Pixel 3: 10 settings to change right away

Default settings aren't always the best settings.

Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
4 min read
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Google's Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have a lot to like. They're fast, have incredible displays, and the camera is simply amazing.

With Android Pie 9.0 on each device, there are some settings and features that you'll surely want to tweak as you set up and begin using your phone. Here are ten such settings you should change right away. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Lockdown is a feature that will disable the fingerprint sensor on your phone should you find yourself in a less-than-ideal situation. Once you trigger Lockdown, the phone immediately locks and the only way to unlock it is to enter your passcode.

You'll first need to enable Lockdown by going to Settings > Security & location > Lock screen preferences > Show Lockdown option. With Lockdown enabled, trigger it by holding in the power button and selecting Lockdown from the popup.

A close look at the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL

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Wind Down

Digital Wellbeing keeps track of how many notifications you receive in a day, the number of times you pick up or unlock your phone, and how much time you spend in various apps on your phone.

Once you get over the amount of time you spend in Facebook or watching YouTube, enable Wind Down. This feature will put your phone's display in grayscale mode and enable Do Not Disturb. Trust me, when you start looking at Instagram in black and white, you want to put your phone down -- and fast.

Where to go: Settings > Digital Wellbeing > Wind Down. In Wind Down's settings you can also tailor how the feature works, including when the feature turns on/off, and whether or not you want grayscale and DND to activate during that time. 

Active Edge

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

You can still squeeze the sides of either Pixel 3 model to summon Google Assistant if you're into that kind of thing. If you find yourself accidentally triggering Assistant, you can change the amount of pressure required to trigger the feature, or turn it off altogether.

Where to go: Settings > System > Gestures > Active edge.

Flip to Shhh

One of my favorite features of the Pixel 3 is the ability to turn on DND and silence the phone just by placing it face down on a table or desk. To enable the feature go to Settings > System > Gestures > Flip to Shhh. It will admittedly take you some time to get used to the idea that your phone is silenced when you place it face down -- and you may miss a phone call or two. But eventually you'll get the hang of it and find it to be a useful feature.  

Ambient display

When your Pixel is sitting idle, an always-on display feature called Ambient Display is used. Ambient Display shows you the current time, pending notifications, the weather, and even what song is playing via the Now Playing feature.

If you'd rather not use the Ambient Display, or you want to modify how it works, head to the Settings app to customize your experience.

Where to go: Settings > Display > Advanced > Ambient display.

Now Playing

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

When music is playing around you -- in a coffee shop, for example -- the song name and artist will show up along the bottom of your phone's ambient display. The Pixel 3 will identify songs without ever sending any data to Google.

Google updated Now Playing to keep a history of what it identifies, making it easy to go back and find a song you liked on your preferred streaming service. You can enable Now Playing and create a shortcut to its history in the Settings app.

Where to go: Settings > Sound > Now Playing.

Fingerprint gesture

The fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone can be used as a trackpad of sorts. Specifically, you can enable the sensor to use a swipe down across the sensor as a gesture to pull down the notification shade, revealing any pending alerts you may have.

Enable or disable the feature to fit your preference.

Where to go: Settings > System > Gestures > Swipe fingerprint for notifications.

Enable Wi-Fi Calling

Wi-Fi Calling is a handy feature if you're in an area with poor reception. This year, it seems, more carriers are supporting Wi-Fi calling on the Pixel 3 line. For example, the Pixel 2 with an AT&T SIM card lacked Wi-Fi calling. However, a Pixel 3 XL with the same AT&T SIM now lists Wi-Fi Calling as an option.

Where to go: Settings > Network & internet > Mobile network > Advanced > Wi-Fi calling.

Adjust display to your liking

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Last year's Pixel 2 XL took a lot of heat for its display and its quality of colors. Google eventually added display color options, and for the most part, the complaints stopped.

With the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, the displays are nearly perfect. However, you can still adjust the color saturation to your liking. You have three options: Natural, Boosted and Adaptive. The Pixel 3 ships with "Adaptive" set as the default.

Where to go: Settings > Display > Advanced > Colors. There you can pick from Natural, Boosted or Adapative. As you change each setting, a preview is adjusted to give you a better idea of what you'll see. 

Smart Storage

Smart Storage Pixel 3 XL
Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Double-check that Smart Storage is enabled on your Pixel 3 after it's set up. Smart Storage analyzes which files, apps, photos and videos you use, and then can proactively (or on demand) suggest things to delete when your device starts to run out of storage space.

Where to go: Settings > Storage > Smart Storage.

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