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Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 11: Which sub-$700 phone is better?

Google takes aim at the iPhone 11 with its latest flagship phone, the Pixel 5.

Lynn La Senior Editor / Reviews - Phones
Lynn La covers mobile reviews and news. She previously wrote for The Sacramento Bee, Macworld and The Global Post.
Lynn La
7 min read

Available to buy now, Google's Pixel 5 introduces many features that are new to the company's phone brand, including 5G connectivity, an ultrawide-angle camera and a much larger, longer-lasting battery. The phone is currently on sale for $649, and it launched alongside the midtier Pixel 4A 5G, which costs $499 (£499, AU$799).

Read more: Black Friday 2020 phone deals

While the phone has notable updates compared with its predecessor, the Pixel 4, Google anticipates lower-than-usual Pixel 5 phone sales due to the coronavirus pandemic and is planning to produce only 800,000 units this year. It also faces stiff competition from one of the most popular phone-makers, Apple , and its iPhone 11. Though it's been available since last September and Apple has already launched its sequel, the iPhone 12, the iPhone 11 is now cheaper. It starts at $599 (£599, AU$999) off contract, and is equipped with a fast processor and excellent cameras. It does not, however, have 5G.

To see how these phones stack up, we took a closer look and compared them based on design, camera specs, hardware, software and other features. And for more info, check out CNET's other comparisons, Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4A 5G and Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12.

Angela Lang/CNET

The Pixel 5 has a superb camera and a long-lasting battery, and is the obvious pick for anyone who wants to connect to a 5G network. It also starts with more internal storage (128GB) and its 90Hz display will keep the interface looking silky-smooth.

Read more about the Pixel 5's new camera features.

Angela Lang/CNET

If you're in the Apple and iOS ecosystem, the iPhone 11 is the more fitting candidate. You'll also get an outstanding camera, especially for video recording, and a powerful A13 Bionic processor that outperformed the Pixel 5 in benchmark tests. And now that the iPhone 12 is out, it's $100 cheaper than when it first launched.

Read our Apple iPhone 11 review.

Design: Pixel 5's natural aesthetics vs. iPhone 11's glossy looks

When Google designed the Pixel 5, it set out to give the phone a natural feel, reminiscent of a pebble. And with the phone's matte texture, aluminum and glass encasing and soft, rounded corners, the Pixel 5 in green sports a minimalist, earthy look. It's a direct contrast to the iPhone 11's high-gloss, pop-art pastel-green design. Neither aesthetic is particularly better than the other, but those who want more options will appreciate the iPhone 11's four other colors (yellow, purple, red and white) in addition to black and green.


The iPhone 11 with iOS 14 widgets.

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

On the back of the Pixel 5 is the fingerprint reader that unlocks the phone and permits digital payments. The iPhone 11 uses facial recognition sensors in the front-facing camera for user authorization.

Both phones have a 6-inch display (if you want to be exact, the iPhone 11 has a 6.1-inch display), they don't have headphone jacks and they're rated IP68 for water resistance

On paper, the Pixel 5's screen is sharper than the iPhone 11's in terms of having a higher resolution and pixel density. The Pixel 5 also has an OLED screen while the iPhone 11 has an LCD. OLED displays are typically more vibrant, with richer contrast and inkier blacks. But you'll only notice these differences if you look at the devices side by side, and by itself you'll likely have no problems with the iPhone 11's screen. What is a bit more obvious, however, is the Pixel 5's 90Hz display. Most phones, like the iPhone 11, refresh at 60 frames per second. But having a 90Hz display on the Pixel means that scrolling through webpages and text feels much springier, smoother and more responsive.

Pixel 5's subtly natural looks offer a 90Hz display

See all photos

Camera: Pixel 5 and iPhone 11 both have dual rear cameras

Tweaking a photo using the Pixel's Portrait light tool.

Lynn La/CNET

Both the Pixel 5 and the iPhone 11 have two rear cameras, optical image stabilization and special modes for low-light environments. The Pixel 5 has a standard and a wide-angle camera. The iPhone 11 has wide and ultrawide cameras, with the ultrawide camera having a slightly wider field of view than the Pixel 5 (120 degrees compared with 107 degrees). 

Google added two new features to the Pixel 5's camera. You can now enable dramatic, blurred portrait shots in Night Mode and you can adjust the lighting in your portraits too. While iPhones do have different lighting options for portraits, the feature in the Pixel works more like an editing tool than a broad filter effect.

As for video, the Pixel 5 and iPhone 11 can record 4K video and supersmooth 1080p video at 240 frames per second. But the iPhone 11's front-facing camera has more capabilities. It can capture 4K video and it can record slo-mo video (known as "slofies") at 120fps. The highest video resolution on the Pixel 5's front-facing shooter, on the other hand, is 1080p with no slo-mo options.

Check out a few different shots below from the Pixel 4A 5G (which has the same camera as the Pixel 5) and the iPhone 11.

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Night Sight on the Pixel 4A 5G.

Lynn La/CNET
Enlarge Image

Night Mode on the iPhone 11.

Scott Stein/CNET
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The wide-angle lens on the Pixel 4A 5G.

Lynn La/CNET
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A wide-angle shot from the iPhone 11.

Scott Stein/CNET
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A close-up image of a succulent on the Pixel 4A 5G.

Lynn La/CNET
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A close-up picture of some fruit with the iPhone 11.

Scott Stein/CNET

Pixel 5's long battery life vs. iPhone 11's superfast processor

The Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A 5G are Google's first 5G phones and are capable of connecting to the next-gen network, which promises to be much faster than 4G. The iPhone 11 doesn't have 5G, but the iPhone 12 does.

