October 28, 2020
Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 11: Comparing Google and Apple's $699 phones

Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 11: Comparing Google and Apple’s $699 phones


pixel 5

The Pixel 5.


Google/Screenshot by Lynn La/CNET

Google introduced the Pixel 5 at a virtual event earlier this week. It brings new features to the company’s phone brand, including 5G connectivity, an ultrawide-angle camera, Android 11 and a much larger battery. The phone costs $699 (£599, AU$999) and will be available in the US from retailers on Oct. 29.

While the phone has notable updates compared to its predecessor, the Pixel 4, Google anticipates lower-than-usual sales due to the coronavirus pandemic and is planning to produce only 800,000 units this year. It also faces stiff competition from one of the most popular phone-makers, Apple, and its iPhone 11. Though it’s been available since last September and its sequel, the iPhone 12, is expected to be unveiled mid-October, the iPhone 11 is still excellent. It costs $699 too (though £729 in the UK and AU$1,199 in Australia), and is equipped with a fast processor and excellent cameras. It does not, however, have 5G.

To see how these phones stack up, we took a closer look and compared them based on design, camera specs, hardware, software and other features. We’ll update the piece once we get our hands on the Pixel 5, but in the meantime, check out CNET’s other comparison, Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4A 5G: The main differences between Google’s 5G phones.


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Design: Pixel 5’s natural aesthetics vs. iPhone 11’s glossy looks

When Google designed the Pixel 5, it set out to give the phone a natural feel, reminiscent of a pebble. And with the phone’s matte texture, aluminum and glass encasing and soft, rounded corners, the Pixel 5 in green touts a minimalist, earthy look. It’s a direct contrast to the iPhone 11’s high-gloss, pop-art pastel green design. Neither aesthetic is particularly better than the other, but those who want more options will appreciate the iPhone 11’s four other colors (yellow, purple, red and white) in addition to black and green.

Pixel 5 Pixel 4A 5G

Google/Screenshot by Juan Garzon/CNET

On the back of the Pixel 5 is the fingerprint reader for unlocking the phone and digital payments. The iPhone 11 uses facial recognition sensors in the front-facing camera for user authorization.

Both phones have a 6-inch display (if you want to be exact, the iPhone 11 has a 6.1-inch display), they don’t have headphone jacks and they’re rated IP68 for water resistance. 

At least on paper, however, the Pixel 5’s screen appears to be better than the iPhone 11’s. It has a higher resolution and pixel density, which means it’s sharper. Because it has an OLED screen and not LCD like the iPhone 11, colors are expected to be more vibrant, with richer contrast and inkier blacks. Lastly, the screen has a higher refresh rate. While the iPhone 11 refreshes at 60 frames per second, the Pixel 5 has a 90Hz display, like its predecessor. Scrolling through webpages and text on a 90Hz display is much springier, smoother and more responsive.

Camera: Pixel 5 and iPhone 11 both have dual rear cameras

Both the Pixel 5 and the iPhone 11 have two rear cameras, optical image stabilization and special modes for low-light environments. The Pixel 5 has a standard and a wide-angle camera. The iPhone 11 has wide and ultrawide cameras, with the ultrawide camera having a slightly wider field of view than the Pixel 5 (120 degrees compared to 107). 

Google added two new features to the Pixel 5’s camera. You can now enable dramatic, blurred portrait shots in Night Mode and you can adjust the lighting in your portraits too — something iPhones have been able to do for while. 

As for video, the Pixel 5 and iPhone 11 can record 4K video and super-smooth 1080p video at 240 frames per second. But the iPhone 11’s front-facing camera has more capabilities. It can capture 4K video and it can record slo-mo video (known as “slofies“) at 120fps. The highest video resolution on the Pixel 5’s front-facing shooter, on the other hand, is 1080p with no slo-mo options.

We’ll be doing tons of photo comparisons with the Pixel 5 in the coming weeks so stay tuned for comparison photos and video shootouts.

Pixel 5 and iPhone 11 battery, processor, memory and 5G

The Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A 5G are Google’s first 5G phones and are able to connect to next-gen networks, which promise to be much faster than 4G. The iPhone 11 doesn’t have 5G, but its iPhone 12 successor is heavily rumored to have it.

The Pixel 5 is equipped with the Snapdragon 765G chipset from Qualcomm, while the iPhone 11 features Apple’s A13 Bionic processor. Google’s choice of the 765G chipset is an interesting one, as it’s not as fast as the Pixel 4‘s Snapdragon 855. But Google said it went with the 765G to keep costs down. The processor works fine to power many of the phones we’ve reviewed before, like the Motorola Razr (2020), LG Velvet and the UK-only OnePlus Nord. But while we haven’t run the Pixel 5 through the ringer yet, it’s likely that the iPhone 11 will outperform it in benchmark tests. That’s because it consistently gets higher marks on 3DMark and Geekbench 5 compared to phones with the 765G chipset.

