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The best Pixel-only features explained: There's more to Pixels than you think!

Pixels aren't as simple as they seem!

Published onFebruary 8, 2024

Google Pixel devices are known for their simplicity and clean UI, but this doesn’t mean Google isn’t throwing some neat features into its Android handsets. In fact, there is a pretty long list of features you’ll only find on Pixel handsets. In this post, we’ll go over the best Pixel-only features and tell you all about them. Let’s dig right in.

Editor’s note: While many of these features can only be found on Pixel devices, manufacturers sometimes have similar or equivalent versions. You can also find some similar features in third-party apps.

Calling features

google pixel fold on a phone call
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Call Screen

Call Screen has become one of the most helpful features to evade unwanted calls from scammers, spammers, and robocalls. It uses Google Assistant to answer calls from unknown contacts. The system will ask callers who they are and the reason for the call. After seeing the answers’ transcript, you can decide whether to hang up, answer, or respond with a suggested message.

Automatic Call Screen works on all Pixel phones in the US. You’ll need to be in a supported country to use it manually. These include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK, and the US. Manual call screening also extends to a select handful of other Android devices in the US and Canada.

With the Pixel 8 series, Call Screen received filtering improvements.

Hold For Me

Don’t you hate staying on hold when calling businesses? I know I do, which is why I’m especially fond of the Pixel-only Hold For Me feature. It does precisely what the name entails. Google Assistant will stay on hold for you while you go mind your business. You’ll be notified when the representative is ready to speak to you.

The option will appear whenever you’re on a call using a supported device. Hold For Me is currently available for Pixel 3 and newer Pixels in the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, and the UK. It’s also only available in English and Japanese.

Direct My Call

Automated systems can be even more annoying than waiting on hold. Google is trying to simplify things with Direct My Call on its Pixel devices. Direct My Call will visualize what the automated system is saying, as well as the menu options presented. You can then use touch options to navigate the automated system without listening to annoying recorded voices. People can also opt to share their call data with Google to help the system improve the experience for other users in the future.

Direct My Call is available for Pixel 3a and newer Pixel phones. It requires the latest version of the Phone app. It’s also available only in the US, and in English.

Stock photo of Phone by Google app 1
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Wait Times

Wait Times is a much simpler tool that does nothing but estimate the time you’re put on hold when making a call. This will help other users get an estimation of the time they’ll have to be waiting around.

The feature requires a Pixel 3a device or newer, and the latest version of the Phone app. It’s also only available in the US, in English.

Voice message transcriptions

Google Voice has been able to transcribe voicemails for some years now, but the feature didn’t make it to the official Messaging app until the Pixel 7 series. If you have a supported phone, Messages will automatically transcribe any voicemail you get. You can also use it on a select list of a few other phones. These include the Pixel 6 series, the Galaxy S22 and S23 phones, and the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and 5.

Camera and photo features

google pixel 6a in hand landscape
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Astrophotography photos and time-lapses

Astrophotography is available on the Pixel 3 or newer, and it’s pretty much a super-enhanced version of HDR. The camera will shoot multiple images for about 15 seconds, then stick them together and use computational photography to show you a starry night sky that seemed impossible to shoot on a smartphone.

This feature is on by default, and it will activate whenever the phone detects a night sky, on Night Sight mode, and the device is completely still. The Pixel camera will also save a timelapse while shooting in Astrophotography mode.

Motion mode

Most phones try to shoot images in which the image is as frozen as possible. We usually avoid motion blur and other movement elements, but they’re not always a bad thing. In fact, some motion blur can be good, as it showcases movement, action, and can often create very interesting effects. We’ve all seen cars’ cool light trails on a dark road.

Motion mode can accomplish action blur or long exposure effects. The mode is right on the camera app’s scrolling section, so find it and pick between Action Pan and Long Exposure. You’ll need a Pixel 6 series or newer device to access this feature. The Pixel 6a is excluded, by the way. Also, the Pixel 7a and Pixel Fold can’t take advantage of Action Pan.

Top Shot

Google reveals the Top Shot feature at its Pixel 3 event.

Top Shot has been around since the Pixel 3 series, but it hasn’t entirely made it outside the Pixel lineup. This feature shoots and analyzes up to 90 images before and after you press the shutter button. If you don’t have the fastest finger in the west and missed the right moment, Google will recommend better images.

