Google’s new Pixel 2 smartphones sport the latest Android Oreo OS and serve up some pretty handy features and shortcuts, some of which are a bit buried away. Here’s our tips and tricks for getting started with your Pixel handset.
Whether you’re new to Android or simply haven’t used a Pixel handset before, chances are you’ll be unfamiliar with some of the best features of the new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones. These Google-branded blowers sport a pleasingly clean version of Android Oreo, the latest version of Google’s own mobile OS, which offers quite a lot of tweaks and updates over last year’s software (nicknamed Nougat).
Here’s our pick of some of the best features and how to find them on the Pixels. For more guides and all you need to know about Google’s 2017 smartphones, check out our Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL hub.
How to customise your Pixel 2 desktops
Press and hold your finger on a spare bit of desktop space and you’ll see three options pop into view. These allow you to change your wallpaper, add new widgets and also fiddle around with the general desktop settings.
Within that settings menu you can fiddle around with a handful of features. For instance, one of the options allows you to turn the Google app on an off. This is activated by default and displays a bunch of scrollable info that Google thinks you’ll find useful, when you swipe your finger right from your Pixel’s home screen.
You can also customise your At A Glance notifications, which pop up at the top of your display to remind you of upcoming appointments or warn of dodgy traffic in your neighbourhood.
What are notification dots?
A nifty new feature of Android Oreo is the notification dots, which reveal with a quick glance if any of your favourite apps need your attention.
If a new notification hits your Pixel 2, you’ll spy a small coloured dot pop up on the relevant app icon on your desktops. You can press and hold on the icon to see which notifications are waiting, as well as perform quick actions; for example, on Gmail you can jump straight into composing a new message
You can turn off notification dots by heading to the Pixel 2’s settings menu, followed by Apps & Notifications, then heading to the Notifications section.
Stay notified with the always on ambient display
Your Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL can keep you informed even when it’s hibernating, thanks to the new always on ambient display feature. This shows the time and date, while also revealing any notifications that need your attention.
To turn this feature off, head to Battery and then Ambient Display – or Display and then Advanced. Switching off the ambient display will mean less battery drain, and you can always use the double tap or lift-to-wake features instead.
Discover what music is playing in your vicinity
Chances are you regularly hear a random tune blasting out of the radio or playing in a shop, and wonder what it actually is. The likes of Shazam has long helped us in this area, to save us from desperately typing half-heard lyrics into Google – and now your Pixel phone can helpfully tell you all about any music playing around you.
Best of all, this works locally, using a stored database of songs on your handset. No need for an internet connection at the time.
Head into your Pixel 2’s settings menu and then tap Sound, and give Advanced a poke. In here you’ll find the Now Playing option. You can turn this on for the lock screen if so desired.
How to expand your Pixel 2’s storage space
Although the new Pixel handsets come with a minimum of 64GB of storage, as well as unlimited cloud space for backing up your camera snaps and videos, you might want to add a bit more room some time soon. Carrying around a large media collection can soon fill your Google phone up, as can shooting a lot of 4K resolution movies.
Check out our guide on expanding your Pixel’s storage for all you need to know.
Note that by heading to your Pixel’s storage menu inside of the settings, you can also clear your cache and junk files away. Just tap ‘free up space’ at the top of the menu and the crap will be axed.
How to change text and font size
Head to the Accessibility section of the settings menu and you can change the size of any displayed text, to make things a bit bigger if you’re struggling to read. From here you can also turn on the Magnification feature, which allows you to enlarge a section of the screen at any time with a triple-tap.
Note that holding your finger on the display on the third tap will temporarily enlarge; just lift your digit again to return to the normal view.
One-handed help with the fingerprint sensor
If you opt for the Pixel 2 XL instead of the standard Pixel, chances are you might occasionally struggle to use the thing with just one hand. Especially tricky is the act of stretching your thumb to the top of the display, to drag down the notifications bar.
Thankfully Google recognised this flaw and decided to help out a bit. So by default, you can simply swipe your finger down the Pixel’s fingerprint sensor to pull down the notifications tab. Much easier overall.
Of course, the one bad side is that you might accidentally brush this sensor when you didn’t mean to. If you find this happening a lot, you can turn off the shortcut feature by heading to the Pixel’s settings menu, followed by Apps & Notifications. From here, jump into the Notifications section. In there you’ll spot the ‘swipe fingerprint for notifications’ option, which can be toggled off.
Make the most of the Active Edge sensor
Like the HTC U11 before it, your Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL has pressure sensors built into the edges. Give the phone a squeeze and you can instantly load the Google Assistant, or quickly mute any incoming calls.
To find the Active Edge settings, head to Apps & Notifications and give Advanced a tap. Follow this with Default Apps, then Assist & Voice Input. Tap the Active Edge option and you can adjust the sensitivity, and say when it can actually be used.
Watch videos while doing other stuff with Picture-in-Picture mode
Android’s new Picture-in-Picture mode can be used to watch videos from the likes of YouTube and Play Movies in a window, while playing arounds inside of other apps. Unfortunately, for this to work in YouTube, you need a YouTube Red subscription – which isn’t available here in the UK. Good job, Google.
To say which apps can use Picture-in-Picture, head to your Pixel 2’s settings menu. Tap Apps & Notifications, followed by Special App Access within the Advanced section.
How to call up the Android Oreo squid
This is a particularly random easter egg, buried away inside of the Android Oreo OS.
Head to your Pixel 2’s settings menu and then tap System down at the bottom, followed by About Phone. Inside that menu, poke the Android Version option a few times in quick succession and a yellow target should appear on-screen. Now hold your finger on the target and a virtual aquarium will pop up, complete with your very own Android squid.
You can drag the squid around or simply watch him bobbing about the place. Strangely relaxing, if utterly pointless.
Note that the squid changes size, so you might get a baby or a behemoth.
Check out Android Oreo’s built-in help guide
Want to find out even more about the Oreo OS? Head to the Help section at the very bottom of your Pixel 2 phone’s settings menu and you’ll load up some handy guides. Note that you need to be online to access these.
As well as holding some helpful tips, this section also allows you to directly contact Google with any technical issues you’re having.