The first 13 things you should do with your Google Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL

Our pick of the best hidden features in Google's two latest smartphone stunners

It doesn’t matter if you’re a die-hard Android fan, or are coming to Google for the first time: the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are fantastic phones and you’re going to have a blast using ‘em.

But are you getting the best from your expensive new pocket brick?

Maybe not - unless you follow our top tips and uncover all of Google’s hidden menus, features and little extras dotted throughout Android 8.0 Oreo. We’ve done all the digging, so you just have to scroll down and follow our easy instructions. You lucky thing, you.

1) Uncover the hidden dark theme

It doesn’t matter if you went for the oversized, under-bezelled Pixel 2 XL, or the smaller, more familiar Pixel 2 - both come with OLED screens. They have a big advantage over LCD, because they don’t sap any power when showing completely black backgrounds. Good job Android Oreo comes with a built-in dark theme, then, isn’t it?

There’s no way to force the dark theme on through the Settings screen, but you can activate it by changing your wallpaper to something a bit darker. Tap and hold anywhere on the home screen, tap Wallpaper, then choose something very dark or black. Google has a few built-in to the phone, or you can download one yourself.

Once you hit save, the notification tray will switch from white to black, which should be easier on the eyes at night - and use less battery in the process.

2) Show notifications with a swipe

It’s less of a problem on the Pixel 2, but the Pixel 2 XL is a pretty lanky smartphone. A lot of people will struggle to reach the top of the screen with one hand, making it tricky to pull down the notification tray. Luckily you can use the fingerprint sensor on the back to get the job done instead.

Head to Settings > System > Languages, input and Gestures, tap on Advanced, and hit “Swipe Finger for Notifications”. Flip the switch, and now any time you swipe down on the fingerprint sensor (while the phone is unlocked, duh) the notification tray will expand - no finger yoga required.

3) Switch in a split with multi-tasking

Android pretty much lets you do your own thing, whether that’s customising the look and feel of your home screen, loading whatever apps you want, or running multiple apps side-by-side. Actually activating split screen view isn’t all that obvious, though - especially if you’re coming across from an iPhone.

Basically that hardly little Recents key in the bottom navigation bar (the square on the right side) also doubles as a multi-tasking view, and can quickly swap between open apps as well.

Give it a double-tap and you’ll jump between the two last apps you had open. Press and hold it, though, and it’ll carve the screen in two horizontally, pushing the open app to the top and letting you pick another app (that’s already running in the background) to run underneath it. Press and hold the icon a second time to go back to full-screen. Not all apps work in split view, mind.

4) Get there faster with app shortcuts

Android only recently added app shortcuts, turning your basic run-of-the-mill home screen icon into a handy alternative way to jump straight into a specific part of an app. They work pretty much like Force Touch icons do in iOS, only without the pressure-sensitive screen

Tap and hold any icon on the home screen, and if it has any shortcuts, a tiny menu will pop up in place. You can let go and tap one of these shortcuts to say, jump straight into your camera’s selfie or video modes.

These shortcuts can become their own home screen icons, too - just drag ‘em out to the desktop and they’ll be instantly available.

5) Google assistant is just a squeeze away

Google’s Assistant is one of the Big Three digital helpers, along with Siri and Alexa (sorry Cortana, you’re a distant fourth place) - but this is the only AI that lets you activate it with a squeeze.

Both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL have Active Edge, pressure-sensitive side panels along the bottom half of each phone. Grip ‘em tightly and Google Assistant will activate, no spoken trigger word required.

Or rather, it will if you’ve turned the feature on. Head to Settings > Languages, Input & Gestures > Advanced > Gestures. Flip the switch, then set how much pressure you need to apply, and you’re good to go.

6) Check appointments At a Glance

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL might run vanilla Android, but they’ve got something you won’t find anywhere else: the latest version of Google’s own Pixel launcher, complete with At a Glance widget.

It does a lot more than show the date, time and current weather: it searches your inbox and calendar to show upcoming appointments, flights and any traffic that might slow you down.

If the idea of Google knowing all this information about you freaks you out, you can switch it off. Head to the home screen and long-press on any empty space, tap Home Settings, then At a Glance. Toggle on or off any of the bits you’d rather keep private.

7) Get more onscreen with Display Size tweaks

Out of the box, both Pixel phones default to a standard text and icon size. If you’ve got dodgy eyesight, you can make everything bigger so you don’t have to squint to see it, but it works both ways: anyone with better peepers than a tawny owl could shrink things down to fit more onscreen at once.

Head to Settings > Display > Advanced > Display size and raise or lower the slider to see a preview of what things will look like, then hit the back button to save your changes. Don’t like the result? Just do the same in reverse to reset your view.