Pixel 4 vs. iPhone 11: Which should you buy?

Pixel 4 and iPhone 11 displays
Pixel 4 and iPhone 11 displays (Image credit: Android Central)

Pixel 4

Google Pixel 4

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The Pixel 4 is Google's model for what Android should be: fast, fluid, and with great imaging. Its cameras take fantastic photos in any lighting conditions, and with astrophotography mode you can even capture the stars. However, battery life and pricing don't do the phone any favors.

Pixel 4

Pure Google

Stellar astrophotography mode
90Hz display
Android 10 with fast updates
Face Unlock even faster than Face ID
Poor battery life
No ultra-wide camera
More expensive

iPhone 11

iPhone 11

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The iPhone 11 packs Apple's most powerful processor and two fantastic cameras into its most affordable phone of the year. It's a bit on the large side, but its ultra-wide lens is more useful than a telephoto sensor, and it shoots great-looking 4K60 video.

iPhone 11

Powerful and affordable

Fantastic battery life
Works well with other Apple devices
Smooth video recording
More useful wide-angle
Low-res display
No telephoto camera
Less customizable software

There are seemingly endless options for phones from different manufacturers these days, but if you're after the best possible software experience, why not buy directly from the maker of the operating system? Google and Apple both have fantastic offerings this year, but while they look similar in hardware, there's a lot that's different between the Pixel 4 and iPhone 11. Assuming you're relatively platform agnostic, which should you buy?

Clean software and night vision cameras

PIxel 4 and iPhone 11 next to a jack-o-lantern

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

Physically, it's no stretch to say that the Pixel 4 and iPhone 11 look similar, at least from the back. Both phones feature a glass and metal construction with square housings for their dual camera modules and matte-finish side rails for extra grip. While the iPhone 11 is only available with a slick glossy backing, only the black Pixel 4 is glossy, with the white and orange models featuring frosted glass instead. Build quality on each phone is outstanding, and both feature wireless charging and IP68 water and dust resistance.

Around the front, the differences are more apparent. The iPhone 11 has the same wide display notch up top that Apple's been using since the iPhone X, housing the necessary sensors for its Face ID authentication, while the PIxel 4 sticks with a more traditional "forehead" bezel above its display.

Both phones are incredibly well-built, but the Pixel 4's sharper, faster 90Hz display is a nice perk.

New this year for the Pixel is a combination of radar and infrared sensors that enable its own Face Unlock system in lieu of a fingerprint sensor, which works incredibly well and is even faster than Face ID, but with far less support. We're still waiting on Android developers to adopt Google's new biometrics API that enables Face Unlock for signing into apps.

You'll get a larger display with the iPhone 11, a 6.1-inch LCD panel versus the Pixel 4's 5.7-inch P-OLED, but the latter is both higher resolution and faster with a variable refresh rate at up to 90Hz. This plays a big role in making the PIxel 4 feel speedier when scrolling around in apps, but both phones are incredibly responsive.