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And the winner is...

iPhone 7 Plus vs Pixel XL
By Nidhi Singal   New Delhi     Print Edition: November 20, 2016
[Photo: Vivan Mehra]

The smartphone industry has been abuzz lately with the launch of flagship phones from Apple, Samsung and Google. Samsung's Note 7, a promising smartphone that could have been a worthy competitor to Apple's iPhone 7 Plus, is now grappling with handset recalls subsequent to battery issues. The smartphone wars took an interesting turn with the launch of Pixel XL from Google in October. Coming from the creators of the Android operating system, this high-end 'made by Google' (outsourced to HTC for production) smartphone, many believe, is poised to take on the current superstar, the iPhone 7 Plus. But will it really?

Brace yourself as we evaluate the two phones on key parameters and rate them on a scale of one to 10.

DESIGN: In the looks department, both the iPhone 7 Plus and Pixel XL score well - the iPhone 7 Plus's classy black finish and the Pixel XL in quiet black look resplendent. The build quality, too, is excellent. The iPhone has a metal unibody with IP 67 certification, which makes it water and dust resistant, and gives it a definite edge over the Pixel XL, which is IP 53 certified making it resistant only to water sprays. Apple has done away with the antenna lines at the rear, awarding the iPhone 7 Plus a more premium look. The keys and ports continue to be at the same location, minus the 3.5-mm jack. The clickable home button with fingerprint sensor has been replaced with a pressure sensor with haptic vibrations, which blends seamlessly with the design. Pixel XL, on the other hand, has a two-tone glass aluminium body with a smooth surface and curved edges. The fingerprint scanner has been added to the rear. Antenna lines run through the top, side edges and at the bottom rear. Google has added a Type C charging port at the bottom, volume control and power key on the right edge, and a 3.5-mm jack at the top. The battery is nonremovable and the SIM slot tray sits on the left edge.


DISPLAY: When looked at individually, both the phones, with their 5.5-inch screens, offer bright and crisp display. However, when kept next to each other in full brightness, the Pixel XL scores over the iPhone 7 Plus. The former has a display resolution of 2,560x1,440 pixels with 534 ppi density, making it brighter and more colourful. iPhone 7 Plus has a 1,920x1,080 pixel resolution with 401 pixel density.


CAMERA: Without getting into the megapixel count, let's evaluate the camera capabilities in depth. Known to offer the best camera optics, Apple set a new benchmark by offering a 12-MP wide angle lens and a 12-MP telephoto lens - with f/1.8 aperture for wide angle and f/2.8 for telephoto lens. It also offers 2x optical zoom, bokeh effect (blur, out of focus effect) and portrait mode for depth in images. Google Pixel XL has a 12.3-MP camera with f2.0 aperture. While both the cameras are blazing fast while capturing images, the shots captured from the iPhone 7 Plus looked far more natural. It also captures finer details such as flare of sunlight. The images shot on the Pixel XL were impressive, too. The shots taken outdoors looked richer and brighter. But a close examination revealed that the Pixel was overprocessing the colours, making the images look unnatural. The Pixel offers a slightly wider angle over the iPhone, which can be a plus point while capturing landscapes. Low-light imaging on both these smartphones is worth applauding, though the iPhone 7 Plus's accuracy in this regard is higher. The depth effect on the iPhone works flawlessly. In portrait mode, to attain the blur effect on iPhone, the subject has to be placed within 2.5 metres. The Pixel XL captures a much wider shot, thereby diluting the blur effect.


Apple vs Google: Pictures shot outdoors

Apple: Pictures shot using depth-of-field effect

Google: Pictures shot using depth-of-field effect

PERSONAL ASSISTANT: Here are two assistants you can rely on...mostly. Pixel XL is the first phone to come with built-in Google Assistant. And it works really well. Apple's Siri, too, has evolved and understands the Indian accent well. From answering queries to checking the weather, calculating the distance between two places or booking an Uber ride, both the phones were able to handle most of the tasks. There were a few hiccups, though. At times Siri failed to pick up locations, and Google Assistant had difficulty identifying certain names from the phonebook.


USER INTERFACE, PLATFORM AND PERFORMANCE: The iPhone 7 Plus runs on iOS 10, which is not only utility-driven, but also the best iOS update with features such as Raise to Wake, Revert to Notifications from the locked screen, widgets and camera access from the home screen. There is no app tray; all the apps are placed on various pages across the homescreen, which can be easily added to folders. Apple's 3D Touch offers options when an app icon is long-pressed on the home screen. For instance, long pressing the camera app throws four options open - take photo, record slo-mo, record video or take selfie. The fingerprint sensor works seamlessly, even with slightly wet hands. The iOS ecosystem has evolved over the years, and many of the new apps come to the Apple App Store before the Android Play Store. The iPhone 7 Plus runs on the all new A10 fusion chipset with four cores, of which two are low-power cores, contributing towards better battery back-up. The performance of the iPhone 7 Plus is top notch, without any heating issues - be it while streaming videos, playing games or capturing images and videos. The battery lasts a day easily despite heavy usage, with close to 15 per cent charge still left. The first phone to be running on Android 7.1, the Pixel XL is bereft of bloatware. By default, the lock screen gives access to voice assist and camera. The homescreen has a 'G' icon on the top left for Google Search and Google Cards. An arrow above the icons at the bottom opens the app tray. Within the app tray, at the top is the search icon followed by a row comprising the most used apps - apps are placed alphabetically. Just like Apple's iMessage and FaceTime, Google has added the Allo and Duo apps. Long-pressing an app icon on the homescreen shows quick actions; for instance the camera app shows two options - take a video or take a selfie. The settings have been completely revamped to display storage, battery, average memory used of the 3.7 GB, etc. The Pixel XL is a super quick device that boasts top-of-the-line specifications - Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset paired with 4 GB of RAM. When the camera is used for a long duration, the camera module starts heating a bit. The Pixel XL lasts over a day and, unlike the iPhone 7 Plus, supports quick charging.


OTHER FACTORS: The Pixel XL is priced at Rs 67,000 for 32 GB, whereas the Apple iPhone 7 Plus is priced at Rs 72,000 for 32 GB. At an additional Rs 5,000, the iPhone 7 Plus is a better phone, although by a thin margin. Another plus point with Apple is its strong after-sales service network - no other phone company has been able to match it. Pixel XL, on the other hand, comes with a dedicated Phone support across 56 walk-in service centres, in 30+ cities in India. Google has partnered with HTC India for after-sales support. However, Google is not known to be consistent with its devices - its Nexus range of phones has been discontinued and Project Ara (modular phones) has been scrapped. It's difficult to ascertain the future of Pixel phones. In toto, more than being a threat to the iPhone 7 Plus, Pixel XL emerges as a strong contender in the flagship Android smartphone space and as a formidable threat to Samsung's dominance.


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