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Friday, May 24, 2024

Which Google Pixel Phone Should You Buy?

Google's Pixel phones are our favorite Android phones here at WIRED, and they have been for a few years. They have industry-leading cameras, get speedy software and security updates directly from Google (like iPhones do from Apple), and are priced competitively. But choosing the right model can be tricky. Should you get the Pixel 7A? Or wait for the Pixel 8? What about the crazy-expensive Pixel Fold

Don’t fret—here we break down the differences between the best Pixel phones and sort out the right one for you. We also have Pixel-exclusive tips to help you get the most out of your new phone, and we recommend some cases and accessories we’ve tested if you want protection.

Updated September 2023: We’ve added news about the upcoming Pixel hardware event and the demise of Pixel Pass.

Table of ContentsIs Now a Good Time to Buy?The Best Pixel for Most People: Pixel 7AThe Best Budget Pixel: Pixel 6AUpgrade Pick: Pixel 7 ProA Folding Pixel: Pixel FoldHow Long Is Your Pixel Supported?Google Ends Its Pixel Pass ProgramAbout Those Older Pixel PhonesThe Best Pixel Cases and AccessoriesOur Favorite Pixel Software FeaturesBuilt-In VPN by Google One

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Is Now a Good Time to Buy?

Frankly, no. Google has announced that its annual fall hardware event will be on October 4, and we're expecting a new Pixel 8, a Pixel 8 Pro, and a Pixel Watch 2. If you like the look and price of the Pixel 7A (or the Pixel 6A), I think those are totally fine to buy right now. But you may want to wait before purchasing a Pixel 7 or Pixel 7 Pro. They will likely see steep discounts next month as the new models are released. 

The Best Pixel for Most People

Google Pixel 7A$499 at Amazon$499 at Target$499 at Best Buy

The Pixel 7A (8/10, WIRED Recommends) sets a new standard for mid-range smartphones. It's a little pricier than last year's Pixel 6A but packed with nearly every top-end feature you could want. This iteration includes wireless charging, which is really uncommon for phones under $500. You also get a 90-Hz screen refresh rate, which makes the onscreen interactions look and feel more fluid, as there are more frames per second than before. 

Its design and build are similar to its predecessor, though Google claims the aluminum mid-frame is slightly more durable. There's Gorilla Glass 3 on the front 6.1-inch screen, which isn't as scratch-resistant as the glass on pricier Pixels, but at least the rear is a plastic composite that won't crack. This model comes in Charcoal, Sea, and Snow, but a Google Store-exclusive Coral has caught my eye.  

You won't run into any problems with performance. It's powered by Google's Tensor G2 chipset, which is the same one that's inside the Pixel 7 Pro. It's plenty fast for everyday tasks and most mobile gaming, and it also allows for a few new software tricks, like Photo Unblur, which can use machine learning algorithms to unblur people's faces in those late-night pics. (It actually did this really well when I tried to capture a photo of a bride and groom on the dance floor!)

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Speaking of the camera system, a new 64-megapixel camera is leading the pack with a 13-megapixel ultrawide, and while these are not as good as the cameras in the Pixel 7, the results are nearly imperceptible (you have to look really close). It's easily the best camera phone for the money, whether you're using it in low light to capture the stars or shooting a landscape on a sunny day. 

One reason we recommend Pixel phones is that they include a many great software features that are genuinely helpful. We've collected most of them below, but my favorites are Assistant Voice Typing for much faster and more accurate voice transcriptions using the built-in keyboard; Now Playing to find out what music is playing around me; and Call Screen, which has pretty much stopped all spam calls coming my way. You'll also get five years of security updates, so your Pixel 7A will be supported for quite a while. Unfortunately, Google only promises three OS upgrades (Samsung offers four). It’s disappointing that Google isn’t leading here, especially when Apple’s five-year-old iPhone XR will receive iOS 17.

The only things that are iffy on the Pixel 7A are the fingerprint sensor, which isn't as snappy or reliable as I'd like, and the battery life. The 4,385-mAh cell can take you through a full day of average use, but on busy days you will most likely need to top up before the sun goes down. There's also no microSD card slot or headphone jack, so you'll have to look elsewhere if you want a phone with those features. 

