“Here’s how Google’s latest ‘XL’ flagship fares against the ones from Apple and Samsung”

The most leaked phone ever has finally been launched in the form of the Pixel 3 XL. The huge notch is indeed a reality, and so is the considerably large chin. But there’s plenty of stuff that makes Google’s latest an alluring smartphone. Without a surprise, the flagship will be fighting it out with the Apple iPhone XS Max (review) and the Samsung Galaxy Note9 (review) during the coming festive season. Ahead of that though, let us give you a detailed comparison between these three handsets.

Design and display

While its predecessor utilised a combination of glass and aluminium on its rear surface, the Pixel 3 XL has decided to go for an all-glass design. Yet it retains the two-tone look of its precursors by applying a frosted coating to the lower part of the glass. The iPhone XS Max, as well as the Galaxy Note9, sport glass-sandwich designs as well, which means all three phones support wireless charging.

The biggest differentiating factor (and not necessarily a good one) for the Pixel 3 XL is its deep and wide notch. While the XS Max also has such a cutout, it’s not as jarring as the Google phone, and it also serves as home for the sensors required for the Face ID to work. In contrast, the Samsung Galaxy Note9 has chosen to go for its famed Infinity display, which keeps the bezels to a minimum without taking the notch route.


The Note 9 also boasts a dedicated Bixby button. Another thing unique to it is the redesigned S Pen which is now Bluetooth enabled. This allows you to perform tasks like playing / pausing music, clicking photos remotely and more. The phone holds a fingerprint scanner on its back surface, which is also true for the Pixel 3 XL. The new iPhone, of course, has ditched this feature in favour of its Face ID tech. Google has equipped its new flagship with dual front cameras meant for clicking wide-angle selfies, but its rear surface occupies one single camera. Apple and Samsung have both given their devices dual rear cameras. IP68 dust- and water resistance have made its way into all three of these handsets. And while the Pixel 3 XL and the iPhone XS Max ditch the headphone sockets, the Galaxy Note 9, thankfully, retains it.

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The notch display on the Google Pixel 3 XL is a 6.3-inch OLED panel with a resolution of 2,960 x 1,440 pixels. As for the iPhone, it has gone for a 6.5-inch notch-bearing AMOLED screen with a resolution of 2,688 x 1,242 pixels. The display on the Note9 measures 6.4-inches and bears a resolution of 2,960 x 1,440 pixels. It’s worth noting that the display on the iPhone is the largest, but also has the lowest resolution among the trio.

Hardware and software

Pixel 3 XL Black

It’s no surprise that the Pixel 3 XL ships with the 2.8GHz octa-core Snapdragon 845 processor at its heart. There’s 4GB of RAM on offer, aside from 64 or 128GB of storage. The new iPhone XS comes powered by the Apple A12 Bionic chip which houses a hexa-core processor, a quad-core GPU and an upgraded neural processor for AI tasks. In terms of the storage, you can opt for 64, 256 or 512GB options. The SoC on the Galaxy Note9 is a 2.7GHz octa-core Exynos 9810 unit that’s assisted by 6- or 8GB of RAM. While the former will grant you 128GB of storage, the latter will offer 512GB of space. Also worth mentioning is the fact that Samsung device is the only one among the three to feature a microSD card slot.

Needless to say that the Pixel 3 XL runs Android 9.0 Pie right out of the box. It retains its squeezable frame, which allows you to summon Google Assistant in an instant. The exclusive feature that recognises what song is playing in the background is also present. Furthermore, Digital Wellbeing is a Pie addition that tells you your app usage statistics and helps you reduce the usage of your phone. And then there’s call screening – the Google Assistant feature that answers spam calls as a bot and lets you select replies, which it then conveys to the callers in its own voice.

The iPhone XS Max, with its iOS 12 also has a feature similar to Digital Wellbeing, called Screen Time. Much-needed Grouped notifications are finally here, and so is smart photo search. Animojis, Siri shortcuts and an enhanced Do Not Disturb mode are some of iOS 12’s other important additions. The Note9 doesn’t change its software much from its predecessors. New S Pen features are of course there, and so are AI-based scene recognition capabilities in the camera app.

Camera and battery

Google’s HDR+ is the best in the business, and its overall camera software is so good that the Pixel 3 XL does not even need dual cameras to compete against its contemporaries. A 12.2MP f/1.8 snapper can be spotted on the back of the device, and it’s assisted by a number of new functionality. Prime among them is Top Shot, which takes various photos before and after you press the shutter button. This ensures that a spoiled shot can always be rescued by picking the best one from the other available images. And then there’s Night Sight which is an AI-based mode meant for clicking great night-time shots. Super Res Zoom is another new addition to the Pixel camera app. It basically gives you a high-resolution shot even if you’re using digital zoom. That’s not all, there are other great features like Photobooth and an always-on Google Lens.


At the rear, the iPhone XS Max sports an updated 12MP + 12MP setup that now allows Smart HDR photos as well as Depth Control. 2x optical zoom is also available letting you get closer to the subject. The Note9 holds dual cameras at the back as well, but its main 12MP shooter can change its aperture from f/2.4 to f/1.5 to capture more light in dim settings. Its secondary 12MP shooter allows portrait effects as well as optical zoom.

The front of the Pixel 3 XL sports two cameras, with one being a standard 8MP snapper and the other, a wide-angle 8MP camera. This lets you click group selfies by offering a wider field of view. Apple has placed a single 7MP TrueDepth front camera on its new iPhone, which too, features the portrait mode and Depth Control. The 8MP front camera on the Note 9 offers a wider fielf of view, but misses out on the portrait mode.

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A 3,430mAh battery has gone inside the new Pixel 3 XL. Apple does not reveal the battery capacity of its phones, but we do know that the XS Max can last 90 minutes more than the iPhone X. The Note9 is the clear winner here with its 4,000mAh cell. All three of these phones furnish fast charging as well as wireless charging support. However, the new iPhone does not bundle a fast charger in the box.

Closing thoughts 

Google Pixel 3 XL vs Samsung Galaxy Note9 vs Apple iPhone XS Max

The flagship market just got a bit richer with the addition of the Google Pixel 3 XL. With exciting camera features and powerful hardware, it does seem like a worthy competitor to the iPhone XS Max and the Galaxy Note9.