Google has changed its approach to software updates. Android 7 Nougat and Android 8 Oreo both went through extensive public betas, so those with compatible phones (Nexus and Pixel devices) could sample the software through its development until it hit final release.
This gave us a sense of what raw Oreo would be like, with the 2016 Pixel devices offering a straight-shooting Android experience free from the tinkering and clutter of other devices. It also meant that Oreo arrived on more devices prior to the launch of Google’s 2017 flagship Pixel 2 devices than any previous version of Android.
Some of these tips and tricks you might know, but some are essential for running a clean phone, so read on and enjoy.
Google Pixel 2 general tips and tricks
Oreo cleans up a lot of areas and although the general running of Android is the same as it was in Nougat, things have been moved, fiddled around with, or relocated.
Get pop-up/floating navigation: You can get Google Maps to give you a floating navigation map, so you can be browsing Twitter while you follow walking directions, saving you from constantly switching apps. Just start your navigation in Google Maps and hit the home button and Maps will shrink into a floating live window you can place where you want on the screen.
Get the Oreo dark theme: This isn’t really a dark theme, it’s just something that happens when you pick a dark wallpaper. Pick a black wallpaper and the quick settings shade and apps tray also turn dark. It suits the Pixel 2 display really well.
Check for Android updates: You want the latest version of the software, so head into Settings > System > System updates. Here you can manually check for any updates that haven’t been pushed. There probably won’t be anything, but at least you know how to check.
Enable developer settings: To turn on the developer settings, head into Settings > System > About phone. Scroll to the bottom and repeatedly tap on the Build number. After a number of taps, you’ll unlock the developer options.
Turn off the developer options: There’s no magic tapping for this. Once you’ve unlocked those options, a new section appears in the Settings menu. Open it up and there’s a toggle switch at the top. Here you can turn it off, and that menu option vanishes.
Unlock System UI Tuner: This is a clever hidden setting that offers a range of options you can’t otherwise get to. Swipe down the Quick Settings and press and hold the settings cog at the top next to the battery. After a long press, the System UI Tuner will be unlocked, and a new option will appear in the Settings > System menu. There’s not a lot on offer here, but you can customise the status bar at the top, removing icons you might not want.
Disable System UI Tuner: If you decide that you don’t want it unlocked anymore, head into the System UI Tuner menu and tap the menu button top right. Here you can remove it again.
Find the Android Oreo easter egg: Oreo’s Easter Egg is a weird octopus thing that you can drag around the screen. It doesn’t do much, but if you want to find it, head into Settings > About phone. Then tap the Android version repeatedly until it changes to the Oreo screen. Then tap the O logo a few times then press and hold and you’ll be underwater with the Android Octopus.
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. This can basically surface any setting on the phone, so it’s really easy.
Find the Google Settings: There was previously an app to handle Google-specific settings, in Oreo this is in the main Settings menu. This is where you’ll find settings for accounts and services, backup, and transferring content to a nearby device. It’s an odd collection and there’s a lot of duplication, so you’ll find many of these settings in individual apps too.
Turn off the Google App news page: The Google App lives to the left of your home screen, serving up news based on things that you like. Google knows all – this used to be part of Google Now. If you don’t want that page, long press on the wallpaper to open the Home Settings menu. Here you’ll find the option to “display Google app”. If you don’t want it, turn it off.
Google Pixel 2 storage tips and tricks
The biggest difference between Pixel and Nexus phones and other Android devices is that those non-Google phones will give you a microSD card slot, giving you a lot more flexibility. However, the Pixel gives you unlimited photo storage, while the Pixel 2 gives you unlimited photo storage up until 2020.
Automatically clear backed-up photos: There’s a Smart Storage option in Oreo that will automatically clear space on your phone by removing photo and video backups. For the Pixels you have free unlimited storage for these in Google Photos, so removing that duplication from your phone presents no problem. Head into Settings > Storage > Smart Storage. Here you can set the timeframe for removal – 30, 60 or 90 days, or you can do it right away.
