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Google Pixel 8 tips: Take your Pixel experience to the next level

Get the most out of Google's best flagships yet.
By

Published onApril 16, 2024

google pixel watch 2 buds pro 8 pro family bay blue 2
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Google’s Pixel devices are loaded with AI and machine learning features designed to make life easier. However, the best Tensor-powered tricks aren’t always immediately apparent. Sometimes, you must do some digging and accessorizing to get the most out of your new Pixel phone. Other times, you rely on experts to guide your experience. This is one of those times.

We’ve been using the devices for the last few months to find the features that make Google’s Pixels stand out. Here are eight tips to get the most out of your Pixel 8 device.

Of course, you should first check for a software update — so that doesn’t count as one of our tips. Our Pixel 8 Pro had a substantial update waiting for it as soon as we opened the box, so it’s always a good idea to ensure you’re on the latest software before exploring and customizing your experience. Once that’s out of the way, it’s time to dig into the rest of the Pixel 8 features.


Google Pixel 8 tips & tricks


Generate some AI wallpapers

google pixel 8 pro ai wallpaper 2
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

The second thing (after checking for updates) we do with almost every phone is to make it feel a bit more personal. We’ll get into a few additional customization options in a second, but the easiest way to set your Pixel 8 apart is to choose a new wallpaper. Sure, you can pull a neat wallpaper off X or use a photo you’ve taken, but Google has a powerful new Android 14 tool you might be interested in instead — AI-generated wallpapers.

That’s right, there’s essentially no limit to the number of wallpapers you can fire up, so long as you find different ways to combine Google’s prompts. The process is as easy as choosing any other wallpaper, just follow these steps:

  1. Press on your home screen to open the wallpaper menu.
  2. Select Wallpaper & style.
  3. Tap More wallpapers.
  4. Choose AI wallpaper.
  5. Select your category and confirm your prompts.

Google will generate a few options based on your glorified Mad Lib answers, so it’s easy to swipe back and forth to choose the one you want. We’ve already made a few of our own, which you can check out here.

We also have plenty of great themed wallpapers just ready for your Pixel 8 device if you don’t want to meddle with AI. Whether you like minimalist wallpapers, nature-inspired wallpapers, or dark wallpapers, there’s a screen for you.


Set up Face Unlock

google pixel 8 pro face unlock
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Another Tensor G3-powered Pixel tip is to set up Google’s enhanced Face Unlock. After chasing Apple’s gold standard, Face ID, the Pixel 8 series has finally achieved Class 3 security (the highest on an Android phone), meaning you can use it for mobile payments and purchases rather than just unlocking your device. Instead of adopting a bulkier infrared setup like Apple uses for Face ID, the Pixel 8 series achieves its level of security with clever machine learning algorithms to keep the actual hardware to a minimum.

Once again, you may have already set this up during your first few minutes with the Pixel 8, but here are the steps to follow otherwise:

  1. Head to the Settings menu.
  2. Open the Security section.
  3. Look for the section marked Face & Fingerprint Unlock and tap on it.
  4. Enter your PIN or passcode to access your biometrics.
  5. Select the Face Unlock option and follow the setup steps.

However, Google’s Face Unlock isn’t perfect. It doesn’t work in dark rooms or when wearing sunglasses or other face covering, so we recommend setting up a fingerprint or two.


Customize your lock screen

google pixel 8 pro lock screen with pixel buds pro
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Once you’ve perfected your wallpaper using Google’s generative AI, it’s time to hop into the rest of your customization options. Sure, you’ve been able to change the color of your clock and app icons for a few years thanks to Material You, but Android 14 introduces tons of new clock style options to choose from. I opted for a funky lava lamp look to match the colorful UFOs and canyon in my wallpaper above, but there are seven others to swap between. If that’s not enough, you can also switch the shortcuts in each corner or turn them off altogether. Here’s how to access your lock screen settings:

  1. Press and hold on your home screen.
  2. Open Wallpaper & style.
  3. Select Lock screen.
  4. Swipe back and forth to change clock styles.
  5. Tap Shortcuts to choose from the available options.

