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How to customize your Pixel screensaver (and why you should)

If you own a Pixel phone, you can decide what's displayed on the screen when the phone is locked. Here's how it's done.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Google Pixel 6 phone

Remember the flying toaster screensaver from the late 90s? Everyone I knew enjoyed that whimsical screensaver. Of course, I was using Linux, so the screensavers veered more toward the scientific type. Those screensavers actually served a purpose…to save your screen from burn-in.

These days, thanks to advances in technology, screensavers aren't really necessary. In fact, they don't really save your screen as much as simply giving you something to look at when your screen is locked.

Also: Google Pixel phones have a secret button. Here's how to find it

The same thing holds true with your mobile phone -- some include a screensaver that doesn't really save much, but which can display various items for your enlightenment or pleasure.

Take, for instance, the Pixel phone. On these devices, you have a few options for the screensaver. You can enable or disable it, and choose between a clock, a color, or photos. Although it's not much in the way of options, you probably wouldn't want more than that. 

Also: The best Android phones you can buy (foldables included)

Personally, I prefer opting to go with the clock, as I like to know the time. You might want to display an array of colors or a collection of photos to remind you of your loved ones, a vacation you enjoyed, or something completely different. Of course, when you configure the screensaver, it doesn't supersede the date, weather, and notification options you have configured. Also, the screensaver on the Pixel phone only starts when one of two things occurs:

  • The phone is charging
  • The phone is docked and charging

These features mean, unlike on some other phones, the screensaver only appears when you're charging your device (or when it's docked on a wireless stand). Another thing to keep in mind is that the screensaver is overruled by any Pixel Stand settings you might have configured. In other words, Pixel Stand settings get priority over screensaver settings. So, if you use a Pixel Stand, you'll want to configure what's displayed when docked by tapping the gear icon that appears when you set the phone on the stand.

Also: The Pixel 8 could bring back a buzzword that was once the talk of the tech industry

If you're not using a Pixel Stand, you can opt to go with the standard Android screensaver option that's found in the Pixel phone. Let me show you how to configure that feature.

How to configure the Pixel screensaver

What you'll need: The only thing you'll need for this is a Pixel phone -- that's it. Let's make it work.

1. Open Settings

Log in to your Pixel phone and pull down the notification shade twice, and tap the gear icon to open the Settings app.

The Settings gear icon in the Android 13 Notification Shade.

You can access Settings from within the Android notification shade.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

2. Open the Screen saver page

From the Settings window, tap Display, and then, in the resulting page, tap Screen saver.

The Display section of the Android 13 Settings app.

There are a number of options you can configure in the Display section of Settings.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Enable the screensaver

The next thing to do is tap the On/Off slider until it's in the On position to enable the screensaver.

The screen saver configuration page.

You can preview what the screensaver will look like by tapping Preview.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

4. Choose your screensaver

Once enabled, you can then select the type of screensaver you like. You can choose between the clock, colors, or photos. If you go with the clock, you can select from either digital or analog options. 

Also: How to make your Pixel phone automatically decline robocalls

If you select photos, there are a number of options, such as Only use Wi-Fi for data, Photos fill screen, Animated zoom effect, and you can also select from albums derived from any installed app on your device. Also, if you select photos, you can select from any collection, date, or even individual photos you have saved to Google Photos.

Once you've configured your screensaver, back out of Settings, and -- when your phone automatically locks -- you'll see your screensaver displayed. That's all there is to it. This feature might not make you more productive or improve the security of your device, but it can bring you a spot of peace during your hectic day, especially when you see a photo pop up of a particularly special moment from your past.

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