COOL TIP: Get The Most From Your Pixel 3 Smartphone

We got our hands on the new Pixel 3 phone and color us mighty impressed!  It might be the smartest current smart phone on the market.  When talking about Pixel smart phones, it’s all about the software.  Its hardware is average – good but nothing remarkable.  However, Pixels shine brighter than most all other phones because of their brains….both in the phone and in the Google ecosphere.  That’s why using any version of the Pixel requires a bit of effort to delve into the phones’ impressive functionality.    While much is written about the Pixel 3 photo capabilities, there’s a lot more under the hood of this 6″ device.  Read on to learn more.

The Camera

It’s no secret that the Pixel cameras rock.  That’s because Google is continually upgrading its algorithms and ramping up the AI to create computational photography.   Your smart phone gets smarter each time you use the camera.  There are four major upgrades to Pixel photography, thanks to the just released Android Pie 9.0:

Night Sight Mode

Lighting vexes the best photographers, but this function changes all that.  By choosing the Night Sight option, you enable Pixels HDR+ processing to boost colors and brightness.  If the camera detects a dark environment, a pop-up suggestion automatically appears.  Best used in rooms with dim lighting or evening shots that you want to appear to look day-lit.

HDR+ Processing

Google has deployed a proprietary technology that reduces “noise” and enlivens colors.  In reality, it is taking a burst of shots and then combining the best of each image to create one final version of that image.   Oddly enough, it is not automatically enabled.  You need to go into the camera’s advanced settings and enable the HDR+ control. Since the Pixel’s HDR+ is the best and most important part of its picture taking process, it is essential that you turn this on the minute that you buy your phone.

Quick Launch Camera

There’s no need to fumble about to open up the camera.  Google has created Quick Launch to enable one-step photography.  You need only 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.  Then enable “jump to camera” to allow quick access from any screen.

Free Backup

One benefit to buying a Google Pixel phone is that Google gives you free, unlimited original quality backup of your photos and videos using the Google Photos app. (of course, it’s not all so benevolent.  Google will monetize the data that you are providing it, for free)  In order to begin to enable this free backup, open the Photos app and enable backup. It’ll be the first prompt you see.’

Other Camera Upgrades

All of the following functions are automatically enabled.  You should try using each one the first time you use the camera in order to gain an appreciation of all of the photographic tools that Google gives you:

  • Photobooth which waits for you to smile or make a funny face before snapping a selfie.
  • Topshot takes multiple frames a few seconds before and after you take the shot and then suggests the best one.
  • Playground opens up an AR sticker feature that puts characters like Marvel’s Iron Man in the picture of you or your subjects.
  • Super Res Zoom allows the user to zoom in on a subject without compromising on quality.
  • Motion Auto Focus – tap on a moving subject and the new Pixels will automatically track it and keep it in focus. Great for shots of pets and children.

Call screening

One of the cooler AI features is a voicemail feature on steroids.  When you receive a call, you are given an option to push Call Screen.” The caller will be asked to say why they’re calling and that answer will be transcribed on your phone in real time. Then, you can choose to take the call, have Assistant read one of several pre-set statements, or immediately mark the number as spam. Because this option is set to default, there’s nothing you need to do to enable it. But you can revise it.  For example, you can change the voice (defaults to female).  Just tap the three vertical dots on the top right of the phone app to go into settings, from there go to Call Screen > Voice and choose the male voice option.

Night Light

Blue light is not your friend when you are trying to sleep.  Most phone manufacturers now offer a blue light filter that can be scheduled to kick in near bedtime. Google concurs, as should you.   So, go into Settings > Display > Night Light and tap Schedule.   There, you can choose to set a time for blue light to turn on or automatically align it with sunset and sunrise in your area.  You may also want to consider including Night Light as part of your Wind Down bedtime routine in Settings > Digital Wellbeing.

Dark Mode

Android Pie 9.0 introduces a dark mode for your display, in order to help with battery efficiency.  We also think it is more readable.  The feature can be enabled 24/7, or you can set it so that your wallpaper determines the color of the shortcut and notification shade. Open Settings > Display > Advanced>Device theme to select your preference.

Digital Wellbeing

Google is leading the way in helping people control their smartphone usage.  It does this by offering an array of digital well-being settings.  This function displays the daily or hourly view of the time spent on your phone, how frequently you use different apps, and how many notifications you receive.  It also offers tools by which you can reduce interruptions, set a bedtime schedule, activate blue light or turn the display to a graytone.   Our favorite is Flip to Shhh.   As the name suggests, when you place your phone face down it activates a Do Not Disturb status.  How easy is that?   Toggle for Flip to Shhh in Settings > Digital Wellbeing.

Active Edge

This is another one-step process that comes in quite handy.   Want to turn on Assistant without touching the screen?  An Active Edge option can be enabled in the Gestures menu.  Once activated, it opens Assistant whenever you squeeze the long sides of the phone.  It works when the phone is asleep, as well.  In the settings, you can choose how hard you need to squeeze the phone.  Oh, and you can use this same function to silence alarms and timers.  One squeeze does it.

Wireless Charging

Wireless charging is unique to the Pixel 3.   Google has been late to the wireless charging game, but there’s a method to its madness.  Along with the Pixel 3, Google is selling a Pixel Stand.   Not only does it offer 10KW wireless charging, it also enables special features on Pixel 3 to essentially turn it into a Smart Display.   With a Pixel 3, you don’t need a Home Hub or any other smart display – your smart phone becomes a smart display once placed on the Stand.

Google Sounds

Pixel Sounds as the audio equivalent of a display app. It offers an enhanced variety of sounds in a bunch of different categories. Access the Sounds app by going to Settings> Sound> Advanced>Default Notification.  This allows you to change your ringtone or notification sounds.

Home Screen Rotation

Remarkably, this useful function comes automatically disabled.  One of the first steps after unboxing this phone is to head over to Settings > Display>Auto-rotate Screen.  Once enabled.  The home screen will display in landscape when held horizontally, rather than always displaying in portrait.

Always On

If you enjoy having the screen always show the time, date, and weather on your lock screen, you can make that happen with Always On.  Head to Settings > Display > Advanced > Ambient Display. Here you’ll find the option for the always-on display.  One nice touch is that you can also include Now Playing – Google’s song ID feature – on the lock screen.   You can find this feature under Notifications.   Because this feature uses the battery, you may want to disable it if you have an older phone that has lost its juice.   You might also consider enabling on Double-tap to check phone and Lift to check phone, although either of these options is probably sufficient.


Security is strongly enhanced in the new Pixel OS. It now includes convenient secure-unlock options like the fingerprint sensor and Smart Lock.  You can go one step further with Lockdown mode. It comes in handy when you are traveling or are in an unfamiliar place.  It deactivates certain features in order to make your phone more secure. Lockdown accessible in Settings > Security and Location > Lock screen preferences>Show Lockdown Option. It’s just an on-and-off toggle, which then adds Lockdown to your power menu.  Once you’ve completed these steps, hold the power button and you get Lockdown as an option next to shut down and restart.   It allows you to temporarily disable the Fingerprint Unlock, Smart Lock, and Notifications on the lock screen.  So now, in order to unlock the phone, you’ll need to use either the PIN or a pre-programmed pattern.

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