14 Pro Max made major design overhauls over previous generations, so if you’ve seen or held the Pixel 6 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro Max, these new phones will look and feel familiar.

The Pixel 7 Pro brings back the Pixel 6 Pro’s design language, with the most noticeable change being the horizontal camera visor bar switching to an aluminum framing instead of glass. The visor also now blends seamlessly into the rest of the aluminum chassis for a more polished look. Otherwise, the overall shape of the Pixel 7 Pro is virtually identical to the Pixel 6 Pro, save for a slightly reduced screen curvature. It’s also 2g heavier.

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I do miss the two-tone colorway options of the Pixel 6 series; the 7 series only comes in solid colors. If you have the option to choose colors, I’d advise against getting the black (“Obsidian”) color. Not only is the color dull, at least compared to the matte pitch black of a phone like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but the glossy finish and darker color show smudges and dust that collects near the camera visor very easily. I initially tested the black model and thought the phone looked “pretty good,” but I fell in love with the white color (“Snow”). It’s tied with the Xiaomi 12S Ultra as my favorite-looking phone of the year. Slapping a case on the Pixel 7 Pro all but covers up the phone’s original color, so you can always do that if you choose the Obsidian.

iphone-14-pro-pixel-7-pro09107

The iPhone 14 Pro Max, meanwhile, looks just like the iPhone 13 Pro Max from all sides and feels identical in the hand. The camera module is a bit larger, but you’d only notice if you compare the two phones side-by-side. But look at the new phone’s face, and there’s one big change: The notch is dead. In its place is a pill-shaped cutout named the “Dynamic Island.” I think the name is goofy, but it works functionally and aesthetically.

Apple built a software system that wraps a digital black bar around the cutout, which shifts in size depending on the action. Some of these can be helpful. For example, you can see turn-by-turn navigation information on the island, while others are purely for added visual flair. Not everyone loves this new cutout, however.

Both phones have reinforced, toughened glass to resist cracks: Gorilla Glass Victus for the Pixel 7 Pro, and so-called “Ceramic Shield” for the iPhone 14 Pro Max. The latter has a sturdier frame made of stainless steel compared to the aluminum that wraps around Google’s phone.

Moving onto the display. The Pixel 6 Pro had a dreadfully dim display that was borderline unusable in bright outdoor settings, but Google has wisely fixed this with the Pixel 7 Pro. The new screen now gets up to 1,500 nits in max brightness, which is good enough to match many flagship phones and is indeed bright enough to use even under California midday sun. But the iPhone 14 Pro Max tops it with 2,000 nits. The iPhone 14 Pro Max is, in fact, the brightest screen I’ve ever laid eyes on. The iPhone screen is also more efficiently able to drop as low as 1Hz in refresh rate, while the Pixel 7 Pro screen can only go down to 10Hz. This allows the iPhone 14 Pro Max screen to conserve more battery and offer an Always-On display that’s literally “always on.”

Internal hardware: A16 Bionic vs Tensor G2

Regarding raw processing power, the A16 Bionic in the iPhone 14 Pro Max is more powerful than the Tensor G2 in the Pixel 7 Pro. This is noticeable in benchmark numbers and also in many tasks that require processing power.

Trimming the length of a video within each phone’s photo app, for example, is absolutely jarring. Any basic trims (just from the beginning or end, with no cuts in the middle) on an iPhone 14 Pro Max happen instantaneously but can take up to 10 seconds on the Pixel 7 Pro. And the phone can’t be used during that time, so I just stare at the Google Photo app processing wheel. Exporting 360 videos shot by Insta360 cameras in Insta360’s app also shows a significant difference in wait times in favor of Apple.

The back of the Google Pixel 7 Pro

If you don’t tinker with videos on the phone much, then the Pixel 7 Pro will perform just fine. It can handle running TikTok or Gmail as well as the iPhone 14 Pro Max — though that bar isn’t high.

But while the Tensor G2 may be lacking in raw horsepower, it makes up for it with Google’s machine learning, which is quite possibly the most advanced in the world right now. Google’s machine learning mostly excels at analyzing photos and human speech, and it really shows. The Pixel 7 Pro can dictate or transcribe my voice in real-time, on the device, at over 98% accuracy. It’s uncanny. The iPhone does the same job at maybe 85% accuracy. This is good, but not as scary good as what you get with the Tensor G2.

iphone-14-pro-max-pixel-7-pro-xda-45508968-1

The phones each start at 128GB of storage, with the Pixel 7 Pro going up to 512GB while the iPhone 14 Pro Max goes up to 1TB (you have to pay a hefty premium, of course). Apple doesn’t disclose RAM in its phones, but the Pixel 7 Pro packs either 8GB or 12GB of RAM. Whatever amount of RAM is in the iPhone 14 Pro Max, it’s more than enough, as the phone zips around without issues.

Both phones have great-sounding stereo speakers, although I’d give the edge to the iPhone if I must pick a winner. The battery size discussion is similar to the RAM discussion. Apple doesn’t disclose iPhone battery size, but it doesn’t matter. The iPhone 14 Pro Max has tremendous battery life; it can easily finish a 13-14-hour day with well over 30-40% battery to spare. This is better than the Pixel 7 Pro, which can still last the entire 13-14 hour day, but with closer to 10-20% battery left. Both batteries charge pathetically slow (wired or wirelessly) if compared to Chinese phone brands, but for people in North America whose only other point of reference may be Samsung phones, then the charging times aren’t so bad.