Face Unblur and Photo Unblur

Things are getting much smarter with the most recent Pixel devices, especially since the introduction of Google’s Tensor chipsets. These are made to improve artificial intelligence and computational photography, and they’ve proven to work amazingly.

Face Unblur will improve sharpness, detail, and noise on detected faces. The camera will determine when motion blur is likely present, usually in darker or fast-moving environments. Similar to HDR, the camera will shoot multiple images, stitch them together, and use machine learning to improve image quality in faces.

Face Unblur was introduced with the Pixel 6 series, but the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro took things to the next level. The newer handsets can now use Photo Unblur to improve the whole image, not just faces. The feature now also works on the Pixel Tablet. Furthermore, Pixel 7 series phones can improve any image through Google Photos. Even ones shot with non-Pixel phones!

We’ve written a complete guide on using Face Unblur and Photo Unblur. Check it out to learn all about these two features.

Magic Eraser

Google Pixel 7 Pro Magic Eraser
Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

Magic Eraser takes advantage of Google’s Tensor technology to remove unwanted objects from images. You can easily access it while editing an image on Google Photos. Just go to Tools > Magic Eraser. You can draw a circle around objects to select them, and the system will remove selected objects and do its best to replace them based on the surroundings.

Magic Eraser used to work on Pixel 6 or newer Google devices, and it needed the Google Photos app. Since it’s technically a Google Photos feature, though, Google has taken the option to all Google One subscribers using Android or iOS.

Notably, with the Pixel 8 series, Google also introduced Audio Magic Eraser, which lets you remove unwanted audio from videos.

Video Boost

A feature unique to the Pixel 8 Pro, Video Boost makes full use of the phone’s Tensor G3 chipset and the powers of computational photography.

The feature employs cloud computing power to improve the quality of your videos. Clips are uploaded and processed; once it’s ready, you can download the clip again. Unlike most other photography features on Pixels, Video Boost requires an internet connection, so be aware that it could put a serious dent in your data plan.

Best Take

Here’s a great feature that’ll make group shots a little easier. Best Take snaps multiple photographs of a group and combines those into one in which everyone looks their best.

This feature should negate the need to retake shots, especially if one person has their eyes closed or another is blurry. The Pixel 8 looks through the images and merges them into one in which each person looks great.

Use your Pixel as a webcam for your PC

Have you seen iPhone owners using their smartphones as webcams? This feature is now available for Android users, too! You can use your Pixel phone as a webcam if you connect it to your computer via a data-supported USB cable. All you have to do is connect your Pixel phone to the computer, and then select the webcam option on your device USB connection options.

This can make your video quality much better, as computer webcams are known for being pretty bad. It’s available on Pixel 6 or newer devices.

Launcher features

Cinematic and Emoji wallpapers

Android Emoji wallpapers on Android phone stock photo 1 1200w 675h 1
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Cinematic and Emoji wallpapers came to the latest Pixel devices in the June 2023 feature drop update. These can make your home screen much more fun and interactive, allowing you to customize your wallpapers at a more personal level. You can learn how to use cinematic wallpapers and how to create Emoji wallpapers in our dedicated guides.

Cinematic wallpapers are available for Pixel 6 or newer devices. As for Emoji wallpapers, you’ll need a Pixel 4a or newer.

Select images and text from the Overview screen

Android 12 Overview Suggestions
Joe Hindy / Android Authority

This feature often goes unnoticed, but it becomes beneficial once you realize it’s there. If your phone runs Android 11 or newer, you can use Smart Selection to highlight and interact with text and images within the Overview interface (app switcher). You can copy, download, search, and share content. Simply open the Overview interface and long-press on any image or text to start interacting.

This feature is actually supposed to work on non-Pixel phones too, but such isn’t always the case. It’s more of a hit-or-miss situation. This is why we still consider it primarily a Pixel feature.

At A Glance

While not a Pixel-specific feature, these Google devices work best with the At A Glance widget. This is because At A Glance is baked right into the Pixel Launcher, and improvements often come to Pixel phones first.

