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Google Pixel 6 Pro vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: Android and iOS top phones do battle

iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Google Pixel 6 Pro
(Image credit: Future / Apple / Google)

The Google Pixel 6 Pro is out now and, inevitably, the first comparison that needs to be made is with Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro Max.

The parallels are obvious. These are the super-sized representatives of the two major smartphone platforms, Android and iOS. They’re also both stylish premium devices with outstanding camera systems and bespoke processing power.

So how do they compare? We’ve spent considerable time with both flagship phones by now, and here’s how we see it.

Google Pixel 6 Pro vs iPhone 13 Pro Max price and availability

iPhone 13 Pro Max

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The Google Pixel 6 Pro hit stores on October 28, 2021. Prices start at £849 / $899 / AU$1,299 for 128GB. There’s also a 256GB model that costs £949 / AU$1,449 (around $1300) and a 512GB model in Australia for AU$1,599.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max was released on September 24, 2021. Prices start from $1,099 / £1,049 / AU$1,699 for the 128GB model, moving up to $1,199 / £1,149 / AU$1,869 for 256GB, then $1,399 / £1,349 / AU$2,219 for 512GB, and topping out at $1,599 / £1,549 / AU$2,569 for the new 1TB model.

As you can see, the Pixel 6 Pro is significantly cheaper than its chief rival. That’s an early win for Google.

Design

Google Pixel 6 phones on display

(Image credit: Future)

Both of these phones are stylish, but the Google Pixel 6 Pro has the freshest, and thus more eye-catching, design.

While the iPhone 13 Pro Max looks much the same as the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the Pixel 6 Pro doesn’t look quite like any phone that’s gone before it.

Its split two-tone rear panel (in Sorta Sunny, Cloudy White and Stormy Black) is particularly striking, while the full-width camera module provides a pleasingly symmetrical solution to the old problem of ever-expanding cameras.

As we said, the iPhone 13 Pro Max looks a lot like the iPhone 12 Pro Max, although that phone represented a major break from the design dead-end Apple had found itself in between the iPhone 6 and iPhone 11 eras.

In terms of a direct size comparison, both phones have their bragging points. At 163.9 x 75.9 x 8.9mm, the Google Pixel 6 Pro is narrower but also taller and thicker than the 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.65mm iPhone 13 Pro Max.

However, Apple’s super-sized phone is considerably heavier than its Google rival, weighing in at 238g vs 210g. Neither is what you’d call light, but the iPhone is downright heavy.

Both phones have an IP68 dust and water resistance rating. While the iPhone 13 Pro Max has a super-tough ceramic shield covering the display, Google’s Pixel 6 Pro uses off-the-shelf (but still tough) Gorilla Glass Victus glass.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max utilizes premium, shiny stainless steel on its flat rim, and comes in Graphite, Gold, Silver and Sierra Blue. They’re all stylish, if a little muted for some tastes.

Apple has reduced its iconic display notch by 20%, though the Google Pixel 6 Pro has a much less intrusive hole punch notch for its selfie camera. Apple’s notch, of course, houses a Face ID authentication system, which Google attempted to emulate and swiftly abandoned with the Pixel 4.

All in all, it’s a design win for the Pixel 6 Pro, if only because it doesn’t quite look like any other phone on the market.

Display

iPhone 13 Pro Max

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Both of these phones utilize 6.7-inch OLED displays with fluid 120Hz refresh rates.

Those heightened refresh rates are made possible by the same LTPO technology, which in both cases enable the displays to scale right down to 10Hz when the scenario dictates. It’s a great battery-saving feature.

Where the displays differ is on sharpness. The iPhone 13 Pro Max display has a 2778 x 1284 resolution, while the Google Pixel 6 Pro tops it with a 3120 x 1440 QHD+ resolution.

It can’t match the iPhone 13 Pro Max for brightness, though. Apple’s handset can hit 1000 nits in typical usage, and 1200 nits in HDR tasks. Google hasn’t supplied its own figures, but it’s clear to see that it doesn’t get as punchy in outdoor conditions.

A Google Pixel 6 Pro with the screen on, against a pale background

(Image credit: Google)

Overall, these are two very closely matched displays. We’ll have to go hands-on to determine which is best.

It’s worth noting that Google goes with an in-display fingerprint sensor versus Apple’s Face ID facial authentication method. There are pros and cons to both systems, but it must be said that the Pixel 6 Pro’s fingerprint sensor isn’t the most reliable we’ve used.

Cameras

iPhone 13 Pro Max

(Image credit: TechRadar)

After a dominant spell, Google has fallen somewhat behind in the camera stakes. It’s always had outstanding algorithms, but its hardware was starting to get a little stale with the Pixel 5.

The Google Pixel 6 Pro goes some way to rectifying that. It’s led by a whopping 1/1.31-inch 50MP wide sensor accompanied by an f/1.85 aperture.

This is backed by a 12MP ultra-wide, and a 1/2-inch 48MP telephoto sensor capable of 4x optical zoom. The wide and telephoto sensors enjoy both optical and electronic image stabilization.

It faces a stiff challenge in the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which is quite possibly the best camera phone on the market right now. It achieves this title through a trio of 12MP sensors for wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto.

All are larger than before, sucking up even more light, while Apple has brought its sensor-shift stabilization system across from the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The wide sensor has a huge f/1.5 aperture, so this thing really is a nighttime warrior.

Rear of the Pixel 6 Pro showing the camera bar and lock key

(Image credit: Google)

The Pixel 6 Pro also takes great nightime shots, but you have to keep really still for a prolonged period to get the best results.

