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Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Which flagship phone should you buy?

Between Google's latest and Samsung's greatest, here are the key buying reasons for the year's hottest Android phones.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Google Pixel 8 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
June Wan/ZDNET

What a year for Android, right? Samsung set the tone early with the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and now Google's Pixel 8 Pro is positioned to be the Galaxy competitor we've all been waiting for. If you're in the market for the best Android phone right now, these two should be at the top of your list. There are also foldables, but being different and more expensive doesn't necessarily make them the best. I digress.

Also: Every product unveiled at the Made by Google event today

The latest Google Pixel 8 Pro features an all-new design, an improved camera system uplifted by several useful AI features, and a Tensor G3 chipset that may be the company's most promising silicon yet. On the other hand, Samsung's Galaxy S23 Ultra has held up well, even after debuting nearly eight months ago. There are notable reasons to buy one phone model over the other, and I break it all down below.


Google Pixel 8 Pro

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra


6.7-inch AMOLED with 120Hz (LTPO 2.0)

6.8-inch AMOLED with 120Hz (LTPO 2.0)





Google Tensor G3           

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy

RAM/Storage12GB with 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB8GB/12GB with 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB
Battery5,050mAh with 30W charging5,000mAh with 45W charging
Camera50MP wide, 48MP ultra-wide, 48MP telephoto, 10.5MP front
200MP wide, 12MP ultrawide, dual 10MP telephoto, 12MP front
Connectivity5G (mmWave and sub-6 GHz)5G (mmWave and sub-6 GHz)
Price Starting at $999
Starting at $1,199

You should buy the Google Pixel 8 Pro if...

Google Pixel 8 Pro in blue
June Wan/ZDNET

1. Google's AI features won you over

You don't need to be a ChatGPT veteran or DALL-E expert to appreciate all the AI services and features that Google has crammed into the Pixel 8 Pro this year. Thanks to a new Tensor G3 chipset, which is capable of powering both cloud-based and on-board AI functions, the new Pixel lets you create, summarize, and process information with only a few taps. For example, Google Assistant can now summarize bodies of text, transcribe them in a foreign language, and even give recommendations for what else to read.

Also: Google debuts Magic Editor, an AI-powered photo editing tool

Google Assistant 2.0, we'll call it, is also better at detecting spam, removing background noise from your mic input, and making context-based quick responses when you're screening a call. The AI smarts carry over to the cameras, too, with the Pixel 8 Pro now supporting features like Best Take, which lets you replace "not ideal" faces in group photos with ones that are, and Magic Editor, which gives you the ability to move subjects around and change the lighting of a photo.

2. You'd like a less-expensive phone that will last a long time

That almost sounds too good to be true, right? But when stacked against the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, the Pixel 8 Pro is not only cheaper by $200, but its new seven-year software update policy gives it a longer-supported life span. That's compared to Samsung's commitment to five years of software, security, and feature patches. Obviously, this after-sales benefit is contingent upon you sticking with the Pixel 8 Pro until 2030. Still, it's good to know that you'll be getting more out of your investment with the Pixel as far as software and new features are concerned.

3. You're accustomed to Google's burdenless approach

If we're comparing the two phones strictly on feature sets, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra wipes the board. But for many, that approach to Android -- stuffing in as many tools and add-ons as possible -- may not be ideal. While Google's Pixel launcher experience has become more customizable since its early years, it's still a less jarring experience, especially if you're switching over from an iPhone or older Pixel model. There's also noticeably less bloatware on Pixel devices, whereas the Galaxy S23 Ultra comes with Samsung-made alternatives to the standard suite of Google apps.

You should buy the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra if...

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra with the S Pen beside it.
June Wan/ZDNET

1. Perhaps you do want all the features money can buy

Opposite of the Pixel experience, Samsung's Galaxy S23 Ultra is arguably the most jam-packed, feature-rich smartphone on the market today. The list of benefits includes an insane 200MP sensor that's capable of 100x optical zoom, 8K video recording, a base storage of 256GB (versus the Pixel's 128GB), 45W fast charging (versus the Pixel's 30W), Samsung DeX mode, and the S Pen stylus. If any of those features resonated with you, the Galaxy S23 Ultra may be the better fit. 

2. You're a stylus connoisseur 

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is the last of its kind, a smartphone that has a built-in, multi-functional stylus for note-taking, graphics design, and all the doodles. In fact, the S Pen experience is incomparable to stylus phones found in the budget to mid-range because it can double as a wireless clicker. 

Review: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Best smartphone of the year (so far)

For example, you can use the stylus as a shutter button when taking group photos, or swipe around like a magic wand to cycle through galleries and slideshows. For business users, in particular, the included stylus is a practical benefit that you won't find on the Pixel.

3. Mobile entertainment is top priority

While the Pixel 8 Pro remains a device to be tested, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has proven to deliver one of the best mobile entertainment experiences that money can buy. From the large 6.8-inch AMOLED display that gets colorful and bright (roughly 1750 nits) to the crisp-sounding dual speakers to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset that's capable of powering through the most graphics-intensive games, we can confidently recommend the Samsung phone to users with video streaming and gaming at the core of their daily activities.

Alternatives to consider

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