iPhone 16 Pro Max vs Google Pixel 9 Pro XL: Expected differences

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Intro

Google is said to be expanding its flagship phone lineup from two to three models in total, with the largest and most high-end one rumored to be called the Pixel 9 Pro XL. This will be virtually the successor of last year’s Pixel 8 Pro, and it will be competing directly with Apple’s upcoming iPhone 16 Pro Max.Essentially, these are the phones that will represent the best both companies have to offer in 2024, and will serve as the best medium to show off all of the hyped-up AI features that will be defining this year’s premium phones.

The price at which these two handsets will likely launch at will be between $1,000 (which is what current phones of this caliber go for), or they might jump up to a higher $1,200. Thankfully, a price hike seems rather unlikely.

Below, we explore the differences and similarities we can expect between these two phones, both in hardware and software. Keep in mind that all of the information is based on leaks and reports and none of it is official, so some of it might not be true and everything is pure speculation at this point.

iPhone 16 Pro Max vs Pixel 9 Pro XL differences:

Table of Contents:

Design and Size

More alike then you might expect
Apple began making its Pro iPhone models from titanium, which is also what we expect the iPhone 16 Pro Max‘s frame to be made out of. In comparison, Google is yet to switch from aluminum, although renders based on leaked information are showing stainless steel frames to come with the Pixel 9 series this year.If Google does go for stainless steel as the frame material, that would also mean the 9 Pro XL would also be heavier than its predecessors, as steel is considerably more dense than aluminum.

Size-wise, there shouldn’t be too big of a difference between the two, with the iPhone 16 Pro Max being approximately 159.9 x 76.7 x 8.3 mm and the Pixel Pro 9 XL 162.7 x 76.6 x 8.5mm.

This year, the Pixel will resemble iPhones a bit more than before, if the leaked renders of a more blocky Pixel 9 series are to be believed. The iconic camera island will resemble more that of the Pixel Fold and will no longer be connected to the frame.

The iPhone 16 Pro Max will look very similar to its predecessors and the upcoming Pixel, with the main difference being the camera island at the back, which will remain a protruding square at one of the top corners.

Durability will be overall similar between the two as well, with an IP68 water and dust resistance rating. One thing the iPhone might have over the Pixel is its slightly more scratch-resistant display, but the Pixel could match that if it adopts the same Gorilla Glass Armor that came with this year’s Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Display Differences

The two phones will have similarly sized displays, hovering around the 6.7-6.8″ mark. Both will also have a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz and the ability to go down to 1Hz to save battery life.We might see Apple bump up the display 2000 nits peak brightness of the iPhone 16 Pro Max a little, as it is not exactly on par with the brightness levels Google managed to muster from the Pixel 8 series. The Pixel 9 Pro XL will likely stay at the same 2400 nits of peak brightness.

Of course, both phones will support HDR content. One thing to note here, though, is that the iPhone supports the HDR10+ and Dolby Vision formats, while the Pixel only supports the former.

Biometrics will probably remain unchanged, with the iPhone using FaceID and the Pixel using an optical fingerprint scanner.

Performance and Software

Performance might not be the key metric anymore
The iPhone 16 Pro Max is said to come with Apple’s A18 Pro chipset (3nm), which will include hardware specifically built for on-device AI. On the other hand, Google will probably launch the Pixel 9 Pro XL with the Tensor G4 (4nm), which will still be based on Samsung’s Exynos silicon.

Typically, Apple’s chipsets perform significantly better compared to Google’s when it comes to benchmark tests. This gap in performance doesn’t usually show until you open up a graphically intensive game or an application that requires a lot of power from the chipset, like image or video editing apps, for example.

Nowadays, however, the fun part lies not within how powerful the phones are, but with the way they utilize that power in the form of software features and optimization. Of course, we are talking about all of the AI goodies we expect to see with the iPhone 16 Pro Max and Pixel 9 Pro XL.

For the iPhone, Apple is said to focus heavily on on-device AI with an aim on privacy and security, as well as processing speed. For cloud-based AI features, which are required for more complex tasks, the company is actually said to be in talks with Google to use its Gemini cloud infrastructure.

Google is said to replace the Google Assistant on the Pixel 9 series with a new AI assistant called Pixie, which will make use of Google’s Gemini AI LLM (large language model) and be able to perform complex and multimodal tasks.

The Pixel 9 Pro XL will likely have some, if not all of the following AI features:

  • Pixie can identify objects in photos and locating nearby stores selling them via contextual image search. Also, it might be able to book appointments, make calls, manage calendars, set reminders, transcribe meetings, and summarize them for sharing.
  • Circle, Scribble, or Highlight to Search
  • Smart Reply across the (G)board

In terms of software support, the two will probably match each other now that Google offers 7 years of Android updates and security patches, which is the same as with Apple.

