Part of the Pixel’s main draw is the phone’s phenomenal software. All Android experiences aren’t created equal, as anyone who’s spent seven seconds with a Samsung setup out of the box can tell you, and Google’s clean and simple approach to Android is a big part of what makes a Pixel so enjoyable to use.
While a pixel can be perfectly peachy from the moment you turn it on, Google’s smartphone software is packed with hidden features and advanced options that can make your experience even more extraordinary.
And whether you’re setting up a shiny new Pixel 6a or cradling an older Pixel model in your suspiciously sticky paw, if you take the time to think through some of your phone’s most easily overlooked settings, you can continue your Pixel adventure to a whole new level.
So grab whatever Pixel you’ve got, grab a grape drink to be safe, and let’s unearth some of your phone’s biggest Googley secrets. And definitely come Check out my free Pixel Academy e-course even uncover more advanced intelligence lurking inside your favorite Pixel smartphone when you’re done.
Google Pixel Attitude #1: Your friendly phone-holding ghost
Some of the Pixel’s handiest features revolve around the brilliant bits of Googley goodness available on the phone-call front – and yet most of these elements are disabled by default and barely featured in Google’s marketing. Imagine what?
First and foremost is the Pixel’s incredibly useful Hold for Me system, which automatically detects when you’re put on hold on a call and offers to take the load for you. The system actually monitors the call on your behalf, then audibly alerts you when a real (supposed) human comes back on the line – so you can sip your grape lemonade and play your Tiddlywinks without worrying about missing out.
Hold the phone, but: it’s on she to find and activate the thing first. Otherwise, your fizzy purple drink and deliciously weird pastime will be on hold indefinitely.
So here’s the answer – assuming you’re using a Pixel in the US, Australia, or Canada where the feature is currently available:
- Open your Pixel’s phone app.
- Tap the three dots icon in the top right corner and select “Settings”.
- Tap Hold for me.
- Flip the switch on the screen that comes to the on position.
That’s it: now just wait for your next angry customer service call and look at your Pixel’s screen for the offer to hold on your behalf – and try not to show your newfound power in the faces of your iPhone-carrying companions to rub to much, all right?
Google Pixel Attitude #2: Your eavesdropping assistant
Google’s spam blocking technology is second to none and truly one of the best parts of using a Pixel. (Seriously – only ask some of your iPhone-loving amigos.)
But while the Pixel’s spam-blocking basics are on by default, you’ll have to turn on your phone’s most advanced harassment blockers once and let them work their magic.
So first of all go back to your Pixel phone app settings and this time:
- Tap the line labeled Spam and Call Screen, then tap Call Screen.
- Under Unknown Call Settings, tap Spam and change the setting to Silent Decline.
- Next, tap on “Possibly fake numbers” and change the setting to “Automatic verification; reject automatic calls”.
- If you Yes, really If you want to go all out, you should also adjust the screening behavior for private or hidden callers, so your Pixel automatically screens these types of calls to figure out who’s calling and what they want, before annoying you with a buzz. Just be aware that if this setting is enabled, you may be interfering with legitimate calls from doctor’s offices and other such locations. So use your own best judgment as to whether this makes sense for you.
Call Screening is available on Pixels in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Spain and the UK. If you’re not in one of these areas, don’t panic: we’ll cover some less geo-restricted features in a minute.
Google Pixel Setting #3: Your Business Call IQ Booster
Aside from spam calls, 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? Does it really matter? Or is it just a more time-consuming, patience-testing poppy?
Your pixel can help separate the real from the junk. Just go back into this phone app settings again and:
- Tap again on “Spam and call screen”.
- Then tap the switch next to “Verified Calls” to toggle it to the on position.
Every time a “participating business” dares to interrupt your life with an unwanted call, your pixel will display the company’s name and logo so you know it’s legitimate and show you so too reason it shouts right on your screen (e.g. “to annoy you”).
Not bad, right?
Google Pixel Setting #4: Your Phone Menu Wizard
Perhaps my very favorite Pixel phone feature is a relatively new addition called Direct My Call. It’s only available in the US and English at the moment – grumpy grumpy sorry international pixel buddies! – but if you’re in the States and speak something vaguely reminiscent of the English language, it can be a huge hassle saver and one of the biggest benefits of having a Pixel in your pocket.
Plain and simple, Direct My Call recognizes when you’ve entered the hellscape of a corporate phone maze and presents you with all the available options as tap-ready buttons on your screen. This allows you to skip the typical sanity test and avoid having to listen to every flippin option at any point along the way.
And all you have to do is activate it once:
- Go back to your phone app’s settings and tap “Forward my call”.
- Now set the switch next to “Direct My Call” to the “On” position.
- Have a happy little celebration, then stare at your screen the next time you find yourself in phone menu hell.*
*Joyous Jig optional but highly recommended.
Google Pixel Setting #5: Your business-seeking BFF
Alright – one last phone-specific setup for your favorite Pixel product.
If you need to call a nearby store, your Pixel can save you the step of searching for its name, finding the number, and then tapping or copying it to get back into your Phone app and make the call to do.
Yeesh – forget the mess. Save yourself steps and unnecessary headaches by simply searching for the business you want direct in your Pixel’s phone app, then make the call right there, in one streamlined place.
First you need to enable all related options:
- Gallop back into this phone app settings one last time.
- Tap the line labeled “Nearby Places.”
- Make sure the “Nearby Places” master switch is turned on – which it probably will be.
- Next, tap the switch next to Personalized Search Results to toggle it to the on position. This allows the phone app to refer to your normal old search history when searching for business results, increasing the chances of immediately offering the location you want.
- Finally, tap the “Location Permission” line to give the phone app the permission it needs to operate intelligently.
Another down. And now we’re ready to start thinking about some broader non-call specific Pixel features worth finding.
Google Pixel setting #6: Your song Superbrain
You know that feeling when a song is on and you can’t figure out what it is for your life? (FYI, there’s at least a 70% chance it’s something by Michael Bolton.)
Your pixel can help you with that – by proactively identifying every song playing near you and displaying its name and the artist responsible for it right on your lock screen.
To get the function working:
- Go to your Pixel system settings (by swiping down twice from the top of the screen and then tapping the gear-shaped icon on the panel that appears).
- Tap on “Display” followed by “Lock Screen” and “Now Playing”.
- Next to “Identify tracks playing nearby,” toggle the switch to the “On” position.
Go ahead and toggle the switch next to “Show search button on lock screen” to the on position while you’re there as well. That way, you get a manual button on the lock screen to start a sound search when a song is playing and your phone can’t identify it for you (or doesn’t choose to, due to an understandable moment of Bolton overload). .
Google Pixel setting #7: Your on-demand song storage
Speaking of your Pixel’s song-identifying ability, you’d forget, but your phone actually keeps a running list of every single song it identifies throughout the day.
Make it extra easy to access this treasure trove of Bolton ballads by placing a one-tap shortcut right on your Pixel’s home screen:
- Go back to the same section of your Pixel Settings we just looked at – the Now Playing section under Display, then Lock Screen.
- See the line labeled “Now Playing History”? Tip It. Tap it with enthusiasm, garsh dern it!
- Look for the option at the top of the screen that appears next to add a shortcut to your home screen.
One more tap and ta-da: whatever song your Pixel records during the day is always just a single tap away.
And with that, we’ve made it through our first smart pixel settings worth changing. Stay tuned for a second set of brilliant pixel settings – and don’t forget to stop by Take my free Pixel Academy e-course to discover tons of outstanding hidden features and time-saving tricks in the meantime.
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