Google Pixel 2 XL vs Apple iPhone 8 Plus: Which is best?

It's the battle of the titans all over again

When the Google Pixel and Pixel XL launched last year, they… well, they looked like iPhones. Dead ringers, aside from the fingerprint sensor moving to the back.

It wasn't the most appealing imitation, but this time around, Google has changed its approach – at least for the larger model. The Pixel 2 hasn't shifted too much, but the Pixel 2 XL looks totally different, taking cues from this year's top Android flagship phones with a taller display that dominates the phone's face.

In that respect, it's close to the upcoming Apple iPhone X. But right now, the iPhone 8 Plus is the leader of that pack, sticking close to what worked before (and before, and before) while making some incremental upgrades. Did Google's larger upgrades help it gain the upper hand this time around? Let's compare!

Design: No longer identical

Have you seen a recent iPhone? Cool, then you've seen the iPhone 8 Plus – at least from the front. There's no major difference here from the iPhone 6 Plus or newer models, and the minimal aesthetic lingers in a functional, but sort of tired state at this point.

At least it's different on the back – slightly. Glass has been swapped in for aluminum, giving the iPhone 8 Plus a bit more flair than before, but the overall change is minor. It's still a very familiar iPhone for the most part.

But the Pixel 2 XL doesn't look like an iPhone anymore. On the front, it's mostly big, beautiful screen. There's a bit too much bezel here still, which is odd considering the Android competition (like the Galaxy S8 Plus), but it's still a slick-looking handset.

And on the back, Google's unique two-tone approach – with a glass cutout at the top – looks much sleeker than before, giving the handset a unique touch. Overall, we're more taken with the Pixel 2 XL than a tweaked version of Apple's three-year-old design.

Winner: Google Pixel 2 XL

Screen: Clear differences

Apple made very minor improvements to the iPhone 8 Plus' screen compared to the iPhone 7 Plus from last year. It's still a 5.5in 1080p LCD panel – plenty bright and quite clear, with great contrast. The one big enhancement this time around is the True Tone tech, which changes the colours based on your ambient lighting and provides very natural results.

But the Pixel 2 XL has a pretty strong advantage here with its higher-resolution Quad HD panel (2880x1440), which also has the OLED benefit of intense black levels and brilliant contrast. There are minor issues with it looking a little subdued on the home screen or a bit discoloured at sharp angles, but mostly it's fantastic.

Winner: Google Pixel 2 XL

Camera: The best around?

Having a brilliant camera has become the defining feature of the Pixel line – but that's also the biggest perk of the Plus-sized iPhones since last year's move to a dual-camera setup.

The Pixel 2 XL packs in a single 12-megapixel shooter with a wider f/1.8 aperture, along with phase-detection and laser-assisted autofocus. And once again, it's fantastic. Google's phone stitches together multiple shots into one oft-wonderful result, with increased dynamic range over the original Pixel and typically great shots even in middling lighting.

On the iPhone 8 Plus, you'll find a pair of 12MP sensors, with the main camera (f/1.8) packing in optical image stabilisation while the telephoto lens (f/2.8) still lacks it. The faster sensor over the previous iPhone means speedier shots, while the colour filter beings "deeper pixels" for enhanced dynamic range.

And the results are excellent. Meanwhile, the iPhone 8 Plus has its dual-camera tricks of the background-blurring Portrait mode (along with new Portrait Lighting) as well as optical-style zooming. But the Pixel 2 XL also has its own take on Portrait mode, which works rather well despite the single camera.

Overall, they're very, very close in everyday quality, but we think the Pixel 2 XL has just the slightest of edges over the iPhone 8 Plus.

Winner: Google Pixel 2 XL