Hey! You! Yes, you — that unusually smart and shiny-headed human reading this story.
If you opened this page, odds are, you own a Google Pixel 6 or a Pixel 6 Pro. Or you’re at the very least thinking about getting one. And that, in turn, tells me you’re an exceptionally intelligent (and probably also quite comely) creature who knows what matters the most in a modern-day Android phone.
Here’s a little secret, though: For as exceptional of an Android experience as the Pixel 6 provides you, some of the phone’s most shape-shifting superpowers require a teensy bit of coaxing to uncover. Whether it’s adjusting a few hidden and not-at-all-obvious settings or adding an off-the-beaten-path app into the mix to bring out a feature’s full potential, a smattering of small steps can make an outsized difference in optimizing your dazzling new Google device and making it as powerful as can be.
Follow these six steps, then turn up the Pixel heat even more by signing up for my Pixel Academy e-course. It’s a seven-day email adventure that teaches you tons of time-saving Pixel secrets, and it’s completely free for my favorite Android Police pals.
Pixel 6 trick #1: The tap-tap challenge
The Pixel 6 introduced a nifty new possibility wherein you can simply tap the back of your phone and have it perform a number of different actions for you — taking a screenshot, playing or pausing media, even making you a dynamite goulash.
All right, so that last possibility might still be pending, but the Pixel 6’s back-tappin’ gesture can do a bunch of other potentially useful things. The problem is that (a) it’s damn-near impossible to figure out how to get that tapping gesture to work consistently — and (b) one super-obvious action is missing from the list of options.
The first part of that pickle is delightfully easy to solve. The trick is to tap forcefully toward the top of your Pixel — directly beneath the camera bar on its back. If you go any lower, it isn’t gonna work reliably. But learn to hit that sweet spot (ooh, baby), and you’ll nail it every time.
Who knew, right?! And as for that second quibble…
Pixel 6 trick #2: The Quick Tap quiet down
Quick: What’d be the most obvious thing you’d want to accomplish by tapping your phone’s back?
If you said “summon some goulash,” I love you. But if you said “silence your phone,” you’ve actually got the serious correct answer — and you’ve identified the curiously glaring omission in the Pixel’s fast-tap system.
For all of the things that the phone’s Quick Tap system can do, it for some strange reason can’t put your phone into a silent state. That’s especially vexing on the Pixel 6, since the device also lacks the option to press your power and volume-up buttons together to mute your phone in the way you could on all previous Pixels.
There’s an easy workaround for this, though, and once you know how to use it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. The magic, as I recently revealed in my Android Intelligence column, comes from a simple little app called Mute. Install it, open it once, and grant it the permission to modify your system settings. Then:
- Open your Pixel’s system settings.
- Tap “System” followed by “Gestures” and then “Quick Tap.”
- Turn the toggle at the top of the screen into the on position, if it isn’t already.
- Select the “Open app” option.
- Tap the gear-shaped settings icon next to that and then select “Mute” from the list that pops up.
All that’s left is to double-tap your phone’s back, using the trick we just went over a second ago, and bask in your newfound two-tap silence.
Pixel 6 trick #3: The button mess untangling
Look, I appreciate Google Assistant as much as the next guy. Sometimes I talk to my Assistant just for the pure purpose of hearing that lovely lilting voice. (What can I say? I work from home. She’s my most charismatic colleague.)
And I very much get that Google wants to get us all in the habit of interacting with Assistant as much as possible. It makes sense. It’s fine.
But, I mean, c’mon. There’s a limit to how much is too much. There’s a line. And turning the long-press of the Pixel 6’s power button into a dedicated Assistant-summoning function — and then requiring you to press the power and volume-up buttons together to get to your phone’s power menu as a result — is crossing that line. It’s going a step too far.
The good news is that the Pixel 6’s birdbrained behavior in this area is easy to undo. But you’ll want to be sure to take two full steps to do that — first, to turn your phone’s power button back into a power button. And second, to restore the extremely buried on-screen shortcut for accessing Assistant that was present in Pixels past.
Ready? First, let’s send that blasted power button takeover deep into the depths of hell, where it belongs:
- Head back into the System section of your Pixel 6’s settings.
- Tap “Gestures” and then “Press and hold power button.”
- Turn the toggle on the screen that comes up next into the off position — and mutter a few choice “good riddance”-style curses under your breath for good measure.
Whew! With that tomfoolery out of the way, it’s time to dig up and restore the original on-screen Assistant shortcut to replace it:
- Mosey your way back into the System section of your phone’s settings.
- Once more, tap “Gestures” — and this time, tap “System navigation” after.
- Look for the little gear-shaped icon next to the line “Gesture navigation.” (Yup — Google really wanted you to find this option. Can’t you tell?)
