Making a few changes to the Pixel 6's settings can go a long way.

Just bought a Pixel 6 or 6A? Updating certain settings can give your phone’s software a fresh look, prevent you from running out of storage or save you time by having the Google Assistant wait on hold for you.

Google launched the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro last fall, but the Pixel 6A arrived in stores on July 28. It starts at $450 and has the same Tensor processor as the Pixel 6, but its camera has a lower resolution and the screen is noticeably smaller. Google is also expected to announce the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro this fall after teasing the new phones at Google I/O in May.

Here’s a look at the settings you should change on your Pixel 6, 6 Pro or 6A. 

Turn on themed icons to make your icons match your wallpaper

One of the biggest features in Android 12 is Material You, which customizes the software’s color palette to match your wallpaper. You’ll notice that some elements within certain apps — like the keyboard in Messages and Gmail’s Compose button — will have colored accents that match wallpaper as part of the broader Material You refresh. If you go into Settings, you can choose from a few options.

But you don’t have to stop there. To give your app icons a colorful refresh that resembles your wallpaper, long-press any empty space on your Pixel 6’s home screen. Then tap Wallpaper & style and make sure the switch next to Themed icons is toggled on. Now app icons on the home screen should match your wallpaper.

You can make app icons on the Pixel 6 match its wallpaper. Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Use Quick Phrases to dismiss an alarm or phone call without saying, ‘Hey, Google’

We’ve all been there. It’s 6 a.m., your alarm starts blaring and you barely have the energy to reach for your phone. Google makes this a little easier on the Pixel 6 lineup by enabling you to pause or dismiss an alarm by simply saying, “Snooze” or “Stop” without requiring the “Hey, Google” trigger phrase. You can do the same for phone calls by saying, “Answer” or “Decline” without having to grab your device.

To turn this on, open the Settings menu and choose Apps. Then, select Assistant and tap Quick phrases. You should see options for alarms and timers and incoming calls. Tap the switch next to each one to enable this feature.

This feature lets you dismiss alarms and answer calls without using the “Hey, Google” wake phrase. Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Have Google Assistant wait on hold for you and transcribe automated phone menus

Tired of waiting on hold? Try using Google’s Hold For Me feature, which has Google Assistant wait on hold and then notify you when a customer representative becomes available. If you don’t want to remember which number to punch the next time you’re sitting through automated voice prompts, you can also turn on Direct My Call. This transcribes automated menus so that you don’t have to remember which number to press to get directed to the correct extension. 

Both of these features are accessible from the Pixel 6, 6 Pro or 6A’s phone app. Open the Phone app and tap the three dots in the top right corner to get started. Choose Settings and you should see Hold for Me and Direct My Call under the Assistive section.

The Direct My Call feature seems promising, but it only works for toll-free numbers in English right now. That can make its transcriptions a bit confusing since many automated phone menus typically read options in Spanish, too.

Google Assistant can transcribe automated menus for you when calling toll-free numbers, but only in English.  Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Choose whether you want to extend battery life or boost performance 

Google’s Pixel phones can optimize battery life depending on how you use your phone. While that’s a useful perk, there may be times when you’d prefer to turn this feature off so that you can get better performance out of your device. You can turn this setting on or off anytime by opening the Settings menu, choosing Battery and tapping Adaptive preferences.

The Pixel 6 can optimize its battery based on your phone usage.  Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Turn on Smart Storage to avoid running out of space

If you take a lot of photos and videos, you know how precious your device’s storage space can be. As one way to deal with that problem, you can choose to have your Pixel phone automatically delete old photos to free up space. If you enable this feature, your Pixel device will erase photos backed up to your Google Photos account that have been on your device for 60 days if your phone’s storage is less than 25%. 

To turn this on, open Settings, choose Storage and tap Free up space. Then tap the menu icon in the top left corner and select Settings. Toggle the switch next to Smart Storage.

Google’s Smart Storage feature automatically deletes old photos to save space.  Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Use Storage Saver to optimize your Pixel’s photo and video storage

If you want to save space, there’s another option: Enable Storage Saver on your Pixel device. This changes settings that use large amounts of storage, such as saving RAW images as JPEG and recording videos in 1080p instead of 4K. If you care more about saving space than having the best resolution possible, you might want to try this.

Launch the Camera app and tap the settings cog in the top left corner. Then, tap More settings and select Device storage. Toggle the switch next to Storage Saver.

The Pixel can also change certain media settings to optimize storage.  Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Customize what happens when you press the volume key while taking photos

You can use the volume button to snap a photo, adjust the zoom or control the audio volume on your Pixel device. Open the Camera app, press the Settings icon and choose More settings. Then, choose Gestures and select Volume key action to choose your preferred option.

You can customize the volume key on the Pixel 6. Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Make sure your Pixel’s screen automatically switches orientation when needed

Few things can be more annoying than having your phone stuck in portrait mode when you’re holding it in landscape mode to watch a video. Avoid this on your Pixel 6 by opening the Settings menu, choosing Display and tapping Auto-rotate screen. You can also choose to turn on face detection to make autorotate more accurate. Google says images used in face detection are never stored or sent to the company. 

Make sure your Pixel switches its screen orientation when you want it to. Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Identify songs playing nearby on the lock screen

Ever heard a song playing at a restaurant and wondered what it’s called? Google Pixel devices can recognize songs and display the name of the song and artist on your phone’s lock screen. Open the Settings menu, choose Display and tap Lock screen. Press Now Playing and toggle on the switch next to Identify songs playing nearby.

The Pixel 6 can display the track title and artist for songs playing nearby.  Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Choose whether you want smoother scrolling or longer battery life

The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are capable of boosting their refresh rates to enable faster scrolling and smoother animations, which makes the software generally feel more responsive. The Pixel 6 can bump its refresh rate up to 90Hz, while the Pixel 6 Pro can go up to120Hz. But since this feature increases battery usage, there are times when you might want to turn it off.

To access this option, open the Settings menu and choose Display. Scroll down to Smooth Display and toggle the switch to turn it on or off. This feature isn’t available on the Pixel 6A. 

You can choose to increase the screen’s refresh rate or maximize battery life on the Pixel 6.  Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Add captions to videos, podcasts and phone calls

Google’s Live Caption feature generates captions for media playing on your device, and it works on older Pixels dating back to the second-generation model. It’s an accessibility feature, and it can also be useful for times when you’re stuck without headphones and need to hear the content of a video or podcast in a public setting. To turn this on, press the volume button and tap the Live Caption icon, which looks like a speech bubble. Just remember that using Live Caption can use additional battery resources. 

Google’s Live Caption technology captions audio playing on your device.  Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Edit your quick settings to easily access shortcuts

Pulling down from the top of the screen will launch the quick-settings menu. Tap the pencil icon to edit this menu and add the settings you use most often. Google offers a wide variety of options ranging from battery saver to enabling and disabling the microphone and accessing alarms. Here you’ll find staples including airplane mode, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

These are just a few of the many settings shortcuts available on the Pixel 6.  Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Looking for more advice for your other Google devices? Check out our tips for boosting your productivity on Chromebooks and getting the most out of your Google Nest.

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