Two ways Pixel 6 Pro beats iPhone 13 Pro Max
What happens when you compare Apple's latest flagship with Google's freshly arrived Pixel 6 Pro?
While they're flagship phones and therefore to an extent competing with other Android flagships (hello Samsung!), Google's competition arguably isn't within the Android space at all.
Google's in much the same position that Microsoft finds itself in relating to its Surface tablets.
Google would love to sell a whole heaping load of Pixel 6 Pro handsets, but it's also in commercial relationships with the likes of Samsung, Nokia/HMD Global, Oppo, Motorola and many more. Android on those platforms actively helps Google's core businesses around search and advertising, as well as its cut of Google Play sales and subscriptions.
It's not true to say that there's no commercial relationship between Apple and Google, with the search giant reportedly paying billions to be the default search on iPhones, but Google isn't going to lose too much sleep if its premium smartphone offerings result in a slip in Apple's iPhone market position. After all, it pays exactly nothing to be the default search on Android, so it would actively save money that way.
It's Apple, and the reasons why are clear. Like Apple, Google has something of a "home ground" advantage with the Pixels, because it's got a higher degree of control over the software than other Android manufacturers, because it makes Android.
As such, Pixels have from day one enjoyed first run access at new Android OS upgrades for 3 years from date of release, and that's true for the Pixel 6 Pro as well.
It's more than that now though with Google stepping into the silicon arena with the new Tensor processor. I'm still in the process of working through Finder's review of the Pixel 6 Pro, but even before that, there's some areas of interesting comparison between the Pixel 6 Pro and Apple's current big boy flagship phone, the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max.
Pixel 6 Pro vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: Design
Design is often a matter of personal taste, and I've no doubt that the shelf style design of the Pixel 6 Pro, along with its varied colour hues, will be a little controversial amongst the Google faithful. Both phones are big lads and you've very much got to like that approach to your phones to even be in this discussion.
Likewise, it's a tale of contrasting biometrics at play, with Apple resting on its FaceID sensor (now in a smaller notch) for the iPhone 13 Pro Max while Google opts for an in-display fingerprint sensor for unlocking.
FaceID is often a little faster, and clearly you don't have to touch the handset at all, but any iPhone owner with a FaceID sensor will be able to tell you precisely how well they work with facemasks on.
On the surface, I'm tempted to call this one a draw.
Pixel 6 Pro vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: Cameras
The iPhone 13 Pro Max features a triple camera array at the rear, with 12MP wide, ultra-wide and 3x telephoto lenses. Comparatively, the Pixel 6 Pro has a 50MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide and 48MP 4x telephoto zoom.
Slam dunk for Google, right?
Maybe not. Photography and its results are far more than just the sum of megapixel counts, although for some shooting types the difference in optical zoom might tilt you towards Google's flagship.
Both Apple and Google have significant investments in camera post-processing (I'm ignoring RAW for the moment) that can massively change the way that they finish off your images, especially in the key areas for premium phones such as low light processing. Both Apple and Google offer fancy premium-only modes for their "Pro" phones, although it is worth noting that the exact same camera optics found in the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max are also in the smaller iPhone 13 Pro. That's not the story for the difference between the Google Pixel 6 Pro and Google Pixel 6.
Still, at this stage, it's too early to call it either way. Stay tuned for our full review.
Pixel 6 Pro vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: Processors
The Tensor chip in the Pixel 6 Pro is Google's first in-house designed chip – although it's certainly not in the business of fabricating them – and its claims around performance and security are very bold indeed.
However, it's got a huge target to hit if it wants to outdo the Apple A15 Bionic found in the iPhone 13 Pro Max. We're still yet to see any Android phone benchmark as well as the 2020's A14 Bionic, let alone this year's model.
Benchmarks are a useful comparative tool, but they're not the be-all and end-all of phone performance, and that's especially true for modern smartphones. At one point the line between premium and cheap was incredibly marked, because the cheap phones had terrible performance and you had a sub-par phone experience as a result.
That's no longer the case, and if you just want regular everyday phone app usage, mid-range is totally where you should be looking. However, that's not where the Tensor chip is aimed, again because there are so many mid-range Androids out there. Sadly, it seems for Australian users that the Google Pixel 5a isn't going to be one of them any time soon, so if you do like that simple clean Pixel goodness, you're stuck with the older Pixel 5/4a/4a 5G… if you can find one.
Really, this is Google fight to win, and while I'm feverishly testing and comparing as you read this, the victory for now goes to Apple.
Pixel 6 Pro vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: 5G
This is where Google wins a very decisive victory, and specifically for the Google Pixel 6 Pro. Both the iPhone 13 Pro Max and Google Pixel 5 Pro are 5G capable across the 5G networks of Telstra, Optus and Vodafone in Australia, but the Pixel 6 Pro is the first handset to launch in this country with both sub-6Ghz and mmWave 5G compatibility.
The vast majority of 5G currently available in Australia is of the sub-6Ghz variety, and that's been Apple's unstated reasoning why we've only seen sub-6Ghz iPhones in Australia to date.
However, where this does feel cheap on Apple's part is that it does produce a dual sub-6Ghz/mmWave model that would be compatible with Australia's 5G mmWave networks, but it doesn't sell it here. If you want the best iPhone 13 Pro Max, you have to buy a model sold only in the US.
What we've seen to date with sub-6Ghz 5G are speeds peaking up towards 1Gb/s download, although as with any mobile network speeds and conditions can vary a lot. I've also run 5G tests that have struggled to kick above 200Mbps, a speed that 4G LTE can manage in many cases.
So how much faster should mmWave be? I've not been able to directly test it as yet, but Telstra's claims around this for the Pixel 6 Pro are certainly encouraging, with the company telling me that it's hit around 3.6Gbps down on a unit in real world situations.
That's fast, and shows the promise of 5G. While mmWave won't roll out across every square centimetre of Australia (that's a lot of square centimetres), it's expected to be deployed in CBDs and heavy traffic areas such as sports stadiums in the coming years, so it's not just a question of speed either. If you've ever struggled to send out a message mid-match because everyone else in the stadium is using data at the same time, mmWave 5G could make a huge difference.
Pixel 6 Pro vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: Price
The Pixel 5 was a lower-cost phone when it launched, signalling Google's intent to focus more on mid-range performance handsets.
That was the story, but then Google signalled that the more premium design and features of the Pixel 6 Pro would attract a more premium price. Given that "premium" these days can easily mean north of $2,000, that was a worrying sign.
Worry not, however, because the Pixel 6 Pro, while still in the premium price category, sits at the lower end of the band. Here's how the two phones compare against each other at each storage tier, bearing in mind that neither supports microSD expansion:
|Google Pixel 6 Pro||$1,299||$1,449||$1,599||N/A|
|Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max||$1,849||$2,019||$2,369||$2,719|
That's a very solid argument in the Pixel 6 Pro's favour there. Neither phone sits cheap, but the gulf in storage pricing is massive.
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