Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro: which $1,000 phone is best?

It’s an exciting season for premium smartphones. Less than a month ago, Apple unveiled its iPhone 15 Pro with a sleek new titanium finish and ultra-powerful A17 Pro chip. Now, Google has followed that up with its new flagship Google Pixel 8 Pro, packing in a new Tensor G3, an improved camera system, and a wealth of fun new machine-learning-powered features.

There’s little doubt that Apple and Google are two of the biggest names in the smartphone market, which leads to inevitable comparisons between their top-of-the-line smartphones. Of course, since they operate in entirely different software and hardware ecosystems, it’s an easy decision for those folks who are already on either team iOS or team Android, but for many people, those lines aren’t nearly as black-and-white. Let’s dive in and see how these two behemoths compare.

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro
Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro: specs

 Google Pixel 8 ProApple iPhone 15 Pro
Size162.6 x 76.5 x 8.8mm (6.4 x 3.01 x 0.35 inches)146.6 x 70.6 x 8.25mm (5.77 x 2.78 x 0.32 inches)
Weight213 grams (7.5 ounces)187 grams (6.6 ounces)
Screen6.7-inch always-on Super Actua 120Hz OLED display6.1-inch always-on Super Retina XDR OLED with 120Hz ProMotion
Screen resolution2992 x 1344 pixels at 489 pixels-per-inch2556 x 1179 pixels at 460 pixels-per-inch
Operating systemAndroid 14iOS 17
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
MicroSD card slotNoNo
Tap-to-pay servicesGoogle PayApple Pay
ProcessorGoogle Tensor G3Apple A17 Pro
CameraRear: 50-megapixel (MP) Octa PD wide camera, 48MP Quad PD ultrawide camera, 48MP Quad PD telephoto camera

Front: 10.5MP Dual PD selfie camera

Rear: 48-megapixel (MP) main camera (wide), 12MP Ultrawide, 12MP telephoto, LiDAR Scanner

Front: 12MP TrueDepth

Video4K at 24/30/60 frames per second (fps)
1080p HD at 24/30/60 fps
Slo-mo video support up to 240 fps
10-bit HDR video
Macro Focus Video
Dual exposure on wide camera
4K at 24/25/30/60 frames per second (fps)
1080p HD at 25/30/60 fps
HDR video with Dolby Vision up to 4K at 60fps
Slow motion 1080p at 120/240 fps
ProRes video recording up to 4K at 60fps with external recording
Macro video recording
Cellular5G mmWave (model G1MNW), 5G sub-6GHz (model GC3VE), Dual SIM (Single Nano SIM and eSIM)5G mmWave (U.S. models only) 5G (sub-6GHz), Dual eSIM with Physical SIM on non-U.S. models only.
Bluetooth versionBluetooth 5.3Bluetooth 5.3
PortsUSB-CUSB-C
Water resistanceIP68IP68
Battery5,050mAh. Beyond 24-hour battery life, up to 72-hour battery life with Extreme Battery SaverVideo playback: 20 to 23 hours
Audio playback: 75 hours
20W fast charging
App marketplaceGoogle Play StoreApp Store
Network supportAll major carriersAll major carriers
ColorsObsidian, Porcelain, BayNatural Titanium, Blue Titanium, White Titanium, Black Titanium
PriceStarting at $999Starting at $999

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro: design

For the past few years, Google and Apple have both settled on a fairly established design language for their respective smartphones, and neither one departs too far from this with their 2023 flagships. In fact, you’ll probably have a hard time telling either model apart from its predecessor unless you know what to look for.

Google’s Pixel 8 Pro features the same rounded corners and flat display, with symmetrical bezels, a polished aluminum frame, and the prominent (and now-iconic) camera bar on the rear. The most significant switch is a move to a matte glass back, now made from edgeless Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2, matching the glass used on the front display. Obsidian remains the standard color from last year, while Snow and Hazel are replaced by Porcelain and Bay, a medium-light blue.

The iPhone 15 Pro likewise retains the classic iPhone look, featuring the square, three-lens camera bump that’s been a staple of Apple’s high-end smartphones since 2019. This year, Apple moved to a titanium construction for the frame, which offers a brushed metallic look on the sides — a nice contrast to the shinier stainless steel of prior iPhone Pro models — and significantly reduces its weight, shedding 19 grams over last year’s model. The rear of the iPhone 15 Pro features a similar matte glass back; however, while Apple uses its own Ceramic Shield glass for the front screen, the back glass is nothing particularly special. Apple’s colors reflect the new material theme this year: Natural Titanium, Blue Titanium, White Titanium, and Black Titanium, and are all pretty much what you’d expect from those names.

