Pixel 9 Pro XL vs iPhone 16 Pro Max preview: The ultimate showdown

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Intro

A bit surprisingly, this year’s Pixel 9 series launch will take place on August 13. Usually, Google unveils its devices late into the fall, normally in October, but it seems that the Pixel 9. Pixel 9 Pro, and Pixel 9 Pro XL are just around the corner.

Wait a minute… Did we actually list three Pixel phones? That’s right, this year Google’s expanding the portfolio, and the most glaring addition here is the Pixel 9 Pro XL. This phone will act as the direct successor to the Pixel 8 Pro and wouldn’t be an even larger flagship. 

How would the Pixel 9 Pro XL square up against the upcoming iPhone 16 Pro Max? Let’s find out!

Table of Contents:

Design and Size

iPhone has the lead

As per the rumors, the Pixel 9 Pro XL will be scoring a flat, likely stainless-steel design, which is the current design trend. A redesigned camera strip will be present at the back, moving away from the distinct 3D Visor look of previous Pixels. Overall, this is what we expect of the Pixel 9 Pro XL at the moment. 

Meanwhile, there’s quite a lot going on with the iPhone 16 Pro Max as well. Rumors have surfaced that it will likely have the thinnest bezels on any phone so far, just 1.15mm thin. The next iPhone is also scoring a titanium body, like its predecessor, but it might boast enhanced rigidity.

With the iPhone 16 Pro Max, we will be getting a whole new button on the side of the phone, which will allow you to quickly start taking videos or photos. Dubbed the Capture button, it will likely be a capacitive button.

Additionally, the Action Button that debuted with the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, will be making a return. This one substituted the classic ring switch and allows users to map different features and shortcuts for easier access. 

Both devices will have IP68 water- and dust-resistance on board, making them perfectly optimized to survive basic elemental damage. 

The iPhone 16 Pro Max will have a USB Type-C, similar to its predecessor.

Display Differences

The Pixel 9 Pro XL will boast a slightly smaller 6.7-inch screen in comparison with the iPhone 16 Pro Max‘s 6.9-inch display. The Google flagship will also have a punch-hole display where the front camera will peek through, whereas the iPhone 16 Pro Max will once again utilize the larger Dynamic Island punch hole.

Aside from the size, both phones will share many common properties. We are getting two completely flat OLED displays, with very high resolution, and a dynamic refresh rate that can go up to 120Hz for the ultimate smooth experience. 

There’s a very high probability that both phones will get screens that can get super-bright. Above 2,400 nits of peak brightness is almost a given with any of the two; however, we can only speculate as to what the potential peak brightness of the Pixel 9 Pro XL or the iPhone 16 Pro Max could be. 

In terms of biometrics, the Pixel 9 Pro XL will come along with an in-display fingerprint scanner. However, we hope that Google puts an ultrasonic scanner on board, not an optical one. In our experience, ultrasonic scanners have an edge when it comes to speed and accuracy. 

Meanwhile, Face ID will remain the biometric method of choice for the iPhone 16 Pro Max

Performance and Software

Raw vs specialized power

No surprises: we are pretty certain what chipset will be ticking inside Apple’s and Google’s upcoming flagships. 

The Pixel 9 Pro XL will use the Google Tensor G4 chipset, the company’s AI-centric custom solution. It will shift the focus away from raw performance, as it will be crafted with AI and ML in mind. 

At the same time, the iPhone 16 Pro Max will come with Apple’s second-gen 3nm chipset, the Apple A18 Pro. The upcoming chip will be built on TSMC’s N3E manufacturing process and will most probably be one of the fastest mobile chips by 2024’s end. 

However, we’ve heard rumors that Apple will also buy into AI with the upcoming chip. Rumors say there will be a vastly improved Neural Engine for all the potential on-device AI processing that will take place with the upcoming iOS 18. 

The iPhone 15 Pro Max could come with at least 8GB of RAM, possibly even more, as memory is one of the key hardware components that affect AI processing. For the same reasons, the Pixel 9 Pro XL could come with 16GB of RAM, or 12GB in the worst-case scenario. 

In terms of software support, Google has committed to seven years of software support with its Pixels, so the Pixel 9 Pro XL will undoubtedly be supported until 2031. This will cover not only major software updates, but security patches and possibly feature drops. 

At the same time, Apple usually supports its iPhones for at least five years, but usually more. Thus, you can rest assured the iPhone 16 Pro Max will get supported until the end of the decade.

The upcoming Android 15 and iOS 18 will make the rounds on the Pixel 9 Pro XL and iOS 18, respectively. 

Camera

Similar camera setups

The Pixel 9 Pro XL will come along with mostly the same camera setup as the preceding Pixel 8 Pro. We will be getting a 50MP main, a 48MP ultra-wide, and a 48MP 5X telephoto. Still, in a typical Google fashion, we expect AI-powered software enhancements to make the brunt of new camera features. The company has shown time and time again that it can squeeze out way more “image quality” out of the same hardware setup. 

While the same is true of Apple, we expect some changes to the iPhone 16 Pro Max camera. The main one is scoring a larger sensor with larger pixels, which could improve low-light image quality. We are also finally getting a new 48MP ultra-wide camera, a significant upgrade over the 12MP one that has been in use since the iPhone 11 series. 

Both phones will retain their predecessors’ telephoto cameras with 5.0X optical zoom.

Battery Life and Charging

Two-day phones?

So far, it’s expected that the Pixel 9 Pro XL will feature a 5,050mAh battery, just as big as the one on the Pixel 8 Pro. Paired with the Tensor G4, which should be quite efficient if previous Tensor chips are of any indication, the battery should deliver a fairly decent battery life. The Pixel 8 Pro scored above-average battery life in our custom battery tests, so we expected the same from the Pixel 9 Pro XL as well.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 16 Pro Max could come with the largest battery ever fitted on an iPhone, a humongous 4,676mAh cell. This one would likely bring excellent endurance to the iPhone. 

Charging-wise, the Pixel 9 Pro XL will likely beat the iPhone 16 Pro Max. Google’s flagship will likely come along with 33W wired and 23W wireless charging on deck, while the iPhone’s supposedly only getting 25W wired and 15W MagSafe wireless charging. 

Specs Comparison

 

Summary

Like we needed 2024 to get any hotter!

Apple and Google are once again at their necks, preparing two exceptional flagships that will further fuel the Android-iOS war. 

And while both devices are pretty different, they are rivals: there’s no better way to make people switch away from your competitors by beating their best flagship of the year. So far, both the Pixel 9 Pro XL and iPhone 16 Pro Max are showing great promise, so the outcome of the conflict is unknown yet. 


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