The Pixel 5 is equipped with the Snapdragon 765G chipset from Qualcomm, while the iPhone 11 features Apple's A13 Bionic processor. Google's choice of the 765G chipset is an interesting one, as it's not as fast as the Pixel 4's Snapdragon 855. But Google said it went with the 765G to keep costs down. We didn't notice any speed issues or lag during our time with the Pixel 5, but on benchmark tests, it did get lower scores on 3DMark and Geekbench 5 than the iPhone 11 did when we tested it last year.

3DMark Slingshot Unlimited

Google Pixel 5 3,954Apple iPhone 11 10,505
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

Google Pixel 5 48,207Apple iPhone 11 97,199
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.5.0 single-core

Google Pixel 5 591Apple iPhone 11 1,338
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.5.0 multicore

Google Pixel 5 1,602Apple iPhone 11 3,436
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

The Pixel 5 has 128GB of internal memory and 8GB of RAM. The iPhone 11 has three memory tiers, and if you want 128GB you'll have to pay more at $649 (£649, AU$1,079). In the US, though, the iPhone 11 at 128GB is still cheaper than the Pixel 5, thanks to Apple lowering the price. Apple also doesn't disclose the amount of RAM its iPhones have, but regulatory filings report that the iPhone 11 has 4GB of RAM.


The Pixel 5.

Angela Lang/CNET

Neither phone has external storage options, but Google and Apple encourage users to upload and back up their photos and videos on their respective cloud services. Apple's iCloud gives you 5GB for free and it costs $10 a month for 2TB. Google Photos users have unlimited storage for photos and video at "high" quality. But if you want to upload lots of content of "original" quality, which has a higher resolution, Google's One cloud service gives you the first 15GB for free. If you want more, it will also cost you $10 a month for 2TB.

Lastly, the Pixel 5 has a 4,000-mAh battery, the highest capacity of any Pixel phone to date. Apple doesn't list battery specs, but unofficial third-party teardowns show the iPhone 11 has a 3,110-mAh battery. Battery tests on the Pixel 5 for continuous video playback in Airplane mode clocked in at 21 hours, 11 minutes. This is an excellent time, and longer than the iPhone 11, which lasted 15 hours, 24 minutes. With streaming video it clocked in at 13 hours, 52 minutes. We haven't tested streaming video on the Pixel 5 yet, so stay tuned when we get those numbers. 

Like the Galaxy S20 phones, the Pixel 5 also has reverse wireless charging. That means the phone can charge accessories, like the Pixel Buds 2, without any cables or plugs.

Software: Android 11 vs. iOS 14

Hold saves you from spending time listening to hold music.


As always, when comparing phones from Apple and Google you'll have to decide which OS works better for you: iOS or Android. Both phones have a dark mode and a digital search assistant ( Siri and Google Assistant). And because the phones don't have physical home buttons, their interfaces rely on swiping gestures to switch between apps.

The Pixel 5 will run Android 11 out of the box. The latest mobile OS has useful features like Quick Control, chat bubbles, a native screen recorder and more. Hold For Me will also be previewed on the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A 5G: When you're put on hold, you can have Google Assistant do the waiting for you. This frees you from constantly needing to be near your phone or listening to crummy hold music. You'll be alerted when the other line returns.

The iPhone 11 has the latest iOS 14 software from Apple. It includes a more organized App Library, widgets to customize your home screen with, picture-in-picture and a native translation app. 

Other features to consider:

Both phones have dual-SIM: In addition to your regular nano-SIM, both phones use e-SIM technology that supports multiple phone numbers. This is useful if you want to keep your personal and work phone number on the same device.

The iPhone 11 has Wi-Fi 6: Devices with Wi-Fi 6 speak that same Wi-Fi language to talk to each other, and compared with Wi-Fi 5, it's faster and more battery-efficient. But Wi-Fi 6 was only certified in September 2019 and Wi-Fi 6 routers remain expensive. Instead of regarding it as an immediate benefit, think of Wi-Fi 6 as readying your phone for the future. 

The iPhone 11 has a chip just for "spatial awareness": Called U1, this new chip helps iPhones find other iPhones more precisely when they're in close proximity. Apple says this improves AirDrop, but many believe the U1 chip is laying the groundwork for a long-rumored Apple Tile-like tracker.


The iPhone 11.

Angela Lang/CNET

Pixel 5 and iPhone 11 specs

Google Pixel 5iPhone 11
Display size, resolution 6-inch FHD+ OLED; 2,340x1,080 pixels6.1-inch LCD; 1,792x828 pixels
Pixel density 432ppi326ppi
Dimensions (inches) 5.7x2.8x0.3 in5.94x2.98x0.33 in
Dimensions (millimeters) 144.7x70.4x8mm150.9x75.7x8.3mm
Weight (ounces, grams) 5.33 oz; 151g6.84 oz; 194g
Mobile software Android 11iOS 13
Camera 12.2-megapixel (standard), 16-megapixel (ultrawide)12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide)
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel12-megapixel
Video capture 4K4K
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 765GApple A13 Bionic
Storage 128GB64GB, 128GB, 256GB
RAM 8GBNot disclosed
Expandable storage NoNo
Battery 4,000 mAhNot disclosed
Fingerprint sensor RearNone (Face ID)
Connector USB-CLightning
Headphone jack NoNo
Special features 5G-enabled; water-resistant (IP68); 90Hz refresh rate display; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); reverse wireless charging; fast chargingWater-resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging
Price off-contract (USD) $699$599 (64GB), $649 (128GB), $749 (256GB)
Price (GBP) £599£599 (64GB), £649 (128GB), £749 (256GB)
Price (AUD) AU$999AU$999 (64GB), AU$1,079 (128GB), AU$1,249 (256GB)

*prices as of Oct. 14.