I’ve been using the Google Pixel for a few months now, and while I do love it, it requires a couple of tweaks to make it perfect. I’ve learned a couple of tips and tricks that I want to share with you. Bear in mind these tips are written specifically for the Pixel but most will work with other Android phones too (I’m sorry Apple and Windows Phone users, but I don’t have any tips for you as of yet).
Tip 1: Notification Light
Most of you will have noticed that Samsung Galaxy phones have a notification light that blinks whenever you have something that needs attention, allowing you to check at a glance if someone is trying to get hold of you. However, most people don’t realise that the Google Pixel also has a notification light, and that’s because it’s turned off by default. It’s located at on left in the speaker at the top of the front of the device. If you want to turn it on, what you have to do is go to Settings > Notifications and click the gear icon in the top-right corner. From there, select “Pulse notification light” to turn it on. Unfortunately, there are no built-in customisation options for this yet like there are with the Samsung Galaxy phones, but it does have different colours for different apps (e.g. Messages has a blue light and Snapchat has a red one). It’s only a little thing, but I find it very useful at times.
Tip 2: Ultra Battery Saver
The Google Pixel does have its own battery saver, but all it really does it disable a few animations, turn off some background syncing and disable vibrations. I’ve found that it doesn’t make enough of a difference in battery life to be really significant on its own, so I hunted around for a few more things that can be used in conjunction with the battery saver to really increase your phone’s battery life when you’re in a pinch.
Step 1: Configure Battery Saver
I know I said I’d found things for you to use along with the battery saver mode, but it’s important that you have it configured to your liking first. Luckily this doesn’t take long as there’s only one setting that can be changed – when it activates. To do this, go to Settings > Battery > Battery saver > Turn on automatically. You can then select when you want your phone to automatically switch to battery saving mode, at 5%, 15% or never. I recommend having it set at 15% because it gives you the most warning that your phone is about to die and will preserve it the longest.
Step 2: Go Black & White
I’ve only found one way of doing this so far without having to install external apps. Unfortunately, it’s hidden away in Developer Options and has to be turned on manually every time you reach low battery. There are apps to do this automatically at 15% battery, but they require root access in order to function correctly.
In order to enable Developer Options on your device, go to Settings > About phone, scroll to the bottom and tap the build number until you are notified that you are a developer. This will allow you to access Developer Options from Settings. Once you’re in, scroll down to the section titled “Hardware accelerated rendering” and select the bottom option (called “Simulate colour space”). From there choose Monochromacy. You should then see that your screen has become black and white.
The reason this saves a lot of battery is because the Pixel has an AMOLED screen, meaning that when a pixel is meant to show black, it is just turned off completely, saving massive amounts of power.
Step 3: Aeroplane Mode and Bluetooth
This one may seem pretty self-explanatory, but most people forget to switch their phones to aeroplane mode when at low battery. Of course, if you desperately need internet access then you can turn WiFi back on, but constantly searching for mobile and data signal does use the battery and turning it off will help a lot.
Turning off Bluetooth will save your charge as well, for the exact same reason. Bluetooth uses a lot of power looking for nearby devices that are in pairing mode.
Step 4: Pixel Battery Saver
Pixel Battery Saver is a fantastic app available on the Play Store for free (though a Pro upgrade is available, but not really necessary). What it does is disable pixels in a grid pattern, meaning your phone is only using a fraction of what it would be to power the screen. All you have to do is search “Pixel Battery Saver” on the Play Store, download it and grant it a couple of permissions (don’t worry, it’s safe). You can then choose which ‘mesh’ you’d like to use. Each one turns off a different amount of pixels, depending on how much clarity you want and how much battery you want to save. Unfortunately, Mesh 1 and Mesh 5 are only for Pro users, but 2, 3 and 4 are all free and work just as well. The higher the number you choose, the more battery you’ll save. I would also recommend making sure “Display notification” is selected so you can enable and disable the mesh as and when you want from your notification list. It’s a semi-hidden notification so it won’t show on the home screen or display an icon in the top-left, but if you swipe down from the top you’ll see it. All you have to do then is swipe down on the banner itself and tap the Enable/Disable button to toggle the mesh. It means you don’t have to go into the app each time your phone reaches low power.
That’s it! By doing those four things you’ll be able to keep your Android phone alive when it’s running low on charge.
Tip 3: Gestures
The Pixel comes with some pretty sweet options when it comes to gestures. To access the gestures menu, go to Settings > Moves. This gives you a list of available gestures and an animated GIF for each one. There are only five, but they’re all fantastic for moving around your phone just that little bit quicker. I’ve outlined the five of them below.
Swipe for Notifications
This is my personal favourite of the five. If you enable this, you’ll be able to swipe down on the fingerprint sensor to check your notifications. It works the same as swiping down from the top of your screen, so swiping a second time will expand the quick access menu so you can turn on Bluetooth or Aeroplane mode quickly (or whatever you’ve got on the first page, see more below).
Jump to Camera
This one is also very useful and remarkably simple. It allows you to double-press the power button to instantly jump to the camera app. It’s perfect for capturing those fleeting photo opportunities, such as your friend or child blowing out their birthday candles.
This is the only gesture I have disabled on my phone, and that’s only because I don’t often use the selfie camera. To put it simply, when in the camera app, double-twist your phone to switch between the front and back cameras. The GIF in the menu explains this much better than I can.
Double-tap or Lift to Check Notifications
I’ve bundled these two together because they’re very similar and are basically two ways of activating the same feature. When your phone is locked, you can either double-tap the screen or lift the phone to bring up a black and white screen that only displays the time, date and any notifications you have. In a way, it’s similar to the Always On Screen feature found on other Android phones, but it uses slightly less battery.
Tip 4: Configure Quick Access
You know that bar at the top of your notifications list that allows you to turn on or off certain features such as WiFi or your torch? You can edit it. Just swipe down from the top of your screen two times to bring up the expanded view, and at the top, you’ll notice a little pencil icon. Tap that and you’ll be shown a drag and drop menu of your Quick Access toolbar. Keep in mind that only the first six icons are shown in the normal notifications screen, so make sure those are the most important ones to you (I personally have the default ones because I don’t use the other features all that often. I’ve also added the Cast icon to the expanded view for use with the Google Home and the Chromecast (read my opinions on them here and here respectively). Again, this is just a little tip to speed up how you get around your device.
I hope these tips have been useful to you, and if you have your own that you want to share, or you want to give feedback, make sure to leave all that in the comments section below. Also, let me know if you’re excited for the Pixel 2 which should be releasing later this year!