It's brand spanking new. The shrinkwrap is freshly crinkled, there's a faint smell of packing peanuts in the air. That's right, you're the proud owner of the Google Pixel or what many pundits are calling the best smartphone ever, or least the best challenger to the throne occupied by the iPhone.

The good news? Your smartphone is probably smarter than you realize. These tips and tricks will help you do amazing things, impress everyone in the office, and even take a selfie by using your voice. Try doing that in your local Apple store and see what everyone says.

1. Take a selfie by voice

That's right, your phone is a selfie master. When you say "OK, Google" you can ask the Assistant, which is like Siri but understands the context of your conversations, to snap a photo. When you do, there's a quick countdown and then a snap. Bonus if you use it for fake spy photos.

2. Ask the Assistant to recite a poem

Try it now--it's awesome. The Assistant can recite a sonnet by Shakespeare or something by Emily Dickinson. It's proof that robots can read us books and poems to ease our stress. Make sure you say the exact phrase "recite a poem" or it won't work.

3. Set your phone to record 4K video

The Pixel ships with HD video recording enabled, which is a bit puzzling until you realize how big these recorded files can be. You can record in 4K, though, just like the iPhone 7. And, the Pixel XL even has a 2560 x 1440 resolution screen for watching the results. Just start the camera, click the settings on the upper left, then Settings and look for video resolution.

4. Double-tap the power button to access the camera

If you need to take a quick photo, double-tap the power button. It brings up the camera faster than I would expect so you can make sure Bigfoot doesn't slip back into the woods.

5. Long press on app icons

Be sure to try holding down your finger on app icons. For example, if you hold press on the Messenger app for texting, you can quickly start a new conversation. I'm expecting more app developers to take advantage of this quick access feature.

6. Take advantage of quick charge

If you're an iPhone user, you might not be used to this. With the PIxel, you can charge up the phone quite a bit--e.g., seven hours of usage in 15 minutes. It changes some of the dynamics. You can let the phone run all day without worrying too much and "reup" quickly.

7. Ask the Assistant to make the sound of a helicopter

One of my favorites is asking the Assistant this exact question: "What sound does a helicopter make?" Make sure you use that phrase, because the bot will then play the sound of a helicopter. Why is that cool? Because bots will one day play clips from movies, pronounce words, and teach us how to sing. They will become more and more like a trusted friend.

8. Order a custom case

You might not know this, but the Pixel lets you add custom designed cases. Just go to and upload your photo, pick a Google Maps locale, or pick a design. Cases also have a programmable shortcut button for a favorite app.

Published on: Oct 21, 2016
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