The iOS vs Android battle is refuelled every year when two of the tech world’s biggest giants unveil their ultimate offerings in the smartphone segment. Apple unveils its trendsetting iPhones in September with never-before-seen hardware technologies while Google shows its prowess in the software side with the Pixel range of phones. This year, the Pixel 3 is Google’s flagship and offers a very premium smartphone experience while maintaining the industry-leading single rear camera from the Pixel 2. Apple meanwhile unveiled three iPhone models, with the base iPhone XR being the only phone to fall just under Rs 1 lakh mark. The iPhone XR is theoretically pretty similar to the Pixel 3 XL in many regards, including the single rear camera and the price. If you are seeking an ultra-premium smartphone, chances are that you must probably be confused between the two. Therefore, we have pitted them against each other, putting most of their features under the scanner to see whether one of them has a lead over the other.
The aesthetics of both the phones make for one of the most important buying decisions between these two. The design language that these two embraces are meant to appease different types of crowd.
Apple has maintained its elegant, yet practical, design for the iPhone XR. This is, in fact, the same design we had last seen on the iPhone X and now the XS and Max respectively. The rounded rectangular shape with curved edges gives the XR a signature iPhone look. The rear is reminiscent of the iPhone 8, especially with the single rear camera sensor sitting on the top left corner. The curved frame also ensures a snug fit in palms, but the matte finish on the aluminium frame makes it pretty slippery. Apple doesn’t disclose what glass is used on the XR, but confirms it’s toughest one they could find in the market. The front adorns a fullscreen design with the TrueDepth camera-sporting notch sitting on the top. The bezels are thicker when compared to the XS, but they are uniform all around.
The Pixel 3 XL carries forward its traditional Pixel dual-tone design — but this time, it’s two Gorilla Glass 5 panels sandwiching a glossy metal frame to match the glass colours. The Pixel 3 XL feels lighter at 184g and is surprisingly easy to live with, especially while moving around, despite having a slightly bigger footprint than the iPhone XR. Google has given the Pixel a laser etched matte finish on the rear for maintaining the metallic matte look, but has paved way for wireless charging this time. And yes, the overall design is pretty sleek; however, the controversial front holds the huge display notch and a thick chin, which puts off those obsessed with symmetrical design choices on a smartphone. The larger than usual notch (some say bathtub notch) holds two cameras while the chin houses the loudspeaker. The design is bold yet playful and may or may not appeal to the majority.
Personal preferences differ and both of these will appeal to completely different crowd — the iPhone XR for the image-conscious and the Pixel 3 XL for those who want something bold and playful.
This is where both of them differ by miles. The iPhone XR flaunts a Liquid Retina display, which is a fancy name for an LCD panel. The 6.1-inch LCD display renders images at a resolution of 828 x 1792 pixels in an aspect ratio of 19.5:9 and a pixel density of 326ppi. Under normal circumstances, the iPhone XR offers a reasonably good experience. The True Tone tech automatically adjusts the white balance while support for wide colour gamut makes for a visual feast for the eyes. However, the panel loses colour accuracy off-axis and overall image quality seems a tad dull. The notch does eat up into the viewing area while watching videos or playing games, but Apple doesn’t provide for a way to optimise apps to take it into consideration while in fullscreen mode. App developers will soon create apps to work around this new display size and notch, but we shall witness them as and when they release/update.
The Pixel 3 XL, on the other hand, is certified by DisplayMate to sport one of the best smartphone displays at present. The 6.3-inch OLED panel renders images at 1440 x 2960 pixels in an aspect ratio of 18.5:9 and a pixel density of 523ppi. Images are sharp with support for HDR and DCI-P3 colours, the Pixel 3 XL’s display makes using the phone a treat. Colourful UI elements pop put while videos flaunt high contrasts and rich colours. The viewing angles are wide, but the panel starts throwing up a slight blue tint on extreme angles. OLED panel also makes for the Always-On Display, which is a highly convenient feature, showing the date, time and weather in monochromatic tones. The big notch takes up a considerable amount of space while watching videos or playing games, and most app developers haven’t figured out a way to optimise their app UIs for the screen.
Apple is known to build some of the most powerful mobile processors in the smartphone industry and the iPhone XR is a living testament to that. The A12 Bionic chip with just 3GB of RAM works in conjunction with an ultra-efficient iOS 12 to make sure the phone works as intended. The user experience is qualitative, with iOS apps show full compatibility and high detail that’s close to perfection. Everything’s very organised on the iPhone, but a tight restriction on customisation options means that you have to be contended with what’s offered.
With Google, things are different — they follow a software-first approach, unlike the industry’s hardware-first approach. The focus here is high on delivering a great user experience instead of making just everything faster. The Pixel 3 XL runs on the latest version of Android 9 Pie with Pixel launcher on top. Android’s versatility with Google’s addition of extremely smart features means that the phone is eager to assist you at every moment of your smartphone usage. The Google Assistant is core to the Pixel experience and it makes using the Pixel a charm. Even with just 4GB of RAM, the Pixel 3 XL doesn’t know lags or stutters — it’s buttery smooth.
Choosing between these two completely depends on which platform or ecosystems are you acquainted with. However, be assured that you are going to get the best user experience on both the phones and neither of these will disappoint you in any way.