Works on all three major US carriers

A Small Upgrade: Google Pixel 7 ($599)

The Pixel 7 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) isn't quite a no-brainer now that the nearly identical Pixel 7A exists. Yes, the cameras are slightly better on the Pixel 7, as is the glass protecting the screen, and it can recharge faster (wired and wirelessly). Consider it if it goes on sale (it has dipped as low as $499), but otherwise, stick with the 7A.


The Best Budget Pixel

Google Pixel 6A$349 at Amazon$349 at Target$349 at Best Buy

Last year's Pixel 6A (8/10, WIRED Recommends) remains an excellent buy, especially at its new price of $349 (note: It frequently sells for $299 on Amazon). Like the Pixel 7A, you get a sharp, 6.1-inch OLED screen that gets just bright enough to read in direct sunlight (not as bright as the Pixel 7A). Unlike most devices on the market right now, it's a wonderfully compact phone and feels well-made. The front is Gorilla Glass 3, so you’ll want to use a screen protector to keep it free of scratches, but there’s an aluminum frame with clicky buttons and a plastic composite back that is deceptively luxurious. It comes in sage, too. Hooray for green phones!

Inside is Google’s first-gen Tensor chip, which is the same one powering the company's 2021 flagships: the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. Even today, it means you’re getting some of the best performance for the price. I rarely noticed any slowdowns, even while playing games like Apex Legends Mobile. This also brings all the top software features that debuted in the Pixel 6 series to this phone, like Magic Eraser in Google Photos (to erase unwanted objects in the background of your images) and Assistant Voice Typing (to send messages with just your voice).

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The 4,410-mAh battery cell lasts a full day, and there’s IP67-rated water resistance so the Pixel 6A can survive being submerged in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. You might be annoyed by the in-display fingerprint sensor—like the Pixel 7A, it's fine but not snappy. It'll also get three OS upgrades and five years of security updates (from the date it was launched). 

You’ll find the same main 12-megapixel camera sensor Google has been using on the Pixel 5 and prior Pixels, and it’s joined by a 12-megapixel ultrawide. It’s a reliable system that manages to beat out much of the midrange competition even now. However, the camera hardware is starting to show its age. Some newer budget and midrange phone cameras pull more detail, particularly in low light with their larger image sensors, and the Pixel 6A’s images can come out grainy. I’m mostly being nitpicky here, but only because Pixel cameras are supposed to be the best of the best. 

My biggest gripes are that there’s no wireless charging, no headphone jack, and no charging adapter in the box, and you’re stuck with 128 GB of storage and no microSD card slot to expand it. The screen is also just 60 Hz, despite many competitors adopting 90- or 120-Hz panels for smoother interactions. Still, it does everything you'd want without costing an arm and a leg.

Works on all three major US carriers


Upgrade Pick

Google Pixel 7 Pro$899 at Amazon$899 at Target

If you have the cash, the Pixel 7 Pro  (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is the luxe Pixel to buy, and at $899, it undercuts the competition for what you get. The large 6.7-inch screen has a 120-Hz screen refresh rate, making it feel more fluid to interact with, and it gets a tiny bit brighter on the sunniest days for a no-squinting experience. The generous size also means a bigger 5,000-mAh battery that lasts a full day and a morning with average use. There's wireless charging, slightly better IP68 water resistance, and Face Unlock. Like the Pixel 7A, it's powered by the Tensor G2 and will happily run any app and game you throw at it. 

The Pixel 7 Pro has a 50-MP primary camera joined by a 12-MP ultrawide, and they take some truly stunning shots in a variety of conditions. Real Tone, the company's image algorithms that ensure the camera preserves accurate colors for people with darker skin, helps make it a cut above the rest. There are improvements to the video camera experience as well, like 10-bit HDR for more colorful and better-exposed clips, but the iPhone is ahead in overall video quality. The iPhone also tends to deliver sharper selfies, except in low-light scenes. 

Still, you should go for the Pixel 7 Pro if you find yourself wishing your smartphone camera could zoom in more and snap better photos at that high-zoom level. It has a 5X optical camera, so you'll get crystal-clear shots of objects far away. Better yet, improvements to Google's Super Res Zoom algorithm mean photos you capture from 2X all the way up to 30X look pretty darn good. I found it works best at 10X, where my shots were absurdly close to the quality of the 10X optical camera in Samsung's Galaxy S22 Ultra. The ultrawide camera also has an autofocus that enables a new Macro Focus mode, so you can snap sharp photos of super close-up subjects. Pixel 7 Pro is not as great a value as the Pixel 7A, but it will still impress. It's often on sale for $749, so try not to pay full price.