At A Glance is an interactive widget that can intelligently change based on the information that’s important. It will usually display the weather, but it can also showcase music, calendar smart home, fitness, and other information.

Universal search

Google Search stock photo 1
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Google’s Pixel Launcher got a very neat upgrade with Android 12. The search bar is now universal, which means you can use it to search everything the device has access to. This includes apps, contacts, settings, content, and the web, among other things.

App Suggestions

Having a set of apps organized in the UI offers consistency, but life is more complex than that. Some apps you use during certain times, at certain locations, and under specific circumstances. This is why the Pixel Launcher introduced App Suggestions. These can be displayed on the bottom row of the home screen, or the top row of the app list. Apps displayed in these sections will alternate and change intelligently.

Quick Tap

pixel 6 quick tap
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

This is likely one of the coolest features we’ve seen come to Pixel devices in the latest years. Quick Tap gives functionality to the back of a Pixel phone. It’s possible to customize actions to take whenever you tap on the back of a phone twice. You can customize it to take a screenshot, access your digital assistant, play/pause media, show notifications, see recent apps, or open an app.

You will need a Pixel 4a with 5G or newer Pixel to use this feature.

Other Pixel-only features

Google Recorder speaker labels

Google Recorder on Pixel phone
Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

The Google Recorder app is excellent for those who want to record audio and get transcripts of conversations, but the app still has a long way to go. The latest improvements are a step in the right direction. It’s available for Pixel 6 series and newer Pixels, including the Fold. It also only supports the English language.

When recording conversations, Google Recorder can recognize different speakers and label them.

Google Assistant Quick Phrases

Do you get tired of saying, “Hey, Google,” whenever you want to use Google Assistant? I know I do. This is why we love the Quick Phrases feature available on Pixel 6 series smartphones or newer. Nest Hub Max users can also take advantage of it, as well as those with Pixel Buds Pro earbuds. It’s also only available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.

Quick Phrases make it possible to say commonly used commands to Google Assistant without using the hot word. You can access the settings by going to Google app > Avatar > Settings > Google Assistant > Quick phrases.

The feature only works in a couple of situations, though. You can use it to stop or snooze an active alarm, or to answer, decline, or silence incoming calls.

Google Assistant voice typing

Google Assistant stock photo 1
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

This Pixel-only feature is available for anyone with a Pixel 6 or newer, running at least Android 12. Users with supported Pixel phones can now say, “Hey, Google. Type.” You can now start dictating what you want the Assistant to type.

Additionally, the feature offers a much smarter voice typing experience than your typical voice-to-text services. You can make requests such as “delete the last work,” “clear all,” or “Next” to move to the next text field.

With the Pixel 8 series, Assistant offers better proofreading when dictating through Gboard.

Extreme Battery Saver

Extreme Battery Saver mode has been available on all Pixel phones since the Pixel 3. Google showed off its capabilities with the Pixel 7, mentioning it can extend battery life to 72 hours.

What happens when Extreme Battery Saver is turned on? A series of things get modified within the phone. For starters, most apps will pause. The CPU will also slow down, the hotspot will turn off, the screen timeout will drop to 30 seconds, and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth scanning will shut off.

Personal Safety app

The Personal Safety app helps keep users safe. You can store emergency contact info in it. The app can detect crashes and contact emergency services when necessary. You can also turn on SOS mode to record video, alert contacts, and contact authorities. It’s a available for Pixel 4a or newer Pixel phones.

Live Translate

Google Pixel 6 event 2021 live translate
Luka Mlinar / Android Authority

Live Translate makes it possible to easily decipher chat, calls, media, real-world text, and in-person conversations. It doesn’t require you typing, copying, or anything else. Additionally, it is available on non-Pixel devices, too, but on Pixel 6 and newer devices, it is made to take advantage of the Tensor chipset to do most of the processing locally. Other devices will depend on an internet connection to let Google do all the work server-side.

Circle to Search

This is actually a Samsung Galaxy S24 feature, but Google introduced it to the Pixel 8 series, too. Circle to Search allows you to long-press the home button or on the navigation bar. After this, you can circle, highlight, tap, or scribble over the content on your screen. The info will be sent to Google Search.

Are you not convinced by the Pixel features? Here are some of the best Pixel 8 alternatives, just in case you need help finding another platform.

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