iPhone 16 Pro Max vs Google Pixel 9 Pro XL: Expected differences

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iPhone 16 Pro Max vs Google Pixel 9 Pro XL: : Expected differences

Intro


Google is shaking things up with its Pixel lineup in 2024! Instead of two phones, they're rumored to be releasing three, with the biggest and most expensive being the Pixel 9 Pro XL. This phone is expected to go head-to-head with Apple's upcoming iPhone 16 Pro Max, representing the best technology both companies have to offer.

Pricing for these top-of-the-line devices is expected to be around $1,000, which is standard for premium phones. There are rumors of a possible jump to $1,200, but that seems less likely.

It's important to remember that all this information is based on leaks and reports, not official announcements from Google. So, some details may change, but this gives us a good starting point for what to expect in terms of hardware, software, and any key differences between these two phones.

iPhone 16 Pro Max vs Pixel 9 Pro XL differences:



Table of Contents:

Design and Size

More alike then you might expect

Apple began making its Pro iPhone models from titanium, which is also what we expect the iPhone 16 Pro Max's frame to be made out of. In comparison, Google is yet to switch from aluminum, although renders are showing what appears to be stainless steel frames with the new Pixel Pro models.

If Google does go for stainless steel as the frame material, that would also mean the Pixel 9 Pro XL would be heavier than its predecessors, as steel is considerably more dense than aluminum. Still, it would not be as sturdy and definitely not as light as the titanium on the iPhone 16 Pro Max.

Size-wise, there shouldn't be too big of a difference between the two, with the iPhone 16 Pro Max being approximately 6.30 x 3.02 x 0.33 inches (159.9 x 76.7 x 8.3mm) and the Pixel Pro 9 XL coming in at 6.41 x 3.02 x 0.33 inches (162.7 x 76.6 x 8.5mm).

This year, the Pixel will resemble iPhones, for better or for worse, at least based on the leaked renders revealing a more blocky Pixel 9 series. The iconic camera island will look like that of the Pixel Fold and will no longer be connected to the frame.

The iPhone 16 Pro Max will look very similar to its predecessors and the upcoming Pixel, with the main difference being the camera island at the back, which will remain a protruding square at one of the top corners.

Durability will be overall similar between the two as well, with an IP68 water and dust resistance rating. One thing the iPhone might have over the Pixel is its slightly more scratch-resistant display thanks to the technology Apple calls "Ceramic Shield," but the Pixel could match that if it adopts the Gorilla Glass Armor that came with this year's Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Display Differences


The iPhone 16 Pro Max and Pixel 9 Pro XL are expected to boast top-tier OLED displays that will make almost any user happy. That said, each is said to have at least one trick up its sleeve in this segment.

The iPhone 16 Pro Max could take the lead in sheer size with a rumored 6.86-inch display compared to the Pixel 9 Pro XL's expected 6.7-inch one. Both phones will be  large and immersive, but the iPhone might come with slimmer bezels making it even more eye-catching.

Things get even more interesting when we start talking about brightness. Rumors suggest Apple is upping the ante on this front with the iPhone 16 Pro Max, aiming to surpass competitors on the Android side. This could translate to better readability in bright sunlight, but more importantly a more impactful HDR experience. That said, if the Pixel 9 Pro XL comes with the same 2400 nits peak brightness as its predecessor, than it will be plenty bright too, so Apple's higher brightness might not be that much of a benefit over Google's premium flagship.

Both phones are expected to feature a display variable refresh rate, which dynamically adjusts between 1Hz and 120Hz for optimal battery life and performance.

Lastly, the Pixel 9 Pro XL might come with a feature that tackles an issue iPhones have been notorious for throughout the years. It's called "Adaptive Touch" and it can automatically adjust the display sensitivity based on your environment and usage, potentially improving touch responsiveness with screen protectors or wet fingers.

Performance and Software

Performance might not be the key metric anymore

The iPhone 16 Pro Max is said to come with Apple's A18 Pro chipset (3nm), which will include hardware specifically built for on-device AI. On the other hand, Google will probably launch the Pixel 9 Pro XL with the Tensor G4 (4nm), which will still be based on Samsung's Exynos silicon.

Typically, Apple's chipsets perform significantly better compared to Google's when it comes to benchmark tests. This gap in performance doesn't usually show until you open up a graphically intensive game or an application that requires a lot of power from the chipset, like image or video editing apps, for example.

Nowadays, however, the fun part lies not within how powerful the phones are, but with the way they utilize that power in the form of software features and optimization. Of course, we are talking about all of the AI goodies we expect to see with the iPhone 16 Pro Max and Pixel 9 Pro XL.

For the iPhone, Apple is said to focus heavily on on-device AI with an aim on privacy and security, as well as processing speed. For cloud-based AI features, which are required for more complex tasks, the company is actually said to be in talks with Google to use its Gemini cloud infrastructure.

Google is said to replace the Google Assistant on the Pixel 9 series with a new AI assistant called Pixie, which will make use of Google's Gemini AI LLM (large language model) and be able to perform complex and multimodal tasks.

