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Google Pixel Features That Make These Phones Stand Out

Fully immerse yourself with all that your Pixel phone has to offer you.

Lisa Eadicicco Senior Editor
Lisa Eadicicco is a senior editor for CNET covering mobile devices. She has been writing about technology for almost a decade. Prior to joining CNET, Lisa served as a senior tech correspondent at Insider covering Apple and the broader consumer tech industry. She was also previously a tech columnist for Time Magazine and got her start as a staff writer for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide.
Expertise Apple, Samsung, Google, smartphones, smartwatches, wearables, fitness trackers
Lisa Eadicicco
6 min read
Pixel 7 Pro phone with Android 13 logo on screen, on a blue and pink background
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Google makes its Pixel phones stand out with software features you won't find on other devices. Many of Google's Pixel-specific features focus on areas like the camera, translation and the basic phone calling experience. If you're a new Pixel owner, you might not know exactly where to start. 

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Google currently sells three different Pixel models: the $449 Pixel 6A, $599 Pixel 7 and $899 Pixel 7 Pro. But you don't need Google's newest Pixels to make use of these features; many of them work on older devices, too. Keep in mind that some of these features might require a software update, or an update to Google's apps and services. 

With Google's I/O conference coming up in May, there's a chance we'll learn more about what the company has in store for its Pixel devices. The company sometimes announces new updates and features for apps and services like Google Photos, for example. And since it launched the Pixel 6A at Google I/O last year, there's a chance we could see a Pixel 7A this year. 

Whether you're interested in touching up old photos or having Google Assistant screen your calls, these tips will help you get the most out of your device. 

Add captions to videos with Live Caption

Did you know that your Pixel phone can automatically caption videos, podcasts, phone calls and more? Press the volume button and tap the Live Caption icon, which looks like a tiny box of text, to enable this feature. Live Caption works in English on the Pixel 2 and higher, so it should be available on any Pixel phone that's launched in the last five years. The captions are stored and processed locally and never leave your device, according to Google. 

You can also tweak certain settings, such as hiding profanity and adding labels to sounds like laughter and applause. Open the Settings and choose Live Caption to customize these options.

It's also important to note that Live Caption can drain additional battery, so you might want to only turn it on when you need it.

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Sharpen old pictures in your photo library

If you're anything like me, you have thousands of photos from the last decade stored on your phone or in a cloud service. And those photos don't look nearly as sharp and crisp as the ones taken on today's smartphones. Google has something that might help -- although it's only available on the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro. These devices have Google's new Tensor G2 processor, which unlocks a new feature called Photo Unblur.

As the name implies, Photo Unlur sharpens photos that are out of focus to make the subject look clearer. To use it, just open the Google Photos app on the Pixel 7 or 7 Pro, choose the photo you want to edit, tap the Edit button and select Tools. Then, tap Unblur.

Take better photos of the stars

Google's Pixel phones come with a feature that's specifically designed to help you snap photos of the night sky. It works on the Pixel 3 and higher, but you'll need to adjust your zoom settings to at least 1x if you're using the Pixel 4A 5G and later.

Google says the feature works best when taking photos away from city lights at least 45 to 90 minutes after sunset. You'll also need a tripod or some other steady surface rather than your hands to get the best results.

Just open the camera app, prop up your phone and make sure it's steady and tap Night Sight to get started. After a few seconds, you should see a message that says "Astrophotography on." Press the capture button and leave your phone alone until it's finished taking the photo. 

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Translate a screenshot in a different language

You can translate screenshots with text written in languages such as Spanish, German, French, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Italian and more with Google's Lens feature. Open the Google Photos app and select the screenshot you would like to translate. Then tap the Lens icon, which looks like a camera, and choose the Translate option. Google's support page says this feature should work on Android devices in general, not just Pixels. 

white Pixel 7 on a green table against a dark background
Watch this: Pixel 7 Pro Review: Google's Best Phone Gets Better

Switch to the selfie camera without pressing any buttons

You don't have to tap any buttons to switch between the Pixel's selfie camera and main camera. Simply open the Pixel's camera app and twist your phone twice to flip between the cameras. If you're not sure what I mean by "twist," Google has a helpful animation to show you. 

If you're still having trouble, check your Pixel's settings to make sure this feature is enabled. Open the settings app, choose System and select Flip camera for selfie.

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Have Google wait on hold for you

No one likes waiting on hold. If you have a Pixel 3 or later, you can have Google wait on hold and notify you when a representative becomes available. This feature, called Hold for Me, only works in English for devices in the US, Australia and Canada.

To have Google wait on hold, you'll have to do two things: Activate the feature, and then turn on Hold for Me during the phone call. For the first step, open the Pixel's Phone app and tap the three dots in the top right corner. Then, tap Settings, and Hold for Me. Tap the switch next to Hold for Me to make sure this feature is turned on.

Just be aware that Hold for Me may not work in every situation, and you can't play music or other audio while it's active. You'll also want to make sure your phone isn't on silent or vibrate mode. When you're on a call and have been placed on hold, tap the Hold for Me button and press Start.

See how long you might have to wait on hold

Google can also estimate the amount of time you might have to wait on hold when dialing businesses in the US. It's available on the Pixel 3A and later and works in English. Just open the Phone app, dial the number and you'll be presented with an estimate of how long you may be placed on hold. The estimate may vary depending on the time of day.

Have Google show automated phone menus on screen

There are times when you might not want to listen to every single option in an automated menu when calling a business. If you have a Pixel 3A or later, you'll be able to see these menu options on screen so that you don't have to remember them all. The Pixel 7 and 7 Pro can also show certain menu options before they're spoken on the phone call, Google says. I tested this by calling CVS and Allstate and, sure enough, Google was able to transcribe the spoken menu options in real time. 

Open an app or take a screenshot by tapping the back of your phone

Add a handy shortcut to your Pixel phone with Google's Quick Tap feature. This allows you to open an app, take a screenshot, play or pause media, or show notifications just by tapping twice on the back of your phone. It only works on more recent Google phones like the Pixel 4A 5G and later.

To turn on Quick Tap and customize its actions, open the settings menu and choose System. Then, select Gestures and Quick Tap. From here, turn Quick Tap on and select which action you'd like to perform when tapping the back of your device. 

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Have Google screen your calls 

Sick of robocalls? Google can hopefully help with its Call Screen feature, which works on all Pixel phones. When this feature is turned on, Google Assistant can answer an unknown call and ask who's calling and why. It will automatically hang up if it's a spam call, but you can see how the caller responded and decide to answer if it's a real caller.

Google doesn't screen calls from phone numbers that are saved in your contacts, and your Pixel won't automatically screen calls when you're using headphones or are connected to Bluetooth. 

To set up automatic call screening, open the phone app and tap the three dots in the top right corner. Select Settings and choose Spam and Call Screen. Make sure the switch next to See caller and spam ID is toggled on, and then press Call Screen

From here, you can choose how Google screens calls. For example, you can set it to screen spam calls, possibly faked numbers, first-time callers, and private or hidden callers. Just tap one of these categories and choose the Automatically screen. Decline Robocalls option

Looking for more Android tips? Be sure to check out our roundup of Android tricks to make your phone feel new again.