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iPhone 12 vs Google Pixel 5: Which flagship will win?

iPhone 12 vs Google Pixel 5
(Image credit: Phone Arena/Google)

The Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12 matchup is shaping up to be one of the biggest phone face-offs of the year, especially considering the new trajectory Google has taken with its upcoming flagship handset. The Pixel 5 focuses more on value, with a mid-range processor to go along with a more affordable price.

This is could be a necessary move on Google’s part, because it looks like Apple may launch the entry-level iPhone 12 for as low as $649, complete with an OLED display, 5G connectivity and a faster new A14 Bionic processor. Apple has just confirmed the iPhone launch event will take place Oct. 13, at 10 a.m. PT.

So how will the Pixel 5 and iPhone 12 stack up to each other once both devices launch? This comparison based on what we now know about the Pixel 5 and what we think we know about the iPhone 12 should give you a pretty clear picture of what to expect in a few weeks' time.

iPhone 12 vs. Google Pixel 5: Price 

The Google Pixel 5 costs $699, and there's only one configuration of it available, with 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM.

Meanwhile, the cheapest iPhone 12 is rumored to start as low as $649 for the rumored 5.4-inch variant with 64GB storage, which would undercut Google's price. This model has recently been rumored to be named the iPhone 12 Mini, though we're not 100% certain if that's what Apple will ultimately call it. Meanwhile, the larger iPhone 12 with a 6.1-inch panel could end up around $749 or $799. Apple may have an edge on value if those prices pan out.

iPhone 12 vs. Google Pixel 5: Specs compared

iPhone 12 (rumored)Pixel 5
Starting price$699 (5.4-inch), $799 (6.1-inch)$699
Screen size (Resolution)5.4-inch OLED, 6.1-inch OLED6-inch OLED (2340x1080; 90Hz)
ProcessorA14 BionicSnapdragon 765G
RAM4GB8GB
Storage64GB, 128GB, 256GB128GB
Rear camerasDual wide and ultrawide12.2MP wide (ƒ/1.7); 16MP ultrawide
Front cameraTBA 8MP (ƒ/2.0)
Battery size~2,220 mAh (5.4-inch); ~2,770 mAh (6.1-inch) 4,000 mAh
ColorsTBAJust Black, Sorta Sage

iPhone 12 vs. Google Pixel 5: Size and design

Google Pixel 5

(Image credit: Google)

The Pixel 5 carries a 6-inch display with minimal bezels all around, thanks to Google's abandonment of its Soli air-gesture technology and 3D Face Unlock system up front. That screen is interrupted only by a front-facing hole-punch camera. On the back, the phone is clad in recycled aluminum.

Google Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12

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

While we won't know the iPhone 12's design for certain until Apple reveals it likely in mid-October, loads of rumors have given us a pretty safe idea regarding what to expect.

The entry-level iPhone is expected to have a 5.4-inch OLED display, and the larger non-Pro iPhone 12 will step that up to a 6.1-inch screen. There may be a smaller notch on both phones, though we're more confident about Apple's supposed switch to flatter sides and a more squared-off aesthetic, reminiscent of the iPhone 5. Like the Pixel 5, we expect Apple's next iPhones to once again be rated IP68 water resistant and support wireless charging.

iPhone 12 vs. Google Pixel 5: 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 Pixel 4's display offered a fairly smooth 90Hz refresh rate, and Google is sticking to that for the Pixel 5 as well. The new phone's 6-inch, full-HD OLED panel appears to be very similar to the outgoing model's 5.8-inch screen.

Meanwhile, it's looking increasingly likely that the iPhone 12 won't get a 120Hz ProMotion display. That feature is rumored to be exclusive to the iPhone 12 Pro lineup, if it even ends up making it to those variants at all.

iPhone 12 vs. Google Pixel 5: Performance and 5G

If you're expecting a powerhouse, the Pixel 5 will likely disappoint you. The phone uses Qualcomm's mid-range 765G processor, which should provide pretty good performance but not the speed of the Snapdragon 865 inside such flagships as the Galaxy S20 FE. The 765G will be paired with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of non-expandable storage.

As for the iPhone 12, it should feature the newly-unveiled A14 Bionic processor, which we expect to be the fastest chip you can get inside any phone upon its launch. Apple will reportedly pair the A14 with 4GB of RAM in the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Max, along with 64GB, 128GB or 256GB of storage depending on how much you spend.

Both phones will be 5G capable, though not necessarily on the same networks. The Pixel 5 does include millimeter-wave radios for the fastest possible speeds in densely-packed urban areas, on networks like Verizon's. It also supports long-range sub-6GHz infrastructure that reaches further, as T-Mobile and AT&T have favored in their initial 5G deployments.

The iPhone 12, however, may skip out on the mmWave side of the equation to keep costs down and preserve battery life, leaving mmWave as a feature exclusive to the pricier iPhone 12 Pro models.

iPhone 12 vs. Google Pixel 5: Cameras

(Image credit: Google)

This is going to be the most hotly-contested round of the Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12 battle. The Pixel 5 continues the 12.2-megapixel main sensor Google's used for years, but now adds a 16MP ultrawide lens, giving users the ability to zoom out and capture more of their surroundings.

The Pixel 5 also offers some new camera tricks, like adjustable lighting for portraits as well as the ability to capture shallow depth-of-field portraits within Night Sight mode. New video stabilization modes are on offer as well. Interestingly, the head of Google's Pixel camera team left the company well before the Pixel 5's launch, but it remains to be seen if this will hurt the end result. 

(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 flanked by an ultrawide shooter. We don't know much in particular about these sensors, though Apple often finds ways to improve its devices' photography output with every passing generation, so we look forward to see what Cupertino pulls off here. It's worth noting the more-premium iPhone 12 Pro models have long been rumored to offer exclusive LiDAR camera systems for more sophisticated depth sensing and AR effects.

iPhone 12 vs. Google Pixel 5: Battery

The poor battery life of the Pixel 4 was one of the main reasons for its lukewarm reviews, but Google is really stepping things up this time around. The Pixel 5 has a 4,000-mAh battery, which works out to be 1,200 mAh larger than that inside Google's last flagship. That improvement, coupled with the more efficiency-minded Snapdragon 765G chip, should make for greatly-improved battery life on a charge.

What's more, the Pixel 5 supports both wireless charging and reverse wireless charging, allowing it to share its battery power with other devices, simply by placing them on the back of the phone.

Apple never lists the battery capacities of its handsets, and unfortunately we haven't seen very many credible leaks thus far on the iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Max. There have been rumblings that the 5.4-inch and 6.1-inch models will feature batteries sized at about 2,200 mAh and 2,770 mAh, but this isn't certain.

The issue could be one of size. The 5.4-inch iPhone 12 may end up a very small phone, comparable to the latest iPhone SE in footprint. If that ends up bearing out, Apple will be quite limited in terms of the size of the battery it can physically fit in the device. The iPhone SE, for example, only has a 1,821-mAh power pack.

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 in 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. 

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

Android 11 running on a Pixel 4a

Android 11 running on a Pixel 4a (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Pixel 5 is Google's first yet to ship with Android 11, which is now also available to the Pixel 4a and Pixel 4. The update's biggest features include native screen recording and the ability to grant single-use permissions. Additionally, a new Bubbles feature that lets you keep several conversations easily accessible as shortcuts on any screen.

Google's typically reserves some of its most helpful AI-derived features for its own phones, and the Pixel 5 is no different. With a new feature called Hold For Me, the Pixel 5 will actually stay on the line for you and notify you when someone is ready to chat on the other end. There's also Google's handy Recorder app, which can transcribe audio in real time, and even distinguish between spoken words and music.

iOS 14 running on an iPhone SE

iOS 14 running on an iPhone SE (Image credit: Future)

However, iOS 14 is a more dramatic update for Apple's mobile OS than Android 11 is for Google's. The new software, which released for current iPhone owners in September, added more sophisticated widgets and deeper app organization, picture-in-picture video, shareable App Clips that let you send and receive snippets of apps when a full download is more than you need, and enhancements for apps like Messages and Maps.

iPhone 12 vs. Google Pixel 5: Outlook

The Google Pixel 4 wound up a disappointment despite having a great camera, and that's primarily down to short battery life and half-baked new features, like its Motion Sense gestures.

Fortunately, the Pixel 5 looks like it should be improved across the board — save for in the performance department, anyway. 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 will 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 biggest questions surrounding Apple's cheapest new handset surround its cameras and battery — two areas where the Pixel 5 looks especially strong.

While the Pixel 5 is available for preorder now, the iPhone 12 will be shown off officially for the first time on Oct. 13. We look forward to getting both devices in hand to find out how they compare in the coming weeks.

  • GastroHub
    You can't even line up specs to determine the winner. The derps that prioritize blue sms bubbles and get nervous when their icons aren't snapping to the top left will buy the iphone. The people that will buy the Pixel 5 are people who own a previous Pixel or are sick of Samsung's shit.
    Reply