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The Pixel 9 Pro XL will likely have some, if not all of the following AI features:

  • Pixie can identify objects in photos and locating nearby stores selling them via contextual image search. Also, it might be able to book appointments, make calls, manage calendars, set reminders, transcribe meetings, and summarize them for sharing.
  • Circle, Scribble, or Highlight to Search
  • Smart Reply across the (G)board

In terms of software support, the two will probably match each other now that Google offers 7 years of Android updates and security patches, which is the same as with Apple.

Camera

Both should offer stellar camera performance

In terms of hardware, both the iPhone 16 Pro Max and the Pixel 9 Pro XL will likely keep almost the same cameras as their predecessors (with the Pixel's predecessor being the Pixel 8 Pro). Here's a quick summary of the cameras.

iPhone 16 Pro Max expected cameras:
  • Main (wide): 48MP, 24mm, f/1.78
  • Ultra-wide: 12MP, 13mm, f/2.2
  • 5X telephoto: 12MP, 120mm, f/2.8
  • Front/selfie: 12MP, f/1.9

Pixel 9 Pro XL cameras:
  • Main (wide): 48MP, 25mm, f/1.7
  • Ultra-wide: 48MP, f/2.2
  • 5X telephoto: 12MP, 113mm, f/2.8
  • Front/selfie: 10.5MP, f/1.9

The one change we really want to see from Apple is a new ultra-wide camera, but since there hasn't been any information about such an upgrade yet, for now, we presume it will be the same as last year.

We expect most of the camera improvements coming with the iPhone and Pixel to be in the form of software features and optimization. More specifically, AI will probably play a huge role in the camera performance these ultimate flagships will offer.

Apple especially is lagging behind a little bit as far as AI camera features are concerned. Given the news that this year's iOS 18 update will be highly focused on artificial intelligence we expect that to change, with some of the iPhone 16 AI features to be related to its camera performance.

Google already introduced quite a bit of camera AI functionality with last year's models, but the company will definitely expand on the solid foundation it has already built. Some of the Pixel 9 AI features might include AI HDR (a Gemini-driven version of Google's Ultra HDR feature) and a smarter AI Clean feature (the ability to remove stains and imperfections from a scanned document), working with regular photos and even videos. 

Audio Quality and Haptics


Apple and Google have been adding some of the best speakers on the market to their flagship phones. Not to mention, we are talking about big phones here, so we expect the iPhone 16 Pro Max and Pixel 9 Pro XL to be an absolute joy to listen to.

Last year, when Google launched the Pixel 8 series, we noticed that the haptic feedback was stronger than before. Apple is a bit more creative with its vibration motor, but in terms of accuracy and strength, both the iPhone and the Pixel should have excellent haptics.

Battery Life and Charging

Pixel finally gets MagSafe equivalent

Battery life has historically been pretty awesome on the iPhone Pro Max and larger Pixel models. We expect this to continue with the iPhone 16 Pro Max and the Pixel 9 Pro XL, with both being great purchases as far as battery life is concerned, with the iPhone rumored to have a 4,422 - 4,676 mAh battery size and the Pixel a 5050 mAh one.

Neither the iPhone nor the Pixel have ever featured incredibly fast charging speeds, with representatives from both models usually aiming for a 50% charge in about 30 minutes of charging.

The one thing Apple had going for its iPhones since the introduction of the iPhone 12 series was MagSafe, which helps wireless charging accessories (among other things) neatly and perfectly snap to the back to match the charging coils beneath the back panel.

Well, the Pixel 9 Pro XL (as well as the rest of the Pixel 9 lineup) is said to come with something called Qi2, which is basically the same thing. "Qi" is the universal wireless charging standard, and Qi2 is simply the second generation that brings along magnets with it. The Pixel 9 series will probably be among the first (if not the first) Android phone to come with it.

Specs Comparison


Overall we are looking at rather similar specs here, besides the chipsets, which will differ quite a bit from each other in terms of processing power.


For now, the most notable specs here are the potential 2TB of storage on the iPhone 16 Pro Max and the new A18 Pro and Tensor G4 chipsets. Another highlight would also be the Pixel's Qi2 wireless charging and the magnets that come along with it.

Summary


Frankly, the iPhone 16 Pro Max and the Pixel 9 Pro XL seem to resemble each other quite a bit if we are talking hardware only. Yes, there are some differences in the RAM, camera megapixels, and charging speeds, but these are specs that are also highly influenced by software.

The most notable differentiating factors, and ultimately what would be the reason why you choose one instead of the other, will be the way AI gets utilized and the user experience that comes along with the operating system you go for. Of course, that is unless you are walled in Apple's ecosystem, as that is a major transition stopper.

Apple will undoubtedly lean towards its strengths when it comes to the camera performance, especially in video recording, but we can also expect a creative and useful AI feature or two to be shown during the announcement.

What the Pixel has going for it is its head start within the generative AI game, which has given Google a solid ground to build upon and the experience/resources to do it. This and the next couple of years are Google's chance to push with its AI expertise and become an even bigger player in the smartphone game.

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