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Right now, it’s difficult to talk about Pixels without the topic eventually turning to the brand-new Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. And it’s understandable why: both inside and out, Google’s most recent Pixel smartphones are just incredible. They have a ton of power and exciting new tricks that just ooze out of them.
But what’s this? To reward yourself to new and exciting phone features, you don’t need to be the owner of a Pixel 7. Because your device’s software is always being updated, there are tons of valuable jewels hiding beneath the surface, which is the beauty of the Pixel world. The majority of Pixel owners simply don’t notice them, or perhaps they do but quickly forget afterward.
In order to give several noteworthy Pixel features the attention they merit, today we’re going to take a step back. They should function for you regardless of whether you’re holding a Pixel 7 or an older model—even, in most circumstances, if your Pixel is too old to have received the most recent Android 13 update.
Discover some extraordinary Pixel gems by reading on, then continue the celebration by enrolling in my Pixel Academy e-course. For my favorite Android Police friends, it’s a seven-day email trip that teaches you a ton of time-saving Pixel information and is totally free.
The following is a further automation-focused intellect built into your Pixel and ready to be cuddled: The technology automatically deletes duplicates of the photos and movies you’ve already backed up to Google Photos when your phone’s local storage starts to run out of room.
Of course, you can always do it on your own, but doing so requires (a) actually remembering to do it frequently and (b) spending the time to complete the process’s several manual phases. And while I don’t know about you, my brain is now made up of about 97% oatmeal, so everything I can automate to reduce the load on myself is a win in my book.
Your path to effortless storage nirvana will vary depending on what Android version your personal Pixel companion is running:
With Android 12
If you’ve got a current Pixel with the snazzy new Android 12 software on it, open up the Files by Google app (or go download it, if it isn’t already on your phone).
- Tap the three-line menu icon in the app’s upper-left corner.
- Select “Settings” in the menu that comes up.
- Flip the switch next to “Smart Storage” into the on position and confirm that you want to activate the feature.
With Android 11 or earlier
If your Pixel is on an older version of Android (howdy, Pixel 2 partners!), you’ll find the same option within your phone’s system settings:
- Open up your settings and tap “Storage.”
- Look for the line labeled “Smart Storage.” Tap it — tap it with gusto, damn it!
- Choose whether you want your already-backed-up items to be deleted when they’re 30, 60, or 90 days old.
- Activate the toggle at the top of the screen.
Either way, you’ll just need to make sure you’re set to sync your photos and videos to Google Photos — by tapping your profile picture in the Google Photos app and then looking for the “Backup” line in the menu that comes up — and you’ll never have to think about your storage running low again.
Save yourself some time and let your Pixel make it simple the next time you need to grab a picture from someplace, whether it’s a website, a text message, a forum for earwig aficionados, or whatever the situation may be.
The Overview screen on your Pixel phone includes a secret feature that lets you take pictures almost anywhere. And all it takes to access its magic is a simple swipe and a few fast taps:\
- While you’re viewing any app with a visible image, open up the Overview interface — by swiping up about an inch from the bottom of your screen and then stopping, if you’re using the current Android gestures system, or by tapping the square-shaped icon along your screen’s lower edge, if you’re still using the old legacy button-nav setup.
- Touch and hold your finger onto the image within the app’s preview.
- Select the option to copy, share, or save the image — or use Google Lens to analyze it, if you really want to get wild.
This will work in most any app where an image is present — even if it’s an app where you couldn’t typically save an image in any easy way (Gmail, Twitter, Earwiggalicious, etc).
Let’s all say it together now: Pixel features can be incredibly beneficial once you remind yourself of their possibilities and then learn to properly take advantage of them! (Okay, so that rallying cry might need a little work.)
Following up on our previous Pixel feature, your fancy Google phone can help you pull text out of practically anywhere imaginable and then copy it, share it, and search for it to your heart’s content.
What’s especially useful here is that just like with the last item, this feature works even in places where you couldn’t typically copy text — your feed in social media apps, parts of the Play Store, or even sections of your system settings.
And it’s right in the same place as the image extractor we just finished exploring:
- Head back into your Pixel’s Overview area.
- Touch and hold your finger onto any text in the current app’s preview — or, if you’d rather (and if your Pixel is recent enough to be running Android 10 or higher), tap the “Select” text at the bottom of the screen and then highlight the specific text you want from there.