Where the two smartphones differ most apparently from each other is in their size. The Pixel 8 Pro is Google’s highest-end flagship model, coming in with a 6.7-inch screen, a size that’s more comparable to Apple’s pricier iPhone 15 Pro Max. Unlike Google, Apple makes two sizes for its top-tier flagships, and the iPhone 15 Pro is the more pocketable 6.1-inch version that delivers nearly all the same capabilities as its larger sibling. While one would expect the smaller phone to be significantly lighter, it’s Apple’s new titanium construction that we have to thank for this; the Pixel 8 Pro weighs the same as last year’s Google Pixel 7 Pro, and the iPhone 14 Pro wasn’t far behind.Google Pixel 8 Pro leaked render.

Google

Besides the noticeable size differences, the Pixel 8 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro feature the same IP68 dust and water resistance. The IP68 rating guarantees resistance against immersion in a minimum of one meter of water for at least 30 minutes but typically goes beyond that; how far beyond is up to the manufacturer. Apple says that the iPhone 15 Pro can handle up to six meters of water for up to 30 minutes, while Google doesn’t offer any specifics on what its IP68 rating means.

The Pixel 8 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro have unique design elements and tradeoffs that make it hard to pick a clear winner here. Both phones are well-built, durable, and attractive, but Apple gives you lots of power in a smaller package, while Google delivers a larger screen for the same price. Since that comes down to personal taste, we’re calling this one a tie.

Winner: Tie

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro: screen

The Pixel 8 Pro uses what Google is calling its new “Super Actua” display, which is an LTPO OLED screen with a variable refresh rate from 1-120Hz, always-on capabilities, and an eyeball-searing brightness of 2,400 nits outdoors. That makes it the brightest display we’ve seen on any mainstream smartphone, surpassing the 2,000-nit Super Retina XDR screens that Apple debuted in last year’s iPhone 14 Pro lineup.

Peak HDR brightness on the Pixel 8 Pro is a more modest but still impressive 1,600 nits, but other than significant brightness improvements, the display technology remains essentially the same as before, and the resolution has dropped slightly over the Pixel 7 Pro, coming in at 2,992 x 1,344, for a density of 489 pixels-per-inch (ppi), compared to 512 ppi on last year’s model.

However, the display on Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro remains basically unchanged from last year, featuring the same Super Retina XDR OLED screen with 2,000 nits of peak outdoor brightness and 1,600 nits of HDR brightness and a 10-120Hz refresh rate during regular use, which drops to 1Hz for the always-on display. The 2,556 x 1,179-pixel resolution is lower than the screen on the Pixel 8 Pro, but it’s important to remember that it’s also a smaller display at only 6.1 inches. This gives it a 460 ppi density that’s close enough to deliver the same crispness to the naked eye.

While the screens here are pretty evenly matched, the iPhone 15 Pro gets a slight edge here by offering a richer always-on display that can show a full-color wallpaper background rather than merely a monochromatic view of the time and other info. However, the increased brightness and larger screen size of the Pixel 8 Pro make it the winner, albeit by a small margin.

Winner: Google Pixel 8 Pro

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro: performance and battery

Two years ago, Google began designing its own Tensor system-on-a-chip to power its Pixel phones, and while the early chips had a few growing pains, the Pixel 8 Pro ushers in Google’s third-generation Tensor G3. Google notes that “every major subsystem has been upgraded” in the new chip, with a new ARM V9 CPU cluster and some significant GPU upgrades.

We’ll have to wait for some real-world performance testing to see how that pans out, but historically, Google’s Tensor chips have been strong on machine learning but weak on raw performance, especially when it comes to gaming. This allows Google’s Pixel phones to deliver impressive photos with relatively modest camera hardware, thanks to powerful computational photography algorithms. However, power efficiency hasn’t been Google’s strong suit, and demanding games have proven to be a bit too much for past Tensor chips, heating things up and resulting in a serious hit on battery life. Hopefully, the Tensor G3 will improve in those areas, but it’s too early to tell.Assassin's Creed Mirage on an iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Apple

Apple, on the other hand, has been designing its own silicon for over a decade, and this year, it’s upped the game in a big way — literally — with a new A17 Pro, the first of its A-series chips to get a new moniker since the A11 Bionic was introduced in the 2017 iPhone lineup. Apple is making a big push into gaming with the new chip, and you can already find iPhone 15 Pro-exclusive console games like Resident Evil 4 up for preorder on the App Store to take advantage of the extra power, with more to come. The A17 Pro features a significantly redesigned GPU core that adds hardware-accelerated ray racing and Metal Effect upscaling using the Neural Engine in tandem. There’s clearly power to spare here.