On paper, both the Pixel and XR offer almost identical specifications. Even the approach to mobile photography is taken remarkably similar — both of them rely on a single camera with computational photography. The Pixel 3 XL relies on Google’s smart algorithms to throw up some of the best images you can expect from a smartphone these days. The Pixel 3 XL nails it with details and smartly figures out a way to make every photo look better than it should actually. However, the iPhone XR isn’t inferior by any means — it impresses in managing exposures and details in most lighting situations. And for most parts, the results from both of these excel in their own ways.
Let’s talk about the iPhone first. The XR follows the usual Apple-style approach to photography — a warm colour tone that ensures details are never missing. In daylight, there are oodles of details and the dynamic range is maintained to the extent of what you see in reality. However, in shadows or low light situations, exposure management isn’t impressive, with the camera often underexposing darker areas of the photos. The photos often make the scene look dull than what they actually are. That said, Apple’s computational photography makes sure you don’t get to see undesired grains in the darker areas, which is a major positive for the iPhone XR. The Portrait mode works really good for both the front and rear cameras, and Apple has improved the edge detection vastly when compared to the previous iPhones. However, selfie portraits only keep the face and the bust in focus while blurring out the rest of the body, which may put off some selfie enthusiasts.
The Pixel 3 XL is the second outing for Google’s computational photography and with the first one being outstanding, things only go north for the hero from Mountain View. The Pixel 3 also does the ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’ approach for daylight photography but excels the iPhone XR in terms of details. It’s easy to make out the skin pores and freckles on a person’s face — not many phones do that. Add to that the accurate contrasts across the canvas and you get some of the most brilliant daylight photos from a smartphone camera. If you love ‘pixel’ peeping, then look no further than the Pixel 3(got the pun?). The Pixel’s obsession with details continues even in low light scenes, although a noticeable amount of grains start creeping up in certain situations. In extremely dark conditions, the Pixel tries its best to capture as much as it can see, but noise eventually is smeared across the photos, unless you have switched on HDR modes in which case the Pixel trades noise for details. That said, you will still get photos that can be flaunted on Instagram. The Night Sight mode (yet to be released officially) does a better job in dealing with noise and details, but requires you to hold on to the camera for a few seconds in the same position for a while. The Portrait mode also does a really impressive job with edge detection on the subject and works uniformly for humans as well as inanimate objects alike (the iPhone XR restricts its pride only for humans). In professional hands, Pixel 3 will easily come up with visual treats without requiring any sort of editing.
Both the cameras will easily put a smile across a shutterbugs’ face in daily life and both are closely matched in their optical abilities. However, the Pixel 3 has a slight edge over the iPhone XR with regards to details and exposure management.
With flagship phones, battery life hasn't been one of the USPs of a device of this category. In the last two years, both Apple and Google have stuffed in bigger batteries on their flagships to keep users away from the socket for at least an entire day. The Pixel 3 XL has a 3430mAh fuel tank, which is adequate according to the standards set by the giants of the Android universe. Apple hasn’t officially disclosed the battery capacity, but third-party sources have confirmed a 2942mAh power reserve.
We have used both the phones extensively as our daily drivers and the iPhone XR has been constantly edging out an entire day with a moderate usage scenario — thanks to an ultra-efficient iOS 12. You brim up to the iPhone XR before you leave for the day and you can easily move over to the next day with around an average of 30 per cent power in reserve. The Pixel 3 XL is close on its heels, with an average of an entire day’s battery life. However, despite Google optimising its software for the hardware, Android’s natural properties bog down the Pixel in the stamina run when compared to the iPhone. Do note that our usage scenario for the test included lots of texting, streaming videos and music, occasional sessions of casual gaming, light photography, and browsing social media.
The Pixel 3 range starts at Rs 71,000 for the base variant with an 18:9 5.5-inch FHD display and 64GB of storage, with the 128GB variant selling for Rs 80,000. The Pixel 3 XL with the infamous notch and a bigger battery starts at Rs 83,000 for the 64GB variant, but you can bump up the storage to 128GB on the top end variant by shelling out Rs 92,000. The Pixel 3 XL is available in Just Black, Simply White and Not Pink.
The iPhone XR starts at Rs 76,900 for the base 64GB variant, while the 128GB variant retails for Rs 81,900. The range-topping 256GB variant demands a sum of Rs 91,900. The XR is available in Black, Blue, Coral, Yellow and (PRODUCT) RED.
It’s impressive to see how the difference between the best of iOS and Android worlds have shrunken to extremely low levels, if not be on par with each other. The iPhone XR and the Pixel 3 XL represent the best of their own platforms. In fact, both these smartphones are pretty evenly matched and it’s tough choosing one over the other. However, as we stated earlier, the Pixel 3 XL and iPhone XR are meant to cater to completely different crowd respectively.
If you want to invest in a smartphone that makes a statement on the move and offers an almost flawless user experience along with an extremely capable camera and an awesome battery life, the iPhone XR is an easy pick — no second thoughts here. On the other hand, if you want a smartphone that boldly flaunts an unconventional yet funky design, a superb camera and one of the most intelligent mobile software experiences, nothing beats the Google Pixel 3 XL in this regard. It’s effortlessly cool.