Building on the success of the Pixel 2 models, comes the Pixel 3. Offering two sizes of device, the only real difference between these handsets is the physical size – and the resolution of the display. Whether you’re after a pocket powerhouse – the Pixel 3 – or a bigger phone for full-screen glory – the Pixel 3 XL – all these tips and tricks will apply.
Running on the latest version of Android Pie, with a few Pixel extras, here’s a deep dive into the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL to help become the master of all things Android.
Android 9 Pie navigation tips
While the Pixel 3 doesn’t debut Android Pie – it’s also on older Pixels and some other devices – it does introduce a fundamental change in navigation around Android, so we’ll get you started there.
How to access Overview: Overview replaces one of the the functions of the recent apps button. A short swipe up will see the UI pop into Overview. This gives you cards for your apps which you can swipe away to the top to close, or scroll left and right through.
Quickly switch apps: Previously, a double tap on the recent apps button would switch between the last app and the current. Now that’s replaced by a swipe right on the home button. For a longer scroll, you can drag to the right and hold and you’ll enter a carousel to scan left or right to apps. It’s basically the same as accessing Overview and scanning left or right, but it can be done with one press.
Close all open apps view overview: To shut all your apps down, you can either swipe them all away in Overview, or you can scroll all the way to the end of the list and tap “clear all”. That will clear out all your recent items.
How to launch Google Assistant: As before – and on most Android devices – a press and hold of the home button will launch Google Assistant. The Pixel 3 devices will also let you squeeze the handset to launch Google Assistant. You can find the options in settings > system > gestures > active edge.
How to open the apps tray: Yes, it’s still a swipe up from the bottom of the display, but with Overview in the mix, you’ll need a longer swipe to bypass Overview and head straight into the apps. It does work, it just takes a little getting used to.
Home screen tips and tricks
The Pixel Launcher is a Pixel exclusive, giving you what Google thinks is Android’s best experience. It includes some of those delicious Pixel tweaks, showcasing Android Pie’s new visual design.
How to pick a live wallpaper: The Pixel offers a range of “live” wallpapers, with subtle active elements in them giving some movement to your home screen. Long press on the home screen and select wallpaper. Then head to the “living universe” section and you’ll find those live wallpapers.
Engage or disable searchbox effects: Press and hold on the searchbox at the bottom of the screen and a preferences box will appear. Within this is the option to enable or disable special effects. No one know what the special effects are, but this is where to find them.
Get calendar and travel details at top of your home screen: The 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 – calendar, flights, traffic.
Have your phone automatically recognise songs: Introduced on the Pixel 2, this is a local feature on the Pixel 3 (so works offline), letting the phone listen to songs playing nearby and put the details on your lock screen. Head into settings > sounds > Now Playing to turn it on. You can also enable notifications for Now Playing.
View your Now Playing history and put a shortcut on your home screen: Identifying songs is fine, but when you get home, you’ll have forgotten what it was. Don’t worry, your Pixel has you covered. Head into sounds > Now Playing > Now Playing History. This lists all the songs your phone heard and the time it heard them. You can click on a song to play it – Spotify, Play Music, YouTube, etc. You can also place a shortcut on the home screen to make it easy to get to this area. It’s ace.
Enable or disable home screen rotation: Head into home settings > allow home screen rotation and you can view the home screen in landscape, rather than always viewing it in portrait.
Enable suggestions on Overview: Android Pie has “suggestions” in a couple of places. These suggestions come from your app use, so it can suggest apps you might be trying to access quickly. These have been available at the top of the apps tray for a few years, but now come to Overview. You can find the option in home settings > suggestions.
Access Discover and customise it: Android has been pushing a page to the left of the home screen for many years. It was once Google Now, now it’s called Discover, a digest of topics you’ll find interesting. Just swipe right to access it. In the top right-hand corner you’ll find a settings menu where you can customise the content.
Turn off Discover/Google app: If you don’t want this digest (above), access home setting > display Google app and you can turn it off.
Get the Pie dark theme: Head into settings > display > device theme. There are three options – light, dark and automatic. In the automatic mode, if you pick a black wallpaper the quick settings shade and apps tray also turn dark. It suits the Pixel 3 display really well.
Enable app notification dots: This was a new feature in Oreo that lets you have a dot on apps that have a notification or something to show you. It’s in Android Pie too. 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”.
Use app shortcuts: With Android Pie 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. Just press and hold and it will pop up.
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.
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. In Android Pie, there’s a fresh new look to things.
Swipe the fingerprint sensor to access quick settings: The top of your phone is some way away on the Pixel 3 XL, but there’s a gesture to drop down the quick settings. Head into settings > system > gestures > swipe fingerprint for notifications and toggle it on. This will drop down the quick settings and/or notifications, giving easier access.