Free up storage space: Oreo makes this really easy. Head into Settings > Storage and you’ll see a big button saying “free up space”. That will then give you a list of things you could remove, like downloads you might no longer need, or apps you never use. The latter are arranged in size and dates so you can easily tick the box and hit delete.
See which apps are using up the most storage: If storage is getting to be a problem, head into Settings > Storage and tap on App storage. This will show you how much storage apps are using. If you find something that looks much higher than you’d expect, it’s worth checking out. For example, if you’ve downloaded a load of Amazon Video shows you’ve watched, you can remove them.
Use the native file explorer: There’s a file explorer in Android. Head to Settings > Storage and tap on Files. Here you’ll find files and folders you can’t access through the rest of the Storage options, for example, your sent WhatsApp videos that you’ve deleted from the app, but are still sitting on your phone.
Google Pixel 2 display tips and tricks
Turn on ambient display: Head into Settings > Display > Advanced and you’ll you’ll see the toggle for Ambient display. You only get the option to turn it on or off, allowing the phone to wake and show you a monochrome alert when you get a notifications. This is not the same as the always-on display you’ll find from Samsung or LG for example.
Turn on double tap to wake: This has been on a number of devices previously, but is now a standard Android feature. Head into Settings > Display > Advanced and tap on “double-tap to check phone”. This is a great option if you have your sleeping phone on your desk, as you can just tap the screen twice and it will illuminate, showing you the ambient display and icons for any notifications.
Get notifications when you lift your phone: Not unique, but now part of Android. Head into Settings > Display > Advanced and you can turn on the option to show you the ambient display when you lift your phone up. That means you can glance at the time and your notification icons, without having to press any buttons or anything.
Have your phone automatically recognise songs: This is a Pixel 2 and 2 XL exclusive feature, letting the phone listen to songs that are playing and put the name on your lock screen. This basically solves the problem of asking “what song is this?”. Your phone basically already knows and is telling you. Settings > Sounds > Advanced > Now Playing will turn it on.
Adjust icon/screen size: In Settings > Display > Advanced there’s the 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. If things look too small on your phone, this will make them bigger.
Have night light automatically turn on/off at dusk and dawn: Night light aims to reduce the blue light from the display to make it better for viewing at night, reducing the brightness and the strain on your eyes. Head into Settings > Display > Night Light and you’ll find all the controls. in the schedule you can customise when this happens, with automatic sunset to sunrise being an option. You can also customise the time: if you live a long way north, you might not want your phone on Night Light most of the time during winter.
Change the hue of Night Light: If you want to change the colour tone of Night Light, head into the settings as above and you can change the intensity. If you find yourself regularly turning it off because it’s too yellow, you could probably make it better with a hue tweak here.
Turn on vibrant mode: This seems to be an unfulfilled setting on the Pixel 2, but in Settings > Display > Advanced there’s the option to turn on “vivid display”. At the time of writing it doesn’t seem to do anything, but we get the feeling this might help solve the Pixel 2 XL’s dull display problem in the future.
Get calendar and travel details at top of your home screen: The new At a Glance feature will let you get calendar entries and travel information from Google onto your home screen so they are easy to see. Long press on your wallpaper on the home screen and tap “home screen settings”. Here you’ll find the option to turn on the information you want.
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL camera tips and tricks
The camera is arguably the most important part of a modern smartphone – it’s where the consumer experience gravitates, often a good camera is the top priority for anyone buying a new phone. These tips specifically refer to Google’s own Camera app and we’ve included a section specifically for the Pixel 2 camera below.
Quick launch the camera: Double press the power/standby button to quick launch the camera. The settings for this control live in Settings > System > Languages & input, where you’ll find Moves (or Gestures on the Pixel 2). Here you can turn on “jump to camera” to allow quick access from any screen.
Swipe between photos and video: You can swipe from photo to video capture, which you might prefer to hitting the buttons at the side of the camera viewfinder. Simply swipe up or down the screen in landscape, or left and right in portrait and you’ll switch from photo to video capture.
