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Google Pixel tips and tricks: Getting to grips with Google’s phone

With the Pixel and the Pixel XL, Google has taken a step away from the Nexus programme. While it’s still committed to delivering updates to the previous pure Android devices, and while Android Nougat will have many similar features on the Pixel, there are a few differences.

The Google Pixel launched with Android 7.1, the first smartphone to do so, bringing with it a whole range of new features that build on the top of the existing goodness that Google introduced with Android Nougat a few months earlier.

Here are all the details you need to get to grips with Google’s new phone, as we dig deep into those Pixel features and Android 7.1.

Android has long been known for its customisation capabilities, but with Nougat 7.1 on the Pixel, the options are even greater. You can change the way a number of features appear and how the system works.

App action shortcuts: A lot like iOS with its Force Touch quick actions, many Android 7.1 stock apps have shortcuts. Just tap and hold any stock app icon like Calendar, Camera, Messenger or Dialler. This brings up a list of quick actions above the icon.

Adjust icon/screen size: In Settings > Display there’s a new option to adjust the size of onscreen content and icons. Simply select the Display size option and move the slider until the icons are the size you want them to be.

Enable developer settings: To turn on the developer settings, head into Settings > About phone. Scroll to the bottom and repeatedly tap on the Build number. After a number of taps, you’ll unlock the developer options.

Transfer everything from your iPhone: As part of the set up process, you can transfer all your contacts, messages, emails, calendar appointments, attachments and media across to your new Pixel phone from your iPhone.

Show the battery percentage: Once you’ve unlocked the System UI Tuner (as above), you have the option to show the battery percentage in the battery icon at all times. (Most third-party skins have this as a default option.)

Charge another device: Using the USB Type-C to Type-A adapter that comes in the box, you can use your Pixel to charge another device. Just your other device’s cable in to the adapter, and plug it in to your Pixel.

Turn on ambient display: A feature of Android Wear and Motorola devices, it’s now on Android Nougat by default. Head into Settings > Display and you’ll be able to glance at monochrome notifications.

Turn on Night Light: When reading your phone in the evening, the last thing you want is harsh, blue light from your phone screen glaring in to your eyes. To turn on Night Light, giving it a more yellow/warm tone, go to Settings > Display and choose the Night Light.

Schedule Night Light: While you can turn on the Night Light manually, it may be more beneficial and less of a chore to schedule it. Simply tap “turn on automatically” and choose the days and times you want, and it’ll come on automatically. Or, you can set it to change by sunrise and sunset times.

Play Pixel Android Nougat easter egg: Nougat’s Easter Egg is a little different to previous Flappy Bird style games. Instead, you’ve got to try and catch a cat by selecting a tasty treat. Head into Settings > About phone/tablet > Android version. Then tap the Android version repeatedly until it changes to the Android N screen.

Search settings: Rather than rooting through everything, you can search the settings. Just open up the Settings menu and hit the magnifying glass and type what you’re looking for.

Search Google for onscreen info: In other phones, this is called Now on Tap, in the Pixel, it has been integrated in to the Assistant.

Press and hold the home button to launch Google Assistant on any screen that has objects/text on it, then swipe up on the card border that appears at the bottom of the chat. Assistant will then offer various services to search for that information, videos or locations with.

Find the Google Settings: There was previously an app to handle Google settings, in Nougat this is now in the main Settings menu. This is where you’ll find settings for accounts and services, backup, and transferring content to a nearby device.

Use the native file explorer: There’s a file explorer in Android. Head to Settings > Storage and scroll to the bottom of the list. Tap Explore and you can view folders, open files, delete and share.

Android has had a number of features launch-able by gesture for a few years now. With the Google Pixel, and Android 7.1 Nougat, those get their own “Moves” section within the main settings app. Just head to Settings > Moves, and check out the three options available.

Swipe for notifications: With this option switched on, you can swipe downwards on your Pixel Imprint sensor and it’ll drop down the notifications from the top of your screen. Swipe it again and you’ll get quick settings.

Jump to camera: This feature isn’t entirely new, but when switched on, you can double-click the power/sleep button from any screen and launch the camera app.

Flip camera: Another camera related one, and when activated you can switch in and out of selfie mode with a quick double-twist of the phone. In previous years, this gesture would launch the camera, so it’s been tweaked a little.

Since phone screen sizes have been on the increase, it makes sense to make better use of that real estate. Along with a number of other additions, you can now have two apps running side-by-side on the same screen. You also get the same granular controls on apps that you got in Android Marshmallow.

