If you're in the market for a top Android phone, the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Google Pixel 2 are probably on your list of considerations (note that the next flagship phone from each of these manufacturers--the and --should be here in August and October, respectively.
That's no surprise -- as the reigning Android phone maker, Samsung has built a powerful and elegant machine in the Galaxy S9. And though it's pricey at $720-to-$800 (prices vary by carrier), £739 and AU$1,199, the S9 sits at the top of its class.
Google's marquee phone is also a champ in itself. The Pixel 2 has a best-in-show camera and a lower price tag that starts at $649, £629 and AU$1,079. It has such a wide appeal that we think even die-hard Apple iPhone users should give the Pixel 2 a shot. (Now we know the rumored Pixel 3 is expected to come in October, but if you need a phone now, both are available now.)
So which one should you buy? That would depend on what you want from a phone and how much you're willing to spend to get it. We've stacked these two powerhouses against each other to see which one has the best design, camera, software features and performance.
Design: Galaxy S9 flaunts a luxurious look
I was never a huge fan of the Pixel 2's design. Though I love its pocketable 5-inch size (there seriously needs to be a resurgence of smaller, high-powered phones), its attractive pale blue variant and its sturdiness, the Pixel 2 looks anything but sleek.
Its thick bezels and the matte finish on the (aluminum) back feel dated and cheap, especially in contrast to the Galaxy S9's edge-to-edge curved screen and glossy (albeit fingerprint-collecting) glass casing. The Pixel 2 also doesn't have a headphone jack, whereas the Galaxy S9 does, which is a deal-breaker for many. That means you'll need to connect either a Bluetooth headphone or carry around a dongle to listen to your music and calls.
On top of that, the Galaxy S9's bigger screen is sharper, with more pixels per inch, and it's slightly more water resistant. It can be dunked for 30 minutes in 1.5 meters of water compared to the Pixel 2's one meter limitation (that's about 3.3 feet). Though, I wouldn't bother with that distinction too much -- I'm just glad both phones are waterproof and you can just scoop them up quickly the moment they accidentally fall into the water. Of course, all these design goodies come at a higher cost, which puts a bigger dent in your wallet.
Winner: The Galaxy S9 is more expensive, and the way it attracts fingerprints and smudges is annoying. But I still prefer its sleeker design over the Pixel 2.
Camera: Pixel 2 packs a powerhouse camera
If you really want to know which of the two has a better camera, read our super in-depth camera comparison here: Galaxy S9 vs. Pixel 2: Which camera is best?
But here's the TL;DR: The Galaxy S9 has a fantastic camera, and excels at taking noise-free photos (like when you're capturing the sky or a low-light night shot) and pictures at medium low-light.
However, the Pixel 2's camera is superior. It's HDR+ enhanced feature allows you to just click the shutter and effortlessly take a great shot. Photos taken in portrait mode (on both the rear and front-facing cameras) are smoother and look better, and it does a better job understanding that your hair shouldn't be blurred into the background, for example. Lastly, we think its video-stabilization capabilities are the best on any phone available.
(Seriously though, it's best you read our thorough Galaxy S9 vs. Pixel 2 shoot-out for all the photos and info.)
Winner: The Pixel 2's camera is exceptional.
Software features: Google Assistant vs. Samsung Bixby
Both phones run Android Oreo, though when it comes to updates, the Pixel 2 has an advantage. As a Google phone, it'll receive prompt updates from the company as soon as they are available for rollout (meaning it'll be one of the first phones to get the final version of Android P). The Galaxy S9's OS updates typically come a few months later.
The Pixel 2 and the Galaxy S9 also have their own unique digital voice assistants: Google Assistant and Bixby Voice, respectively. However, the Galaxy S9 also has Assistant, too.
Both assistants can do the basics just fine (setting reminders and alarms, checking the weather, etc.), but Bixby can handle complex multi-step commands like posting your latest photo on Instagram with a dictated caption. Assistant, on the other hand, taps into Google's vast search database and can look up queries through continued conversation. It's also superfast when looking up answers, whereas Bixby takes a beat or two longer.
With Google Lens and Bixby Vision built-in respectively, both phones can also look up visual items like identify landmarks or scan barcodes. For a deeper look at these assistants, check out our Siri vs. Google Assistant vs. Bixby comparison.
Personally, I prefer using Assistant because of its speed. I also like the Pixel 2's simpler UI. Because it's so streamlined, the learning curve is lower, and more user-friendly. I'm also not a fan of the Galaxy S9's dedicated Bixby button that sits on the left edge of the phone. It can't be reprogrammed to do anything else, and you end up hitting it all the time.
However, with the Galaxy S9, you don't have to choose between assistants because you have both. The phone also has iris scanning for extra user privacy.
Winner: Toss up -- I much prefer the Pixel 2's simple and refined user experience, but when it comes to "doing" more, the Galaxy S9 definitely has more options.
Performance and battery: Galaxy S9 reigns over all
Equipped with Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 845 chipset, the Galaxy S9 is smooth and lightning quick. As our benchmark results show, it comfortably beat the Pixel 2 -- which has a Snapdragon 835 processor -- on our benchmark tests.
Keep in mind that just because the Pixel 2 has last year's processor, it doesn't mean it's not zippy itself. When it comes to day-to-day usage like firing up the camera, quitting apps and scrolling through web pages, I didn't discern any difference in speed between the two, and the Pixel 2 is as responsive today as it was on day 1.
The Galaxy S9's battery (3,000mAh) is only a little bigger than the Pixel 2 (2,700mAh), yet its battery life is impressive. In our battery lab tests for continuous video playback on Airplane mode, the Galaxy S9 ran a lengthy 15 hours and 30 minutes. The Pixel 2 lasted 13 hours and 28 minutes as well, but that was nowhere near the Galaxy S9.
In addition, the Galaxy S9 has wireless charging, similar to previous Galaxy phones, the 2017 iPhones, the LG G7 ThinQ and others. With this feature, you can place the S9 on a charging pad, and it'll juice up without the need of a cable. While this isn't exactly a make-or-break feature for me, it's one more convenience that the S9 has that the Pixel 2 doesn't.
Winner: Though the Pixel 2 is still a reliable and fast phone, the Galaxy S9 is faster and has a longer-lasting battery to boot.
And the winner is…
Because I love the ease of which I can take a great photo with little effort, I personally lean toward the Pixel 2. I also its minimalistic interface, pocketable size and slightly lower price tag.
But which is objectively the better phone? I have to say, it's the Galaxy S9. With its smooth looks, fast processor and long-lasting battery, it edged out the Pixel 2 in more categories. This all makes sense, since it's the newer and more expensive model.
Whatever phone you choose, you'll surely be satisfied by both. However, it's important to note that these two aren't even your only options. If you want a bigger phone, there's the Galaxy S9 Plus and Pixel 2 XL to consider. And if you don't need a new phone immediately, the Pixel 3 is expected to launch in four months, while the next Samsung phone will be the Galaxy Note 9, which is due for release around August. Both phones should have more processing power, the latest version of Android P and better cameras.
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