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Works on all three major US carriers


A Folding Pixel

Google Pixel Fold$1,799 at Amazon$1,799 at Target$1,799 at Google Store

The Pixel Fold (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is the most expensive Pixel ever, at $1,799. But it's also the only one in the lineup that actually folds in half, like a book. Do you need a folding phone? Probably not. Should you pay this much for a smartphone? Definitely not. Trade-in offers from carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile can bring the price down, but the Pixel Fold is a first-gen folding phone that showcases the direction smartphones are heading.

I don't think folding phones are a gimmick. I've genuinely found them to be an improvement over traditional rectangular smartphones. There are still a few hurdles that prevent me from recommending them to just anyone. The first is price. This is just too much to pay for a phone. Next is durability. The Pixel Fold is IPX8 water resistant, so it'll be fine if you drop it in a pool, but it's not rated for dust protection. Dust is notoriously bad for these devices, as it can damage the display. The Fold should be OK in most situations, but you'll want to be much more careful than you are with your current phone. 

If you can stomach those problems, I've had a lot of fun using the Pixel Fold over the course of several months. It doesn't introduce never-before-seen features on a booklike folding phone, but the wider 5.8-inch front screen makes it far more comfortable to use than, say, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4. Open it up and you're treated to an expansive 7.6-inch OLED panel that's excellent for multitasking with split-screen apps. That's really the main draw here. It makes all the everyday phone tasks a little easier, whether you want to check an email and your calendar at the same time or message a friend a few restaurant recommendations as you peruse Google Maps. 

Works on all three major US carriers


How Long Is Your Pixel Supported?

All current Pixel phones will get three years of Android operating system updates and five years of monthly security updates from the date of launch. Google has a page you can check to see exactly what month your Pixel phone will stop receiving updates. Security updates reduce the risk of malware, keep your phone bug-free, and make it more secure. Android version updates introduce new features—cosmetic and functional—that improve the OS as a whole.

Pixel phones are the first to receive any kind of Android update, so as soon as Google releases a new version, like Android 14, you can download it immediately by heading to Settings > System > System Update > Check for Update. You can also test beta versions of Android, but you'll need to enroll your device. (Make sure to back up your phone first!) Pixels are also privy to the feature drops Google issues every few months, which include features from newer Pixels coming to older models and brand-new features for the latest devices. 


Google Ends Its Pixel Pass Program

With the Pixel 6, Google introduced a new way to purchase its phones from the Google Store, and it later continued this with the Pixel 7 series. For $55 a month for the Pixel 7 Pro, $45 a month for the Pixel 7, and $37 a month for the Pixel 6A, you got the respective phone, plus the option to upgrade to a newer Pixel after two years. This program also included Preferred Care, with coverage for screen repairs, replacements, and accidental damage over the two-year time frame, plus 200 GB of Google One cloud storage, YouTube Premium (no ads), and YouTube Music Premium. It also added Google Play Pass, which offers access to apps and games with zero ads or in-app purchases, plus other unspecified offers on the Google Store down the road. 

Unfortunately, Google is ending the Pixel Pass program right before the first two-year mark. You can trade in your Pixel to get a discount on the upcoming Pixel 8 as usual, but existing Pixel Pass subscribers will get an extra $100 toward their next Pixel purchase as recompense (available for two years). It's pretty ridiculous that this program didn't even make it to its first two-year mark, when customers would've been able to take advantage of the Pixel upgrade. Google has a FAQ you can read through here that answers more questions.


About Those Older Pixel Phones

The Pixel 6 series from 2021 is not available at the Google Store anymore. You can find these phones at retailers like Amazon, though the stock is dwindling. Make sure you're paying the right price. The Pixel 6 has gone on sale for as low as $340 and the Pixel 6 Pro has dipped to $500. They're still great phones, and the former is a solid deal at that price, but you're probably better off with a Pixel 7A or a discounted Pixel 7. 

