The Pixel 4 is the best Pixel phone to date but has a few issues that make it hard to wholeheartedly recommend to everyone out there. Often the Pixel 4 gets compared directly to the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro but just how does the cheapest Apple device compare to Google’s most expensive?
We’re spoiled at the end of 2019 with regard to new smartphones and sheer choice. Even Apple has really upped their game this year and fixed a number of glaring flaws in their devices. That means that the entire iPhone 11 series proves to be a very enticing prospect if you don’t mind which mobile OS you use on a daily basis.
Of course, the Pixel 4 is often hailed as the Android equivalent of the iPhone. The main similarities being that the hardware is controlled, designed, and crafted by Google for their own software. While Apple and Google share the tight hardware and software integration approach, that’s about all they really have in common as tech companies.
Despite that, because the Pixel 4 and iPhone 11 are everyday catch-all smartphones there are some core common traits and — naturally — many differences. Heck, in our own review of the Pixel 4 and 4 XL, we suggested that the iPhone 11 might even be a better buy for some of you out there looking for a brand new smartphone. But if you are not so sure which is right for you, which should you pick and why?
The hardware of the Pixel 4 and iPhone 11 isn’t too far apart but the execution really sets them apart. Talking purely aesthetics, the iPhone is very much a retread of previous designs but with some added tweaks at the rear.
As for the Pixel 4, it takes a step away from the Pixel 3 and has a very distinct standout design. The matte black sides and colorful power button are far more striking at first glance. That said, the iPhone 11 being available in multiple colors is a real bonus — and the mint green and purple colors really are gorgeous in person.
Both phones have large displays and include impressive and accurate face-scanning tech. Google has dropped the notch and opts for a forehead while Apple persists with the display notch. Of course, the Pixel includes some hands-free Motion Sense tech but for the most part, the face unlocking on both phones is about the same — albeit a tad faster on the Pixel.
The displays are very different though, with the 828p LCD screen on the iPhone 11 looking decidedly less sharp and vibrant when directly compared to the FHD+ and QHD+ AMOLED displays on the Pixel 4 and 4 XL. The 90Hz refresh rate really does favor the Pixel 4 line but it is worth noting the iPhone 11 display does get quite substantially brighter — which will be more important in direct sunlight and bright environments.
I would have to say the softer aluminum sides of the iPhone 11 feel more comfortable but the matte edges and back glass of the Pixel 4 provide more tactile grip in the hand. How you feel about the camera layout is also going to be personal preference but the Pixel feels more cohesive and less tacked-on in my opinion. It should also fare better without a case — unless you try and bend it.
Getting either phone wet shouldn’t be an issue as both are IP68 rated. That means they’ll withstand up to 30 minutes in water no deeper than 1.5 meters. Because of this, both phones are perfect for active people.
If you’re an Android fan, then the Pixel 4 is no doubt the smartphone to choose if you want fast updates and full OS builds. Similarly, the iPhone 11 gets regular updates but it’s likely to get those all-important full OS updates for a much longer period.
Naturally, it’s hard to directly compare Android with iOS but what’s worth noting is that Android 10 on the Pixel 4 is the closest thing to iOS 13 in terms of extras, additions, and general tweaks for some time. What we mean is that it’s the cleanest version of Android you can get. Much like iOS, it has no extra carrier bloat or unnecessary apps or tweaks. Both builds are pure versions of how each tech firm envisions their own mobile OS.
With iOS 13 you won’t get as much customization as you get with Android 10, but you do get some features that the Pixel can’t yet replicate. Things like AirDrop and iMessage are the reason that many are not willing to part with Apple products. However, the Pixel 4 has a ton of great features that the iPhone 11 simply won’t get. Deep integration with the Google Assistant means it’s lightyears ahead of Siri when it comes to hands-free controls.
While Live Captions and real-time transcription are yet more powerful additions that help round-off one of the best mobile experiences on the market. Google pushes the boundaries in the software more than Apple — as they prefer to hold back and finetune the experience before adopting many industry-standard features.
The inclusion of a 90Hz refresh rate display also means that it feels faster, although iOS optimization is similarly impressive and the experience undoubtedly slick. Our preference is Android 10 but iOS 13 is really nice to use and the App Store does offer many better versions of your favorite apps. At this point in 2019, switching from one side to the other has also never been easier.
The iPhone 11 series brought about the biggest shake-up to the stills capabilities of Apple-made smartphones for some time. Whereas the Pixel 4 tweaks and refines, the iPhone 11 has made leaps forward and in some cases betters the defacto smartphone camera king.
In many scenarios, it boils down to your preference of image traits. The iPhone 11 produces slightly warmer photos, whereas the Pixel 4 tends to produce cooler but noticeably sharper photos in most settings.
