These days it's not really about how good your phone screen is, or how fast the processor is. It's all about the cameras, and Apple and Google have been trading punches for years to be crowned the champ on our best camera phones page.
It's joined by a 12MP ultrawide camera that's nearly twice the size, a 12MP 3x telephoto lens and a 12MP TrueDepth camera with a faster f/1.9 aperture. A new Photonic Engine offers brighter and more colorful photos through all of these cameras.
Meanwhile, the Google Pixel 7 Pro packs a 50MP main camera along with a 12MP ultrawide shooter and a more powerful 5x telephoto sensor. There's a 10.8MP camera up front. There's a new Macro Focus feature for better close-ups and a cool Photo Unblur trick for cleaning up your picks.
So which camera phone is best? I took lots of iPhone 14 Pro Max and Pixel 7 Pro photos side by side and analyzed the results to see which flagship wins.
I took this photo at Bryant Park in New York City, which has an ice skating rink right in the center. Overall, the iPhone 14 Pro Max delivers a brighter and more inviting image. The people skating pop more on the iPhone shot, while they kind of blend in with the ice on the Pixel 7 Pro's photo.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max runs a bit warm compared to the Pixel 7 Pro in this case (and many others), and Google's phone does a slightly better job rendering the shadows on the buildings. But I'd rather share the iPhone's shot.
Food (close-up macro)
Which cranberry-apple tart do you think looks more delicious? In this case I'm drawn to the Pixel 7 Pro's photo. Both phones leverage their ultra-wide cameras to take macro shots, but I prefer Google's image here because of the sharper detail in the cranberries and crust.
Don't get me wrong, the iPhone 14 Pro Max takes an appetizing pic here, and the cranberries in the middle of the frame look awesome, but I'll give the edge to Google.
I was surprised that the iPhone 14 Pro Max overexposed the left side of my face in this image. The Pixel 7 Pro offers a more even exposure, as you can make out more of my blue coat on the right side of the shot. The blur effect around the leaves in the foreground looks better through the Pixel, too.
Both phones take a great photo of these white begonia flowers, but the iPhone 14 Pro Max's image is even more detailed. Check out the petals. They almost look translucent with the way the sun is hitting them. But I also like the brighter white in the Pixel 7 Pro's shot. So in this case it comes down to details versus color.
It could be Apple's Photonic Engine at work here but it captures a considerably brighter selfie of me in Bryant Park with pop-up shops and decorative trees in the background. Also noteworthy is how much sharper The North Face logo is on my jacket on the right side of the frame. The Pixel 7 Pro smoothes out my wrinkles a bit more, which isn't a bad thing.
There are some things I like about the Pixel 7 Pro's shot of this carousel better. For one, the lights are more distinct, while they get a bit blown out on the iPhone 14 Pro Max. And I can make out more of the blue sky, which is a bit too bright on the iPhone.
But overall I prefer the iPhone's image here because of the brightness but also the contrast between the horses, the platform and the center of the carousel. It makes Apple's photo more 3D-like, while Google's shot is relatively flat.
I wouldn't say one camera phone dominates in this photo of the Bryant Park fountain, but once again I'd give the edge to the iPhone 14 Pro Max. The water coming out of the fountain looks sharper, and the bush in the foreground looks more vibrant (if a bit oversaturated).
Stained glass lamps
The Pixel 7 Pro wins this comparison hands down for me. Check out the bottom of each light. They're much more visible through Google's camera, while the they're too dark through the iPhone. The colors come through richer through the Pixel 7 Pro as well. It's just a better exposed shot in this case.
Flag 15x zoom
I showed this photo to my son and he picked the Pixel 7 Pro right away. And I tend to agree. The red and white in the flag looks richer through Google's phone, even though the iPhone 14 Pro Max's shot is brighter overall. The gold figure on the left side of the image looks a bit sharper as well through the Pixel.
Glass Christmas tree
In this photo of a glass Christmas tree, Google's shot does a better job capturing the glitter swirling around in the glass. While the iPhone's pic is brighter — and the fur in the background looks crisper — you lose some of that great detail inside the tree. Brighter isn't always better.
The Pixel 7 Pro captures a brighter shot of Times Square. You can make out the people in the photo more easily and also check out the right side of the frame above the ESPN sign. Those angled glass panes aren't even visible in the iPhone 14 Pro Max's photo.
There's a bit of a blue cast to the Pixel's shot but overall it wins this round.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max once again delivers a brighter image, and there's more contrast between the transparent glass ball and the second ball inside. The Pixel 7 Pro's shot looks a bit flat by comparison.
On the plus side, the decorations on the right side of the image look sharper through the Pixel, and the tree branches look crisper around the lights. The iPhone blows this area out a bit.
Empire State Building
This photo of the Empire State building at 3x zoom is a close round. I like the moodiness of the Pixel 7 Pro's photo, and the fact that the area around the spire is sharper where the light is emanating. But once again there's a blue cast to the image, and the sky is darker in the photo than in real life, as this was just after sunset.
The sky in the iPhone 14 Pro Max's image is warmer and more realistic, and the blue lights toward the top of the building are more subtle.
Last but not least we have this ultrawide photo of a nearby stream in Freehold, NJ. I give the nod to the iPhone 14 Pro Max in this case because of the brighter greens on the left side of the image. There's also more gradation in the sky. The large tree in the water also gets a bit lost in the Pixel photo.
iPhone 14 Pro Max vs Pixel 7 Pro: Overall winner
This was a very close contest if you look at the scorecard below. The iPhone 14 Pro Max scored 8 points to the Pixel 7 Pro's 7 points, with the two phones tying in one round.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||iPhone 14 Pro Max||Google Pixel 7 Pro|
|Skating rink||X||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|Macro close-up||Row 2 - Cell 1||X|
|Portriat||Row 3 - Cell 1||X|
|Flowers||X||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|Selfie||X||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|Carousel||X||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|Fountain||X||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|Glass lamps||Row 8 - Cell 1||X|
|Flag (15x zoom)||Row 9 - Cell 1||X|
|Glass Christmas Tree||Row 10 - Cell 1||X|
|Times Square||Row 11 - Cell 1||X|
|Decorations||X||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|Empire Sate Building||X||X|
|Ultrawide||X||Row 14 - Cell 2|
Overall, the iPhone 14 Pro Max delivered more convincing wins when I pitted the two phones side by side, as it offers brighter and more vibrant images overall. I also preferred the iPhone's better contrast in multiple scenarios. However, the Pixel 7 Pro shines in low light, and it took a better-looking macro shot and portrait.
I think you'll love both of these camera phones — especially since the Pixel 7 Pro costs $200 less — but I'd give a slight edge to the iPhone 14 Pro Max.