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Any older Pixel is not worth buying anymore. (The Pixel 5's support window ends in October.) You can still find some of them at various retailers, but unless they're practically free, you should stick with any of the models above. 


The Best Pixel Cases and AccessoriesOfficial Google Case ($30) for Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 7A, Pixel 6A

The revamped case for the Pixel 7 series feels more durable than ever before, and you can match these with your Pixel's color. The thermoplastic elastomer is nice to touch, and raised edges on the front protect the screen. The Pixel 7's case is made with more than 30 percent recycled plastics, and the polycarbonate shell uses 77 percent recycled plastics. Thee metal buttons for power and volume are 100 percent recycled aluminum. 

Peak Design Everyday Case ($40) for Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 7A

This is hands-down the best case if you frequently attach your Pixel to the handlebar of a bike or an electric scooter. Peak Design's mounting system lets you magnetically affix the phone to its Universal Bike Mount ($50), and it stays put. After nearly a year of testing, I've yet to have a phone fall off my ride using this mounting system. It makes use of Apple's MagSafe system, so it works with plenty of MagSafe accessories, even wireless chargers. The company also has several other magnetic accessories, like a car vent mount. The case itself is nice; I just wish the edges were raised a bit more for better screen protection.

Spigen Clear Case ($16) for Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 7A, Pixel 6A

This is one of the best clear cases you'll find for the Pixel, especially at this price. The buttons are clicky, the Pixel's color comes through clearly, and the rear doesn't feel too sticky, something that can be a problem with clear cases. I also really like Totallee's Clear Cases ($39), though these are slightly more expensive. They're available for the Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, and Pixel 7A.

Caseology Tempered Screen Protector ($15) for Pixel 7, Pixel 7, Pixel 6A

Pixel phones don't have a great track record with screen durability—they scratch easily. We first tested this protector for the Pixel 5A, and it held up well. Installation is easy, and it includes a squeegee to get rid of air bubbles. You get two screen protectors for the price (some only include one, check the product page), plus a microfiber cloth, a wipe, and dust-removal stickers.

Spigen Tempered Screen Protector ($15) for Pixel 7, Pixel 7A

This is another easy-to-apply tempered glass screen protector. The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7A version comes with two protectors, but Spigen only includes one for the Pixel 6A. Boo. You get a whole cleaning kit to wipe down your phone, an alignment tool that helps you get the application right, and a squeegee to get rid of the air bubbles. 

OtterBox Screen Protector ($45) for Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 7A, Pixel 6A

This screen protector was really simple to apply and barely gave me any air bubbles. You only get one protector, but there's an alcohol wipe to clean the screen beforehand, a microfiber cloth, an application tool, and a squeegee. The problem? It's not tempered glass, but rather a mix of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a cheaper material that's typically not as impact-resistant. 

Zagg Screen Protector ($40) for Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel Fold, Pixel 7A, 6A

You get only one screen protector here, and it's expensive. Zagg claims that the protector is five times as strong as traditional screen protectors, and I haven't seen many scuffs on the Pixels I've applied it on, but take this with a grain of salt. It's really easy to apply with the included application tool, but Zagg doesn't include a squeegee, so you'll have to use your fingers to push the air bubbles out. It comes with a dust sticker, a wet wipe, and a microfiber cloth. For the Pixel Fold, the screen protector is only for the external display. 

Google Pixel Stand 2nd-Gen Wireless Charger for $79

Of the Pixels we recommend in this guide, wireless charging is available only on the Pixel Fold, Pixel 7A, Pixel 7, and Pixel 7 Pro (plus the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro). Google's very own Pixel Stand is one of the best wireless chargers around because it's simple. The base doesn't slide around, the phone stays put, and it enables some fun features, like the ability to turn the screen into a digital photo frame and quick access to Google Assistant. It's made of 39 percent recycled materials, with mostly eco-friendly packaging too. Our Best Wireless Chargers guide has more options, including the original and cheaper Pixel Stand

Anker Nano II 30-Watt Charging Adapter for $20

This charging adapter is all you need to recharge your Pixel, whichever model you have. The newest high-end Pixel phones don't come with chargers in the box, so if you don't have any spare USB-C chargers, it's worth picking one up. This one's prongs fold up, so it's great for travel too. 

