Skip to main content

7 things you didn’t know your Pixel phone could do

Google’s Pixel phones have long been hailed as the best way to get a stripped-back, responsive Android experience. Google offers a few different Pixel phones at different price points, but they generally fall in the midrange to “premium midrange” price bracket — and they’re among the best phones in that price bracket.

But while Pixel devices offer a near-stock Android experience, they’re not completely devoid of personality. Google has added a number of features to Pixel phones that make them easier to use and more versatile.

Interested in learning more about your Google Pixel phone? Here are seven things you didn’t know your Pixel phone could do.

Fingerprint sensor gestures

Google Pixel 5
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

Did you know that the fingerprint sensor on your Pixel phone can do more than just unlock your phone? In fact, it can kind of act like a tiny touch surface to help you perform certain gestures. For example, you can swipe down on the fingerprint sensor to open the notification shade. Of course, this won’t work on the Pixel 4 series, as the Pixel 4 doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor.

To enable this feature, open Settings, then head to System > Gestures. Then enable the toggle next to Swipe Fingerprint for Notifications.

Use your Pixel as a wireless charger

Google Pixel 5 charging earbuds
Google

If you have a Pixel 5, you automatically have a wireless charging pad. That’s because the Pixel 5 supports Google’s Battery Share feature, which lets you place Qi-compatible devices on its back to charge them. The feature actually turns on automatically whenever you plug a USB-C cable into the device. It’ll turn on for a short time, and then stay on and work as usual if it detects a Qi-compatible device on it — otherwise, it will turn off.

You can also manually activate Battery Share by opening the Settings app, then heading to Battery > Battery Share, and turning on the Battery Share toggle.

Always know what song is playing around you

Google is pretty smart at being able to tell what songs are playing in your environment, and if you’re someone that likes to know what songs are playing at all time, that can be helpful for you. The feature itself is called Now Playing, and if you enable it, Google will display what song is playing in your environment on the lock screen.

To enable Now Playing, open the Settings app and head to Sound & Vibration > Advanced > Now Playing.  Turn on Show Songs on Lock Screen. Your phone will then download a song database, and you’ll then automatically get information about the songs playing on your lock screen.

You can also get a full history of the songs that you’ve heard recently. So see that history, open the Settings app, then head to Sound & Vibration > Advanced > Now Playing > Now Playing History.

Check your notifications just by lifting your phone

Want to make it easier to check the notifications on your phone? If you want, you can check your notifications just by lifting your device. To enable this feature, open the Settings app, then head to System > Gestures > Lift to Check Phone, then enable the toggle.

Quickly open the camera

Want to be able to access the camera as quickly as possible? Probably the quickest way to access the camera on your Google Pixel phone is to double-tap the power button, which can be done any time you’re using the phone, whether it’s locked or not.

The feature may be enabled by default, but in case it’s not, open the Settings app, then head to System > Gestures > Quickly Open Camera, then turn the toggle on. You’ll then be able to open the camera by double-pressing the power button.

Squeeze to access Google Assistant

google assistant 2.0 pixel 4
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

If you’re super plugged into the Google ecosystem of products, you likely use Google Assistant pretty regularly. Pixel phones make it relatively easy to access Assistant. For example, you can just use the standard “Hey Google” hotword. Or, you can swipe up from the corner of the display. Last but not least, you can squeeze the sides of your compatible phone.

To enable this feature, open the Settings app, then head to System > Gestures > Active Edge. Then, you’ll be able to enable the feature, choose the sensitivity, allow the feature to work when the screen is off, and select whether or not you want to use the same gesture to silence your device.

Screen your calls before you answer them

Call Screening Pixel 3
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Seem to get a lot of spam calls? Maybe it’s time you get an assistant to answer your calls for you. Thankfully, you don’t have to pay for an assistant though — Google Assistant can take care of it. Using this feature, Google Assistant can answer a call, and ask who’s calling and why they’re calling. Assistant will then determine if the call is a robotic call, and hang up, or if it’s a real person, after which it can ring your phone and show you the caller’s information.

It’s important to note a few things. First, you can manually use call screening when you get a call by tapping on the Screen Call button — and you don’t have to enable the feature to use it. Alternatively, you can set the feature to run automatically when you get a call from an unknown number. To do this open the Phone app, then head to the menu button on the top, tap Settings, then tap the Spam and Call Screen button. Then, tap Call Screen, and select the types of call you want to screen under Unknown Call Settings. You can then select to ring your phone, automatically screen calls and decline robocalls, or silently decline calls.

Editors' Recommendations

Christian de Looper
Christian’s interest in technology began as a child in Australia, when he stumbled upon a computer at a garage sale that he…
Don’t buy the Pixel Tablet; get this cheaper Android tablet instead
OnePlus Pad with official Stylo pencil stylus on a wooden table.

The market for Android tablets appears to be sinking, but the likes of the Pixel Tablet may have some role in salvaging it. The Pixel Tablet, launched last week -- exactly a year after it was first unveiled -- marks Google's reentry into the tablet segment after almost a decade.

While this development may help bring more manufacturers onto the scene, Google itself feels shy about making big claims about performance and productivity. Instead, the Pixel Tablet is projected as a mere hybrid upgrade to the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max.

Read more
This app could be killing your Pixel phone’s battery life
Pixe 7a home screen.

No smartphone is perfect, but more so than almost any other Android phone, Google Pixel devices seem to find themselves in the spotlight for bugs and software issues. That reputation is being reinforced once again as numerous Pixel owners report that one particular app — specifically, the Google app — is causing significant battery drain and overheating issues.

If you look at the r/GooglePixel subreddit and Google's own Pixel Phone Help forums, you'll find numerous people complaining about their Pixel devices experiencing unusually bad battery life and/or poor thermals. These complaints have been ongoing since earlier this month, and one Pixel owner also reached out to Engadget to voice their concerns about what's happening. When looking through all these complaints, they all seem to come back to the Google app being the culprit.
The Google app is wrecking Pixel battery life

Read more
4 things I love about the Pixel 7a (and 3 things I hate)
Pixel 7a back.

Google’s new Pixel 7a might be $150 more than its predecessor, but it packs plenty of upgrades for that price. The Pixel 7a has a better camera sensor compared to the Pixel 6a, a 90Hz refresh rate, and the Tensor G2.

This marks the first time I've used a Pixel full-time since the Pixel 3, and as you might expect, I have some thoughts about the Pixel 7a. Here are the four things I like about the Pixel 7a ... plus three things I really can't stand.
Flagship camera in a compact form factor

Read more