Google's Pixel and Pixel XL have won over the hearts and wallets of many since their introduction, but that doesn't mean they live in a world without competition. With a lust-worthy feature set and high prices, the Pixel and Pixel XL are quite likely to be compared directly to the new Galaxy S8 and S8+ as people look to buy their next high-end phone.
Both companies give you a choice of two different screen sizes with no differentiation in core features, though those core features really do differentiate between Samsung and Google. The same goes for the hardware design and software direction, which will each appeal to different types of potential buyers.
Let's take a look at the new Galaxy S8 and S8+ alongside the Google Pixel and Pixel XL.
Hardware, specs and features
Setting the Galaxy S8 and S8+ next to the Pixel and Pixel XL shows you how there are so many different ways to build a nice-looking phone. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are even flashier than their predecessors, going with a shiny glass exterior that's now highlighted by highly polished metal as well. Both models have curved screens and tiny bezels, giving an "all screen" look that just feels futuristic.
We all knew the Pixels had large bezels ... but they look downright comical next to Samsung's latest. While there are definitely usability arguments for not having to reach so high to touch the top of the display, most will likely look at the Galaxy S8 as the more modern phone here. In terms of usability the Pixel is actually wider than the Galaxy S8 while the Pixel XL is also wider than the Galaxy S8+. But in turn the Pixels have a fingerprint sensor placement that actually makes sense — the Galaxy S8 and S8+ can't come anywhere near that claim.
The Pixel and Pixel XL have really good displays, but you can't deny that Samsung is still leading the industry here. Whether or not you like the subtle curves on the sides of the screens, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ have absolutely amazing panels that are extremely bright and colorful. And with their 18.5:9 aspect ratio you get a bit more display to look at without making the phone itself wider.
Samsung is always going to 'win' with the number of raw specs and features.
In terms of the raw number of specs and features, Samsung is always going to "win" there. Being newer, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ get the latest processors — either a Snapdragon 835 or Exynos 8895, depending on region — but have also bumped up to 64GB of base storage, while still including an SD card slot, wireless charging and full waterproofing. The Galaxy S8's 3000mAh battery is a tad larger than the Pixel's 2770mAh, and the Galaxy S8+'s 3500mAh is right on par with the Pixel XL's 3450mAh.
How about the cameras? Well we don't know just how the Galaxy S8 and S8+ will perform yet, but we do know they're using the same 12MP "Dual Pixel" sensor and f/1.7 lens as last year — with improvements in software and processing, of course. And as we've seen with the Pixels, software processing can do a lot to make great photos.
Software and experience
In many ways the approach to software mirrors that of the hardware. Samsung offers more features and more flash, while Google exercises restraint in the name of simplicity. Despite Samsung's overall slimming down and cleaning up of its interface, the piles of often superfluous features can be annoying even if you find you like one or two of the added features. Duplicate apps and services just get in the way sometimes, and that's before you see what the carriers tack onto these phones.
You're either getting a ton of features up front, or starting clean and building up from there.
Thankfully you can replace the basics like the launcher and keyboard if you don't like Samsung's, but it won't ever match the simplicity of what the Pixels have to offer. Which one you prefer here really comes down to your preference: do you want as many features as possible that you have to trim back, or do you want to start with a clean slate and build up? That's Samsung versus Google right there.
Samsung is highlighting its new Bixby voice interface for the Galaxy S8 and S8+ launch, but out of the box it only works with a handful of Samsung apps — so it's hard to use that as a true selling point. The same goes for the DeX docking station, which has potential for a small group of users but has yet to prove itself as dramatically useful. On the other hand, on the Pixel you can use Google Assistant ... and there's no forward-looking desktop docking in any way, if that's something you really think you want.
In terms of performance and core features, either size of Samsung's or Google's latest will get the job done. But when you're paying top dollar for a phone, more thought goes into the decision. First, choose your size — do you want compact, or as big as you can get? The pixel is the smallest of the four, while the Galaxy S8+ is the largest. The Galaxy S8 is a nice middle ground, and the Pixel XL is starting to put it for some people's hands.
Then see which design appeals to you — is it the standout extra-flashy Galaxy S8, or the understated and sleek Pixel? Meanwhile, keep the software in mind. Samsung offers more features than you can shake a stick at, but that can make things complicated; Google is all about simplicity and speed, and it shows.
It's an argument that will continue on well past this release, but if you're honest about your needs in the above categories, you'll find one that works for you.
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