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7 Google Pixel phone settings you should change immediately (and how to do it)

Just upgraded to a Google Pixel? Change these settings for the most complete and optimal experience.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro
Kerry Wan/ZDNET

If you just bought a new Google Pixel phone, or are planning to buy one in the near future, there's a handful of settings that you should know about before you venture out with your newfound pocket companion. 

Also: I changed this Android setting to instantly double my phone speed

Modifying some of these settings will be up to your personal taste, but all of them will generally improve the performance and reliability of your Pixel phone. Who wouldn't want that?

See below for the list of the key changes I always make when setting up a Google Pixel, including why each one is significant and how you can do the same with your own device.

1. Double the speed via Developer Options

To start, let's tweak the one setting that will make every other task on this list faster to complete: Dialing up your phone's animations. We're basically allowing the Pixel to run all of its animations, from opening and closing apps to bringing down the notification panel, in double time. Here's how.

Open your settings > scroll down to About phone > find the Build number (which should be at the very bottom of the list) > and tap the tile seven times. A message should pop up saying that Developer Options is now turned on.

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Go back to your main settings list > tap on System > Developer Options > and then scroll down until you find the animation scale tiles. Tap on each one and adjust the value from 1x to .5x. This means that all of your phone animations will now take half of the time to execute.

2. Turn on Smooth Display

Last year's $499 7a made it clear that high refresh rates are becoming the new norm. Sort of. While even mid-range Pixel phones now sport at least 90Hz displays, the smoother refresh rate is not always turned on by default. Here's how to flip the switch.

Also: Leak reveals the Pixel 8a's specs, with big upgrades on the way

Open up your settings > tap on Display > and then toggle on Smooth Display. While Smooth Display follows an adaptive approach to refreshing the frames on your phone, meaning they'll cycle between 60Hz and 90Hz (or 120Hz if you're on a Pixel 8 Pro) depending on what task you're doing or how much battery is left, the visual experience will be noticeably more pleasing to the eyes than what you had at the start.

3. A power button that serves its purpose

Did you know that a press-and-hold of the power button (right side key) doesn't actually give you the power off prompt? Instead, Google's voice assistant appears, which is fine, but also not what you may be after. Let's change that.

Go into your settings, tap on the System tab, Gestures, and then Press & hold power button. Switch the action from Digital assistant to Power menu.

Google Pixel 8 wallpaper and style settings.

It never hurts to personalize with Material You-themed widgets and icons!

Max Buondonno/ZDNET

4. Personalize Quick Settings menu

Whether this is your first time using a Google Pixel, or an Android phone in general, do yourself a favor and get familiar with the Quick Settings menu. You can access it by swiping down from the top of the screen. The Quick Settings menu, as the name implies, presents you with a layout of one-tap shortcuts, including access to Wi-Fi connections, Bluetooth, alarms, location services, and more.

You can modify this list of toggles by tapping on the pencil icon when you expand the list of Quick Settings. Then, simply drag and drop shortcuts, remove the ones you don't need, and position the toggles to your liking.

Also: Why Google's $499 Pixel 8 is the best phone deal right now

As a bonus tip, it never hurts to set a timed Night Light -- think digital blue light filter -- for when you're using your phone before bed. Tap and hold the Night Light Quick Settings toggle to open its full settings > set the filter intensity (the stronger, the warmer-toned the display gets) > then set a schedule.

5. Turn off the annoying gestures

Alright, not all the default gestures are annoying, but they're mostly turned on by default and can be unnecessary. When you first set up a Google Pixel, you'll find the following list of active gestures by going to your settings > System > Gestures:

  • Quickly open camera
  • Flip camera for selfie
  • Tap to check phone
  • Lift to check phone

Again, you might find every one of those useful and choose to keep them on. Personally, I turn off Lift to check phone, since I can do without a waking screen every time I pick up my device. Doing so prevents the phone's motion sensor from staying active, which should help with battery life -- even if it's to a small extent.

6. Unleash fast charging

Coming from a Samsung Galaxy and OnePlus phone, my most recent testing of the Google Pixel 8 series left me unsatisfied with its charging speed. Part of the reason was that Google capped the device's charging rate at 30W. The second was because the Pixel had Adaptive Charging turned on to begin with.

Review: Google Pixel 8 Pro: Five months later, still the AI phone to beat in 2024

Just so I'm not burning any bridges with battery preservationists, Adaptive Charging is a good feature to have. It tells the Pixel to purposely slow down charging when you're not using the phone as much, like during your sleep or a commute, to prevent the battery from burning out as quickly. 

However, at a time when we're so reliant on our phones, the normal, faster-charging pace is often needed. To reap the benefits of every 30W (or 18W for Pixel A series devices) of power, open your settings > tap on Battery Adaptive preferences > and then toggle off Adaptive Charging.

7. Use Adaptive alert vibration

It's one thing to turn off the ringer when you set your phone on your work desk and another to keep the notifications from vibrating your device to oblivion. Starting with the Pixel 7a, Google introduced a sound feature called Adaptive alert vibration.

Also: 5 reasons you should update your Google Pixel phone ASAP

The way it works is simple: When the Pixel is left face up and unmoved, incoming notifications will trigger a lighter vibration than usual, with the intention of being less distracting.

You can turn on the feature by going to the Sound & Vibration settings menu > tapping Vibration & haptics > and then turning on Adaptive alert vibration.

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