Camera

Both should offer stellar camera performance
In terms of hardware, both the iPhone 16 Pro Max and the Pixel 9 Pro XL will likely keep almost the same cameras as their predecessors (with the Pixel’s predecessor being the Pixel 8 Pro). Here’s a quick summary of the cameras.

iPhone 16 Pro Max expected cameras:

  • Main (wide): 48MP, 24mm, f/1.78
  • Ultra-wide: 12MP, 13mm, f/2.2
  • 5X telephoto: 12MP, 120mm, f/2.8
  • Front/selfie: 12MP, f/1.9

Pixel 9 Pro XL cameras:

  • Main (wide): 48MP, 25mm, f/1.7
  • Ultra-wide: 48MP, f/2.2
  • 5X telephoto: 12MP, 113mm, f/2.8
  • Front/selfie: 10.5MP, f/1.9
The one change we really want to see from Apple is a new ultra-wide camera, but since there hasn’t been any information about such an upgrade yet, for now, we presume it will be the same as last year.

We expect most of the camera improvements coming with the iPhone and Pixel to be in the form of software features and optimization. More specifically, AI will probably play a huge role in the camera performance these ultimate flagships will offer.

Apple especially is lagging behind a little bit as far as AI camera features are concerned. Given the news that this year’s iOS 18 update will be highly focused on artificial intelligence we expect that to change, with some of the iPhone 16 AI features to be related to its camera performance.
Google already introduced quite a bit of camera AI functionality with last year’s models, but the company will definitely expand on the solid foundation it has already built. Some of the Pixel 9 AI features might include AI HDR (a Gemini-driven version of Google’s Ultra HDR feature) and a smarter AI Clean feature (the ability to remove stains and imperfections from a scanned document), working with regular photos and even videos. 

Audio Quality and Haptics

Apple and Google have been adding some of the best speakers on the market to their flagship phones. Not to mention, we are talking about big phones here, so we expect the iPhone 16 Pro Max and Pixel 9 Pro XL to be an absolute joy to listen to.

Last year, when Google launched the Pixel 8 series, we noticed that the haptic feedback was stronger than before. Apple is a bit more creative with its vibration motor, but in terms of accuracy and strength, both the iPhone and the Pixel should have excellent haptics.

Battery Life and Charging

Pixel finally gets MagSafe equivalent
Battery life has historically been pretty awesome on the iPhone Pro Max and larger Pixel models. We expect this to continue with the iPhone 16 Pro Max and the Pixel 9 Pro XL, with both being great purchases as far as battery life is concerned, with the iPhone rumored to have a 4,422 – 4,676 mAh battery size and the Pixel a 5050 mAh one.Neither the iPhone nor the Pixel have ever featured incredibly fast charging speeds, with representatives from both models usually aiming for a 50% charge in about 30 minutes of charging.

The one thing Apple had going for its iPhones since the introduction of the iPhone 12 series was MagSafe, which helps wireless charging accessories (among other things) neatly and perfectly snap to the back to match the charging coils beneath the back panel.

Well, the Pixel 9 Pro XL (as well as the rest of the Pixel 9 lineup) is said to come with something called Qi2, which is basically the same thing. “Qi” is the universal wireless charging standard, and Qi2 is simply the second generation that brings along magnets with it. The Pixel 9 series will probably be among the first (if not the first) Android phone to come with it.

Specs Comparison

Overall we are looking at rather similar specs here, besides the chipsets, which will differ quite a bit from each other in terms of processing power.

For now, the most notable specs here are the potential 2TB of storage on the iPhone 16 Pro Max and the new A18 Pro and Tensor G4 chipsets. Another highlight would also be the Pixel’s Qi2 wireless charging and the magnets that come along with it.

Summary

Frankly, the iPhone 16 Pro Max and the Pixel 9 Pro XL seem to resemble each other quite a bit if we are talking hardware only. Yes, there are some differences in the RAM, camera megapixels, and charging speeds, but these are specs that are also highly influenced by software.

The most notable differentiating factors, and ultimately what would be the reason why you choose one instead of the other, will be the way AI gets utilized and the user experience that comes along with the operating system you go for. Of course, that is unless you are walled in Apple’s ecosystem, as that is a major transition stopper.

Apple will undoubtedly lean towards its strengths when it comes to the camera performance, especially in video recording, but we can also expect a creative and useful AI feature or two to be shown during the announcement.

What the Pixel has going for it is its head start within the generative AI game, which has given Google a solid ground to build upon and the experience/resources to do it. This and the next couple of years are Google’s chance to push with its AI expertise and become an even bigger player in the smartphone game.


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