The iPhone’s ultra-wide sensor, meanwhile, also doubles as a macro shooter, enabling you to get as close as 2cm from your subject. As for the telephoto lens, that can zoom in to 3x. That’s an improvement over the 2.5x iPhone 12 Pro Max, but the 4x Pixel 6 Pro has it licked.

Both camera systems bring a host of new software tricks to the table. The Google Pixel 6 Pro’s Motion mode is designed for taking creative long exposure shots of moving subjects. More consequential – if less showy – is Real Tone, which enables more natural-looking skin tones.

Magic Eraser, meanwhile, lets you remove unsightly photo bombers and other annoyingly messy background details from your shots. The Pixel will even suggest which elements to remove.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max adds Photo­graphic Styles, which let you fundamentally change the tone and warmth of a scene without making things look weird. You can even give your shots an extra dose of Pixel-like contrast if you wish.

Both cameras add intriguing new tricks on the video side of things, too. The Pixel 6 Pro features Speech Enhancement, which can pick up speech even when there’s a lot of background noise.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max brings Cinematic Mode, which lets you apply Portrait-like bokeh effects to your footage - even after it’s been shot. It’ll also track the gaze of your subjects and adjust the focus accordingly.

ProRes support arrived with the iOS 15.1 update. This adds support for the high-end video codec that the professionals use, enabling you to adjust more in post-production.

iPhone 13 Pro Max

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Specs and performance

The Google Pixel 6 Pro’s custom Tensor chip doesn’t even approach the power of Apple’s A15 Bionic chip from a conventional standpoint.

A Geekbench 5 multi-core score of 2760 for the Pixel falls way short of the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s 4549. That’s a huge difference.

Benchmarks also reveal that the iPhone 13 Pro Max runs on 6GB of RAM, which is half that of the Pixel 6 Pro. We know better than to make too much of such a disparity by now, though. Android and iOS are simply too different in the way they handle memory for this to signify much of anything.

What really matters here is that both phones feel buttery smooth and super-responsive in all of the usual practical applications. From app-switching to gaming, we can’t criticize either of them.

We should also note that Google’s Tensor chip is more focused on machine learning than raw (and largely superfluous) horsepower. It’s what powers all those clever camera tricks, among other things.

In terms of storage, both phones offer 128GB as standard. But while both also offer a 256GB option, the iPhone 13 Pro Max adds 512GB and 1TB models on top of that. You can only get a 512GB Pixel 6 Pro Max in Australia, for whatever reason.

Both of these phones are 5G-ready, and both also contain their own types of ultra-wideband chips for accurate ranging and spatial orientation.

Battery

A Pixel 6 Pro being taken out of a pocket

(Image credit: Google)

The Google Pixel 6 Pro packs in a 4,905mAh battery, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max has a 4,352mAh cell. That might sound as if it’s advantage Google, but as we’ve already noted, these two phones handle their resources very differently.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max gave us the best battery life ever from an iPhone. We were able to go a whole day of intensive usage and still have around a third of a tank left.

Conversely, battery life is one of the weaker elements of the Pixel 6 Pro. It’s not enough to put you off a purchase as it can last for a full day of typical usage, but more stringent use will have you sweating, unlike the iPhone.

Neither of these phones is the more remarkable when it comes time to recharge. The Pixel 6 Pro wins out with its support for up to 30W wired charging, as the iPhone 13 Pro Max only goes up to 23W. But neither company bundles a charger in the box. When rival phones from OnePlus and Xiaomi are supplying 65W bricks (and beyond) as part of the package, it’s not at all impressive.

Apple’s phone supports 15W Qi wireless charging, while Google’s only goes up to 12W. If you buy a Pixel Stand, however, that figure bumps up to 23W.

Software

iPhone 13 Pro Max

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Here’s where the real distinction lies. Both phones have highly compelling hardware, but the most significant point of contrast is likely to be that one phone is the champion of iOS 15, while the other is the champion of Android 12.

In terms of excitement, Google’s Android 12 with its new Material You UI is certainly the fresher of the two. That largely comes down to where both operating systems are in their development cycle, but the point remains.

Material You provides a vibrant, colorful interface, with a smart system that takes your chosen wallpaper and adjusts the whole system-wide theming to suit.

Some of the bold widgets that Google has been showing off are simply stunning, too.

Apple’s iOS 15, by contrast, is a fairly subtle revision of what’s gone before it. Apple has upped its widget game, however, after shunning or siloing them for years. Whisper it, but these two operating systems have been getting closer and closer in recent years.

Apple’s App Store is still the best of its kind in terms of consistency, quality, roster, and security. But Android users will swear by the greater flexibility and customization potential of their chosen OS.

Takeaway

Front and back looks at the Google Pixel 6

(Image credit: OnLeaks / Digit.in)

Google has supplied a compelling alternative to the iPhone 13 Pro Max. It’s got a distinctive design, the fluid and punchy display, the custom power, and the enhanced camera chops to compete with Apple’s flagship. It’s quite a bit cheaper, too.

However, in pure hardware terms, we’d still give the iPhone 13 Pro Max the edge. It’s more powerful, has a better all-round camera system, and enjoys notably superior stamina.

Ultimately, though, this is likely to come down to which software ecosystem you’re already subscribed to. Are you an Android person or an iOS person? You can make your choice accordingly with confidence.

You might also want to check out the iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 11 Pro or iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro Max comparison.