Manage quick settings icons: In Android 9 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 at the bottom to edit. Now you can re-order, add or remove new quick access toggles, making it easier to get the controls you want.
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, it’s great when you can’t figure out what’s going on with Wi-Fi.
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.
Display tips and tricks
Turn on always-on display: Head into Settings > Display > Advanced > Ambient display. Here you’ll find the option for the always-on display, which will show the time, date, weather on your lock screen. You can turn it off to save battery life.
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 > Ambient display and tap on “double-tap to check phone”. This only works when the always-on display (above) is turned off. Then you just double tap the screen and you’ll be shown the details.
Get notifications when you lift your phone: Head into Settings > Display > Advanced >Ambient display and you can turn on the option to show you the always-on 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.
Wake the display when new notifications arrive: If want the display to fully wake up when you get a new notification, this option is also in the ambient display settings (as above). You’ll need to make sure you’re not getting overwhelmed with notifications, or it will drain your battery a little faster.
Manage the colours of the display: This has become a big deal since the controversy surrounding the Pixel 2 XL colour hue. Head into settings > display > colours and you’ll find the options offered – natural, boosted or adaptive. We’ve found adaptive to be the best for most use cases.
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.
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.
Google Pixel 3 camera and photos tips
Pixel basically means camera these days and the Pixel 3 camera doesn’t disappoint. It’s getting a little more complicated, so here are the tips you need to get it singing sweetly.
Quick launch the camera: Double press the power/standby button to quick launch the camera, it’s a great feature. The settings for this control live in Settings > System > Gestures. Here you can turn on “jump to camera” to allow quick access from any screen.
Swipe between photos, video, other camera modes: You can swipe from photo to video capture and to other modes in the camera viewfinder, which you might prefer to hitting the buttons. Simply swipe up or down the screen in landscape, or left and right in portrait and you’ll switch from photo to video capture.
Find the camera settings: These are no longer visible from the main camera view. As above, swipe across to “more” and tap on that option. There you’ll find the settings.
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, but it’s not full zoom – you can then zoom in further if you wish.
Turn off the shutter sound: That noise is pretty annoying, right? As we mentioned above, swipe across to More > Settings and you’ll see the toggle for camera sounds.
Use Smartburst and Top Shot to capture great moving action: Press and hold the shutter button and the Pixel 3 will rattle off lots of photos. Firstly, you can manually select the one with the picture you want or you can open the Google Photos to view your photos and tap the burst button bottom centre. This will have the option to only show the best photos from the burst, using Google’s AI to give you the best.
Take burst photos with automatic animation: 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. Capture the action as described above and Google Photos will automatically turn it into an animation once it recognises a series of photos. If it doesn’t do it automatically, you can force the animation to be created via the burst button in Google Photos as above.
Adjust the exposure compensation: Exposure compensation lets you lighten or darken a scene when the automatic metering doesn’t quite get it right. 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 3 when you tap to focus there’s lock icon at the top of the exposure slider – tap this to lock.
Enable/disable Motion Photos: Like Apple’s Live Photos, when you snap a photo you can have it capture 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 3 and Pixel 3 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 more menu, hit settings > advanced and toggle the switch.
Get Google Lens suggestions: This is a really clever option that will highlight certain information via the camera. Just point the camera at a phone number, name or website and a link will be offered to open Chrome, place a call or open up your Contacts with that person. It’s on by default, but you can find it in “more” > settings > Google Lens suggestions.
Engage Google Lens through the camera: Google Lens is an AI system that identifies objects and gives you information. You can find it in the “more” option on the camera, or you can get to it by pressing and holding in the viewfinder. Then then flips to Lens and find things for you.
Engage portrait mode: Craving that blurred background effect? Just swipe to Portrait. Then you simply have to line up your subject and take the picture. It works on both the front and back cameras.
Zoom out on the front camera for a wefie: The Pixel 3 has a wide-angle camera on the front. Simply flip to the front camera and pinch and you’ll switch to the wider camera.
Engage beauty mode: Ok, it’s not called beauty mode, it’s called “face retouching”. Hit the icon on the side with a little face and you get the option of natural and soft – or to turn it off. This can also be use in conjunction with portrait mode for the ultimate selfie. Face retouching can also be used when in portrait mode on the rear camera to make other people look better.
Engage video stabilisation: Head into the settings menu and you’ll find the option to turn on video stabilisation.
Explore the More menu a little more: Anything that’s not a main camera mode is in the more menu at the end. Here you’ll find Photobooth which is fun for selfies, Photo Sphere which is a hangover from Nexus days and lets you capture 360 photos, as well as Playground which will drop AR characters into a photo. It’s all a lot of fun and worth exploring.
