The iPhone 12 and Google Pixel 5 are not just leading flagship phones – they are standard carriers for the two largest smartphone platforms in the world, iOS and Android.
Comparing these two phones actually means throwing two of the world’s largest technology companies against each other. Both Apple and Google have set up a booth for what the ideal smartphone should look like, from software to hardware.
So how do these two headlines compare to each other? With a number of similarities and even more differences, it’s a really fascinating comparison to make.
Price and availability of iPhone 12 vs Pixel 5
The iPhone 12 landed on October 23, 2020. Prices start at $ 799 / £ 799 / AU $ 1,349 for the 64 GB model, and go up to $ 849 / £ 849 / AU $ 1,429 for 128 GB and $ 949 / £ 949 / AU $ 1,599 for 256 GB.
Google Pixel 5 was made available just a week or so earlier, October 15, 2020. There’s only one Pixel 5 model out there, and it’s available for $ 699 / £ 599 / AU $ 999 from the official Google Store.
If we compare entry models, there is a $ 100 / £ 200 / AU $ 359 premium for the iPhone 12. But if we look at a strict specification, the 128 GB iPhone 12 costs $ 150 / £ 250 / AU $ 430 more than the 128 GB Pixel 5.
These two phones have very little similarity when it comes to external design, but both bend trends in their own way.
As for the iPhone 12, it is moving away from the obsession with sleek curves and rounded edges that seem to have taken hold of the broader smartphone industry. The iPhone 12 dates back to a time of flat surfaces and sharp edges, such as have not been seen in a top phone since the iPhone 5S.
With Pixel 5, on the other hand, it is a material thing. There is no glass back panel here, nor is there any kind of hybrid plastic of the type seen in the Galaxy S21. Instead, Google has stripped things back to the metal, with a cool yet premium material that wraps right around the sides.
There is also an interesting matte surface on this metal, which makes it feel a little more like polycarbonate than your typical aluminum frame. The device is available in just two shades, Sorta Sage and Just Black, which rather fade next to the iPhone 12’s silver, graphite, gold and Pacific Blue options.
Still, metal is metal, and the Pixel 5 appears to be more rugged than the glass-backed iPhone 12. However, it’s worth noting that Apple’s phone comes with a new nanocrystalline ceramic screen around the front, which is said to be four times stronger than competing materials. . It also has a superior IP68 rating to a depth of six meters of water for up to 30 minutes.
In terms of proportions, the iPhone 12 measures 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm (HWD) next to the Pixel 5s 144.7 x 70.4 x 8 mm. This means that the Google phone is shorter and narrower than its Apple counterpart, but also half a millimeter thicker. These are two of the lightest flagship phones on the market as well – although the iPhone 12 is the heavier device at 164g compared to the Pixel 5 at 151g.
We were not massive fans of the Pixel 5’s stiff, indescribable side buttons in our review. Conversely, the iPhone 12 includes premium metal switches and the glorious Apple Alert button. Pixel 5s speakers, while stereo like the iPhone 12, seem to have taken a step back as well.
Another design difference is related to a different approach to biometric authentication. Pixel 5 has a fairly old-fashioned rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, while iPhone 12 has a prominent screen notch for Face ID. It can be argued that Apple’s approach is more advanced – but these days the ability to unlock your phone with a mask is quite useful.
All in all, we prefer the striking iPhone 12 design over the rather utilitarian Pixel 5. But they are clear enough that this may well come down to a matter of preference.
As different as these phones look, both choose equally compact OLED screens.
The iPhone 12 comes with a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED screen with a resolution of 2532 x 1170. It is one of the most balanced screens on the market in terms of color accuracy, and it can achieve a top brightness level of 1200 nits, with 600 nit under typical conditions.
In the other corner, the Pixel 5 offers an equally bright 6-inch OLED with a slightly smaller 2340 x 1080 resolution.
Where Pixel 5 wins is for refresh rate. At 90Hz, Google’s flagship does not fall below the 120Hz leading pack, but ends up 50% more fluid than the 60Hz iPhone 12. There is some oversight on Apple’s part, if we are honest.
The iPhone 12 wins out for image fidelity, then, but the Pixel 5 scores big on flow. We give the win to the Google phone based on the latest result, but it’s close.
Both phones claim to be photographic masters with their secluded, dual camera offerings. And a first glance suggests a similar approach.
The iPhone 12 includes a pair of 12-megapixel sensors: one main example with a large f / 1.6 aperture, and an ultra-wide one with an f / 2.4 aperture. Google’s Pixel 5 delivers a 12.2 megapixel main sensor with f / 1.7 aperture and a 16 megapixel f / 2.2 ultra-wide.
