HolidayBuyer's Guide

7 settings you should change on the Google Pixel

Google's Pixel phone is a stellar device out of the box, but there's some things you should change to get the most from your new phone.

Josh Miller
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Google's Pixel phones are pretty amazing. From Google Assistant, to an outstanding camera, Google has done a lot of things right with its newest flagship phone.

In order to get the most from your Pixel or Pixel XL, here are seven settings you should set up or change right away.

Use Wi-Fi Assistant

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Photo by Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

To help ease the amount of wireless data you consume, enable Google's Wi-Fi Assistant feature. When turned on, your Pixel will automatically connect to known, "high-quality" networks. By automatically connecting to a Wi-Fi network when you're away from home or the office, your cellular data plan will be spared when possible. And the ensure your data is safe on a public Wi-Fi network, Wi-Fi Assistant includes a VPN service to keep your personal information private.

Open the Settings app, select Wi-Fi, tap on the Settings gear in the top-right corner. Slide the switch next to "Use open Wi-Fi automatically" to the On position.

Going forward, your Pixel will connect to Wi-Fi networks on its own, displaying a key icon with the Google "G" logo next to it.

Give Live Wallpapers another shot

Photo by Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Live wallpapers on Android devices were always a good idea, but lacked execution. Battery life often suffered from live wallpapers, and the wallpapers were very dramatic. Sure, it's fun to tap on the screen and watch colorful lines dart across the screen, but is it really useful?

With the Pixel, Google has revamped the wallpaper section, adding live wallpapers that slowly change throughout the day as your battery drains, or shows current cloud conditions based on your location. Better yet, they aren't a battery hog.

Additionally, you can now pick from one of Google's included categories, and enable Daily Wallpapers, a feature that changes wallpapers every 24 hours without any further input from you.

Long-press on your home screen and select Wallpaper to view the various options.

Enable 4K video

Photo by Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Included with the Pixel is unlimited, full resolution storage on Google Photos. Meaning, your phone will back up your high-resolution photos and videos without changing the overall quality -- and you'll never have to pay extra for it.

With that in mind, there's no reason not record in 4K instead of 1080p, the default resolution for the Pixel.

You can change video resolution in the camera app by sliding out the menu, selecting Settings, and selecting 4K under "Back camera video resolution."

Launch, set up Google Photos

Speaking of unlimited photo storage, be sure to launch Google Photos and set up the app. It takes a couple of taps to enable backup, which ensures your photos and videos are backed up to Google -- for free. I made the mistake of not setting up Photos and reset the phone after a couple days of use, losing everything in the process. Don't be like me.

The fingerprint sensor's hidden feature

Photo by Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

You can use the fingerprint reader on the back of the phone as a touchpad to pull down your notification shade with a quick swipe from any screen. The feature is turned off by default, but is easy to switch on.

Open Settings > Moves > Enable Swipe for Notifications.

Pixel's helpful shortcuts

While in the Moves section, you can enable or disable a feature that quickly opens the camera by double-pressing the power button. And a new gesture (similar to Motorola's twist gesture to launch the camera) will switch between the front and rear camera with a quick double-twist of the phone.

Not sure how the shortcuts work? Tap on the play button next to each Moves option to view a brief animation of the gesture in action.

Customize Google Assistant

Photo by Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

We will dive deeper into Google Assistant on the Pixel soon, but in the meantime, here's a tip to optimize it right away.

Long-press on the home button to bring up Assistant, then tap on the menu button in the top-right corner followed by Settings. In the Google Assistant settings you can tell Google whom you want news from, customize what information is included in your daily agenda, as well as tailor your personal information.

Sound familiar? It's basically a revamped version of Google Now.