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iPhone 8 vs. Pixel 2: Which one's better?

Apple and Google's new phones are both pocketable and powerful. So which one should you get?

Josh Miller/CNET

The iPhone 8 and Pixel 2 belong in the upper ranks of any best phone list. They're some of the fastest, most comfortable phones made to hold in the hand. And they have nearly every feature you could want in a handset.

But no phone is perfect, and buying either one means you're trading off some features to gain some others. Let's see which one's right for you.

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Design: Same ole, same ole

No surprises here. Both the iPhone 8 and Pixel 2 look a lot like last year's models. But the iPhone 8 does looks generally sleeker with its all-glass back. Meanwhile, the Pixel 2 has a plastic-coated aluminum body, which isn't as attractive. But it does make it less likely to shatter or crack if dropped.

pixel-2-vs-iphone-8-1725-002

The Pixel 2 (left) and iPhone 8 (right).

Josh Miller/CNET

The iPhone 8 has a 4.7-inch screen, while Pixel 2's screen spans 5 inches. Both are pocketable and easy to hold, but I prefer the Pixel 2's slightly larger screen and sharper resolution. It also doesn't exhibit any of the reported the screen issues found in the larger Pixel 2 XL, as it uses different screen technology.

Both the iPhone 8 and Pixel 2 are water resistant, which is great for extra protection. But neither phone has headphone jacks, and you'll need to use wireless headphones or a dongle to listen to music. I realize we're moving into a brave new no-headphone-jack world, but this is still a deal-breaker for some. 

Camera: Bokeh for one, low-light for the other

Long story short, the iPhone 8 is great for low-light shots. But the Pixel 2 is fantastic for fast-taking portrait photos.

Both have fantastic 12-megapixel single-lens rear cameras that use optical image stabilization for steadier shots and video. They also capture slow-motion video and fun GIF-fy photos too, known as Live Photos (iPhone 8) or Motion Photos (Pixel 2).

But Google outfitted both the Pixel 2 and its Pixel 2 XL, with the same top-notch camera and features. Apple, on the other hand, reserved its better camera tools (including a dual camera and portrait lighting tools in beta) for its iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X.

As for the iPhone 8 and Pixel 2, only the latter has built-in features to take dramatic, bokeh-style portrait photos. They don't always come out perfect, but it works surprisingly well for a single-lens camera, and it's an enjoyable feature to have. The Pixel 2 can also do it on the front-facing camera, albeit not as well as the rear.

At the same time, I liked how easy the iPhone 8's camera is to use, and how much better it handled low-light photography than the Pixel 2. Both cameras were able to brighten up dimly-lit environments just fine (and in fact, other CNET editors preferred the the Pixel 2 more), but I thought the iPhone 8's color management was more realistic. Its images showed less digital artifacts and noise.

Read more:

Performance: Processor and battery

The iPhone 8 has an A11 Bionic processor from Apple, while the Pixel 2 has Snapdragon 835 chipset from Qualcomm. When I ran benchmark tests, including Antutu, 3DMark and Geekbench 4, the iPhone 8 consistently beat out the Pixel 2. That doesn't mean the Pixel 2 is a slouch at all. For everyday tasks such as launching the camera, scrolling through web pages and pecking out messages on the keyboard, I didn't notice a difference between the two at all. But when it comes down to the numbers, the iPhone 8 wins it.

During our battery test for continuous video playback on Airplane mode, the iPhone lasted 14 hours and 12 minutes. It also has wireless charging. In the same test, the Pixel 2 didn't last as long, clocking in 13 hours and 28 minutes.

Antutu v6.2.7

Apple iPhone 8
207,326
Google Pixel 2
169,449

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Ice Storm (Unlimited)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 4 (single-core)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 4 (multi-core)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Features: Interface and software

A large part of what phone you'll buy depends on the ecosystem you're comfortable with. Apple's iPhone 8 runs iOS 11 and has the digital voice assistant Siri. iOS also features syncing iMessages across devices (a stronghold feature that iOS users love) and Apple Pay too.

The Pixel 2 runs Android Oreo with the superior Google Assistant. The Pixel also has Google Lens, which calls up information about the world around you using the camera and Photos app. It's especially handy when you want to find out more about what's in front of you, but it won't be exclusive the Pixel 2 forever, as it will roll out to other Android phones later.

google-pixel-2-0352-016

Digital voice assistants Siri (left) and Google Assistant.

Josh Miller/CNET

Value: More memory and money

If you're interested in getting a 64GB phone, the Pixel 2 is better value, starting out at about $50 and £70 cheaper than the iPhone 8. (unfortunately in Australia, both phones have the same AU$1,079 starting price). In the end, that means you'll be able to keep a bit more dough in your wallet for the first-tier storage amount.

But when it comes to the higher-tiered memory option, you'll actually get more bang for your buck with the iPhone 8 as far as memory is concerned. With 128GB on the Pixel 2, you'll have to cough up $749, £729 or AU$1,229. Meanwhile, you'll pay $849, £849 or AU$1,329 for the 256GB iPhone 8. That may be more expensive, but in terms of cost per GB, the iPhone 8 works out better.

Apple iPhone 8 vs. Google Pixel 2 pricing


Apple iPhone 8 Google Pixel 2
Price off-contract (USD) $699 (64GB), $849 (256GB) $649 (64GB), $749 (128GB)
Price (GBP) £699 (64GB), £849 (256GB) £629 (64GB), £729 (128GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,079 (64GB), AU$1,329 (256GB) AU$1,079 (64GB), AU$1,229 (128GB)

Which one's right for you?

If you're not deeply integrated in the Apple ecosystem, I'd personally go with the Pixel 2. True, the iPhone 8 looks more elegant, and has a more user-friendly interface. It also has a faster processor on paper and a slightly longer-lasting battery.

pixel-2-vs-iphone-8-1744-003

In the end, I prefer the Pixel 2.

Josh Miller/CNET

But, I prefer the Pixel's sharper screen and I really do enjoy using the camera's bokeh mode. Though it doesn't work as smoothly as the iPhone 8's bigger brother, the iPhone 8 Plus, it's nice to have it at all, which is more than you'll get from the iPhone 8.

Apple iPhone 8 vs. Google Pixel 2 specs


Apple iPhone 8 Google Pixel 2
Display size, resolution 4.7-inch; 1,334x750 pixels 5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels
Pixel density 326 ppi 441 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.45x2.65x0.29 in 5.7x2.7x0.3 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 138.4x67.3x7.3 mm 145.7x69.7x7.8 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.22 oz; 148 g 5.04 oz; 143 g
Mobile software iOS 11 Android 8 Oreo
Camera 12-megapixel 12-megapixel
Front-facing camera 7-megapixel 8-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K
Processor Apple A11 Bionic Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Storage 64GB, 256GB 64GB, 128GB
RAM 2GB 4GB
Expandable storage None None
Battery 1,821mAh (Apple doesn't confirm this) 2,700mAh
Fingerprint sensor Home button (Touch ID) Back cover
Connector Lightning USB-C
Headphone jack No No
Special features Water resistant (IP67), wireless Qi charge compatible Water resistant (IP67), unlimited cloud storage; Google Lens