The Pixel 5 has 128GB of internal memory and 8GB of RAM. The iPhone 11 has three memory tiers, but if you want 128GB, that costs more at $749 (£779, AU$1,279). Apple also doesn’t disclose the amount of RAM its iPhones have, but regulatory filings report that the iPhone 11 has 4GB of RAM.

Pixel 5

The Pixel 5 can wirelessly charge other accessories.


Google

Neither phones have external storage options, but Google and Apple encourage users to upload and backup their photos and videos on their respective cloud services. Apple’s iCloud gives you 5GB for free and it costs $10 a month for 2TB. Google Photos users have unlimited storage for photos and video at “high” quality. But if you want to upload lots of content in “original” quality, which has a higher resolution, Google’s One cloud service gives you the first 15GB for free. If you want more, it will also cost you $10 a month for 2TB.

Lastly, the Pixel 5 has a 4,000-mAh battery, the highest capacity on any Pixel phone to date. Apple doesn’t list battery specs, but unofficial third-party teardowns show the iPhone 11 has a 3,110-mAh battery. Since we haven’t tested the Pixel 5, we can’t compare battery runtimes yet. But just because the iPhone 11 has a smaller battery on paper, it doesn’t mean it can’t still edge out the Pixel 5 in testing. During our lab tests for continuous video playback on Airplane mode, the iPhone lasted 15 hours, 24 minutes. When streaming video it clocked in 13 hours, 52 minutes. These are the times the Pixel 5 will have to beat, so stay tuned when we get those numbers. 

Similar to the Galaxy S20 phones, the Pixel 5 also has reverse wireless charging. That means the phone can charge accessories, like the Pixel Buds 2, without any cables or plugs.

Software: Android 11 vs. iOS 14

Hold will save you time from listening to hold music.


Google

As always, when comparing phones from Apple and Google you’ll have to decide which OS works better for you: iOS or Android. Both phones have dark modes and digital search assistants (Siri and Google Assistant). And because the phones don’t have physical home buttons, their interfaces rely on swiping gestures instead to switch between apps.

The Pixel 5 will run Android 11 out of the box. The latest mobile OS has useful features like Quick Control, chat bubbles, a native screen recorder and more. Hold For Me will also debut on the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A 5G: When you’re put on hold, you can have Google Assistant do the waiting for you. This frees you from constantly needing to be near your phone or listening to crummy hold music. You’ll be alerted when the other line returns.

The iPhone 11 has the latest iOS 14 software from Apple. It includes a more organized App Library, widgets to customize your home screen, picture-in-picture and a native translation app. 

Other features to consider:

Both phones have dual-SIM. In addition to your regular nano-SIM, both phones use e-SIM technology that supports multiple phone numbers. This is useful if you want to keep your personal and work phone number on the same device.

The iPhone 11 has Wi-Fi 6. Devices with Wi-Fi 6 speak that same Wi-Fi language to talk to each other, and compared to Wi-Fi 5, it’s faster and more battery efficient. But Wi-Fi 6 was only certified in September 2019 and Wi-Fi 6 routers remain expensive. Instead of regarding it as an immediate benefit, think of Wi-Fi 6 as readying your phone for the future. 

The iPhone 11 has a chip just for “spatial awareness.” Called U1, this new chip helps iPhones find other iPhones more precisely when they’re in close proximity. Apple says this improves AirDrop, but many believe the U1 chip is laying the groundwork for a long-rumored Apple tile tracker.

apple-iphone-11-0008

The iPhone 11.


Angela Lang/CNET

Pixel 5 and iPhone 11 specs

Google Pixel 5 iPhone 11
Display size, resolution 6-inch FHD+ OLED; 2,340×1,080 pixels 6.1-inch LCD; 1,792×828 pixels
Pixel density 432ppi 326ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.7 x 2.8 x 0.3 in 5.94 x 2.98 x 0.33 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 144.7 x 70.4 x 8.0 mm 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.33 oz; 151g 6.84 oz; 194g
Mobile software Android 11 iOS 13
Camera 12.2-megapixel (standard), 16-megapixel (ultra-wide) 12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide)
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel 12-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G Apple A13 Bionic
Storage 128GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
RAM 8GB Not disclosed
Expandable storage No No
Battery 4,000 mAh Not disclosed
Fingerprint sensor Rear None (Face ID)
Connector USB-C Lightning
Headphone jack No No
Special features 5G enabled; water resistant (IP68); 90Hz refresh rate display; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); reverse wireless charging; fast charging Water resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging
Price off-contract (USD) $699 $699 (64GB), $749 (128GB), $849 (256GB)
Price (GBP) £599 £729 (64GB), £779 (128GB), £879 (256GB)
Price (AUD) AU$999 AU$1,199 (64GB), AU$1,279 (128GB), AU$1,449 (256GB)



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