Instant zoom: If you want to instantly zoom in on something and you’ve only got one hand free, just double tap anywhere in the viewfinder and the camera will jump to 2x zoom. This is great if you don’t have a free hand to use the slider.
Use volume to take photos: If tapping the display isn’t going to work for you (perhaps you’re wearing gloves or have suncream on your hands?), then the volume button can capture images for you. Press and hold will capture a burst too. You can switch the volume to zoom in the camera settings if you prefer.
Turn off the shutter sound: That noise is pretty annoying, right? From the camera app, open the menu on left-hand side, and tap settings at the bottom. Here you can turn off the noise.
Take burst photos with automatic animation (on Pixel): Google Photos has a great auto-animate feature which uses bursts of photos and turns them into animation. It’s great for capturing not only a photo of some action, but all the activity that surrounded it. First, head into the camera menu > Settings > Burst settings. Here you’ll find a toggle for “auto-generate creations” on the older Pixel phones. Bursts can be captured by pressing and holding the shutter button, but you’ll then also find automatic creations in Google Photos. It’s the easiest way to great gifs.
Adjust the exposure compensation: Exposure compensation lets you lighten or darken a scene when the automatic metering doesn’t quite get it right or produce the results you want. For example, an illuminated subject on stage in a dark theatre will often automatically over-expose. Dial down the exposure and the dark part of the room will darken, returning to a more dynamic picture. Simply tap on what you want to focus on (your subject) and then on you’ll see the brightness scale appear on screen. Simply drag this up or down accordingly to get the result you want.
Lock the exposure and the focus: This is a trick used by photographers to make sure that the camera locks onto the correct exposure and focus for a subject in the frame and keeps that until the photo is taken. It’s useful, for example when there’s a lot going on that the camera might focus on instead, perhaps things moving elsewhere in the frame. On the Pixel, just press and hold on the point you want to lock and you’ll be told the AE/FE is locked. You can also do the same with video, but you have to start the video before you can make that selection. On the Pixel 2, when you tap to focus, there’s lock icon at the top of the exposure slider – tap this to lock.
Google Pixel 2 camera tips and tricks
These additional options are only available for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL – although some might also arrive through software updates on the Pixel.
Enable/disable Motion Photos: Like Apple’s Live Photos, when you snap a photo you can have it play a short burst of video. To enable or disable it, tap the small icon that looks like a solid circle inside a ring. You’ll also find this icon in Photos app on any images that were snapped using the Motion Photo feature.
Add a manual HDR+ switch: Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL take really great photos thanks to Google’s automatic HDR+ technology. If you’d rather it wasn’t automatic, you can add a button to switch it on or off by heading to the camera app, open the side menu, hit “settings” then “advanced” and toggle the switch.
Engage portrait mode: Craving that blurred background effect? Hit the settings menu over at the edge and select Portrait. Then you simply have to line up your subject and take the picture. It works on both the front and back cameras.
Engage beauty mode: Ok, it’s not called beauty mode, it’s called “face retouching”. Hit the icon on the side and tap “face retouching on”. This can’t be used at the same time as the portrait mode, sadly.
Google Pixel 2 apps tips and tricks
Enable app notification dots: This is a new feature in Oreo that lets you have a dot on apps that have a notification or something to show you. Head into Settings > Apps & notifications > Notifications and you’ll see the toggle to turn on notification dots. Or you can long press on the wallpaper and hit “home settings”.
App shortcuts: With Android Nougat and upwards certain apps have shortcuts to actions that you can access by pressing and holding their icon on the home screen. This can be taking a video or photo with a camera, navigating home with Maps, or adding contacts, plus many more.
Create shortcut icons: Once you have your list of app shortcuts pop up on the screen as above, you can drag and place them on the screen as their own individual icons. For example, on the camera, you can drag out a shortcut to go straight to the selfie camera.
Enable screen pinning: If you regularly hand your phone to someone else – or your kids – to use a specific app, screen pinning is a must and stops them being able to wander around all the other areas of your phone UI. Activate screen pinning by going to Settings > Security & location > Screen pinning and toggling the switch.