Mous Limitless 5.0 MagSafe Case ($60) for Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro

These cases are pricey, but they have raised lips and offer decent protection around the edges. The buttons are clicky, and you can choose from a few design options for the rear, including walnut, leather, bamboo, silver pearl, and aramid fiber. (I love the walnut.) What makes this case special is that it supports MagSafe—yes, Apple's magnetic system for accessories. I've used the Mous Limitless 5.0 successfully with a few MagSafe accessories, like a Belkin wireless charger, to recharge the Pixel 7 Pro.

Spigen Liquid Air Case ($18) for Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 7A, Pixel 6A

It's slim, has a nice texture, retains clicky buttons, and has accurate cutouts for the ports and speakers. What's not to love? Well, it's a bit dull, squashing the unique design of the Pixel, but I still think this case is one of the more attractive in Spigen's lineup. The edges aren't raised drastically, so don't expect much screen protection. 

Spigen Tough Armor ($19) for Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 7A, Pixel 6A

Want a kickstand to prop your Pixel up? This Spigen case has a built-in stand that does the trick, though it unfortunately only works in landscape mode—not great for hands-free TikTok. Its thick bumper offers nice protection around the edges, though there's not much of a lip sticking out, so you'll still want to pair it with a screen protector. 

Speck ImpactHero Case ($18) for Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 6A

I like the soft-touch material on this case, and it fits the Pixel really well, with accurate cutouts and clicky buttons. It's a bit dull, but it's slim and the edges are raised a decent amount to protect the screen. It's just a little pricey for what you get.  

Casetify Clear Cases ($72) for Pixel Fold

Casetify's Clear and Impact cases are fairly similar to each other, but I found that the buttons are easier to press with the Clear case and the fingerprint sensor is slightly more accessible. It comes in two pieces—one for the front screen and one for the rear. Make sure you remove all the plastic wrap from the inside before you affix it. It's expensive, but the edges are quite thick. You won't find as many design options to choose from anywhere else. Seriously, these will make your Pixel Fold stand out even more. 

Google Pixel Fold Case for $60

I have used Pixel Fold cases from OtterBox and Speck, but the one I keep coming back to is the official case from Google. The soft silicone is much nicer than the hard plastic on the others, and it doesn't add too much bulk. It's two separate pieces, and there's a dip on the side so you can access the buttons and fingerprint sensor. 

Zagg Gear4 Denali Case ($50) for Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 7A

The Denali case doesn't really stand out in any particular way, but it's a fine case if you like the look. It adds some heft to the phone, but wireless charging still works, and Zagg says the D30 material “hardens on impact” for better drop protection. Make of that claim what you will. The camera bar has raised edges all around it, and the buttons are clicky, but edge protection is a little lackluster on the front. 

OtterBox Defender Pro ($65) for Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro

It takes some effort to install this case on the Pixel, but once you do, it's arguably the most protection you'll find. There's an inner two-piece polycarbonate shell that snaps over and under the Pixel, and then a thick synthetic rubber slipcover goes over for extreme durability. The buttons are surprisingly clicky, though the whole phone will be thicker, wider, and heavier. It's made of more than 50 percent recycled plastic, and there's a holster you can pop it in to carry your Pixel with pride on your belt. (The holster can double as a kickstand.) OtterBox doesn't make a Defender for the Pixel 7A, but there's the Commuter Case ($40), which isn't as durable and doesn't have a holster but packs more protection than most cases.

Ringke Fusion Case ($15) for Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 7A

This is another nice clear case for the Pixel series. I like the textured power button, which makes it easy to find when you're not looking, and there are spots on the case to attach a lanyard (not included). It's not as smudge-resistant as Ringke claims, but it's easy to clean. 


Our Favorite Pixel Software Features

There are some key features on Pixels that you won't find on any other Android phone. Some of these are only available on select Pixels—those powered by Google's own Tensor chips are more capable. Here's a quick breakdown:

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Spam and Call Screen: When you get a call from an unknown number, Google Assistant will scan and flag it if it's suspected spam or a robocall. If it's neither and simply a number you don't recognize, you can have Assistant take the call. You'll see a real-time transcription of what's happening, so you can end the call right away if it's a telemarketer or answer if it turns out to be a long-lost high school friend. Tweak these settings by opening up the dialer app and heading to Settings (three dots on the top right) > Spam and Call Screen.

