Google Pixel 2 XL vs. iPhone XS Max: Which Should You Buy?

Pixel 2 XL

If you want the best experience Google can offer, this was it until the Pixel 3 XL came. However, the camera is still exceptional, especially in low light, and the speakers on this phone are incredible. And, of course, Google's software updates arrive here before anywhere else.

Pixel 2 XL

Google's finest of 2018

Stunning camera
Front-facing speakers
Best way to experience Android
AMOLED display has problems
No wireless charging

iPhone XS Max

Apple took the impressive iPhone X and made it huge. The display is best in class, the speakers are surprisingly loud, and there's nothing else quite like Apple's face unlock system. This design isn't without trade-offs, but overall this is an excellent phone.

iPhone XS Max

Bezel-free hugeness

Fantastic, huge display
Wireless charging
Face unlock is pretty great
No fingerprint sensor
No USB-C port

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.

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CategoryGoogle Pixel 2 XLiPhone XS Max
Operating systemAndroid 9 PieiOS 12
Display6-inch pOLED, 2880x1440 @ 441ppi6.5-inch AMOLED, 2688 x 1238 @ 458ppi
ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon 835A12 Bionic
Rear camera 112.2MP, 1.4μm, f/1.8OIS, dual LED flash12MP, 1.4μm, f/1.8OIS, True Tone flash
Rear camera 2None12MP, f/2.4, 2X Optical Zoom
Front camera8MP, 1.4μm, f/2.47MP, f/2.2
ChargingUSB-CLightning, wireless charging
Water resistanceIP67 dust and water resistanceIP68 dust and water resistance
SecurityFingerprint sensorFace 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.

Andrew Myrick
Senior Editor - Chromebooks, tablets, and wearables

Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.