Pixel 4: 6 hidden features you need to try right away

You want to get the most out of your new Pixel, right? Read this.

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

The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL sure are lookers. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL are here. Google's latest phones have fancy new camera features and an improved assistant, and you can control them by waving your hand over the display. Both devices run Android 10 out of the box, which has its own share of features you should check out -- such as Live Caption

I've poked around the Pixel 4 for a few days now, and have found some hidden features you definitely need to check out. 

Whether it's customizing the overall look of your home screen, or setting up a new Safety app that can detect car crashes, I have you covered. 

Watch this: Pixel 4 and 4 XL have awesome cameras but high prices

Pick from Google's Styles, or create your own. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Pixel Styles

You can pick from a set of Pixel 4 themes, which change things like the wallpaper and the shape and font of the app icons. If you don't like the default styles you can create your own. 

The easiest way to get to the Styles section is to long-press on an empty spot on the home screen, select Styles & wallpapers and select the Styles tab on the bottom of the screen. 

Scroll through the different styles that Google provides, or select the Custom option to create your own. 


The Pixel 4's Come Alive wallpapers interact with your movement. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Come Alive wallpapers

While we're on the topic of changing the theme of your Pixel 4, be sure to check out the Come Alive wallpapers. You can access the wallpaper options with a long-press on the home screen followed by selecting Styles & wallpapers. Select the Wallpapers tab at the bottom of the screen if needed, and then tap on the Come Alive section. 

The wallpapers in this section are all interactive, subtly moving and responding to your movements using the Motion Sense feature. Think of them as an improved version of Android's Live Wallpapers that have been around for years. 

This is also where you'll find the interactive Pokemon Sidekick wallpaper that features Pikachu, among other characters. 


Keep in mind: The higher the refresh rate, the bigger the impact on battery life. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Adjust the display's refresh rate

The Pixel 4's display has a maximum refresh rate of 90Hz, which should lead to a smoother overall viewing experience, especially during routine tasks like scrolling. Out of the box, your Pixel 4's screen will automatically adjust its refresh rate, alternating between the more standard 60Hz and 90Hz. The downside is that this uses more battery power. Thankfully, you can disable the variable refresh rate and limit the display to the more standard 60Hz by going to Settings > Display > Advanced > Smooth Display and sliding the switch to the Off position. 

Alternatively, you can force the Pixel 4's display to constantly run at 90Hz in developer options. But first you'll need to enable developer options. Open the Settings app and go to About Phone and then tap on Build Number at the bottom of the screen until you see a message congratulating you on becoming a developer. Next, go back to the Settings app and select System > Developer options. Scroll down until you find the option labeled Force 90 Hz refresh rate and turn it on. Keep in mind, however, this is going to use more battery. 


The Pixel 4's camera makes it easier to quickly share with your favorite social apps.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Quick share in the camera app

When you take a picture in the camera app, you might notice a small thumbnail with an arrow next to it. This is a new feature called Social Share that provides shortcuts to quickly share the photo you just captured to a handful of social apps. 

The first time you tap on the arrow, you'll be asked to turn on the apps or services you want to see in the Social Share drawer. Going forward, any time you tap on the arrow, icons for the apps you've added will be available in the drawer. 

Storage saver

With a base storage of 64GB for all Pixel 4 models, you may find yourself running out of space before long. Google's Pixel phones have a feature called Storage Saver that proactively manages the storage on your phone by doing things like deleting photos and videos that have been backed up after a set period of time. 

Make sure to enable Smart Storage in Settings > Storage > Smart Storage. You can pick between waiting 30, 60 or 90 days before removing the local copy of photos. 


The Safety app can detect car crashes.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Safety app

A new Safety app that comes preinstalled on the Pixel 4 is in the app drawer. Safety is designed to help you in an emergency. After signing into the app with your Google account, you'll be asked to select an emergency contact and enter any important medical information such as your blood type or any allergies you have. 

Perhaps the coolest feature here is that you can enable automatic crash detection which will alert emergency personal and your contacts that you've been in an accident.

Be sure to check out our Pixel 4 camera samples, as well as our full reviews of the Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL