Though it may be a bit obvious, the Pixel 2 XL was meant to be the very best Android experience around until the Pixel 3 XL was launched, while the iPhone XS Max is as premium as an iPhone has ever been. Each phone stands strong with clean software and incredible performance, but your needs may justify one over the other.
When worlds collide
There are tons of great Android phones these days, but the Pixel represents Google's own vision of what the platform should be. Its clean and simple interface is home to a bevy of smart features, including the ever-powerful Google Assistant. In addition, thanks to Google's machine learning, the Pixel 2 XL remains one of the very best pocket cameras around, despite having a single rear-facing lens.
Then there's the iPhone XS Max. With an enormous 6.5-inch display, it's the largest iPhone ever made, and the True Tone Super Retina display is far better than the Pixel 2 XL's problematic pOLED panel — though some people still won't be a fan of the iPhone's infamous notch. It also boasts Apple's extremely powerful A12 Bionic chip which, on top of assuring smooth performance, augments AR and camera capabilities.
There's a trade-off at every turn with these phones; the iPhone XS Max relies on Face ID rather than a more traditional fingerprint sensor like the Pixel 2 XL, the latter of which many still prefer, but the Pixel lacks the iPhone's handy wireless charging. That's more important than people tend to think, especially on a water resistant phone — should you submerge your phone, wireless charging is the only way to top it off while you wait for the port to dry.
|Category||Google Pixel 2 XL||iPhone XS Max|
|Operating system||Android 9 Pie||iOS 12|
|Display||6-inch pOLED, 2880x1440 @ 441ppi||6.5-inch AMOLED, 2688 x 1238 @ 458ppi|
|Chipset||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835||A12 Bionic|
|Rear camera 1||12.2MP, 1.4μm, f/1.8
OIS, dual LED flash
|12MP, 1.4μm, f/1.8
OIS, True Tone flash
|Rear camera 2||None||12MP, f/2.4, 2X Optical Zoom|
|Front camera||8MP, 1.4μm, f/2.4||7MP, f/2.2|
|Charging||USB-C||Lightning, wireless charging|
|Water resistance||IP67 dust and water resistance||IP68 dust and water resistance|
|Security||Fingerprint sensor||Face unlock|
Each phone offers the very best experience its respective platform can offer.
The iPhone XS Max features a makeshift stereo speaker setup, combining the earpiece speaker with the bottom speaker grill, but the Pixel 2 XL offers a more genuine stereo effect with dual front-firing speakers. Neither phone features microSD expandability or a 3.5mm headphone jack, but each can at least achieve wired audio through an adapter — just keep in mind that Apple is no longer including a Lightning to auxiliary adapter in the box with its phones.
That lack of microSD expandability plays a pretty significant role in determining which phone to buy, since both start at 64GB with a $250 difference in price. At launch, the Pixel 2 XL maxed out at 128GB of storage for $949, while the iPhone XS Max reaches all the way up to 512GB — assuming you have $1449 to spare. Both Google and Apple offer financing options to ease the initial blow, but even so, these aren't insignificant numbers by any means.
With the release of the Pixel 3 XL, the price difference between the 2 XL and the iPhone XS Max has become much more substantial. The 2 XL can be had for just under $600, while the iPhone XS Max is still the latest and greatest from Apple, so there has not been a discount from the $1100 starting retail price.
Whether or not the iPhone XS Max is worth that much more than the Pixel 2 XL comes almost entirely down to your preference in platforms, along with your storage needs. Both phones have incredible cameras, smooth performance, and huge screens, and each serves as its respective manufacturer's poster child for what a phone can and should be. If you don't have any particular software preferences, though, you won't be missing out on much by saving a few hundred dollars and buying the Pixel 2 XL.
Pixel 2 XL
One of the best Android experiences
While it's no longer the newest Pixel on the market, the Pixel 2 XL delivers a fantastic camera and great software at a price that's hard to beat.
iPhone XS Max
The biggest, most powerful, and most expensive iPhone ever
The iPhone XS Max improves on everything that already made the iPhone X great, and upscales to a whopping 6.5-inch display.
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