Again, we’ll have to wait to get our hands on the Pixel 8 Pro to know for sure, but we’re expecting battery life to be evenly matched with the iPhone 15 Pro. Last year’s Pixel 7 Pro held its own against the iPhone 14 Pro, and there’s no indication that the specs have changed on either of their successors. Google promises up to 72 hours with the Pixel 8 Pro’s ”Extreme Battery Saver” mode and an average of 24 hours of use between charges with regular use. Apple claims 20–23 hours of video playback or 75 hours of audio playback on a single charge, depending on the streaming service used. Your mileage will vary depending on how you use either phone, but you shouldn’t have a problem getting through a day of typical use.

Thanks to Apple’s decision to finally switch to the USB-C standard, the Google Pixel 8 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro are also on more equal footing when it comes to wired connectivity and charging. Neither offers especially fast charging, promising a 0-50% charge in about 30 minutes with an appropriate 30-watt USB-C charger. The Google Pixel 8 Pro can charge a bit faster wirelessly, drawing up to 12 watts from a standard Qi-certified charger, but you’ll need to pick up Google’s Pixel Stand to get the fastest 23-watt charging. The iPhone 15 Pro will only draw 7.5 watts from a Qi charger and 15 watts from an Apple-certified MagSafe charger. However, unlike Google’s Pixel Stand, iPhone 15 Pro owners can choose from a considerably broader range of third-party MagSafe chargers.

These tradeoffs put both the Pixel 8 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro on par when it comes to battery life and charging. However, based on Apple and Google’s relative chip-making prowesses, we strongly suspect that the A17 Pro chip in the iPhone 15 Pro will at least edge out Google’s Tensor G3 in terms of raw performance.

Winner: Apple iPhone 15 Pro

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro: cameras

The strength of Google’s camera system has always been more in the computational photography power of its Tensor chips, and we’re expecting the Pixel 8 Pro to continue to punch above the weight class of its camera hardware. Nevertheless, Google has packed in an upgraded 50-megapixel (MP) sensor this year with an f/1.68 aperture that promises to collect 21 percent more light than the one found in the Pixel 7 Pro.

The other two cameras include a pair of 48MP sensors with similar improvements in low-light performance, with the telephoto lens gaining 56 percent more light sensitivity and the ultrawide jumping by 105%.

The iPhone 15 Pro retains Apple’s typical three-lens arrangement, with last year’s upgraded 48MP main camera joined by a pair of 12MP telephoto and ultrawide sensors. While the 48MP shooter has been upgraded and features an f/1.78 aperture, that’s still a bit shy of Google’s f/1.68 50MP sensor, and the 12MP secondary cameras can’t compare with Google’s 48MP versions.

Google also continues to deliver a superior optical zoom range, with the Pixel 8 Pro telephoto camera delivering a 5x zoom, compared to the 3x that’s been Apple’s norm since the iPhone 13 Pro was released in 2021. Although Apple finally boosted its optical zoom to 5x on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, that improvement didn’t trickle down to its 6.1-inch counterpart, ostensibly due to challenges in fitting the camera hardware into the smaller design. However, that’s not a problem for Google with the larger Pixel 8 Pro.

Both Google and Apple deliver impressive image signal processing and computational photography features on the software side. Still, this year, Google is ramping things up with manual “Pro” controls in its built-in Camera app, plus Night Sight for Video, a Magic Editor feature that uses generative AI to move subjects around, remove objects, and change lighting, plus a “Best Take” feature in Google Photos to create a blended image to let you choose the best parts from a series of photos. For example, this would allow you to take a series of group shots and create one where everyone is actually looking at the camera and smiling.

While some of these software capabilities may seem a bit gimmicky, Google is definitely pushing the envelope much harder on what’s possible with machine learning and generative AI. The iPhone 15 Pro uses similar techniques to create great photos behind the scenes, but it doesn’t let you manipulate them nearly as much after the fact. Those extra features, combined with the superior optical zoom and camera sensors, make the Pixel 8 Pro the clear winner, at least in terms of features and specs. We’ll have to wait for the inevitable camera shootouts to see how actual photos compare between the two flagships.

