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5 reasons you should buy the Pixel 5 over the iPhone 12 this year

Google Pixel 5
Google Pixel 5 (Image credit: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

One of the most exciting smartphone trends of 2020 has been the rise of "value flagships" — aka phones that deliver flagship experiences for less money than the $1,000 handsets we've become accustomed to over the past couple of years.

The Pixel 5 and iPhone 12 are two such phones, with both coming in at $700. They aren't necessarily cheap, but they're premium offerings from Google and Apple that are a bit easier on the wallet compared to other options out there.

Both the Pixel 5 and iPhone 12 are top-notch handsets that do a lot right, but there are a few things about the Pixel 5 that give it an edge over what Apple's offering this year. If you can't decide between either phone, here are five reasons why the Pixel 5 may be the better choice.

The Pixel 5 has a smoother 90Hz display

Google Pixel 5

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

One of the biggest advantages of the iPhone 12 compared to the iPhone 11 is its upgraded display. Apple finally ditched the iPhone 11's 720p LCD panel in favor of a 1080p OLED one, and the end result is a screen that looks infinitely better. Even so, the Pixel 5 still manages to offer an even nicer one.

It's very similar to the iPhone 12 in that it's an OLED 1080p screen, but the Pixel 5 has a faster refresh rate of 90Hz compared to the 60Hz offered on the iPhone 12. In day-to-day use, this means that all of your scrolling and swiping looks considerably smoother on the Pixel compared to the iPhone.

Fast refresh rates between 90 and 120Hz have become fairly common for higher-end smartphones, so the lack of one on the iPhone 12 is pretty disappointing. You wouldn't notice it at all if you've never used a phone with anything other than a 60Hz screen, but once you upgrade to 90Hz or higher, it's hard to go back.

Some people value fast refresh rates more than others, but the fact that Google's able to offer one on the Pixel 5 for a lower price than the iPhone 12 is pretty noteworthy.

Google still offers the best camera experience

Google Pixel 5

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

On the surface, both the Pixel 5 and iPhone 12 have incredible camera systems. Google and Apple have been refining their camera formulas for a few years at this point, and that's perfectly evident with each handset. No matter which phone you go with, you can rest assured you'll be able to take some really great shots.

That said, Google still manages to come out ahead with the Pixel 5. While the camera hardware in the Pixel 5 is pretty old at this point, Google's image processing continues to be one of the best ones out there. Specifically, the Pixel 5 does a better job with low-light/night photos, zoomed-in shots, and generally produces colors that are more pleasing to look at. You also get some fun software features to play around with, such as Portrait Light for drastically changing the look of a portrait photo in the blink of an eye.

The iPhone 12 still has the upper-hand in the video department, but if your primary focus is on still photographs, you'll be better suited with the Pixel 5.

Face ID in 2020 is a pain in the butt

iPhone 12

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

In 2020, face masks are just a normal part of life. Whether you're at work, going out to get groceries, or on a socially-distanced walk to get some fresh air, you (should) have a mask on. Unfortunately for the iPhone 12, that makes using Face ID kind of impossible. Face masks simply don't work with Face ID, so if you have one on and need to unlock your phone, that means needing to enter your PIN.

That may not sound like a big deal, but if you spend a lot of your day wearing a face mask, having to type in your PIN multiple times per day gets really old really quickly.

The Pixel 5 avoids this hassle by offering a fingerprint sensor on its back. Just place your finger on the sensor, the phone unlocks in a flash, and you can get on with your day. It's an advantage we wouldn't have thought about a year ago, but seeing as how we're probably going to be wearing masks for the foreseeable future, it's a legit thing you should consider before buying your next phone.

All of the exclusive Pixel features are fantastic

Google Pixel 5 Review

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Whether it be iMessage or AirDrop, everyone knows about the exclusive software features you get with an iPhone. There's no underestimating how useful some of these things can be, but you also shouldn't sleep on what Google offers with its Pixel phones. In fact, for some potential shoppers, what you get on the Pixel 5 could be a lot more valuable than what the iPhone 12 brings to the table.

Let's start with one of my personal favorites — spam filtering. Just about everyone gets spam calls, and no matter who you are, having to deal with them is a huge annoyance. In the Google Phone app on the Pixel 5, you're given a few different ways to filter these out. These include:

  • See caller and spam ID: Identify business and spam numbers
  • Filter spam calls: Prevent suspected spam calls from disturbing you
  • Verified Calls: See the caller ID and reason for incoming calls from businesses

When I get a call on my Pixel 5 and it's suspected to be spam, I never hear the phone ring and can go on with my day. If it's a random number that isn't automatically classified as a spam call, I can screen the call using the Google Assistant and have it answer on my behalf. One of the more recent additions, Hold for Me, takes the Assistant a step further by allowing it to hold your spot in line if you're on a phone call and waiting to talk to a customer service rep.

