Google Pixel 3 XL vs iPhone XS Max: Which should you buy?

Google Pixel 3 XL

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Google took the Pixel 2 XL's large body and squeezed a larger and much better 6.3-inch 18.5:9 display into it. The rest of the phone offers all of Google's strengths: simple hardware, flagship specs, lightning fast software and an amazing AI-assisted camera on the front and back. It even sports a 3430mAh battery to keep your powered through the day.

Google Pixel 3 XL

Big and bold

Google Assistant is fantastic.
Huge display.
Stereo speakers.
Sizeable battery.
Wireless charging.
No headphone jack.
Very large display notch.

Apple iPhone XS Max

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The iPhone XS Max is Apple's biggest and best iPhone yet, with the incredibly powerful A12 Bionic chip. It has a large, vibrant 6.5-inch display and excellent stereo speakers. FaceID replaces a fingerprint sensor, and the cameras have some powerful new features. Guaranteed updates every year for several years are the icing on the cake.

Apple iPhone XS Max

Best iPhone ever

Large beautiful display.
Incredibly powerful A12 Bionic chip.
120Hz touch sensing display.
Improved FaceID.
Wireless Charging.
Siri is still behind Google Assistant.
No fingerprint sensor.

The Pixel 3 XL and iPhone XS Max set the standard for smartphones running Android and iOS respectively. Software preferences aside, the Pixel 3 XL and iPhone XS Max are actually pretty similar smartphones. Both have glass and metal industrial designs with high screen-to-body ratios, along with IP68 resistance, wireless charging, stereo speakers, and more. While other Android companies can create their own competitors to Google's Pixel 3 XL, the iPhone XS Max is the best iPhone you can buy right now.

What are the differences?

A large deciding factor in which phone you should buy is, of course, the operating system behind it. By now, you probably have a good idea where you stand on Android versus iOS, but the latest versions of both operating systems share several similar features, including a focus on digital wellbeing and helping prevent you from using your smartphone too much. In short, Android 9 Pie brings a fast, fluid experience with no unnecessary additions, while iOS 12 is simpler to use but lacking in customization options. This has been the standard for years though.

It's hard to find major flaws in either phone's hardware, and they both support the "notch," although the deep notch on the Pixel 3 XL is unsightly, compared to the streamlined notch on the iPhone XS Max. The notch on the Pixel 3 XL houses the dual selfie cameras and one of the dual stereo-speakers, which Google says necessitated its larger-than-life size. The notch on the iPhone XS Max, meanwhile, houses the Face ID camera array which is the only way to secure the iPhone XS Max as there's no fingerprint sensor.

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CategoryPixel 3 XLiPhone XS Max
Operating systemAndroid 9 PieiOS 12
Display6.3-inch OLED
2960x1440 (18.5:9)
Gorilla Glass 5
6.5-inch Super AMOLED
1242x2688 (19.5:9)
Scratch-resistant glass
Dolby Vision / HDR10 compliant
120 Hz touch-sensing
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 845
Pixel Visual Core
Apple A12 Bionic
Apple GPU (4-core)
Rear camera 112.2MP, 1.4-micron, PDAF
f/1.8, OIS
12MP, 1.4-micron, PDAF
f/1.8, OIS
Rear camera 2None12MP, 1-micron, PDAF
2x Optical Zoom, f/2.4, OIS
Front camera 18MP, auto focus
f/1.8, 75-degree lens
7MP, auto focus
f/2.2, 32mm focal length
Front camera 28MP, fixed focus
f/2.2, 97-degree lens
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11ac 2x2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0 LE, NFC, GPSWi-Fi 802.11ac 2x2, Bluetooth 5.0 LE, NFC, GPS
AudioStereo speakers
Stereo speakers
Lightning port
Charging18W USB-C PD
Qi wireless
Fast charging (available separately)
Qi wireless
Water resistanceIP68IP68
SecurityFingerprint sensorFace ID
Dimensions76.7 x 158.0 x 7.9 mm
184 g
157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7 mm
208 g
ColorsJust Black, Very White, Not PinkSpace Gray, Silver, Gold

One of the big differences between the two devices is their approach to photography. The Pixel 2 XL last year was outstanding and used AI to capture photos that were better than the dual-camera competition despite having a single camera. The Pixel 3 XL sticks with a single camera on the rear, but adds a secondary wide angle camera on the front to help you take group selfies. The iPhone XS Max uses dual cameras on both front and back, with Apple preferring to use hardware rather than artificial intelligence to achieve the same effects.

Both phones offer many of the same features so the choice is whether you prefer Android or iOS.

Apple made a big deal during the iPhone XS announcement over some of the improved camera features, including the adjustable bokeh effect in post and stereo audio during video capture. Google also made a big deal about its new camera features during the Pixel 3 announcement, including Night Sight for improved low light photography and the ability to adjust bokeh after capture.

Both phones are up there in the price department, with the Pixel 3 XL starting at $899, and the iPhone XS Max breaking the four-figure club with a starting price of $1,099. You're get a similar experience in terms of performance, cameras, and display, but if you want iOS, the iPhone XS Max is the best phone you can buy. If you prefer Android, your choices are vast, and while the Pixel 3 XL is an excellent choice, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is also worth looking at.

Nirave Gondhia

Nirave Gondhia has been writing about the mobile industry for over a decade and began his career selling and fixing phones in the UK. He's used every flagship smartphone over the past five years and carries at least two phones at all times - currently, he's using the iPhone 11 Pro, [Samsung Galaxy Fold and Motorola RAZR. Say hi to him on Twitter at @nirave.