Some of the best features of Google’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are software-based. Thanks to the way Android is structured, that means most, if not all, can be installed on newer Android smartphones. All it takes is a little patience, dedication, and electronic elbow grease.
Here’s how to get Google’s Pixel 2 features on your Android phone.
Preparing your Android device
First things first: You’ll need an Android device running Marshmallow 6.0 or newer, and you’ll have to prep it by installing a file explorer app (like ES File Explorer) and tweaking your phone’s app installation settings.
Be forewarned that Google doesn’t really sanction this behavior. Our guide links to apps that have been modified by third parties to work on non-Pixel devices, and we can’t stress enough: If the terms APK and sideloading sound intimidating, this guide isn’t for you.
That said, here’s how to allow the installation of apps from third-party sources:
- Open your device’s Settings menu.
- Scroll down and tap the entry with the title Security or Lock screen and security.
- Tick the Unknown sources option.
- Press OK on the popup.
One of the undisputed highlights of the Pixel 2’s new software is the Pixel Launcher, a home screen (technically) exclusive to Pixel devices. It’s cut from the same cloth as Google’s previous home screen app, the Google Now Launcher, in that it retains Android’s iconic app drawer, folders, and app shortcuts. But improvements and additions abound.
The Pixel Launcher has a new search icon, plus a dynamic At A Glance widget that shows your next appointment, the time, and the weather (if you have location services turned on). Other changes include the app drawer, which is semitransparent now, and the Google search bar, which has been moved to the bottom of the screen.
If all that sounds appealing, good news: It’s not terribly challenging to install. Note that if your smartphone isn’t rooted, you won’t get the Google Feed on the leftmost screen — that requires you to install the Pixel Launcher as a system app.
Here’s how to install the Pixel Launcher:
- You’ll need one application file: The Pixel Launcher. Download it using your smartphone’s internet browser.
- Once it has finished downloading, use the file explorer you installed earlier to navigate to your device’s download folder and install the app.
- After it finishes installing, tap your device’s home screen. You’ll see an option to select the Pixel Launcher; tap it.
That’s all there is to it!
Wondering how to switch from the Pixel Launcher to your phone’s default home screen? Here’s how:
- Open your phone’s Settings menu.
- Scroll down and tap Apps.
- Tap the Pixel Launcher.
- Select the Clear defaults button.
- Tap your device’s home button and select the launcher of your choice.
Google Camera may be available for compatible devices from the Play Store market, but the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL pack a newer version of the app, v5.0, with a ton of great new features. For starters, the app has Motion Photos and Face Retouching, however the Pixel 2 also has a dedicated image processor — so actual results may vary from phone to phone.
There are a few ways to get Google Camera features on non-Google phones, but unfortunately it’s impossible to get the actual latest Google Camera on a non-Google device. For owners of the original Pixel and some Nexus devices, the latest Google Camera APK can be downloaded here.
Here’s how to install the Google Camera app.
- Download the Google Camera application using your device’s internet browser.
- After it finishes downloading, install it by navigating to your device’s download folder with your file manager of choice and tapping the Google Camera app.
- Tap Install.
- Once the installation finishes, you’ll see an icon for the Google Camera.
Luckily, those without a Google device still have some hope in the Google Camera NX, an unofficial Google Camera app that brings a number of features from the official software. The Google Camera NX app was recently updated to version 7.0, bringing in a number of features from Google Camera 5.0. It still really only works with Google Nexus devices, but if you’re willing to take the plunge you can install it and see how it works for yourself. Head here for more information on the Google Camera NX.
There’s another annoyance to note: If you’ve installed the Google Camera from the app store, it won’t replace it. Instead, you’ll have two Google Camera icons side-by-side in your app drawer. One workaround involves disabling or uninstalling the original Google Camera, but we recommend against it — put simply, it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
There’s more to Google’s Pixels than a new home screen and camera app. Indeed, Google has spruced up the Google Phone application — the dialer — with a cleaner, more intuitive UI. When you’re in a call, the background’s a translucent blue gradient atop your phone’s wallpaper. The in-call buttons have been enlarged, labeled a little more clearly, and moved below now-prominent Caller ID information. Incoming calls are now answered with an upward swipe (previously rightward) and declined with a downward swipe (previously leftward). On launchers that support it (including the Pixel Launcher and Action Launcher), the dialer’s icon lets you create a new contact from the home screen.
Recently, Google has been giving some serious attention to the Google Phone app — giving it features like Google Duo integration, which could be super handy for those that use Duo.
The dialer, as with the camera, is a little capricious when it comes to compatibility. Users are reporting that it works on the Nexus 5X and 6P, but non-Google phones are a shot in the dark. Your mileage may very.
Here’s how to install the Pixel 2 dialer:
- Download the dialer application using your device’s internet browser.
- After the download completes, navigate to your phone’s download folder using a file browser, and select the Google Phone application.
- Tap Install.
In order to use Google Phone, you’ll have to set it as your default dialer. Here’s how:
- Open Settings.
- Select the Apps menu.
- Tap the Gear icon in the top-right corner.
- Select Phone app from the list, and choose Phone.
Like the look of those classy Google Pixel icons? You’re in luck — a developer has put together a series of Pixel 2-inspired icons and added them as an app on the Google Play Store. The app is called Pixly, and it’s just as easy to install as any other app. All you have to do is head to the Play Store, download the app, open it up, and start assigning the icons you like.
You can download Pixly for yourself here, but keep in mind that it does cost 99 cents.
If you’re a fan of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL’s beautiful wallpapers (and who wouldn’t be?), you’ll be pleased to hear that installing them’s a cinch.
They’re packaged in the form of an app, and they run the gamut. The Wallpapers app is chock full of animations, illustrations, photos, and high-res images of solar phenomena and natural wonders. Perhaps best of all, the app packs an option to enable rotating Wallpapers: You can have the app select cycle through a gallery of pictures, if you so choose.
Obtaining the Wallpapers app is easy enough. It’s available for download from the Google Play Store, and it’s compatible with Android devices running Android 4.1 and above.
David Cogen — a regular contributor here at Digital Trends — runs TheUnlockr, a popular tech blog that focuses on tech news, tips and tricks, and the latest tech. You can also find him on Twitter discussing the latest tech trends.
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