The iPhone 12 and Google Pixel 5 are not only the leading flagship phones, but also the flagship of the world’s two leading smartphone platforms iOS and Android.In fact, comparing these two phones means pitting two of the largest tech companies in the world against each other. Both Apple and Google have set up their own booth for the ideal smartphone, from software to hardware.
How do these two main acts compare? With a multitude of similarities and even more differences, it’s a truly fascinating comparison.
Price and availability of iPhone 12 vs Pixel 5
The iPhone 12 arrived on October 23, 2020. Prices start at $ 799 / £ 799 / AU $ 1,349 for the 64GB model and go up to $ 849 / £ 849 / AU $ 1,429 for 128GB and $ 949 / £ 949 / AU $ 1,599 for 256GB.The Google Pixel 5 was made available just a week earlier, on October 15, 2020. There’s only one Pixel 5 model and it’s available on the official Google Store for an MSRP of $ 699 / £ 599 / AU $ 999.
If we compare entry-level models, that translates to a $ 100 / £ 200 / AU $ 359 premium for the iPhone 12. However, if we’re looking for a strict spec match, the 128GB iPhone 12 costs $ 150 / £ 250 / AU $ 430 more than the 128 GB Pixel 5.
These two phones share very few similarities in terms of exterior design, but both pull trends together in their own way.In the case of the iPhone 12, it moves away from the obsession with smooth curves and rounded edges that seems to have taken hold in the broader smartphone industry. The iPhone 12 takes a step back in time where flat surfaces and sharp edges weren’t seen in a high-end phone since the iPhone 5S.
Pixel 5, on the other hand, is about materials. There is neither a glass back wall nor any kind of hybrid plastic as seen in the Galaxy S21. Instead, Google reduced things to metal, with a cool but high quality material that wraps around the pages.
This metal also has an interesting matte finish, which makes it look a bit more like polycarbonate than the typical aluminum frame. The device comes in just two colors: Sorta Sage and Just Black, which are on the pale side of the iPhone 12’s silver, graphite, gold, and Pacific blue options. IPhone 12 with glass back. It should be noted, however, that the Apple phone has a new nanocrystalline Ceramic Shield screen on the front that is said to be four times stronger than competing materials. It also has a higher IP68 rating down to six meters of water for up to 30 minutes.
In terms of aspect ratio, the iPhone 12 measures 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm (HWD) alongside the 144.7 x 70.4 x 8 mm of the Pixel 5. This means that Google’s phone is slightly shorter and narrower than its Apple counterpart, but also half a millimeter thicker. These are also two of the lightest flagship phones out there, though the iPhone 12 is the heaviest at 164g, compared to the Pixel 5 at 151g.
In our review, we weren’t big fans of the Pixel 5’s stiff and anonymous side buttons. In contrast, the iPhone 12 includes premium metal switches and that gorgeous Apple warning dial. The Pixel 5’s speakers seem to have taken a step back, too, despite being stereo like the iPhone 12.
Another design difference is related to a different approach to biometric authentication. The Pixel 5 has a pretty old-fashioned fingerprint sensor on the back, while the iPhone 12 has a distinctive notch on the screen for face recognition. It’s debatable if Apple’s approach is more advanced, but these days the ability to unlock your phone by wearing a mask is pretty darn useful.
All in all, we prefer the iPhone 12’s eye-catching design over the more useful Pixel 5. But they’re so clear that it could well be down to a matter of preference.
As different as these phones are, both opt for the same compact OLED displays.The iPhone 12 has a 6.1-inch OLED Super Retina XDR screen with a resolution of 2532 x 1170. It is one of the most balanced displays on the market in terms of color accuracy and can achieve a peak brightness of 600 nits 1200 nits reach under typical conditions.
In the other corner, the Pixel 5 has an equally bright 6-inch OLED with a slightly lower resolution of 2340 x 1080.Where the Pixel 5 wins is for the refresh rate. At 90 Hz, Google’s flagship falls short of the leading 120 Hz package, but it’s 50% smoother than the iPhone 12 at 60 Hz. If we’re honest, it’s a bit of an oversight from Apple.
So the iPhone 12 gains image fidelity, but the Pixel 5 scores in terms of fluidity. We’re going to pass the profit on to Google’s phone based on this latest result, but it’s tight.
Both phones believe that with their essential dual camera offerings, they are photographic masters. And a first look suggests a similar approach.The iPhone 12 contains a pair of 12-megapixel sensors: a prime example with a large f / 1.6 aperture and an ultra-wide one with a f / 2.4 aperture. Google’s Pixel 5 has a 12.2-megapixel main sensor with an aperture of f / 1.7 and an ultra-wide 16-megapixel f / 2.2.
Both main sensors offer the same pixel size of 1.4 µm and are supported by OIS. None of the camera settings offer a special telephoto lens that relies on intelligent cropping algorithms for enlarged images.
Google’s approach to mastering the smartphone camera has made the Pixel line come a long way. Rather than updating its hardware annually – a resource-intensive approach that has an inevitable impact on price – it prefers to use the same old sensor and advances through its impressive image processing algorithms.
Of course, Apple has also made great strides with its own image processing techniques in recent years. The result is that both Apple and Google are among the best when it comes to creating balanced images from smartphone cameras.
Sure enough, these are two of the best camera phones in the business. Both devices take razor-sharp, balanced images in daylight and razor-sharp images at night. Google’s night shots may be a bit brighter, but the iPhone 12 can apply its night mode to all cameras, even the selfie camera.
We prefer the wider width of the iPhone 12’s ultra-wide 120-degree camera, which fits much better into the Pixel 5’s rather insignificant 107-degree field of view. The way Google manages to smooth out the usual distortion and distortion. Color balance problems with its ultra-wide are magical.
Meanwhile, the iPhone 12 blows the Pixel 5 (and pretty much all non-Apple phones) out of the water when it comes to the quality of its video recording. Both can record 4K video at 60 fps, but the iPhone 12 is just better.All in all, we have to give Apple the overall win. It has made more advances in a greater number of areas to create a better all-round camera experience, but it’s damn close.
Specifications and performance
One area where there really is no room for debate is performance. The iPhone 12 blows the Google Pixel 5 out of the water on this front.Of course, the A14 bionic chip that powers the iPhone 12 blows every Android flagship out of the water. After all, it’s the most powerful mobile processor in the industry.
However, due to Google’s historic decision to compromise on performance in the name of cost-effectiveness, the Pixel 5 doesn’t even fight a battle. If you want to know how much cheaper the Pixel 5 is than the iPhone 12, the main exhibit is the Snapdragon 765 CPU usage.
This is a mid-range Qualcomm chip that is way below the Snapdragon 865, which powers most of the flagship Android phones of 2020, and even further behind the Snapdragon 888, which powers the 2021 class.
The difference becomes clear in Geekbench 5’s multi-core benchmark tests. The Pixel 5 scored 1,617 points compared to the iPhone 12’s 3,859. That is a lot more than double the production. Google’s phone may be supported by twice the memory of the iPhone 12 – 8GB versus 4GB – but that’s largely irrelevant given the different ways Android and iOS use their storage.
In practice, the Pixel 5 goes through a number of activities, from surfing the Internet to playing games and playing multimedia content. We only noticed a noticeable drop in performance after extended Call of Duty: Mobile periods and therefore not while playing.
But the iPhone 12 has so much headroom that we’re confident it will feel fast for years to come. We can’t say this with any confidence for the Pixel 5, especially given Apple’s excellent experience with ongoing hardware support. The Pixel 5 impresses with 128 GB of storage space as standard. The iPhone 12 has 64 GB, which doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. Of course, you can specify 128 GB or 256 GB, but that will cost you a lot.
Both phones come standard with 5G, so there is no noticeable benefit. We can’t call it a winner when it comes to software either. Against literally every other Android manufacturer, Apple probably has an advantage here, but not with the Pixel. Even the smarter Android user interface remains a modification of Google’s core operating system. Even if you prefer the Samsung (or OnePlus or Xiaomi) approach, this is not a pure or perfectly optimized experience. Not so with the Pixel 5, which is Google through and through, just as the iPhone 12 is always Apple.
The iPhone 12’s 2,815 mAh battery looks pathetic next to the Pixel 5’s 4,080 mAh device. It’s not that simple, however, as iOS is generally more economical than Android. In addition, the iPhone 12 has a better and more efficient processor and a 60 Hz display that uses less power.
Ultimately, both phones have good, but not good, stamina. We’d give the Pixel 5 an edge – it’s a big improvement over the Pixel 4 in particular – but both phones are firmly in the Solid Day Use category with something between light and very heavy use.
The iPhone 12 has a slight advantage in charging and supports wired charging at 20W compared to the Pixel 5’s 18W, but at least the Pixel comes with this charger. You need to purchase the fast iPhone charger (or another charger) separately. In addition to the 12W of the Pixel 5, the iPhone 12 also supports wireless charging with 15W Qi.