The Google Pixel 8 costs $100 less than the iPhone 15. It's also capable of lasting longer now that Google has extended software and security updates to seven years. (iPhones can usually count on five years of iOS updates before Apple drops support.) By most metrics, then, you'd have to conclude the Pixel 8 is a better value than the iPhone 15, as you'll pay less up front and be in a position to hold onto it for longer.
But I don't think that tells the whole story. Even with its higher price and even though it'll stop receiving software updates long before the Pixel 8, I think the iPhone 15 delivers more value to its owners.
That's not to say Google's latest phone misses the mark. Our Pixel 8 review concludes quite the opposite, correctly lavishing praise on how the Pixel integrates AI into both photo editing and everyday tasks. There's certainly a lot to like about what the Pixel 8 brings to table, but from my vantage point, the iPhone 15 is simply better at the most critical things we ask of our smartphones.
The iPhone 15 is a better performer
Google never claimed that its Tensor chips were going to be world-beaters when it came to raw speed. Instead, the focus has been on the silicon's Tensor Processing Unit and the number of machine learning models it can run on the device. You'd be foolish to criticize that focus as it helps give Pixel phones an identity in a market that usually starts with Apple and ends with Samsung.
But there's no sugarcoating the fact that Pixel phones aren't as fast as the competition, particularly the iPhone. That's even true of the Pixel 8 and its Tensor G3 system-on-chip, which made some design changes with an eye toward improving the performance picture. Yet, on performance tests like Geekbench and graphics tests like 3DMark's Wild Life Unlimited, the Pixel 8 remains behind the iPhone — and not just by a little bit.
You could wave away those results by claiming they don't lead to any tangible difference that an end user is going to notice when it's time to switch between apps or even play demanding games. But there is a test we run that does illustrate the advantage of having a better performing chipset like the iPhone 15's A16 Bionic.
We use Adobe Premiere to transcode video on every phone we test, timing the results. The iPhone 15 blazes through the task in 25 seconds. The Pixel 8 needs more than 1 minute to get the job done. That's a very big gap in a real-world use case, and that kind of performance difference adds up over time.
The iPhone 15 has better battery life
If you didn't see the results of our Pixel 8 battery life tests, allow me to sum things up for you. The Pixel 8 lasted longer in our battery test than the Pixel 7 did, with a result that more or less lines up with the average result for smartphones. That's the good news.
The bad news is that a lot of phones in the Pixel 8's price range outperform the Pixel 8 when it comes to battery life. And the iPhone 15 is one of them.
When we took a full charged Pixel 8 and had it surf the web continuously until it ran out of power, the phone held out for 9 hours and 50 minutes — again, more than 1.5 hours longer than the Pixel 7. But the iPhone 15 did even better on our test, lasting for 11 hours and 5 minutes.
It's an even more notable difference when you consider that the Pixel's time came with its 120Hz refresh rate disabled. Higher display refresh rates tend to drain batteries quicker, so it's possible that the Pixel 8 could post a worse time when we test the phone with its adaptive refresh rate turned on.
Both phones are probably going to get you through the day on a charge, though the iPhone 15 will do so more comfortably. And while battery life diminishes over time, you'd count on the iPhone outlasting the Pixel, even as both devices age.
The iPhone 15 takes better photos
I imagine this claim's going to be a controversial one, as both the Pixel 8 and iPhone 15 are excellent camera phones that yield great-looking shots. Also, there's no getting around those brilliant photo editing tools that the Pixel 8 includes. Features like Best Take and Magic Audio Eraser can improve your photos in a way that few other phones can (though I confess to being creeped out by how easily the Magic Editor tol can manipulate your photos into showing things that never actually happened).
But I'm not talking about which phone has the better editing tools. Instead, I want to focus on the phone that takes the better photos **before** you edit them. I think a very strong case can be made for the iPhone 15 when considering the output I've seen so far.
You can see for yourself in the iPhone 15 and Pixel 8 photo comparisons Mark Spoonauer included in his Pixel 8 review. There are eight different shot comparisons in that review featuring both the Google and Apple phones — the iPhone is judged to produced the better shot in six of those, though it's pretty close in some cases. But it's quite clear that the iPhone 15 is way ahead of the Pixel 8 when it comes to low-light shots as well how it balances color.
As impressive as the photo editing tools are on the Pixel 8, I prefer how the iPhone 15 gets shots looking their best from the start.
Why the iPhone 15's a better value
I think it's great that Google now offers extended software report after years of people urging them to provide more than three guaranteed Android updates to Pixel devices. But I'm not sure how much of an edge that really is for the Pixel 8 when Apple offers lengthy support as well.
I'm the type of guy who holds onto his iPhone for as long as possible, pretty much until it's about to fall apart in my hand. And I've never had a phone that was still going strong by the time Apple dropped support. About four years of regular four years of regular phone uses is about the maximum value I've come to expect before I start to see diminishing returns from holding on to a device.
But what the iPhone 15 does provide is superior experiences for the reasons you carry around a phone. You want a device that performs well, that lasts a long time without needing a recharge and that take great photos you're happy to share with other people — the iPhone 15 does all these things, and I think it does them in a more comprehensive way than the Pixel 8 does.
A more in-depth iPhone 15 vs. Pixel 8 comparison may tell a different story. But there's no question in my mind as to which of those two devices wins the day on the factors that matter most to me as a phone user.