Both smartphones also come with dual cameras for the first time (based on the fact that the iPhone 11 is an upgrade over the XR). However, Apple has decided to combo a standard wide lens with an ultra-wide, whereas Google has gone for wide and telephoto.
Personally, I prefer a telephoto zoom lens. My reasoning is that you can crop in on a subject and not lose any image fidelity. I use an ultra-wide-angle lens almost exclusively for landscape shots — which is very infrequent. The inclusion of an ultra-wide-angle on the iPhone 11 isn’t a negative though. It will allow you to take interesting photos that have bags more character but it’s worth noting that there will be a noticeable drop in quality.
When using the telephoto zoom on the Pixel 4 though, you’ve also got that enhanced Super Res Zoom. This utilizes Google’s AI post-processing to improve sharpness, clarity and is magic in action. You can still zoom in on the iPhone, but the digital zoom isn’t backed by any impressive software techniques.
The iPhone now includes a Night mode for the first time, although unlike Night Sight on the Pixel, this is not a dedicated camera mode. It is automatically enabled and works in a similar manner to Night Sight by increasing exposure and revealing more details in darker settings. While I will say that the Pixel 4 produces cleaner night photos, the iPhone 11 can look far more natural and as a result are very impressive.
Where the Pixel 4 excels is in the extra modes though. The portrait mode is improved by having the telephoto lens, while the Astrophotography mode is the best I’ve tried on a smartphone. In stills photography, it’s hard to pick between the two devices and will boil down to your own preference of those aforementioned camera traits.
Video is a no-contest though. The iPhone 11 is the best smartphone for video on the market. There is no excuse for the Pixel 4 not having 4K 60fps video modes. The iPhone 11 can even do 4K on the front-facing camera, the Pixel 4 only manages 1080p 30fps. If you value video, the iPhone is still the phone to pick.
This is a no-contest if you’re comparing the Pixel 4’s 2,800mAh battery to the iPhone 11’s 3,110mAh battery — rather than the 3,700mAh found inside the 4 XL. The iPhone 11 really does have an exceptional battery that can get you through even the most intense days. Don’t expect anything close with the smaller Pixel 4. Although the Pixel 4 XL fairs better, it still isn’t up to the lifespan of Apple’s cheapest 2019 smartphone.
Both phones include 10W wireless charging but the iPhone 11 does not include a fast charger in the box. You will need to shell out for a faster charge brick if you want to top up without waiting hours. That said, you won’t need to charge the phone quite as often. No matter which Pixel 4 device you compare to the iPhone 11 in the longevity stakes — it loses.
The base model of the iPhone 11 and the Pixel 4 have a suggested retail price of $699 and $799 respectively — although deals take these prices down a little further. It’s hard to deny the package you get with the iPhone for $100 less than the Pixel 4.
When the OnePlus 7T is available for less than $600, it actually puts into further perspective just how well priced that particular Android device is. The iPhone 11 offers you far more value for money than the Pixel 4 — that’s just a frustrating fact. However, sales, rebates, and discounts do match the pricing more directly, making the Pixel 4 far more palatably priced.
Which should I choose?
Using the Pixel 4 XL and iPhone 11 daily, I would have to say the iPhone 11 matches my expectations much more than the Pixel. That has been a bitter pill to swallow but I still prefer the experience of Android 10 over iOS 13.
The battery life question marks and poor pricing of the Pixel 4 mean that the iPhone 11 does prove to be a solid purchase, even if you are an ardent Android fan. That said, if you are not a heavy user the Pixel 4 is still a fantastic package.
I prefer the Pixel 4 design and the display is far superior — albeit a little dim. Android 10 runs like a dream on the internals and you can always top up with the in-the-box fast charger should you be worried about longevity. Stills photography is very similar but the video modes are far superior on the iOS device. It will all boil down to which OS you prefer — Android or iOS.
With that said, at full price, the iPhone 11 is still somewhat of a better buy than the Pixel 4 in many regards. With Black Friday deals on the horizon, we’re sure both phones will be available at fantastic discounts — allowing you to choose which suits you best or fits your needs the most.
Where can I get the best deal on the Pixel 4 and iPhone 11?
There are tons of places to get the Pixel 4 and 4 XL. It’s available directly from most carriers and online retailers such as Amazon for $599 unlocked, Best Buy, and B&H Photo. You can also head into a carrier store and pick one up with relative ease.
As for the iPhone 11, it is available directly from Apple starting at $699 unlocked, Amazon, Best Buy, and almost all carrier stores — online and offline.
More on the Google Pixel 4:
- Pixel 4 vs. OnePlus 7T: Which should you pick and why? [Video]
- Google Pixel 4 XL Review: Google’s best phone still isn’t ready for everyone [Video]
- Pixel 4 Review: A truly stellar Android experience… while it lasts
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