Split-screen multitasking: Android Nougat is the first version of the OS to feature built-in split-screen multitasking. You can activate it a number of ways (as detailed in the video below), but the easiest is just to press and hold the recent apps button. You can also reposition where the split appears onscreen.

Switch quickly between recent apps: From any screen, you can quickly switch back and forth between the two most recent apps by double tapping the recent apps button.

Stop adding new app icons to home screen: If you don’t want newly installed apps cluttering up your home screen, head into Play Store > Settings and uncheck the “Add icon to Home screen” box.

Enable fingerprint authentication: You can use the Pixel Imprint sensor to authenticate Google Play purchases with your fingerprint. Simply head to the Play Store > Settings, check the relevant box and confirm by typing in your password.

Clear all apps from your recent memory: Tap the recent apps button to see all the apps running, scroll to the top of the screen and choose “clear all”.

Add Yahoo! Mail or Exchange to Gmail: You can add Yahoo!, Exchange or other mail services to Gmail. Tap the icon to open the sidebar, scroll all the way to the bottom and hit Settings > Add account. You have the option for Google, IMAP/POP3 services (like Yahoo, Outlook.com) and Exchange.

Attach anything to Gmail: Tap the attachment button and you can attach local files, things in Drive, Photos, Dropbox files, OneDrive box and so on. It’s really flexible.

Customise Google Now: Go to your Google Now screen and access the sidebar menu. Find settings and use it to customise which cards appear, what language you use as well as privacy settings.

Change the default app: Android lets you decide which is the default app, if you have more than one that will do the same thing. In Settings > Apps, hit the settings cog in the top corner. Here you’ll see a list of defaults you can change.

Control app permissions: Nougat, like Marshmallow did, lets you manage all the permissions for each app on an individual basis. Go to Apps and select the app and hit Permissions. This will let you toggle permissions on and off, so you can disable location access, for example.

Notification fine-tuning has been ramped up a notch with Nougat. It’s no longer a case of just having priority or non-priority, but you also get to choose which exact level of priority an application should have, as well as replying directly from a notification.

Turn on the notifications light: The normal flashing notifications LED is turned off on the Pixel by default. To switch it on, head into Settings > Notifications and hit the cog in the top right. Here you’ll find the option to “pulse notification light”.

Enable power notifications: Go to System UI Tuner in your settings (having enabled it using the method near the top of this article) and choose other > Power notification controls. On the next screen switch the toggle to the on position. Once enabled you can fine-tune the priority level of any app’s notification.

Direct reply: With Android Nougat, you can direct reply from any app that has this feature built in. Swipe down on any notification card and if there’s a “reply” option, hit it and type away without leaving the screen. This works for loads of apps, including Hangouts, WhatsApp and Messenger.

Quickly switch to vibrate alerts: If you want silence, but are after vibration alerts still, then push the volume button and tap the bell on the pop-up. This will switch to vibrate.

Turn down media volume: Hit the volume up or down button, and the volume slider will appear. Tap the down arrow on the right-hand side, and you can change the ringer, media or alarm volumes.

Engage Do not Disturb: Swipe down Quick Settings and tap the Do Not Disturb button. This gives you the option to have total silence, alarms only, or priority only. You can choose if this is for a time period, or until you turn it off.

Schedule Do not Disturb: Swipe down Quick Settings then press and hold the Do Not Disturb button. Choose Automatic Rules and customise which times the Do not Disturb feature should activate automatically.

To mark an app as a Priority app: Head into Settings > Apps. Tap on the app you want. In Notifications you get app controls, and you can set an app as a priority so you always get notifications from that app.

To turn off notifications on an app: Go to Settings > Apps > Tap on the app you want. In Notifications you can block all notifications for any app on your device.

To turn off peeking on an app: Go to Settings > Apps > Tap on the app you want. In Notifications you can turn off peeking, so you don’t get a toast notification for that app.

Instant access to lock screen notifications: Just tap a notification twice and it will open up the app. Want to dismiss it? Just swipe it away.

Expand stacked notifications: Got a stack of notifications? You can drag down to expand them, both on the lock screen and in the notifications area.

Hide sensitive information in lock screen notifications: You can have lock screen notifications without too much information being revealed. Head to Settings > Notifications and tap the cog in the top right. This will give you a menu option called “On the lock screen”. You can then select the option you want. You’re also given this option during setup.

Each individual app also has lock screen controls, so in Settings > Apps, tap the app you want. You’ll find the option under “On the lock screen” again. This will enable you to turn off lock screen notifications for a specific app, but not others.

 

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