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Google Pixel 6 — enable and disable these features right away

Google Pixel 6 review
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You might been lucky enough to get your hands on a Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro, or you might be left in the out-of-stock limbo. Regardless, we've rounded up the features that you should enable and disable to get the most out of your new phone.

Whether it's activating some of the convenience options or fine tuning the visual experience, these Pixel 6 tips will help make your phone truly work for you. Google got a lot right this year, despite some notable problems that some have experienced.

These are the features to enable and disable, which we recommend you do first thing.

Turn on calling features

pixel 6 pro call wait times

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With the Pixel 6, Google enhanced the calling features, expanding the already excellent Call Screen and Hold for Me. Now there's Direct My Call and Wait Times. These are all great, but Google makes you enable most of them on your own and doesn't remind you to do so sometimes. 

Just open the Phone app, then head to Settings > Assistive. There you'll find separate menus for Hold for Me, Call Screen and Spam detection and Direct My Call. Luckily, Wait Times is an automatic feature when you call an 800 number. Decide which features work for you and enjoy Assistant helping you out next time you need to make (or receive) a call.

Adaptive Battery

pixel 6 features to enable: adaptive battery

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The Pixel 6 features an Adaptive Battery setting, which tries to adjust your phone's performance based on your usage. It's a nifty idea, but it can hinder how your phone performs at times. If you'd rather turn off this feature, it's pretty easy.

Just go to Settings > Battery > Adaptive preferences, where you'll find the Adaptive Battery toggle. It should be enabled by default and we recommend you leave it on to ensure that your Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro goes for as long as possible.

Turn on Smart Storage

pixel 6 features to enable: smart storage

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If you want to make sure that you never fill up your Pixel's storage with photos and videos, you should enable Smart Storage. It's a bit of a hidden feature, but it will automatically delete photos older than 60 days that you've uploaded to Google Photos.

To access it, open Settings > Storage > Free up space > Open the hamburger menu on the left > Settings. Just toggle Smart Storage on and you're good to go.

Turn on Camera Storage Saver

pixel 6 features to enable: storage saver

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Another way you can maximize your phone's storage is to turn on Storage Saver in the Camera app. This will use more space-efficient file formats, like JPG over RAW, 1080p over 4K, and so on. This is meant for people more concerned about their local or Google Photos storage. 

To activate this, open the Camera app > Tap the cog icon in the top left corner > More settings > Device storage. You'll see the toggle for Storage Saver below the remaining storage graphic.

Customize volume keys in the camera app

pixel 6 features to enable: camera volume key action

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Android phones have had volume key shortcuts in the camera app for a long time and the Pixel 6 is no different. You can choose the volume key action, whether that's Shutter, Zoom, Volume, or Off.

To access this setting, open the Camera app > Tap the cog icon in the top left corner > More settings > Gestures > Volume key action. This will bring up a radio select menu where you choose which option you want.

Enable Enhanced auto-rotate

how to enable enhanced auto-rotate android 12

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Consider this a feature in-progress, since it doesn't work 100% of the time. But Google decided to tackle the auto-rotate issue when you're laying down. While you can turn off auto-rotate altogether, who wants to do that? This feature uses the front-facing camera to detect when you're laying down and the Pixel disables auto-rotate for you. When you're upright, it comes back on. Cool, right?

To turn this on, head to Settings > Display > Auto-rotate screen. That's where you'll find the toggle for Enable Face Detection.

Turn on Now Playing

pixel 6 features to enable: now playing

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A longstanding Pixel feature, Now Playing will listen to the music around you and tell you what it is. Think of it like an automatic, built-in Shazam. You'll see what Google has identified on the lock screen and as notification when the phone is unlocked.

You should have the option to turn it on when you first set up the Pixel 6, but in case you didn't, here's how to toggle it on (or off). Open Settings > Sound & vibration > Now Playing.

Have Live Caption add subtitles to media

pixel 6 features to enable: live caption

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Google added a really nifty accessibility feature to Pixels called Live Caption. It helps hearing-impaired users read what they're listening to. It works in videos and podcasts, basically anywhere speech is detected. Google does warn that generating the captions uses extra battery, but everything is processed locally.

To enable Live Caption, go into Settings > Sound & vibration > Live Caption.

Enable Notification History

pixel 6 features to enable: notification history

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Google introduced Notification History in Android 11, and it's an extremely useful feature. Sometimes, you accidentally dismiss a notification (or all of them) or you're wondering if you have an app spamming things in your notification shade and you want to find out what's going on. And if you have Now Playing enabled, this is how you see all of the songs that Google has identified.

To turn on Notification History, go to Settings > Notifications > Notification history. This is where you turn it on or off, and where you see everything that's come through.

Disable bubbles

pixel 6 features to disable: bubbles

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Google tried to make notifications more user-friendly with Bubbles, which are basically like chat heads. These shortcuts can take you straight to conversations, but they're mostly annoying and worth disabling if they get on your nerves. Turning them off works mostly, except for the Phone app. Hopefully Google will fix that.

To disable those pesky Bubbles, go to Settings > Notifications > Bubbles.

Don't enable icon theming

With the new Material You design language and theming, Google wanted to help you make your Pixel's look and feel consistent. Part of that is an experiment to theme your app icons to match the system theme. Cool idea, but in practice, it's not good. Only system apps get the new color palette, leaving third-party apps (aka the bulk of what you probably have installed on your phone) out in the cold.

The feature is disabled by default and even hidden for some people, but you can find it in Settings > Wallpaper & style right under the Dark theme toggle. It's marked as a beta feature.

Pixel 6 features outlook

pixel 6 and pixel 6 pro in hand with tree in background

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We covered a lot of ground here, so be sure to pick and choose which things you want to enable on your Pixel 6. The two disable recommendations are more personal and we explained our reasons to including them in that list. Bubbles are really annoying and the disparity between system and third-party app icons will no doubt bother a lot of you.

In the future, expect Google to add more features in the quarterly Feature Drops. Few are likely to be groundbreaking, but most of them in the past have been nice little additions that make the Pixel phones all that much smarter.

Jordan Palmer

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over five years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Jordan tends to lurk on social media, but you can best reach him on Twitter.