Another feature I find difficult to live without is Now Playing, which is basically like having Shazam running 24/7 in the background with virtually zero impact on battery life and being able to work completely offline. If a song is playing in the background and I want to know what it is, all I have to do is look on my lock screen and it's right there.

I could go on and on about all of the Pixel's software features, but suffice to say that there's a lot to sink your teeth into. There are some people that will always get more out of what's offered on iOS, but year after year, Google continues to make a compelling argument as to why its version of Android is the best currently available.

You get more storage for less money

Google Pixel 5

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

If you plan on keeping your phone for two or more years, it's absolutely critical that you have enough storage for everything you want to do. Even if you have a blazing-fast processor or gorgeous display, none of that matters if you hit a storage wall and run out of room for your apps, games, photos, etc. Here, the Pixel 5 gets another win.

When you buy the Pixel 5 for $700, you're getting 128GB of storage. That's the only version of the phone Google sells, and while that could be limiting for some power users, 128GB should be more than enough space for the vast majority of people.

Comparatively, the iPhone 12 costs $100 more at $800 and only comes with 64GB. If you want to upgrade to 128GB, you'll end up paying $850. That's not a horrible price hike to double your storage, but the fact remains that you get more room for a lot less cash with the Pixel 5 (in addition to all of its other benefits mentioned throughout this article).

Which phone do you prefer?

That's why we prefer the Pixel 5 over the iPhone 12, and now we want to hear from you. What about the Pixel 5 makes it your preferred device? Or if you're more of an Apple person, why does the iPhone 12 work better for you than the Pixel?

Drop a comment below and let us know!

