Google’s Pixel 8 Pro outshines my iPhone 15 Pro Max but is it worth switching?

Google’s Pixel 8 Pro outshines my iPhone 15 Pro Max but is it worth switching?

Google’s Pixel 8 Pro outshines my iPhone 15 Pro Max but is it worth switching?

Google's flagship Pixel 8 Pro bring the search giant's AI smarts to the table. The result is a better camera than Apple's iPhone 15 Pro Max. 

Google’s flagship Pixel 8 Pro bring the search giant’s AI smarts to the table. The result is a better camera than Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Dwight Silverman photo

In mid-2022 I plunked down hard-earned cash on an Android phone, specifically Google’s Pixel 6 Pro, despite the fact that I’m a devout iPhone user. I wanted a device that would allow me to keep up with the Android world, and since Google’s phones use the purest form of that mobile operating system, it was my best choice.

I bought the 6 Pro late in its product cycle; the Pixel 7 series was launched a few months later. I didn’t get a chance to try it, but this year, when T-Mobile came knocking offering a Pixel 8 Pro phone, I jumped at the chance.


Now, as much as I love the 6 Pro, I was not about to jump ship and become a full-time Android user. I’m neck-deep in the Apple ecosystem; its waters are warm and comforting. As I wrote in my column (see about buying the Pixel, “What others deride as ‘lock-in,’ I consider ‘enablement.’”


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But that was before I got my hands on the 8 Pro. While I am not putting my iPhone 15 Pro Max up for sale, I am now seriously considering a switch to a future Google smartphone. Yeah, it’s that good.


It if happens, it wouldn’t be until the end of 2024, but a plan is coming together. More on that later.

The Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro are the third generation of Google phones to be powered by the company’s own system-on-a-chip, dubbed Tensor. As Apple does with its Apple Silicon iPhone, iPad and Mac chips, Google’s seeking to have more control over the hardware that runs its open-source Android OS.

While this looks unmistakably like a Pixel device, there are a few design tweaks. The 6.7-inch display no longer curves at the edges as on the previous two generations. The camera bar that stretches across the upper quarter of the matte glass back sports much bigger lenses, and the 5X telephoto lens has its own separate window on the bar. (The bar is a smarter camera placement than what’s found on Apple’s and Samsung’s phones, where the lenses are clustered in the upper left corner, causing the phone to wobble on a flat surface.)

T-Mobile sent a baby-blue model that Google calls Bay, a color that left me cold. I would likely prefer the Obsidian (black) or Porcelain (off-white) option. It’s a bit heavier than my 6 Pro, but feels just as good in the hand.

The latest Tensor processor paired with 12 gigabytes of memory makes for a zippy experience. Launching apps, scrolling, light gaming and web browsing all happen quickly and smoothly. Some of this can be chalked up to Android 14, which gave my 6 Pro a noticeable speed bump when I upgraded it. While benchmark software has the iPhone 15 Pro Max beating the 8 Pro handily, in day-to-day use the two feel equally speedy.

The display is one of the brightest I’ve tried, and at 2,400 nits peak brightness it beats the 15 Pro Max at 2,000 nits. Its OLED display, as with most flagship smartphones, has a 120-Hz refresh rate that can drop as low as 1 Hz to save battery life.

Cameras, of course, are one of the main reasons people choose a smartphone, and for some folks it’s the most important one. That has inspired a photo arms race between Apple, Google and Samsung, with all three using AI and computational photography to generate the best images they can.

Google’s Pixel 8 line doubles down on the AI editing features the company brought to the photo battlefield with its past two generations. Joining the Magic Eraser, which lets you remove objects in an image, are the Magic Editor and Best Take. While both can be impressive, both occasionally misfire. For example, in one image I tried moving a tall pepper grinder to another spot on a dining table photo. Magic Editor did indeed move it, but in its place it left what looked like a chewed corn cob.

Best Take uses multiple group shots to find the best faces to place on the people in the image. But each person’s head must be positioned similarly in each shot, otherwise the end result can be slightly off.

Google has also given the main camera app more advanced features, enabling users to access settings typically found on DSLR cameras. This makes it more competitive with Samsung’s camera app, though Google’s are more intuitive.

Overall, the camera system is excellent – better at many things than the iPhone 15 Pro Max or Samsung’s flagship Galaxy Note 23. For example, night photos on the 8 Pro have more natural colors than the 15 Pro Max. At all light levels, the 8 Pro’s images are more like real life than the Note 23, which – as with all Samsung camera photos – are oversaturated.

The 8 Pro also does a better job in mixed-lighting scenarios. For example, I shot photos at Memorial Park’s Eastern Glades while standing among trees and looking out at a lake, using both the 8 Pro and the 15 Pro Max. On trees that framed the view of the lake, the texture of the bark was clearly visible in shadow on the Google phone, but a muddy brown on the Apple device.

One other big improvement Google has made: The Pixel 8 line now is fully competitive with Apple when it comes to operating system upgrades. Pixel owners get a full seven years of Android updates. While Apple doesn’t say how many iOS updates any given handset will receive, seven years is about average. Hopefully other Android phone-makers follow suit.

The Pixel 8 Pro starts at $999 for a model with 128 GB of storage, though it’s currently discounted on Google’s site for $799. You’ll pay up to $1,199 for a 1-terabyte model. The smaller, 6.1-inch Pixel 8 starts at $699 for 128 GB, currently discounted to $549. The phones work on all three major US carriers.

The 8 Pro is so impressive that I am considering an experiment. Next year, when the presumed Pixel 9 Pro is released, I may trade in my iPhone for Google’s top handset and try living with it for a year. The challenge for me would be not having a device that interacts so well with my other Apple devices. Plus, my all-iPhone family may have to put up with having a green-bubbler in our group chats.

Sorry, y’all, but it may be worth it. We’ll see.


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