Skip to main content

Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a: 10 amazing tips and tricks

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL and Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are phones with hidden depths. In this guide, we’ve got step-by-step instructions for you to help you customize your new phones, dig into the best shortcuts, and uncover the most exciting features.

We’ll run through some features exclusive to the Pixel line, and some that will work on any Android 10 phone. Before we dive in, Pixel 3 XL owners might want to look at how to hide the notch. Without further ado, here are our top Pixel 3 tips.

How to customize your home screen

Tap and hold on any open area of your home screen and you’ll get a pop-up menu that lets you select Widgets and Styles and wallpapers – we recommend the Earth section in Wallpapers, where Google offers some gorgeous shots of our planet and some more extraterrestrial shots. Some of the other categories offer a Daily wallpaper option that changes your wallpaper every day. Style allows you to make more dramatic changes to your phone’s look, and it’s definitely worth a look if you want to capitalize on the customizability of Android to its full.

You’ll also find Home settings in here, where you can decide if you want Notification dots, whether new app icons should be added to the Home screen, set At A Glance info like calendar events to stay at the top of the screen, and more.

How to choose quick settings toggles

Pull down the notification shade with two fingers and tap the wee pencil icon at the bottom left to edit the quick settings toggles that appear. You can simply tap and drag icons to add or remove them and move them to your preferred spot on the Quick Settings menu.

How to use Night Light

Because blue light can make it harder to fall asleep, most phone manufacturers now offer a blue light filter that can be scheduled to kick in near bedtime. On your Pixel 3, go into Settings > Display > Night Light and tap Schedule, where you can choose to have it turn on precisely when you want or automatically align with the sunset and sunrise in your area.

You can also set this as a part of your Wind Down bedtime routine in Settings > Digital Wellbeing.

How to free up storage space

With 64GB of storage in the base model and no room for a Micro SD card, you might find that you run out of space on your Pixel 3 or 3 XL. Apart from uninstalling apps you don’t need, you should also go to Settings > Storage and tap Free up space.

Another way to free up space is to back up photos and videos to Google Photos, where you can back up everything in its original quality for free. Once everything is backed up, tap on the small hamburger menu at the top left in Google Photos and then tap Settings > Free up device storage.

How to have Google Assistant screen your calls

If a call comes in that you suspect may be spam — or you just don’t want to take it — tap Screen call and Google Assistant will answer for you, saying, “Hi, the person you’re calling is using a screening service from Google, and will get a copy of this conversation. Go ahead and say your name, and why you’re calling.”

You’ll see what they say transcribed in real time on your Pixel screen and you can choose whether to answer, send a quick reply, or report as spam.

How to use split screen

To use split screen, simply swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open the multitasking view showing your recent apps and tap the app icon at the top of one of the apps you want open. Then select Split screen and choose the second app you want open. You can drag the bar in the middle to resize, then simply drag it all the way to the top or bottom when you’re done to go full screen with one of the apps.

How to turn off the always-on display

We definitely recommend turning the always-on display on, so you can see new notifications and other information on your Pixel 3’s screen even when it’s locked. However, it does take up a decent chunk of battery to run it, so we wouldn’t recommend leaving it on if you’re trying to conserve battery. Go to Settings > Display > Advanced > Lock screen display and make sure the Always on mode is off. We also turned on Double-tap to check phone and Lift to check phone, but you might feel one of those options is enough.

How to quick launch the camera

Pixel 3 power button
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

You can quickly launch the camera app at any time by double-tapping the power button, even when your Pixel 3 is locked. It’s a useful feature when you want to capture a spontaneous moment and speed is essential. You can toggle this feature on and off in Settings > System > Gestures > Jump to camera.

How to use volume keys for camera gestures

The Pixel 3 and 3a have tools that make it easier than ever to take photos. For example, one set of new features allows users to convert the volume buttons on their device into camera features; They can press the Volume Up button to zoom in and the Down button to zoom out on their display. If a person wants to customize their device further, they could opt to use the volume buttons to capture the photo instead. Users can choose to modify their device to respond to specific taps on the screen; a double-tap could quickly zoom in or out or swap between the front and rear cameras. To use and manage these functions, go to the camera app, tap the arrow near the top of the screen, and select the Settings gear icon. At that point, tap Gestures and start playing around with your new features.

How to quickly switch to front-facing camera one-handed

In the earlier days of smartphones, it took a bit of work to switch between the primary camera lens and the front-facing camera. And if you wanted to try and flip between the two cameras with just one hand, the task was nearly impossible. Today, with tools like the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a, users can just flick their wrist in order to swap between cameras. It has literally never been easier to operate a camera. If you were to twist your wrist twice, you could pull up the front-facing camera. Go to Settings > System > Gestures > Flip camera and switch the toggle on to enable this feature. 

Now that you’ve opened your phone’s camera settings, it’s worth it to take a look around. Explore some of the different options for customizing your Google phone. For some ideas, check out these key settings you need to change on your Google Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, or Pixel 3a XL.

Editors' Recommendations

Simon Hill
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Simon Hill is an experienced technology journalist and editor who loves all things tech. He is currently the Associate Mobile…
The Pixel 7’s best camera trick is coming to the iPhone and all Android phones
Erasing items in Magic Eraser.

The Google Pixel series of phones, specifically the Pixel 6 and Pixel 7, have an exclusive feature called Magic Eraser. With Magic Eraser, you can get rid of unwanted objects in a photo, such as people in the background or things like power lines. As of today, Magic Eraser is becoming available to all Android phones and iPhone users through Google One.

Magic Eraser debuted on the Pixel 6 lineup, which includes the Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, and the more affordable Pixel 6a, which is still available to purchase (the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro have been discontinued). If you have a Pixel 7 or Pixel 7 Pro, you also have the Magic Eraser feature. One of the reasons I had always wanted a Pixel device is because of Magic Eraser, and it is something that I desperately wished Apple would implement.

Read more
The Google Pixel Fold could beat the Galaxy Z Fold in one big way
Unfolding the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

One hurdle that foldable smartphones have yet to clear is the issue they face with battery life. All of the current leading foldables — like the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and the Oppo Find N2 — leave a lot to be desired when it comes to battery drain. Thankfully, the Google Pixel Fold might be leading the way when it comes to foldable batteries.

According to 9to5Google, the Pixel Fold will feature a battery cell bigger than that of both the Z Fold 4 and Find N2. If accurate, this would give the Pixel Fold the largest battery of any foldable yet, and a potential huge edge over Google's stiff competition.

Read more
Someone’s selling a Google Pixel Tablet months before its release date
The Google Pixel Table and the Speaker Dock.

2023 will see Google launch its first Pixel-branded tablet in years, but the device has already shown up on the Facebook Marketplace — complete with its docking station. The Pixel Tablet is being priced at $400, and it's likely to be a prototype if it's as real as it appears.

While the company had sworn off making tablets and Chromebooks of its own, a shift in the winds and the rise of foldables mean that Google wanted an affordable flagship tablet of its own to push its large screen vision, hence the Pixel Tablet. It's no iPad, sporting a plain and utilitarian design, and the docking station means it can even take the place of a Nest Hub.

Read more