Lock the video camera to 30fps: The Pixel camera has an auto FPS mode (when in the default 1080p) that will switch up to 60fps if it sees a reason to – for fast moving action. It can make this switch during a video, changing the frame rate. The aim is probably to give smoother results on playback via the device, but you do get the option to lock to 1080/30p – which might be useful for video makers. You’ll see the icon bottom left in the viewfinder in video mode.
Google Pixel 3 apps tips and tricks
Split-screen multitasking: Android offers split-screen multitasking and it now uses Overview to control it. Swipe up to pop into Overview, then tap the app icon at the top and you’ll find “split screen as an option”. Tap this and it will move to the top of the screen. You can then scroll through Overview to find the second app, or open another app and it will take up the bottom of the screen.
To return to single screen/not split: If you find yourself stuck in split-screen, press the home button. If there’s still an app at the top, swipe it down and it will return to full screen. Then press the home button again and you’re back to normal.
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 option. Here you can set your default browser, launcher, SMS app and so on.
Control app permissions: Android 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 app scanning feature. If you want to find it open the Google Play app and you’ll see it at the top of the “my apps & games list”.
Disable picture-in-picture: Picture-in-picture will allow a thumbnail version of an app or video to play once you return to the home screen. That’s great, but if you don’t want it, head into apps & notifications > advanced > special app access > picture-in-picture. Here you can toggle off apps you don’t want using it.
Worried about you app usage? Digital Wellbeing will help you: If you’re worried about how much time you spend on your phone, then head into settings and find Digital Wellbeing. This will not only give you a breakdown of your app and phone usage, but you can set timers to help you. There’s also the option to add a shortcut to your app tray so it’s easy to get to.
Google Pixel 3 notifications and volume tips and tricks
Notifications on Android are the best around, giving you loads of option and loads of control. But there are so many options if can get confusing.
Direct reply: With recent versions of Android 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, so you can reply when you’re playing a game without taking your eye off the action.
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 at the side. This will switch to vibrate.
Turn down media volume: Hit the volume up or down button, and the volume slider will appear on the right-hand side. Tap the settings cog and you will access all the volume controls. Here you can turn down media volume.
Squeeze to silence alarms and calls: You can quickly silence your phone with a squeeze. Head into settings > system > gestures > active edge. At the bottom of this list you’ll find the option to squeeze for silence.
Engage Do not Disturb: Swipe down Quick Settings and tap the Do Not Disturb icon. You’ll be notification free.
Schedule Do not Disturb: Swipe down Quick Settings then press and hold the Do Not Disturb button. Choose Schedule > Turn on automatically and you’ll find the automatic rules. Here you can set times for Do not Disturb to automatically turn on and off, like evenings or weekends.
To turn off notifications on an app: Go to Settings > Apps & notifications > 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.
Have Now Playing recognised music appear in the notifications tray: You can opt to have recognised music appear in the notifications tray (or remove it if you don’t like it). Head into settings > apps & notifications and locate Pixel ambient services. Within this app is the option to control the messages that you’ll get then music is recognised.
Google Pixel 3 Google Assistant tips and tricks
Google Assistant is getting into all parts of Google’s devices, 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: Head into settings > system > gestures and you can control Active Edge, set the squeeze sensitivity, or disable it if you don’t like it. You can also opt to use it when the screen is off. Squeezing will start Google Assistant listening so you can just start talking.
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 Assistant. You will also be served results that you can tap to get more information, or to move through to over apps. If you want to type instead of talk, tap the keyboard in the right-hand corner.
Swipe up Google Assistant to see more personal information: Swipe up once you’ve launched Google Assistant and you’ll find a load more information waiting for you. You can see what’s coming up or check your commute, for example.
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 trivia quiz that’s loads of fun.
Google Pixel 3 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: You’re not instantly shown which apps are eating battery. To find these details, open the battery panel as above and tap on the menu top right. Tap battery usage and you’ll get a breakdown on what’s killing your battery.
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 3 general tips and tricks
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.
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. You can control it with the picture-in-picture controls.
Check for Android updates: You want the latest version of the software, so head into settings > system > advanced > 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.
Find the Android Pie easter egg: Pie’s Easter Egg is a paint app. Head into settings > system > about phone. Then tap the Android version and a card pops up. Then tap Android 9 and you’ll flip to the multicoloured P. Then tap the P logo a few times and you’ll launch into paint. You can then scrawl, change colours and pens and have a bit of fun.
Search settings: Rather than rooting through everything, you can search the settings. Just open up the Settings menu and there’s a searchbar at the top. This can basically search 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 Pie 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.
Google Pixel 3 storage tips and tricks
The biggest difference between Pixel and other Android devices is that those non-Google phones will give you a microSD card slot, giving you a lot more flexibility.
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: Android Pie 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 you’ll get a breakdown of categories for your storage. 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 videos you’ve watched in the “movies & TV apps” you can remove them.