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

22 Comments
  • Compared to the iPhone 12 the Pixel 5's performance is a real dud. Pixel 5 is too slow, too buggy. Pixel 5 should have at least 5 years of updates.
  • you probably have a defective unit, I would return it, my pixel 5 is very fast, even pretty much the same or even faster speed as my Moms iphone 12
  • In your dreams, the Pixel is about half as fast as the 12. Check out the many published speed tests.
  • Can you get Truecaller for iPhone? It's nice that Google's added filtering for the P5, but I've had spam call/SMS filtering for years on all my Androids
  • So after all the bashing, critical and complaining reports or articles, this is the Ambrosia of the gods? Dudes, you need to be consistent, either it is so awesome, that can take on the latest iPhone, or is another Google hardware mistake. C'mon.
  • Same thing I've been saying for months. Every time a Pixel comes out, Reviewers and Tech sites bash the mess out of it. Then after a month or two, they're praising it. Nonetheless, I'm glad I returned my iphone 12 for the Pixel 5. The experience is a lot better. And google provides features that's useable for everyday life and that you don't have to pay for a 3rd party app for the same feature...case in point; Spam filtering, Call Screening etc. The iphone is old...it's nothing that stands out about it. Another thing Tech sites isn't mentioning either is that if you buy a unlocked Apple 12 from Apple, they charge you an additional $50. I'm not sure if they do the same for the mini, but for the 12 ... They do it. They don't do it for the Pro series.
  • Clarification: it's $30 more, not $50. I recall it being called out shortly after the announcement. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • Different people can have different takes. And people can change their minds.
  • The iPhone 12 isn't $700, it's $800. So price would be another advantage. If you meant the iPhone 12 Mini, which I assume you are with the $50 price difference in storage, then screen size and battery life would be two more advantages for the Pixel 5. I don't really think anyone considering the Pixel 5 would use use the Mini for comparison.
  • Ugh. I wish the choice was as easy as IPhone 12 or Pixel 5. It’s a much bigger decision that that. It’s IOS vs Android, and when every family member you have is on IOS, its very difficult to switch.
  • It's really because of iMessage. But then, I don't really care to be a part of group text messages (I end up muting them). Luckily most of my family and friends prefer to use apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger for chatting. Sometimes I turn off iMessage just to mess with Apple loyalists. All my stuff is with Google and because Google makes good iOS versions of their stuff, I don't really miss out on anything major by switching between iPhone and Android as often as I do.
  • I said no to both. Chose the S20 FE over both. More bang for the buck plus I like having micro s/d support! Couldn't turn down the 599.00 pricetag?
  • The true answer
  • 1. The Pixel 5 has a smoother 90Hz display - kinda depends on the phone you're coming from. 60Hz is OK in 2020/2021 especially if you haven't used anything faster. And it's not like iPhones have horrible screens. 2. Google still offers the best camera experience - only for stills and it's close enough that you can't really get a "bad" camera at this price point anyway. Pixel 5 is fine. iPhone 12 is fine. Galaxy S20 FE is fine. Like you mentioned, iPhone 12 still clearly wins on video which is weird that Google would be considered the best camera experience. 3. Face ID in 2020 is a pain in the butt - this one is correct. It wouldn't surprise me to see Apple bring the Touch ID power button from the iPad Air 4 over to the 2021 iPhones. 4. All of the exclusive Pixel features are fantastic - sure, but it still depends on the features. 5. You get more storage for less money - probably. 64GB is still fine for 2020 though.
  • 1. 60Hz is OK in 2020/2021? All Android flagships are at least 90, including the Pixel 5 that uses old tech. iPhones are way behind. 2. Are you fine spending several hundreds of dollars for "fine"? 3. Until something actually happens it's just a wish. iPhones were supposed to be on USB-C years ago, and yet here we are. 4. They're all fantastic features. 5. Probably? Hmm iPhone 12 has 64GB for $800; Pixel 5 has 128GB for $700. 64 < 128 and 800 > 700; sure looks like "you get more storage for less money" to me. 64GB is still fine for 2020? It was fine for 2015. Once again iPhone is far behind. Stop defending "fine" and expect more.
  • iPhones are optimized systems, Android is fragmented full of pollution and needs power to operate properly. Pull your head out of the hate. BTW...I don't have an iPhone and never will.
  • OK. 1. I use an iPad Pro with a 120Hz display and don't notice anything going between my previous iPhone XR and my Moto Z4. I don't really care that other phones at this price-point have higher refresh rates. 2. Let's swap out "fine" for "great". Pixel 5 is great. iPhone 12 is great. Galaxy S20 FE is great. Like you mentioned, iPhone 12 still clearly wins on video which is weird that Google would be considered the best camera experience. 3. I don't mind that iPhone is still on Lightning. I already have the cables. 4. (I never said they weren't fantastic). 5. 64GB has been enough for me. I'll buy the lowest storage anyway. My XR had 64GB. I was usually under 40GB. My Moto Z4 has 128GB and I'm only using around 40GB. It's fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. (also the iPhone 12 will be supported longer but that doesn't really matter to Android folks)
  • There's not enough difference between 60 Hz and 90 Hz to stand out. A study was done on this, and people, including techies, could not tell a difference when they were given two phones to compare side by side. Even when they were told one had a 60 Hz screen and the other 90 Hz, they could not tell which was which. Welcome to the emperor's new clothes.
  • What proof is there that the Pixel 5 still has the best camera? DXO Mark doesn't support that claim: https://www.dxomark.com/rankings/#smartphones I love my Pixel 2's camera but I do drool a little over the new iPhone's multiple lens phones. I'd rather have optical zoom rather than software zoom, but am not willing to invest in the iPhone ecosystem at the moment just for the camera.
  • I love my Pixel 5, great display, good software, excellent battery life, and Android 11 is great upgrade over the excellent Android 10.
  • I don’t see the point in getting Pixel 5 which has lower spec. Doesn’t seem Google are targeting flagships and therefore Pixel 5 should be compared to similar spec phones regardless of OS. For this article - I would go with Apple 12 especially with 5 years of updates which no Android phone provides which is shocking.
  • I like Android better, but I'd still buy the iPhone 12 instead of the Pixel 5.
    90 Hz being smoother is technically true, but people can't tell. It's a psychological perception. This has been tested and people can't tell the difference between 60 and 90 Hz.
    The slight advantage in still photography of the Pixel is not enough to compensate for the big advantage of the iPhone 12's video. I'm a professional photographer, and the Pixel camera is not enough to justify buying for the camera alone. My projects are video and still photography, and when there's other options that get photos as good, and video much better, the Pixel is not the best choice.
    Face ID a pain in the butt? Can't argue with that one! I did a film project last week, and the camera crew kept pulling their masks down to check their messages!
    Both phones are losers when it comes to storage. My two year old HTC has 320 gigs, and I've done published film projects without having to delete anything.
    No mention of one running state of the art silicon, and the other one running a mediocre chip?