Wait Times and Direct My Call: When you enter a 1-800 number in the phone app, you'll now see an estimated wait time until someone real picks up (it doesn't work with every business). Google's Direct My Call feature also transcribes the entire call and separates out menu options so you can clearly see them without having to listen intently to the call. More recently, for some numbers, Direct My Call will cache responses so you'll immediately see menu options without needing to wait for the automated response to go through every number. You can turn this on by going to the phone app's Settings > Direct My Call. It's available for Pixel 4A and newer.

Hold for Me: If you've been placed on hold with a 1-800 number, you can ask Google Assistant to take over. It will play a loud chime when the person on the other end is back. No need to listen to hold music! Toggle it on in the phone app's Settings > Hold for Me. This feature is available on Pixel 3 and newer devices, but it only works in the US, Australia, and Canada.

Clear Calling: If you have a Pixel 7 or newer, you can turn on this feature to enhance the other caller's voice and reduce their background noise. Head to Settings > Sound & vibration > Clear Calling to toggle it on. 

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Live Translate (Tensor only): In select messaging apps, the Pixel 6 will automatically know when someone sends a message in a language other than your default. It'll translate it (if you wish), and you'll be able to respond in that same language. More than 50 languages are supported, though you'll need to download the languages you want to see translated by heading to Settings > System > Live Translate

Live Caption: Pixels can automatically transcribe any video playing on the screen. You can quickly toggle this on by tapping one of the volume buttons and tapping on the square button below the volume slider (or head to Settings > Sound and Vibration > Live Caption). If the video is in a different language, you can even see it translated (only on Tensor-powered Pixels), though you'll need to download one of the supported languages. It can even caption phone calls. 

Now Playing: Ever hear a song at the coffee shop and wonder who it's by? Now Playing uses on-device machine learning to figure out what the music is in your background, and it will display the artist and title on the lock screen (or in your notifications). It doesn't require an internet connection, so there's no data shared between you and Google. This isn't turned on by default, so head to Settings > Sound and Vibration > Now Playing and toggle it on. You can even turn on Now Playing History in case you forgot to write down an artist's name when you saw it earlier. Google added a button you can press in case Now Playing doesn't automatically identify a song, sorta like Shazam. 

Assistant Voice Typing (Tensor only): Tap the mic button on Google's Gboard keyboard and you'll be privy to the much-improved voice typing experience enabled by the Tensor and Tensor G2 chip. It's really fast, pretty accurate, and knows to automatically add punctuation. It understands when to send a message if you say “send,” and commands like “next” will move the cursor to the next paragraph. You can make sure this is enabled by heading to Settings > System > Language & Input > On-screen Keyboard > Gboard > Voice typing > Assistant Voice Typing

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Quick Phrases (Tensor only): When the alarm goes off, you can just say “stop” or “snooze”  instead of fumbling for your phone. This applies when you get a phone call: Just say “answer,” “decline,” or “silence.” You can make sure this is toggled on by launching Assistant and saying, “Assistant settings.” Then scroll to Quick Phrases. It works in select other languages too.

Hands-Free Photos (Tensor only): If you have a Pixel 6 or newer, you can take a hands-free photo by showing your open palm to the camera. You need to first set the timer to three or 10 seconds, and once the camera detects your palm (it'll show a square icon over it), it'll trigger a timer. 

Voice Message Transcription: If you frequently get audio messages in the Messages texting app, then you'll be happy to know that these messages will automatically transcribe so you won't have to listen to the audio message. The transcription can be hit or miss, but it's still handy. It only works in Android Messages and is available in select languages; it's available on the Pixel 4A and newer. Turn it on by heading to the Messages app and tapping on your profile icon. Then tap Messages settings > Voice message transcription and toggle it on. 

Magic Eraser: In the Google Photos app, you can remove objects in the background of your photos (even those not captured on Pixels). Just tap the Edit button and head to Tools > Magic Eraser. It will automatically suggest things to remove, or you can highlight the object with your finger. You can also change the color of a distracting object instead of removing it entirely. It's available on all Pixel phones.