- Tap that, and there, buried dangerously low in your Pixel phone’s bowels, is the option we need: “Swipe to invoke Assistant.”
- Hit that toggle, and hit it good.
Now, the next time you need Assistant, all you’ve gotta do is swipe your finger upward at a diagonal from either of your screen’s lower corners. And the next time you want to turn your phone off or restart it, you can just press and hold the power button. Like any sane, vaguely normal person would expect.
Pixel 6 trick #4: The no-fuss hush phrases
Speaking of speaking to Assistant, the Pixel 6 has a cool new possibility that’ll let you get your favorite virtual genie to lend a helping hand without having to say all that “Hey Google” mumbo jumbo. But — yep, you guessed it — it’s up to you to realize it exists and then find and activate it.
Here’s the easiest way to do it:
- Activate Assistant on your phone and say “Assistant settings.”
- Find and tap the line that says “Quick phrases.”
- Activate the toggles next to the options that show up.
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They’re still relatively limited, but don’t let that fool you: Those two toggles will save you tons of time and frustration. Once they’re activated, anytime you’ve got an alarm or timer ringing, you can simply say “Stop” or “Snooze” — and whenever someone has dared to dial your digits and cause your phone to ring (THE AUDACITY!), you can just utter the words “Answer” or “Decline.”
No fuss, no launch phrases, not even so much as the raise of a finger required. Hey Google: Thanks for listening.
Pixel 6 trick #5: The super-ring superpower
That hole-punch cutout at the top of your Pixel’s display is silly. There’s no way around that.
With a pinch of careful planning, though, you can turn that awkward in-screen abyss into a valuable source of at-a-glance info. The secret lies within an app called aodNotify, which is free with an optional $5 upgrade for advanced options.
Install that son of a goofus, fire it up, and make your way through its initial setup process. Once you get to its main screen, activate the toggles next to “Notifications” and “Notification light.”
You can explore some of the other options beyond that, but those two basic switches will activate the app and allow it to start lighting up a gently pulsating ring around your Pixel’s holey area whenever a new notification is pending. You can have the ring animate in a variety of alluring styles and have it light up specific colors based on which app is involved — or, in the case of messaging and call-associated notifications, have it use specific colors for different people and/or cartilaginous fishes in your contacts. You can even have the thing light up in a distinctive way when your battery is low, charging, or fully charged.
It’s a clever addition to the Pixel setup and a spectacular supplement or replacement for the phone’s built-in always-on display option. And it’ll take you all of two minutes to get going.
I should note that aodNotify does require access to view and manage your Pixel’s notifications as well as to act as an accessibility service on Android. Those permissions can sound scary, but they’re legitimately needed for what the tool does. The app is from a known and reputable developer, and it doesn’t require any standard system-level permissions — including the ability to access the internet — so it couldn’t do anything with your data even if it wanted to.
Pixel 6 trick #6: The take-charge toggle
This final trick is a fantastic one to tune up and then tuck into your brightly colored novelty cap for whenever the need arises — ’cause once you set it up, it’ll always be there and ready to serve you. But until you dig it up and activate it, it’ll effectively be nonexistent on your device.
So here it is: Your snazzy new Pixel has the power to power other gadgets wirelessly, simply by having ’em pressed up against its backside (insert vaguely inappropriate comment here). That means you can top off your earbuds or even recharge another phone with virtually no effort: Just unlock your screen and set your Pixel face-down on a surface, then plop the other device on top of it and whistle yourself a jaunty tune whilst your Googley gizmo does the rest. As long as the other device supports wireless charging, it’ll start charging immediately.
To get your phone ready to do the deed, just head into the Battery section of your system settings and tap the line labeled “Battery Share.”
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Flip that flippin’ toggle into the on position, give some thought to the slider that puts a limit on how low your phone can get before the charging gets cut off, and then just remember that your Pixel’s got the power to power anything else — no wires or worries required.
And that, my friend, is one powerful perk.
Remember: There’s lots more where this came from. Come join my completely free Pixel Academy e-course for seven full days of experience-enhancing Pixel knowledge — from Pixel-specific camera sorcery to out-of-the-way options for eliminating common phone annoyances, next-level tweaks for adding advanced smarts into your smartphone’s screen, and oodles of other practical time-savers.
You’ve already got the best all-around experience available on Android. Now it’s time to unleash all of your Pixel’s hidden powers and let your phone start working for you.
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About The Author
JR Raphael (3 Articles Published)
JR Raphael has been writing about Android since the early 1800s and is honored to be an honorary Android Police officer-person. You can check out his favorite Pixel tricks in his completely awesome Pixel Academy e-course, keep up with his madman musings in his Android Intelligence newsletter, or shout his name into the nearest dark abyss to see what manner of menacing spirits you summon.