Master your new Google phone with these handy Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL tips and tricks

Google Pixel 2 XL back
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Got a Google Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL smartphone? You’ve made a good choice — we crowned the Pixel 2 XL as the best Android phone, and the Pixel 2 sits right behind it. While you likely have the basics down, we’re here to help you get the most of your new phone by Google.

Check out our handy Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL tips and tricks below to make the most of it! Once you’ve mastered this info, pick up a slick new Pixel 2 case or Pixel 2 XL case, download a few crucial Android apps, and you’ll be a Pixel wizard.

How to turn Notification dots on or off

Notification Dots is a feature introduced in Android 8.0 Oreo, and it’s similar to Apple’s unread notification badges. Dots, colored the same as the app, will appear on the right of an app icon if you have an unread notification.  If you have your apps separated into folders, you’ll see a white dot in the right-hand corner. To turn them off, press and hold down anywhere on the home screen and go to Home Settings > Notification Dots and toggle off Allow notification dots.

How to turn At a Glance on or off

At a Glance is the widget on top of your home screen that tells you the date and the weather. Tap on the date, and it will open Google Calendar; tap on the weather, and it will open up a Google search of the weather. But if you have an upcoming calendar event, the date is replaced by the calendar event name. It can also alert you of traffic information. If you don’t want those features, press down on the home screen and tap on Home Settings > At a Glance and toggle off Calendar events and/or Traffic information.

How to double tap the screen to wake it

The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL has an Always-on Display, but how do you wake the display without picking up the phone? Double-tap the screen and the lock screen will light up — here you can see the date, time, and notifications. Double-tap a notification to jump into it, or slide it down to interact with it. Double-tapping the screen to wake it should be on by default, but if it’s not, or if you want to turn it off, head to Settings > Display >  Advanced > Ambient Display > Double-tap to toggle the setting. The fingerprint sensor on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL is on the back, so even if you wake the screen there’s no way to quickly unlock it when it’s flat on a desk unless you use Google’s Smart Lock features.

How to turn on/off Always-on screen

The Always-on Display works as it sounds. Your phone’s screen will always show a dimly-lit clock, as well as notification icons. When you get a notification, it will fade in and you can double tap it to open it. If you don’t want this feature, go to Settings > Display >  Advanced > Ambient Display and toggle Always On.

How to use Now Playing

Now Playing is a new feature that lets you see the name of a song when it’s playing in the background. It’s not meant to be a music search feature, but if you’re sitting at a coffee shop or restaurant and you wonder what song is playing, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL should automatically show it on the Always-on Display. It works offline with a directory of thousands of songs that changes every week, and nothing is shared with Google. It works best with popular songs, and it may not know what’s playing all the time. You can head to Settings > Sound > Advanced > Now Playing if you want to turn it off. If you double-tap on the song name, Google Assistant will open it up and let you add it to your installed music app.

There’s currently no way to track the complete history of your songs, but press and hold the home button and expand the Google Assistant window and it will show your history, including Now Playing songs you clicked on, until a certain point. If you’d like to keep a running tab of your full history, you can download a third-party app called Now Playing History.

If you want to know what song is playing and Now Playing is taking too long, your best bet — short of installing an app like Shazam or SoundHound — is to ask Google Assistant “what’s this song?” This needs an internet connection, and will work with a wider range of songs so it’s a little more accurate.

How to boost the color saturation

Think the screen is too muted? You can crank up the colors by heading to Settings > Display > Advanced and toggle on Vivid Colors. While it won’t make much of a difference, it does increase the color saturation by 10 percent. Google is planning on adding a Saturation Mode in an upcoming update for people who want their colors to pop.

How to turn off the Google feed and app suggestions

When you swipe left while on your home screen, it’ll will conveniently bring you to the Google feed. The feed is a curation of news stories and personalized information that may be interesting to you. Similarly, swipe up the dock and you can access your app drawer — at the top are a few suggested apps Google thinks you may want to access quickly. If you don’t find these two features particularly useful, switch them off by holding down the home screen and tapping Home Settings. Toggle off Display Google app and App suggestions.

How to set up a Living Universe wallpaper

With the Pixel 2, live wallpapers are back and cooler than ever before. Whether it’s waves crashing on a calming coastline in Lagos, or cars driving on a road in Hawaii, the Pixel 2 has a variety of options to choose from. To change your wallpaper, simply press down on the home screen and tap Wallpapers from the options on the screen. Then, tap on Living Universe for the gallery of choices. Once you find the one you like, simply tap “Set Wallpaper” in the right-hand corner.

How to enable a dark theme

Is the notification drawer, app drawer, and other user interface elements too bright for you? There’s a way to make them pitch black so it’s easy on your eyes, but you need Android 8.1 Oreo. It’s currently in public beta, and there’s a chance it’s buggy — we haven’t found any issues with it. You can get it by joining the Android Beta Program, and enrolling your device. Within 24 hours, you’ll get a notification on your phone to install it. Once installed, all you need to do is set a dark wallpaper, such as the Marvelous Marble Living Universe wallpaper. All the user interface elements, from the notification drawer and app drawer to the power options and folders will be black. Only the Settings app will remain white.

How to access Google Support Chat or Phone

If you’re in need of assistance for your device or a Google service, you can access Google Support through Settings > Support & Tips. You can either request to chat via text, or request a callback instead if you prefer to talk on the phone. Both options give you a blank message window to describe your issue in detail.

How to set up Active Edge

Active Edge allows you to activate your Google Assistant — whether your screen is on or off — or silence incoming calls by squeezing the bottom half of your phone. To set up the feature, go to Settings > System > Languages, input, and gestures > Active Edge and toggle on either of the options. You can also choose from a range of squeeze sensitivity between light and firm — in case you tend to squeeze your device by accident. You can also activate Google Assistant by pressing down on the home button or through voice by saying “OK Google,” or “Hey Google.”

How to use Portrait Mode and Motion Photos

Despite the lack of a dual camera setup, the Pixel 2 has a Portrait Mode similar to the iPhone 8 Plus. Head to your camera, which you can quickly trigger by double tapping the power button. Slide out the menu icon located on the left side, then tap on Portrait Mode to take photos with software blur around a subject. Tap on a subject to focus, and tap the shutter icon — that’s it. You can also use it on the selfie camera. Tap on the X to exit Portrait mode and it will bring you back to the standard camera mode.

Another new feature is Motion Photos, which can be found in the standard camera by tapping on the circular icon at the top. It’s similar to Apple’s Live Photos, and it lets you capture 3 seconds of video when you tap the shutter icon, bringing your photos to life. Tap the icon to turn it on or off, or leave it on auto. In the Google Photos app, you’ll see the option to turn Motion Photos off or on at the top.