It's no secret that we're a fan of Google, and that love only gets stronger when thinking about the Google Pixel devices. We've already waxed lyrical about the fantastic Pixel 7 Pro, so this shouldn't come as a surprise – but we thought it was time to share a few of the reasons why we're so sweet on the whole range.
The fact is, Pixel phones go above and beyond to offer a whole host of extra features that you can't get anywhere else – and that includes other Android devices. Some of these features are practical and you'll quickly incorporate them into your daily routine. Others are just a bit of fun, and undeniably handy.
Narrowing down the list of Pixel features to just our favourites was tough, it's true. But like taking that last slice of pizza, someone's got to do it!
Let's start with the practical. It's undeniable that if you've ever filled out a form online and included your phone number, then you've probably received spam calls as a result of it. They’re just a nuisance we all have to live with, right? Well, no, actually.
Call Screen on Google Pixel devices is basically a dedicated personal assistant that screens your calls for you. When an unknown number calls, all you have to do is tap the Screen Call button, and Google Assistant helps you find out who the caller is. You can even see what the caller is saying, right there on your screen, and even respond with a suggested message.
Honestly, this one's a game-changer. No one sees the call transcript, and you can block unwanted spam calls without ever having to have that awkward interaction where you tell the caller no, you don't want to buy a funeral plan at the ripe old age of twenty-one.
Hold for Me
In a similar vein, if you've ever sat on hold for hours at a time waiting for a business to answer the phone, then you'll love Hold for Me.
It does exactly what it says on the tin, as in your Pixel will wait on hold for you while you go off and make better use of your time. When the call is finally answered, you'll get a notification and can take over from Google Assistant. Not bad, eh?
Direct My Call & Wait Times
We've bundled these two together for the sake of simplicity because they follow on quite nicely from Hold for Me.
Simply put, Direct My Call figures out what an automated system is saying when you call a business, and then provides you with options to navigate it more easily. There's no need to listen to the needlessly slow and endlessly polite automated voice asking you to press a certain number for a certain option – instead, Google jumps right to sending you where you want to go, without the fuss.
If, once you're through to the right place, there's a long hold time, then Wait Times comes in. It provides you with a fairly accurate estimate of how long you'll be on hold for, so you can choose to wait or simply hang up.
Here's a Google Pixel feature that's less about everyday practicality, and more about fun.
Perfect if you're a music fan, Now Playing uses sound detection software to listen in to music around you and identify the track. It works in plenty of environments too, from picking up tunes in the supermarket to recognising scores in films. And if your device hasn't quite picked up on the track yet, you can tap the little Now Playing icon on your lock screen to set it to search for it.
What's particularly smart about this feature is that it's got nothing to do with your data or wi-fi and doesn't require internet access to work. This is because it uses an on-device database on your Pixel that's constantly being updated – so it even works in Aeroplane Mode.
You're also able to see songs your phone identified when you weren't paying attention, in case you get something stuck in your head and you're not sure what it is. Any tracks your phone picks up on are collected in your Now Playing History – and from here, you can add them to a playlist in YouTube Music, to listen back to.
Google Pixel devices are called Pixel for good reason – because they excel when it comes to photography. But you wouldn't be the first person to feel overwhelmed by the options when it comes to photography modes in the camera app.
Not to worry – Google gets it. That's why it cleverly identifies what kind of image you're taking and automatically selects the best mode for the job. In the dark? Night Mode at the ready! Taking a close-up? Macro Mode is already selected. Of course, you can override these settings (because AI isn't actually as smart as us, yet.)
Beyond the auto options, there are plenty of other genius bits of camera software on board, so we thought we'd go over our favourites so you're not in the dark...
Top Shot has been around a while now, but it never fails to amaze. If you're browsing your pics in Google Photos on a Pixel, you might have noticed that some of them look like short videos or even GIFs. That's because Top Shot shoots and analyses around 90 images as you're taking the shot, so if you missed the exact moment you were going for, Top Shot has probably captured it for you.
Through Google Photos, you can see every shot the app takes (though it will automatically select the one the app thinks is best to preview), and you can then pick your favourite to save. You might even find there are a few shots you'd never have gone for that look fantastic.
If you know anything about shutter speed and long exposure in photography, then you'll love Motion Mode.
Put simply, Motion Mode helps you emphasise movement and action within a shot, using a motion blur or light trail effect. These images are particularly gorgeous in a shot of say, a moving car or a thundering waterfall, where you can easily get professional-looking results just by holding your camera still for a moment or two (Google will give you a little dot to aim for to help.)
Motion Mode isn't part of the Pixel's auto camera mode features, but it's available to use on the bottom menu of the camera app.
Face Unblur and Photo Unblur
Now that Pixels use the brilliant Google Tensor chipsets, there are a few newer camera features that are honestly amazing. Yes, they're powered by AI and might eventually take over the world, but our photos of the apocalypse will look great, right?
Face Unblur and Photo Unblur are two of the best examples of this smart computational photography. They're perfect for sharpening, bringing out detail, and cutting down on noise in your photos, so you can get a great picture even when you're shooting something challenging, like pets, small children or Barry Allen.
It works by detecting the potential for motion blur before you've even pressed the shutter and then cleverly shoots multiple images for you to make sure you don't miss anything. All of these are then put together using the Tensor chipset's machine learning, to create a final photo that has much better image quality.
Last but not least of the camera features is Magic Eraser, which while not actually magic, is pretty darn close.
Another one that uses smart Tensor technology to work photography miracles, it's quite self-explanatory – it lets you remove unwanted parts of your image. It's not fiddly to use, either – and sometimes Google will even make suggestions for things you might want to take out of an image.
From Google Photos, just pop into Tools and tap Magic Eraser. From there, draw a little circle around the thing you want to remove, and Magic Eraser will get rid of it and replace it with its best estimation of what the image should look like based on the surroundings.
Google Pixel Support
Although we've given you a whole bunch of our favourite Pixel features here, Google Pixel Support might be the best just because it's the easiest way for you to explore your new Pixel phone and find out what yourfavourite features are.
Google Pixel Support is made up of three things: Google Pixel Guide Books, Google Pixel Help Centre and Google Pixel Videos. Depending on your preferred format, each offers a number of ways to get the most out of your Pixel, right from the day you take it out of the box.
With Google Pixel Guide Books, you can get to know the ins and outs of your device and learn how to set it up (including the pesky job of transferring data over from your old device.) Guide Books are also handy for showing you how to personalise your device and offer a bunch of tips and tricks that you won't want to miss.
If you prefer more of an FAQ format, Google Pixel Help Centre includes answers to all of the most commonly asked questions about getting started with a Pixel device, making sure your accessories are working properly, and even protecting and securing your data and phone.
Finally, if you'd rather listen and watch to get the info you're after, Google Pixel Videos on the brand's YouTube channel are probably the best choice for you. You can browse the channel for tips on getting started, as well as getting the best from your device, like improving your battery usage and sorting out notifications, settings and connected Bluetooth devices.