Last month, in October 2016, Google released the first Pixel-branded smartphones: the Google Pixel and the Google Pixel XL. The Google Pixel family represent a change in direction from Google, because whilst the hardware and even the software experience is similar to the Google Nexus devices, Google has been making a determined marketing effort to promote the device as a competitor for the Apple iPhone. The Google Pixel family consists of two models: the smaller Google Pixel with a 5.0-inch screen and the larger 5.5-inch Google Pixel XL. Apple's iPhone 7 has a 4.7-inch display and the larger iPhone 7 Plus comes with a 5.5-inch screen. The source website has prepared an infographic that compares the device specification. Let's take a look at the specification and some of the details.
For the sizes of the smartphones, Apple has the smallest device (the iPhone 7) and the largest device (the iPhone 7 Plus). The Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL sit between the two iPhone 7 models. Apple's smartphone is thinner and is sold in five colors, compared with three for the Google Pixel family (and one of these is a special limited edition color). Each device includes a fingerprint sensor: Apple include this on the front and Google include it on the back. Apple left out the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 and customers wanting to recharge their device whilst listening to music must use an expensive Apple accessory adapter (for the bundled earphones) or two (for using your own 3.5mm earphones). Apple is using LCD panels in both iPhone models, whereas Google has switched to AMOLED panels for the Pixel family, which means they have deeper blacks and a much higher contrast ratio. The Pixel family also have higher resolution displays too, especially the Google Pixel XL, which has a screen sharpness of 534 PPI – Apple's screen sharpness tops out at 401 PPI for the iPhone 7 Plus and a pedestrian-sounding 326 PPI for the iPhone 7. However, for most people, most of the the time, the iPhone 7's screen will have imperceptible pixels – it's only when you start mounting the devices into a headset for virtual reality purposes that the sharper screen displays of the Google Pixel family will be relevant.
Under the skin, Apple have given the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus their new custom-designed Apple A10 Fusion chipset. This is a big.LITTLE dual-dual core chipset offering a very impressive set of benchmarks, backed up by 2 GB of RAM on the iPhone 7 and 3 GB of RAM on the iPhone 7 Plus. The Google Pixel family use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset with 4 GB of RAM, again a big.LITTLE, dual-dual core chipset that has high benchmarks. Synthetic benchmarks are largely irrelevant as in day by day use, all four of these devices are smooth, fluid and responsive. The minimum internal storage available for these devices is 32 GB and all four are offered in 128 GB variants. Apple also sells the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in 256 GB variants. Each company offers cloud storage, with Apple offering 5 GB of free iCloud space whereas Google offers at least 15 GB of free space with a Google Account, but the Pixel family also gains free unlimited storage for pictures and videos taken on the device.
Both the iPhone 7 and Google Pixel families have impressive cameras and all four devices are capable of taking impressive pictures. Popular smartphone camera assessment website, DxOMark, has given the Google Pixel devices a higher camera score than the Apple iPhone 7 devices. Both devices have sensors in the 12MP area, with the iPhone 7 Plus having a dual rear camera assembly giving it an optical zoom function. The iPhone 7 family also has a front mounted flash for the 7MP front facing camera and the rear camera contains optical image stabilization, which the Google Pixel family lack. However, the Google Pixel is capable of recording 720p and 1080p video at up to 240fps, whereas the iPhone 7 family top out at 60 fps. Both devices offer slow motion video recording at 720p at 2,400 fps.
For power and recharging, here Apple use smaller capacity batteries compared with the Google Pixel competition. The iPhone 7 comes with a 1,960 mAh battery and the iPhone 7 Plus has a 2,900 mAh battery. The Google Pixel has a 2,770 mAh battery and the Google Pixel XL comes with a 3,400 mAh battery. Google have also given the Google Pixel family support for fast charging technologies whereas the Apple iPhone 7 range simply comes with the Apple Lightning charger adapter. Where the iPhone loses in charging and battery capacities, it makes up for speakers as the two to the Google Pixel family's single speaker. Apple use a single front facing speaker backed up by an end-mounted speaker. The iPhone 7 family also has a much better water and dust resistance compared with the Google Pixel: the iPhone 7 may be immersed into water of up to one meter for half an hour, whereas the Pixel family of devices are essentially splash resistant.
A direct comparison of the numbers behind the Apple iPhone 7 and the Google Pixel is akin to comparing apples with oranges. The devices use different operating systems, which from the perspective of most consumers, do the same thing. Both have fast chipsets, colorful, high resolution screens, great cameras and metal designs. Both can check our email, run our favorite applications or services, and offer smartphone payment functions from the device. In the U.S., both devices start from $649 for the basic iPhone 7 or Google Pixel.
For existing Apple iPhone customers, the water resistance is arguably the single most important reason why the new device is a worthy upgrade. It's an iPhone, so it looks and performs like all of Apple's new iPhones: it's the best yet and it runs the operating system very well. For Android customers, because there are many competitors it's a harder sell to explain why the Pixel family is a worthy upgrade to an existing device. The camera is the best in the industry the the device will be first in the queue to receive software updates from Google. And yet for many customers, it won't matter what any specification contests shows: they will never buy the Apple iPhone or the Google Pixel device, because of a strong like or dislike for one of the two brands. For people sitting on the fence and the iPhone 7 and Google Pixel families are on the shortlist, it's a tougher call and may well come down to how you like the look and feel of the devices, if you want to use your smartphone in heavy rain and if you use an existing pair of headphones. But putting aside personal bias in the Apple iTunes or Google Play ecosystems, both of these devices are at the very top of the 2016 smartphone game.