Winner: Google Pixel 8 Pro

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro: software and updates

The Pixel 8 Pro naturally arrives with Android 14 this year, delivering the same “pure Google” experience that Pixel phones have become known for. However, this time around, Google is raising the bar in a big way with the promise of seven years of Android updates and Pixel Feature Drops. That means a Pixel 8 Pro you buy today will someday be able to run Android 21.

The iPhone 15 Pro ships with Apple’s latest iOS 17, and while Apple has never made any update promises for its iPhones, it has an established track record of providing at least five years of updates for older iPhone models. It’s a safe bet the iPhone 15 Pro will make it to at least iOS 22, if not beyond.

Both phones are pretty evenly matched here. You’re getting great software out of the box and years of updates to follow. It really comes down to your preference for Android or iOS, so we’re calling this one a tie.

Winner: Tie

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro: special features

As usual, Google has packed the Pixel 8 Pro with some interesting new features powered by the machine-learning capabilities of its Tensor G3 chip. In addition to the previously mentioned camera improvements, the Pixel 8 Pro adds an Audio Magic Eraser, Selfie Autofocus, and support for using Face Unlock in other third-party apps and places where you’re required to sign in. Gboard gains built-in proofreading tools for spelling and grammar, and Guided Frame expands from the selfie camera to the rear camera and can recognize objects and pets.

Google has also added an Object Temperature sensor to the Pixel 8 Pro this year. As the name suggests, this can measure the temperature of objects, and once it clears the necessary regulatory hurdles, you’ll be able to use it to record your body temperature and upload it to Fitbit.

Perhaps the most significant “special feature” of the iPhone 15 Pro this year is Apple’s transition to USB-C, which brings broader accessory compatibility and the same 10Gbps USB 3 data transfer speeds and reverse-charging capabilities of the Pixel 8 Pro. The iPhone 15 Pro can also record 4K/60fps ProRes video to an external storage device and supports several other high-end video encoding features that set it apart from most other smartphones on the market.

These aren’t things that consumers will typically care about, but they’ll certainly be of interest to studios and professional videographers. A similarly niche feature is that the iPhone 15 Pro will be able to record 3D Spatial Video that can be played on Apple’s Vision Pro headset when it launches next year.

For a more practical feature, the iPhone 15 Pro gains the new StandBy mode in iOS 17 that lets you use it as a smart display whenever it’s propped up in landscape orientation and charging, letting you take advantage of the always-on display to show photos, clocks, or custom widgets. If you’re using a MagSafe charger, it will also remember the StandBy displays settings for each one you dock it with, so you can have it set up as a photo album in your living room and an alarm clock beside your bed. The iPhone 15 Pro also adds a new Action button that replaces the classic ring/silent switch and can be customized to trigger any number of actions on your iPhone, including custom routines in Apple’s Shortcuts app and a new ultra wideband chip that can be used to locate your friends in a crowd — as long as they’re also toting an iPhone 15.

While the iPhone 15 Pro has a few neat new tricks up its sleeve, Google offers a more exciting collection of mainstream features.

Winner: Google Pixel 8 Pro

Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro: price and availability

The Google Pixel 8 Pro starts at $999 for the 128GB version, with 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB models also available. It can be preordered from Google and comes in Obsidian, Porcelain, and Bay colors.

The iPhone 15 Pro can be purchased from Apple and most other major retailers starting at $999 for the base 128GB version. It’s also available in 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB capacities, all of which are available in your choice of Natural Titanium, Blue Titanium, White Titanium, and Black Titanium.

Overall winner: Google Pixel 8 ProRenders of the Google Pixel 8 Pro and Pixel 8 next to each other.

Google Pixel 8 Pro (left) and Google Pixel 8 Digital Trends

As usual, it’s a close race between Apple’s and Google’s flagships, but this year, the Pixel 8 Pro comes out slightly on top with a better camera system and a larger and brighter screen — both things you’d have to step up to Apple’s more expensive iPhone 15 Pro Max to try and match.

The Pixel 8 Pro also offers an assortment of fun and useful new features, especially for working with photos, and a new Tensor G3 chip that we’re hoping will measure up in some of the areas where its predecessor fell short.

Nevertheless, the iPhone 15 Pro is a solid buy for folks looking for a smaller smartphone with power to spare and a great camera system. This is the key area in which it wins out over most Android makers, nearly all of which reserve their best features or their biggest phones.

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