Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12: Which should you buy?

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

Google Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5

Google's Pixel phones have always been good, but the Pixel 5 is the first one that we're happy to recommend to just about anyone. Its 90Hz OLED display looks great, the cameras are still among the best you can get, and battery life is (actually) reliable. It's also one of the most affordable Pixel flagships we've ever seen, making it an enticing pickup if you want a high-end Android handset without spending a ton of cash.

Google Pixel 5

The Android choice

Reasons to buy

OLED display is 90Hz
Cameras take incredible photos
Long-lasting battery
Compact and comfortable to hold
Lower price

Reasons to avoid

Lackluster speakers
Only one storage option

iPhone 12

iPhone 12

The new iPhone 12 is more expensive than the iPhone 11 that came out before it, but it packs a ton of compelling upgrades that justify the price hike. It finally has an OLED display with a Full HD+ resolution, the cameras are improved, Apple's new design is downright stunning, and the MagSafe charging/accessory tech has tons of potential. It's not as affordable as the Pixel 5, but for iOS fans, it's the default choice this year.

iPhone 12

Apple greatness

Reasons to buy

Gorgeous new design
OLED screen looks great
Fantastic cameras
MagSafe tech is really cool
Years of guaranteed updates

Reasons to avoid

Display is only 60Hz
More expensive

The Google Pixel 5 and the iPhone 12 are two of the best phones you can get for their respective operating systems. The Pixel 5 doesn't have the highest-end specs we've ever seen, but its mission to deliver the best user experience possible at a reasonable price paid off tremendously. You'll spend a bit more for the iPhone 12, but it comes with a few notable upgrades that could be worth it for some people. If we're being perfectly honest, though, this all comes down to whether you prefer Android or iOS.

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12 Price and availability

iPhone 12

Source: Apple (Image credit: Source: Apple)

As of right now, the Pixel 5 and iPhone 12 are both available for purchase.

The Pixel 5 costs $700, and for that price, you're getting 128GB of storage. There aren't any other configurations available for the phone, meaning 128GB is all you get. As for the iPhone, you have three models:

  • 64GB — $799
  • 128GB — $849
  • 256GB — $949

Google offers the Pixel 5 is Sorta Sage and Just Black colors, whereas the iPhone 12 comes in White, Black, Blue, Green, and (PRODUCT) RED.

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12 Two of 2020's best smartphones

When dealing with phones from Google and Apple, one might assume that they're drastically different from one another. Truth be told, the Pixel 5 and iPhone 12 actually have a lot in common. There are plenty of smaller differences here and there, but overall, both phones provide a top-notch experience for their respective operating systems.

Starting first with the phones' designs, we have two very different approaches. The Pixel 5 is made out of aluminum and features a unique paint job that gives it a soft-touch finish. You could say it's not as "premium" as other handsets, but it's very comfortable to hold and feels great in the hand. By comparison, the iPhone 12 has an aluminum frame with a glossy glass back. The front of the phone is also covered by Apple's Ceramic Shield design, which is said to be 4x more drop-resistant compared to regular glass. Both the Pixel 5 and iPhone 12 are water-resistant, have NFC for contactless payments, and support Qi wireless charging.

In addition to Qi, the iPhone 12 introduces MagSafe charging. The new MagSafe wireless charger attaches on the back of the iPhone 12 with magnets and provides faster charge speeds. Apple's also using the MagSafe system for things like cases, wallets, car mounts, and more. It's shaping up to be the next big standard for iPhone accessories, and the potential it has is pretty cool.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Google Pixel 5iPhone 12
Operating SystemAndroid 11iOS 14
Display6-inch OLED
2340 x 1080
90Hz refresh rate
6.1-inch OLED
2532 x 1170
60Hz refresh rate
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 765GApple A14 Bionic
Storage128GB64, 128, or 256GB
Rear Camera 112.2MP primary
12MP primary
Rear Camera 216MP ultra-wide
12MP ultra-wide
Front Camera8MP
Battery4,080 mAhUp to 17 hours of video playback
Charging18W wired
15W Qi wireless
5W reverse wireless
20W wired
7.5W Qi wireless
15W MagSafe wireless
SecurityRear fingerprint sensorFace ID
Water ResistanceIP68IP68
Dimensions70.4 x 144.7 x 8.0mm71.5 x 146.7 x 7.4mm

The Pixel 5 and iPhone 12 feature OLED displays with Full HD+ resolutions, and while they both look great, the Pixel 5 takes the lead with its 90Hz refresh rate. It's also ever-so-slightly smaller than the iPhone 12, but either phone is compact enough for easy one-handed use.

The Pixel 5 and iPhone 12 have capable specs in every department.

When it comes to cameras, we're met with two capable setups. The Pixel 5 and iPhone 12 tout primary and ultra-wide sensors, and for the most part, both phones take excellent shots. Google still has the advantage in low-light situations, but when shooting in broad daylight, it's a toss-up between which one is the best.

Google's made big strides with the Pixel 5's video recording, and while that's great to see, the iPhone 12 continues Apple's legacy of being the best in the business when it comes to shooting video on a smartphone. The iPhone 12 adds HDR and Dolby Vision recording, in addition to 27% better low-light performance.

Looking at the rest of the specs, there's not much to complain about with either phone. The Pixel 5's Snapdragon 765G isn't as powerful as the A14 Bionic chip in the iPhone 12, but both phones deliver fast performance for just about any task. You're also getting reliable battery life across the board, good selfie cameras, and biometric authentication (a fingerprint sensor for the Pixel 5 and Face ID on the iPhone 12).

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12 The software situation

Google Pixel 5

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

Here's the thing about this comparison. We could keep going back and forth about what each phone does better than the other one, but at the end of the day, your final decision likely comes down to the software each handset is running.

This is a question of which OS you prefer.

The Google Pixel 5 ships with Android 11, and for people that like Android, it's a phenomenal purchase. You can customize it with third-party launchers, new features like chat bubbles are here, and you can look forward to major OS updates and monthly security patches through October 2023. As far as Android goes, it's one of the best ways to experience the platform.

Should you prefer iOS, it just makes sense to go with the iPhone 12. There are probably things about the Pixel 5 you would like, but there's no shame at all in sticking with what works for you. With features like AirDrop and iMessage, there's a legit argument to be made that iPhones just work better for certain groups of people.

We aren't saying you should never try out a new operating system if you have the urge to switch, but if you're happy with how Android or iOS is working for you and you want to stick with it, there's no reason you shouldn't.

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12 Can't go wrong with either one

iPhone 12

Source: Apple (Image credit: Source: Apple)

No matter if you decide to buy the Pixel 5 or iPhone 12, you can rest easy knowing you're getting one of the best phones of the year.

It may not have the most powerful Snapdragon processor or the most RAM we've ever seen, but the Google Pixel 5 is one of the most enjoyable Android phones we've used in a while. Everything about the phone works as intended, it's pleasantly affordable, and those aren't things we've been able to say about a Pixel flagship for the past couple of years.

Some may argue that the iPhone 12 isn't as good of a deal as the Pixel 5, but for anyone that wants to use iOS, it's a hard phone to ignore. It's incredibly fast, has excellent cameras, and the new design is one of the best we've ever seen from Apple. When you consider you're getting all of this for $200 less than the iPhone 12 Pro, the value proposition becomes easier to see.

Pixel 5 or iPhone 12, buy the phone that works best for you. Regardless of which one you pick, we think you're going to love it.

Joe Maring

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