Super-Res Zoom: If you're taking a picture of something far away, use two fingers to pinch and zoom in, then snap the photo. Google uses software wizardry to upscale the quality of digitally zoomed-in photos so you see a lot more detail. Remember, it only works if you zoom in before snapping your pic. On the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, this process has improved further, as Google is fusing the images from the main camera and telephoto.

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Astrophotography Mode: Set your Pixel on a tripod (something like this will work), point it at the sky, open the camera, and go to Night Sight mode. Once the phone detects that it's completely still and on a tripod, you'll see Astrophotography mode kick in. Tap the shutter button, and within three to five minutes you'll have a photo of the stars. Ideally, you should be in a dark area with little light pollution, but it'll work wherever you are. Don't touch the phone—just let it do its thing until the timer ends.

Photo Unblur (Tensor G2 only): You can also unblur old (or new) photos in your library with the tap of a button. The results will vary, but it's impressive and might make that unusable photo something you'll want to share. On the photo you want to unblur, press Edit > Tools > Unblur

Portrait Light: You can change up the lighting in your portrait selfies after you take them by opening them up in Google Photos, tapping the Edit button, and heading to Adjust > Portrait Light. This adds an artificial light you can place anywhere in the photo to brighten up your face and erase that 5 o'clock shadow. Use the slider at the bottom to tweak the strength of the light. It also works on older Portrait mode photos you may have captured. It works only on faces.

Quick Tap: Head over to Settings > System > Gestures > Quick Tap to enable it. It lets you double-tap the upper back of your Pixel (Pixel 4A 5G or newer) to trigger a function. That includes flipping the camera for a selfie, turning on the flashlight, sliding down the notification bar, or, exclusive to Pixels, starting a Snap on Snapchat.  

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Dual Screen Interpreter Mode (Pixel Fold only): This isn't available just yet, but you'll soon be able to use it on the Pixel Fold. When you trigger this mode in the Google Translate app, the person you're speaking to can read your translated words on the exterior screen. They can also tap the screen to start speaking, and you'll see their translated words on the inner screen.

Google Recorder: If you record interviews, meetings, calls, or anything else, you'll love the Google Recorder app. It's exclusive to Pixels, and it offers real-time transcription so you don't need to take notes. You can open these notes in a Google Doc to edit them later or tap on a word to jump to the point it was spoken in the recording. Google has added speaker labels so the transcription will try to detect when different people are talking and indicate as such. Recordings can be shared with anyone, even if they don't have a Pixel. Better yet, you can automatically back these up to your Google Account to access them anywhere (or find them here). It works in several languages. 

Car Crash Detection: Hopefully you never have to use this feature. As the name suggests, Pixel phones can tell when you've been in a serious crash with the help of mics and motion sensors. Turn it on in the Personal Safety app (or Settings > Safety & Emergency), and if a crash is detected, your phone will check to see whether you're OK. If there's no response, it can share your location with emergency responders and emergency contacts. It works in select countries.

Cough & Snore Detection (Tensor G2 only): On the Pixel 7 and newer, you can have your Pixel detect if you cough and snore when sleeping, provided you place your Pixel near your bed before you nod off. This will work only if you use Google's Bedtime Mode function, which you can turn on by heading to Settings > Digital Wellbeing & parental controls > Bedtime mode

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Guided Frame (Tensor G2 only): For blind or low-vision people, the camera app can now help you take a selfie with audio cues. You'll need to enable TalkBack for this to work (Settings > Accessibility > TalkBack). Then open the camera app and switch to the selfie camera. It will start a timer and automatically help you frame the shot. 

Ultra-Wideband (Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 6 Pro, and Pixel Fold only): The Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 6 Pro, and Pixel Fold are the only Google phones with a unique ultra-wideband chip, which makes it possible to precisely track other ultra-wideband devices nearby (just like how the iPhone 13 Pro can find the exact location of an AirTag). It improves Google's Nearby Share, so it's a faster way to send photos, files, and other content to other devices.


Built-In VPN by Google One

With the Pixel 7 and newer, you have access to a VPN (Virtual Private Network) by Google One. This is already included on iPhones and Android phones if you pay for Google One storage (usually $10 per month) and have the app installed (Android, iOS), but it's included for free for these Pixels. It'll encrypt your traffic to give you peace of mind. This VPN is also available on desktops for Windows and Mac. You can access it for free for as long as the phone receives updates

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