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Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12: Which phone will win?

Google Pixel 5 vs iPhone 12
(Image credit: Future)

The Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12 matchup is shaping up to be one of the biggest phone face-offs of the year long before either phone sees the light of day. All of the Pixel 5 leaks and rumors point to a phone that will steer clear of the most premium phones. Instead, it looks like Google will focus more on value, with a mid-range processor to go along with a more affordable price.

This is a smart move on Google’s part, because it looks like Apple may launch an iPhone 12 for as low as $649, complete with an OLED display, 5G connectivity and a fast new A14 Bionic processor. You can also expect a larger iPhone 12 Max that should go toe to toe with a big-screen Pixel 5 XL.

So how will the Pixel 5 and iPhone 12 stack up to each other when they launch this fall? This preview comparison based on all the available info should give you a pretty clear picture of what to expect from both phones once they arrive in the fall.

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12: Price 

The Google Pixel 5 should be fairly affordable based on the leaks we've seen. According to a survey put out by Google, its premium Google Pixel phone with a "best in class camera, wireless charging and water resistance" would cost $699. This would be $100 less than the starting price of last year's Google Pixel 4 phone.

Assuming Google makes a Pixel 5 XL, we would expect it to cost $100 more than the regular Pixel 5, or $799.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 12 is rumored to start as low as $649, which would undercut Google's price. And the larger iPhone 12 Max would cost $749. So Apple could have an edge on value if those prices pan out.

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12: Size and design

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12

The Google Pixel 5 could look like this design render. (Image credit: Sarang Sheth)

The Pixel 5 and Pixel 5 XL may follow in the footsteps of their predecessors with a 5.7-inch and 6.3-inch display, but we expect the screen sizes to grow. And that's because Google is rumored to be getting rid of the large forehead on these devices in favor of a punch-hole treatment for the front camera.

The Pixel 5 would be able to have a more full-screen look because Google is reportedly ditching the Soli sensor up front that enabled Motion Sense gestures. Given that the budget-minded Pixel 4a is rumored to have a 5.8-inch screen, our guess is the Pixel 5 would be at least as big if not 6 inches.

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12

iPhone 12 concept designs show off the new camera array. (Image credit: EverythingApplePro)

The other major Pixel 5 design change centers around the camera. Leaks point to a larger camera patch on the back of the device toward the top of the phone, but the renders we've seen don't look make this semi-circle look pretty garish.

The iPhone 12 model rumors seem to be a lot clearer. The entry-level iPhone is expected to have a 5.4-inch OLED display, and the iPhone 12 Max will step that up to a 6.1-inch screen. You can expect a smaller notch on both phones, as well as flatter sides and a more squared-off look, reminiscent of the iPhone 5.

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12: Displays

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12

We're expecting a more squared off look for the iPhone 12. (Image credit: LetsGoDigital/Concept Creator)

The Google Pixel 4's display offered a fairly smooth 90Hz refresh rate, but it's not clear if Google will stick with that for the Pixel 5's OLED panel or go even higher with 120Hz. The iPhone 12 likely won't get a 120Hz ProMotion display, as that feature is rumored to be exclusive to the iPhone 12 Pro lineup.

We haven't heard about the screen sizes for the Pixel 5 and Pixel 5 XL or their resolutions, but rumor has it that the 5.4-inch OLED iPhone 12 will have a resolution of 2340 x 1080 and the larger 6.1-inch iPhone 12 will have a resolution of 2532 x 1170 pixels.

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12: Specs

If you're expecting a powerhouse, the Pixel 5 may disappoint. The phone will reportedly use a mid-range 765G or 768G processor, which should provide pretty good performance but not the speed of the Snapdragon 865 inside such flagships as the Galaxy S20. We have not yet heard how much storage the Pixel 5 will feature.

As for the iPhone 12, it should feature the new A14 Bionic processor, which we expect to be the fastest chip you can get inside any phone. Apple will reportedly pair the A14 with 4GB of RAM in the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Max, along with 128GB or 256GB of storage.

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12: Cameras

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12

Could this be the Pixel 5's camera array? (Image credit: Front Page Tech)

This is going to be the biggest round of the Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12 battle. Some leaks point to the Pixel 5 finally featuring an ultra-wide camera, which would join the standard wide-angle camera and telephoto camera. 

The Pixel 5 may also offer improvement to Google's amazing Night Sight mode, which helped raise the bar for low-light photography. Interestingly, the head of Google's Pixel camera team has left the company, but it remains to be seen if this will hurt the Pixel 5. 

(Image credit: LetsGoDigital/Concept Creator)

Apple's iPhone 12 is expected to stick with the same two cameras as the iPhone 11: a wide-angle main camera and an ultra-wide camera. So the lack of a telephoto lens and optical zoom could give the Pixel 5 an edge. However, the main sensor on the iPhone 12 could see a boost from 12MP to 64MP for sharper pics.

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12: Battery

The poor battery life offered by the Pixel 4 was one of the main reasons for its lukewarm reviews. But it looks like Google will be stepping things up this time around. PhoneArena reports that the Pixel 5 will get a 3,080 mAh battery, up from 2,800 mAh on the Pixel 4, while the Pixel 5 XL will get a 4,030 mAh battery, compared to 3,700 mAh for the Pixel 4 XL.

Apple never lists the battery capacities of its phones, and unfortunately we haven't seen any credible leaks thus far on the iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Max. We've only seen one report that says that the iPhone 12 Pro Max could get a 4,400 mAh battery or larger.

However, it's important to keep in mind that Apple seems to deliver more battery life than Android phones with larger capacity batteries. For instance, the iPhone 11 with its 3,046 mAh battery lasted 11 hours and 16 minutes on our web surfing battery test, while the Pixel 4 XL's 3,700 mAh battery endured for only 9:42.

We'll have to see whether the Pixel 5 or iPhone 12 can make our best phone battery life list. 

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12: Android 11 and iOS 14

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12

Screen recording could be on tap for Android 11. (Image credit: Future)

The Pixel 5 should be the first phone to ship with Android 11, which Google has thus far only previewed for developers. But there are several Android 11 features we've already learned. These include native screen recording functionality, the ability to increase touch sensitivity (good for when you're using a screen protector),  Android 11 also has a new Bubbles feature that lets you keep several conversations easily accessible.

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12

A mockup of how a list view might look on iOS 14. (Image credit: Parker Ortolani via 9to5Mac)

With iOS 14, we expect bigger changes this time around. This includes a new and improved multitasking interface, the ability to choose your own default apps, a new list view app for the homescreen, a new fitness app and a new AR app called Gobi. Plus, you should be able to use apps without downloading them, something Android has featured for a while. 

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12: Outlook

The Google Pixel 4 wound up to be disappointment despite having a great camera. And that's because of short battery life and a Motion Sensor feature that felt haf-baked. However, the Pixel 5 looks like it should be improved across the board. Expect a phone that's more affordable and lasts longer on a charge, as well as a sleeker design. What you shouldn't expect is the best speed, but that could be a reasonable trade-off for a phone that should cost under $700.

The iPhone 12 could have the Pixel 5 beat, though. Not only might it be even cheaper, it should pack a much faster processor as well. The iPhone 12 could be less versatile in terms of photography, if it lacks a telephoto lens. And that's the biggest unknown: how the cameras will stack up. So we look forward to putting these two affordable flagships through our camera shootout this fall to see which one emerges as the victor.