- Choose “Copy,” “Share,” or “Search” from the menu that comes up.
- Smirk knowingly at any iPhone users in the vicinity.
One of the most frequent complaints I get from my fellow Android-loving primates is how difficult it may be to take a screenshot on a Pixel. ‘ See, back then, the system power-button menu on Pixels included a straightforward option to take a screenshot of the screen. But after that, Google, well, Googled. It changed that menu, and then, um, it changed it again a year later, and the choice vanished.
Hold the phone, though: If you aren’t a fan of the old-fashioned physical button mechanism for capturing a screenshot, there is still another way.
It’s right there in plain sight on that same Overview screen we were just gawking at, in fact, and yet hardly anyone seems to notice it.
Yes, that’s it; it’s down there on the screen. As long as you have Android 11 or higher, your Pixel will always offer up a “Screenshot” option directly inside its Overview interface, regardless of the program or area of Android you’re looking at. And selecting that will record whatever is visible on the screen of the active process.
The system status bar, the bottom-of-screen navigation area, and any other extraneous items won’t appear in screenshots you take in this fashion as a bonus; this is a notable and occasionally useful departure from Android’s customary physical-button screenshot-capturing method.
Tap to wake
Pixels have plenty of options for easy screen activation. Maybe you like using the always-on time and info system, for instance. Or maybe you’re more of a lift-to-check kind of Pixel owner.
Whether you’re using any of those features or not, though, your Googley phone has another useful system for waking up its display in a jiff. It harkens back to an earlier Android era, and it’s one of the Pixel’s most overlooked possibilities.
Ready? Simply press the display twice to turn on the screen of your Pixel whenever you want. Just two quick taps are all it takes to wake up your phone. The unknown!
The “Tap to check phone” option should be present on your lock screen by default, but if it isn’t, check your system settings, go to “Display,” then “Lock screen,” and see whether the option is present. If it is, you can verify that it is on and enabled. (On Pixels running previous versions of Android, you’ll need to touch “Advanced” before you can access that option, which is labeled “Double-tap to check phone.”)
Although there are many chances for advanced automation on Android, your Pixel comes with its own native rules system that can significantly increase the intelligence of your phone with hardly any work.
It’s called, rather fittingly, Rules — and with about 30 seconds of setup, it can allow your phone to change its ringing and notification behavior based on where you are or what Wi-Fi network you’re connected to at any given moment.
Here’s how to get it up and running:
- Head into your Pixel’s system settings (by swiping down twice from the top of the screen and then tapping the gear-shaped icon in the lower-right corner of the panel that pops up).
- Tap “System” followed by “Rules.”
- Make sure the toggle at the top of the screen that says “Always allow location for Rules” is in the on position.
- Look for a line that prompts you to allow the feature to run in the background. If you see that, tap it and then tap “Allow” on the confirmation that appears.
- Pause to take a sip of the nearest fizzy beverage.
- Tap “Add rule” and then consider your options.
Then what? That’s really up to you. For a few ideas, you could instruct your Pixel to vibrate for incoming alerts when you’re at work, make it to go into Do Not Disturb mode whenever you’re at the movies, or configure it to ring whenever you’re connected to your home network.
The last item in our list of overlooked Pixel characteristics is a two-parter that your eyes will like.
The screen-tinting Night Light option can be automatically activated on your Pixel based on the sunrise and sunset times in your current location or a schedule you create. In this manner, your phone’s screen will adopt a softer, less harsh type of coloring that will be easier on your eyes when night falls and the lights get faint. And as soon as morning comes around, it will switch back to the regular daytime mode.
Return to your Pixel’s system settings, select “Display,” then press “Night Light,” then “Schedule,” to configure your automated Night Light activation routine. The options to select the sunset-to-sunrise setup or to enter your own unique hours for dim-environment optimization are displayed there.
While we’re on the subject of screen intelligence, think about if your phone’s theme changing from a lighter theme during the day to a darker one at night might be a good addition to your new Night Light intelligence. For me, the two patterns—standard screen colors and a light theme during the day and Night Light and Android’s dark mode during the night—are a lovely and extremely natural pairing.
If you want to give that double-display whammy a whirl, back out to the main “Display” menu and look for the “Dark theme” line. Tap it, then tap “Schedule,” and you’ll see a selection that’s identical to the one you just configured for the Night Light.