Turn on Now Playing

google pixel 8 pro now playing
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

If you’ve used a Google Pixel device before, you’re probably already familiar with Now Playing. If not, it will quickly become one of your favorite features. Essentially, Now Playing means that you can kiss Shazam goodbye and let the Google Assistant identify songs for you — automatically. After all, it’s impossible to know every band and song off the top of your head, so it’s much easier to let the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro do the listening for you. If you didn’t set up Now Playing during the first few minutes with your new Pixel device, here’s how to do it after the fact:

  1. Head to the Settings menu.
  2. Open the search bar and type “now playing.”
  3. Flip the toggle to On.

Protect your Pixel 8 with a case

google pixel 8 in case
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Google’s Pixel 8 series is built as tough as ever, combining aluminum and Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and back. However, it’s still not invincible — no phone is. Given enough drops and abuse, you can still crack the display or back glass if you’re not careful. That’s why we recommend investing a bit of money in a reliable protective case, and we’ve picked out a few of our favorites to guide your accessorizing.

The good news is that there are probably more options for Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro cases now than there have ever been. Sure, you can go with Google’s first-party option (though we want the fabric case back), or you can open your horizons to a mountain of third-party cases. Depending on which way you go, you’ll find some cases with carbon fiber, others that incorporate wallets, and even more — like cases from Moment — that open the door to even more camera accessories.


Check a temperature on the Pixel 8 Pro

Pixel 8 Pro vs Stanley IR Thermometer measuring coffee temperature
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Up next, we have a Pixel 8 Pro exclusive. Google added a temperature sensor to its premium flagship, which is… an interesting addition, we guess. It mostly feels like a solution in search of a problem, as we addressed in our Pixel 8 Pro review, but it’s worth testing out once or twice. Google is still waiting for FDA approval to use its temperature sensor on humans, so it’s limited to objects and surfaces for now. As such, you probably don’t want to toss out your reliable thermometer just yet or trust it to send a sick kid to school.

What you can do — at least for now — is use the temperature sensor in the kitchen. It’s helpful to check whether your pan is hot enough to make a grilled cheese or if your coffee has cooled to the point it won’t burn your mouth. You could use your hand to reach the same conclusions, but now you could use a $1,000 smartphone, too.

Even if you don’t plan to use the temperature sensor very often, the fact that Google added it as a hardware feature means the company is back to experimenting with advanced options now that it’s settled on a design language and made some solid progress with the Tensor chip.

In a related note, there are several Google Pixel 8 problems you might encounter on your journey with your new phone, but there are solutions to match.


Try manual camera controls on the Pixel 8 Pro

google pixel 8 pro manual camera sliders
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The other Pixel 8 Pro exclusive feature is one that we’ve been begging for. Google’s Pro-level flagship finally has manual camera controls. Don’t worry — you can still tap the shutter button and let the Tensor G3 do all the work, but now you can control the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, too. After all, there are some times when we’d rather trust our own abilities over the endlessly clever Tensor chip, so it’s nice to have the option.

There’s no fancy process to find or activate the Pixel 8 Pro’s manual settings, just open the Pixel Camera app. From there, tap the small slider icon in the bottom right corner. This will open a menu with options for brightness, shadow, white balance, and more.


Pick up a compatible charger

Google Pixel 8 USB C charging test
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Now that the Tensor G3 doesn’t burn with the heat of a thousand suns, the Pixel 8 series is getting impressive battery life. It’s easy to cruise beyond a day of usage with solid screen-on time. However, even the best batteries will run out eventually. When they do, it’s important to have a compatible charger to get the best speeds out of your Pixel 8 device. Google still claims you’ll see the best results with its in-house 30W charger, but any USB PD PPS-enabled block will do.

The good news is that Google’s Pixel flagships are closer to hitting its lofty 30W claims this year — a big improvement from generations past. We put both phones through their paces in a charging gauntlet, and you can see the results here. Google also bumped the wireless charging capabilities, though it again recommends the in-house Pixel Stand for the best results.


Turn on flashlight notifications

google pixel 8 pro vs pixel 8 cameras side by side
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Our last Pixel 8 tip is, in some ways, the return of a classic. You might remember LED notifications from a few years ago before they largely disappeared like removable batteries and headphone jacks. Then, a little company called Nothing introduced the Glyph Interface and made LEDs popular again. Granted, the Pixel 8 series doesn’t go quite as far as Nothing’s customizable array, but it’s a flashy alternative to standard options like vibrate.

Google slid Flash notifications, as it’s calling them, under the Accessibility menu, meaning that the setup process is slightly different than simply changing your volume. Here’s what to do:

  1. Open the Accessibility settings.
  2. Scroll down to the Audio section.
  3. Tap Flash notifications.
  4. Toggle Camera flash, Screen flash, or both, and choose the color of your screen flash.

Those are our favorite ways to get the most out of the Pixel 8 series. Let us know if we missed one of your favorite features in the comments, and check out the best prices on the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro below.