Use screen pinning on an app: Once activated (as above) open the app you want to pin, then tap the multitasking square button. Scroll to the bottom and tap the little pin icon/button. To unpin the app, you have to tap and hold the back and recent apps buttons together, then unlock the phone with your pattern, PIN or fingerprint.
Get app suggestions at the top of your apps tray: This is a really cool feature that changes the apps at the top of your apps tray at different times of the day. It make these suggestions based on the apps you usually use around those times, so you can always get what you want without looking for it. Long press on the wallpaper and enter the “home screen settings”. Here you’ll have the option for “app suggestions”.
Split-screen multitasking: Android Oreo offers split-screen multitasking. You can activate it a number of ways, but the easiest is just to press and hold the recent apps button, as long as you have an app open that supports split-screen. You can then select the second app. You can also reposition where the split appears onscreen.
To return to single screen/not split: If you find yourself stuck in split-screen, press and hold the recent apps button again to stop multitasking.
Quickly switch apps: To switch back to the app you were just using, double tap the recent apps button. This will return you to the app you were on before. It’s great for jumping in and out of a messaging app for example.
Stop adding new app icons to home screen: When you install a new app you’ll get the icon installed on your home screen. To stop this happening and making your Pixel basically looking like an iPhone, long press on the wallpaper and enter the “home screen settings”. Here you can turn off that option.
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’.
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. Under Settings > Apps & Notifications > Advanced you’ll see the default apps area. Here you can set your default browser, launcher, SMS app and so on.
Control app permissions: Oreo, like Nougat, lets you manage all the permissions for each app on an individual basis. Go to Apps & notifications, select the app and hit Permissions. This will let you toggle permissions on and off, so you can disable location access, for example.
Access Google Play Protect: This is Google’s new app scanning feature. If you want to find it, head into Settings > Security & location and you can tap on Play Protect. This will give you all the details on what it’s been doing.
Google Pixel 2 notifications and volume tips and tricks
Notification fine-tuning was ramped up a notch with Nougat and it’s still as potent as ever in Oreo on the Pixel. 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.
Direct reply: With Android Oreo, you’ll often be able to direct reply from any app that has it built in. Swipe down on any notification card and if there’s a “reply” option, hit it and type away without leaving the screen. Sometimes the toast notifications will give you the direct reply option too.
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 words. 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. Or, to just have DnD on, tap the icon and enjoy the bliss.
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 & notifcations. 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. Or, when you see a notification you don’t want, slowly swipe it right to reveal a settings cog. Hit that and you’ll be able to block notifications from that app.
Hide sensitive information in lock screen notifications: You can have lock screen notifications without too much information being revealed. Head to Settings > Security & location > Lock screen preferences. Here you can set the phone to hide information so it can’t be read by everyone.
Google Pixel 2 Quick Settings tips
Quick settings were good before, now they’re even better. There are more options and there’s far greater customisation. And remember that dark theme tip we’ve give you above if you want things to look really slick.
Manage Quick tiles: In Android 8 you can manage the order of the quick settings tiles by dropping down the usual shade from the top of the screen and hitting the pencil icon to edit. Now you can re-order, add or remove new quick access toggles.
Enable data saver: Just like above, you can add the data saver toggle to your quick tiles. In essence it helps you limit how much of your data the phone consumes by limiting how much data apps use in the background.
Quickly select a Wi-Fi network: Swipe down for Quick Settings, then press and hold the Wi-Fi icon. This will go directly to the Wi-Fi settings.
Quickly manage Bluetooth: The same applies to Bluetooth. Swipe down the Quick Settings shade and press and hold the Bluetooth icon. If you’re failing to connect to your car, you can instantly see what’s going on.
Turn on torch/flashlight: There’s no need for a separate app, just tap the button in Quick Settings to turn on your flash as a torch. Or just say “Ok Google, turn on torch/flashlight” and it will turn on.
Cast your screen: Want your Android device on your TV? Just swipe down and tap Cast screen and it will be sent to your Chromecast. If it’s not there, add the Cast tile to your Quick Settings using the method mentioned above. Not all apps are supported though.