Both main sensors give you the same pixel size of 1.4 µm, and both are supported by OIS. Neither camera setup offers a dedicated telephoto lens, depending on smart cropping algorithms for the zoomed images.
Google’s approach to mastering smartphone cameras has taken its Pixel line far. Instead of upgrading the hardware every year – a resource-intensive approach that inevitably has consequences for the price – it prefers to use the same old sensor and make progress through its formidable imaging algorithms.
Of course, Apple has also made great strides in recent years with its own image processing techniques. The result is that both Apple and Google are among the very best at producing balanced smartphone camera images.
Sure enough, these are two of the very best camera phones in the industry. Both devices take sharp, balanced images in daylight and sharply clear images at night. Google’s night photos may be a little brighter, but the iPhone 12 can use night mode on all cameras, even the selfie camera.
We prefer the wider nature of the iPhone 12s 120-degree ultra-wide camera, which fits in much more than the rather small 107-degree field of view of the Pixel 5. Still, the way Google manages to balance the usual distortions and color balance issues with its ultra-wide feel Magical.
Meanwhile, the iPhone 12 Pixel 5 (and pretty much all non-Apple phones) is blowing out of the water in terms of video recording quality. Both can take 4K video at 60 frames per second, but the iPhone 12 is simply better.
All in all, we have to give the total gain to Apple. Several advances have been made in a larger number of areas for a better camera experience – but it is done fairly quickly.
Specifications and performance
One area where there really is no room for debate is performance. The iPhone 12 definitely 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. It is, after all, the most powerful processor in the business.
But the Pixel 5 is not even fighting for a battle because of Google’s landmark decision to compromise on power in the name of cost-effectiveness. If you want to know how the Pixel 5 is so much cheaper than the iPhone 12, the number one exhibit will be the use of the Snapdragon 765 CPU.
This is a mid-range Qualcomm chip that sits well below the Snapdragon 865 that powered most 2020 flagship phones, and even further behind the Snapdragon 888 that drives the 2021 class.
The difference is spelled out with Geekbench 5 multicore benchmark tests, with the Pixel 5 scoring 1,617 compared to the iPhone 12s 3,859. That is significantly more than twice as much.
Google’s phone can be supported by dual RAM on the iPhone 12 – 8 GB versus 4 GB – but it’s largely irrelevant considering the different ways Android and iOS use memory.
Practically, the Pixel 5 breezes through a variety of tasks, from surfing the web to playing and playing media. We only saw really remarkable performance drops after persistent bouts of Call of Duty: Mobile, and then not during the game.
But the iPhone 12 has such a high ceiling that we feel confident that it will feel fast for years. We can not say exactly the same for the Pixel 5 with some certainty – especially given Apple’s superior overview of ongoing hardware support.
Pixel 5 partially backs up with the addition of 128 GB of storage by default. The iPhone 12 gets 64 GB, which really does not feel like enough anymore. Sure, you can specify 128 GB or 256 GB, but it will cost you a lot.
Both phones have 5G as standard, so there is no advantage to talk about. Nor can we call a winner when it comes to software.
Against literally all other Android manufacturers, Apple undoubtedly has an advantage here – but not with Pixel. Even the most flexible Android user interface is still a modification of the core of Google OS, so even if you prefer the way Samsung (or OnePlus or Xiaomi) does things, it’s 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 all the time Apple.
The iPhone 12s 2,815mAh battery looks pitiful next to the Pixel 5s 4,080mAh device.
However, it is not as simple as that, since iOS is generally more economical than Android. In addition, the iPhone 12 has a better, more efficient processor and a less power-intensive 60Hz screen.
In the end, both phones have good but not outstanding endurance. We want to give the Pixel 5 the edge – especially it is a big improvement over the Pixel 4 – but both handsets are stuck in the category ‘solid day of use’ with everything between light and very heavy use.
The iPhone 12 has a small edge when it comes to charging, with support for 20W wired charging compared to the Pixel 5s 18W. But at least the Pixel comes with that charger. You have to buy the iPhone quick charger (or any charger, for that matter) separately.
The iPhone 12 also supports 15W Qi wireless charging alongside the Pixel 5s 12W.
While the iPhone 12 and Pixel 5 seem to give us an exciting ‘Apple vs Google’ face, direct comparisons are quite difficult.
Apple has chosen a bold, premium designer statement with its iPhone 12, which gives a number of Pro blooms to its usual line. Conversely, Pixel 5 removes things from Pixel 4, offering an approximate experience for an intermediate price.
The Pixel 5 is much cheaper than the iPhone 12 as a result, making it the better choice for those on a budget of £ 500 (ish). For the money, you get a camera system, a screen and a pure software experience that is competitive with Apple.
If you’re willing to spend more, the iPhone 5 undoubtedly feels like the more premium phone – and the performance is completely in a different league.