Part of the Pixel’s primary appeal is the phone’s phenomenal software. All Android experiences are not created equal, as anyone who’s spent seven seconds with an out-of-the-box Samsung setup can tell you, and Google’s clean and simple approach to Android is a huge piece of what makes a Pixel so pleasant to use.
Still, while a Pixel may be perfectly peachy from the moment you power it on, Google’s smartphone software is full of hidden features and advanced options that can make your experience even more exceptional.
And whether you’re setting up a shiny new Pixel 6a right now or cradling an older Pixel model in your suspiciously sticky paw, taking the time to think through some of your phone’s most easily overlooked settings can take your Pixel adventure to a whole new level.
So grab whatever Pixel you’ve got, grab yourself a grape soda for good measure, and let’s unearth some of your phone’s greatest Googley secrets. And be sure to come check out my free Pixel Academy e-course to uncover even more advanced intelligence lurking within your favorite Pixel phone when you’re done.
Some of the Pixel’s most practical features revolve around the brilliant bits of Googley goodness available on the phone calling front — and yet, most of those elements are off by default and barely emphasized in Google’s marketing. Go figure, eh?
[RELATED: 7 hidden Pixel shortcuts you probably aren’t using]
First and foremost is the Pixel’s impossibly useful Hold for Me system, which will automatically recognize when you’re placed on hold on a call and offer to shoulder the burden for you. The system will actually monitor the call on your behalf and then audibly alert you when a real (alleged) human comes back on the line — so you can go about drinking your grape soda and playing your tiddlywinks without having to worry about missing a thing.
Hold the phone, though: It’s up to you to first find and activate the thing. Otherwise, that fizzy purple beverage and delightfully odd pastime of yours will kept on hold indefinitely.
So here’s the answer — provided you’re palming a Pixel in the US, Australia, or Canada, where the feature is presently available:
And that’s it: Now just wait for your next rage-inducing customer service call and look on your Pixel’s screen for the offer to hold on your behalf — and try not to rub your newfound power in your iPhone-carrying companions’ faces too much, all right?
Google’s spam blocking technology is second to none and truly one of the best parts of using a Pixel. (Seriously — just ask some of those iPhone-lovin’ amigos of yours.)
But while the Pixel’s spam-blocking basics are on by default, your phone’s most advanced annoyance blockers require you to enable ’em once and opt into their magic.
So first and foremost, hop back into your Pixel Phone app’s settings, and this time:
Call Screen is available on Pixels in the US as well as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the UK. If you aren’t in one of those areas, don’t panic: We’ll get to some less geographically restricted features in a minute.
Spam calls aside, one of the biggest phone-related annoyances in our modern lives is the cryptic incoming call from a company. Are they calling for a real reason? Is it actually important? Or is it just more time-wasting, patience-testing poppycock?
Your Pixel can help separate the real from the rubbish. Just march your way back into those Phone app settings again, and:
Now, whenever a “participating business” dares to interrupt your life with an unsolicited call, your Pixel will show the company’s name and logo so you know it’s legitimate and also show you the reason it’s calling (e.g. “to annoy the living daylights out of you”) right on your screen.
Not bad, eh?
Maybe my favorite Pixel phone feature of all is a relatively recent addition called Direct My Call. It’s available only in the US and with English at the moment — grumble, grumble, sorry, international Pixel comrades! — but if you’re in the States and speaking something vaguely reminiscent of the English language, it can be a massive hassle-saver and one of the greatest advantages to having a Pixel in your pocket.
Plain and simple, Direct My Call senses when you’ve entered the hellscape of a company phone maze and shows you all the available options as tap-ready buttons on your screen. That way, you can skip over the typical test of your sanity and avoid having to listen to every flippin’ option at every point along the way.
And all you’ve gotta do is enable it once:
*Joyous jig optional but highly recommended.
All right — one last phone-specific setting for your favorite Pixel product.
When you need to dial a nearby business, your Pixel can save you the step of searching for its name, finding the number, then tapping that or copying it to get back into your Phone app and ready make the call.
Yeesh — forget that mess. Save yourself steps and needless brain-aches by simply searching for the business you want directly in your Pixel’s Phone app and then placing the call right then and there, in a single streamlined spot.
First, you need to activate all of the related options:
Another one down. And now we’re ready to think about a couple of broader, non-calling-specific Pixel features worth finding.
You know that feeling when a song is playing and you can’t for the life of you figure out what it is? (FYI, there’s at least a 70% chance it’s something by Michael Bolton.)
Your Pixel can help — by proactively identifying any song playing in your vicinity and putting its name and the artist responsible for it right on your lock screen.
To get the feature going:
Go ahead and flip the toggle next to “Show search button on lock screen” into the on position while you’re there, too. That’ll give you a manual button on the lock screen to start up a sound search when a song is playing and your phone can’t (or maybe just chooses not to, due to an understandable moment of Bolton overload) identify it for you.
Speaking of your Pixel’s song-identifying prowess, you’d be forgiven for forgetting, but your phone actually maintains an ongoing list of every single song it identifies throughout your day.
Make it extra-easy to access that treasure trove of Bolton ballads by placing a one-tap shortcut directly on your Pixel’s home screen:
One more tap there, and ta-da: Every song your Pixel picks up during the day will always be a single press away.
And with that, we’ve made it through our first set of smart Pixel settings worth changing. Stay tuned for a second set of stellar Pixel settings soon — and don’t forget to come join my free Pixel Academy e-course to unearth oodles of outstanding hidden features and time-saving tricks in the meantime.