Cameras: Great photography across the board

iphone-14-pro-max-pixel-7-pro-xda-45508950-1

Both Apple and Google are late entrants to the camera megapixel and sensor size arms race led by Asian Android brands for years. The Pixel made the jump last year with the 6 Pro’s 50MP main camera, and the iPhone 14 Pro phones followed suit this year with a 48MP camera.

The extra pixels allow the brains of each phone to combine four pixels worth of data in one larger pixel, which is a process known as pixel binning. Using this technique, along with increasing image sensor sizes, allow the Pixel 7 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max cameras to grab lively, vibrant images day and night. The Pixel tends to dial up the contrast just a bit more, as well as opt for a cooler color temperature, and they look more pleasing to my eyes.

When it comes to zoom, it’s a clear win for the Pixel 7 Pro. Google’s phone can pull off the in-sensor crop 2x zoom that the iPhone 14 Pro Max pulls off, but Pixel one-ups the iPhone with a 5x Periscope zoom lens that can also do another in-sensor crop for a near lossless 10x zoom.

Video recording has traditionally been a strong point of iPhones, and the 14 Pro Max continues this. Not only is there stronger bokeh, even in regular shooting mode, but Apple also introduces a new “Action Mode” that is essentially EIS on steroids. It crops into the frame a bit, and the resolution drops to just 2.7k, but you can basically run full speed and film, and the footage won’t appear shaky. The Pixel 7 Pro’s video capabilities are much improved this year, with better stabilization and low light performance. Google also introduces a portrait video mode that works well, but lacks the granular controls the iPhone’s Cinematic Mode offers. In low light, the iPhone 14 Pro Max stabilization is also much better than the Pixel 7 Pro.

Software and performance: Android vs iOS

iphone-14-pro-max-pixel-7-pro-xda-45508980-1

Years ago, there were drastic differences between how iOS and Android operated. These days, the gap has narrowed significantly since Apple and Google have clearly borrowed ideas from each other. Animations are buttery smooth on both phones, though the Pixel 7 Pro’s UI will see the occasional rare stutter while the iPhone 14 Pro Max rarely does.

The Pixel 7 Pro runs on Android 13 with its own Pixel-specific touches, including the “Material You” theme engine that tries to match the phone’s UI colors to the wallpaper. There are old favorites, ranging from old favorites like “Now Playing,” where the Pixel can actively identify songs playing nearby, to new features like “Photo Unblur,” which does what it says, and “Direct My Call,” which gives users a visual map of a company’s automated telephone system. These features work great, but they can be a bit much for casual smartphone users.

Google Pixel 7 Pro in hand

Apple’s iOS 16 is, by comparison, a more straightforward UI. Apple’s app ecosystem is still more mature than Android’s. There are apps, from major ones like Instagram to niche ones like Insta360 and Docusign, whose iOS app is clearly superior to the Android version. iOS also feels more seamless. You buy an Apple Watch, and it pairs with the iPhone without you needing to install anything else. If you buy a Pixel Watch for the Pixel 7 Pro you have to install two apps (Pixel Watch and Fitbit) to get it to work fully.

But then Android’s notification system is still much better than iOS, and Android allows a more customizable homescreen that can be curated to make one-hand usage easier. For example, I place all my Android phone apps at bottom of the screen for easy thumb reach. Apple’s iOS doesn’t let me do that, so iPhones are always a bit harder to use one-handed for me.

Google Pixel 7 Pro vs iPhone 14 Pro Max: Which one should you buy?

iphone-14-pro-pixel-7-pro09102

The iPhone 14 Pro Max offers better battery life, app ecosystem, accessories support, and raw computing power. However, the Pixel 7 Pro has a better camera system, more intelligent software, a better in-hand feel, and it’s $200 cheaper — and there are more deals for the Pixel 7 Pro that make it even more enticing.

If you ask me, I pick the Pixel 7 Pro, but I think this decision ultimately depends on personal preferences, and I don’t think the $200 difference matters much to existing iPhone users. They are far too entrenched in Apple’s ecosystem to give up iMessage or stop using the Apple Watch to save money.

On the other hand, Google hasn’t done nearly enough to stop Android users from jumping over to the iPhone. I think any team jumping will likely be from the Pixel side to the iPhone side. Google knows this, which is why it’s trying to build its own ecosystem and increasingly lock features as Pixel exclusives.

Either way, whichever phone you choose, you won’t be disappointed.

Google Pixel 7 Pro
The Pixel 7 Pro is Google's top-of-the-line flagship of the year, featuring the second-gen Tensor SoC, a 120Hz LTPO display, a telephoto sensor, and a bigger battery.
Google Pixel 7 Pro

The Pixel 7 Pro is Google’s best phone ever, with a refined, premium design and Google’s second-generation silicon — plus awesome cameras, as usual. 

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
The iPhone 14 Pro Max is Apple's biggest and best smartphone, and in typical Apple fashion, it is both a powerhouse and an endurance beast.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max

The iPhone 14 Pro Max is Apple’s biggest and best smartphone, and in typical Apple fashion, it is both a powerhouse and an endurance beast.

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