Google Pixel 2 Google Assistant tips and tricks
Google Assistant is getting into all parts of Google’s device, expanding its feature set and powers with machine learning and AI taking over the world. Here’s some great things to try with Google Assistant, but hit the link below for load more tips.
Squeeze to launch Google Assistant: This is a new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL feature. Head into Settings > Languages, input & gestures > Advanced and you’ll see the Gestures section. Here you can control Active Edge, set the squeeze sensitivity, or disable it if you don’t like it.
Launch Google Assistant: If you want to launch normally, press and hold the home button. Google Assistant will pop-up and take you through to the interface where you can talk to, or type to interact with Assistant. You will also be served results that you can tap to get more information, or to move through to over apps.
Turn on the Ok Google hot word: When you setup your phone, you’ll be prompted to setup the Ok Google hot word. If you choose not to, you can set it up at other times easily. Just unlock your phone and say Ok Google and the setup page will open.
Open an app with Google Assistant: Simply say “Ok Google, open Netflix” and it will open Netflix or any other app. It’s smart too, as for some apps, Assistant can navigation content within them – like watching a specific show on Netflix, or playing a specific artist on Spotify.
I’m feeling lucky: If you’re looking for Google Assistant’s Easter Egg, trying saying “I’m feeling lucky”. This will take you to a crazy trivia quiz that’s loads of fun.
Google Pixel 2 battery tips and tricks
Quickly access the battery details: You guessed it. Swipe down the Quick Settings area and press and hold the batter saver toggle. This will take you directly to the battery details page.
See what’s eating battery: Access the battery area as above and you’ll see the apps that are eating the most battery power. If there’s something unusual happening, it’s here that you’ll see it.
Turn on battery saver: As above, in the battery area you’ll find battery saver. If you want to set it up to switch on automatically when it hits 5 per cent or 15 per cent, you can do so here.
Google Pixel 2 security tips
Manage fingerprints: Head into Security > Nexus Imprint and you’ll be able to add or remove fingerprints that will unlock your device. A pro tip is to register fingers on both hands so you can unlock your phone with whichever hand you have free.
Bluetooth unlock: Again in Security > Smart Lock, you have the option to nominate trusted devices, so your Android will unlock when connected to something else. You can nominate Bluetooth devices (like your smartwatch or car Bluetooth) or select an NFC tag.
Enable/Disable Find My Device: Head into Settings > Security & location and you’ll see Find My Device. You can control the options to find your device, as well as control remote locking and erasing.
Find your Android phone using Find My Device: The easiest way is to head into your Chrome browser and type “find my device”. Google will return a window that will locate your Android devices using Find My Device. You’ll have to log-in to access the details, but you’ll then be told the location of your phone, the battery status and what Wi-Fi network it is connected to. You’ll also have the option to erase, lock or play a sound. On the device you’ve located, it will have a notification to say it’s been found.
Google Pixel 2 keyboard and language tips
Typing should always be easy and personally tuned to your needs, and with Oreo, that’s even easier thanks to the ability to support multiple languages and customise the keyboard.
Add multiple languages: Go to Settings > System > Languages, input & gestures, tap languages and then “add a language”. There are dozens of languages available to use (including Welsh).
Change your keyboard theme: Head to Settings > System > Languages, input & gestures > Virtual keyboard, then select Gboard at the top of the page. Select theme and choose one of the available colours or just add your own image as a background.
Enable one-handed mode: When the keyboard is onscreen, tap and hold the return key. Select the icon that looks like a hand holding a phone. Switch the keyboard to the left side of the screen by tapping the chevron on the left side.
Change keyboard height: Once again in the virtual keyboard settings, select the Google keyboard and choose Preferences. Find Keyboard height in the list and adjust the slider until the keyboard is at your required height.
Turn off vibrations on keypress: This can slow the keyboard down. Enter the keyboard preferences (as detailed above) and you’ll find the option to turn off sound on keypress.
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