So far, you’ve stepped up your photo-taking game, taught yourself some advanced image magic, cut down on mobile nuisances, and boosted your screen smarts. Today, it’s time to turn to some broader bits of intelligence we can add into your phone to keep it running well and working as effectively as possible for you from morning to night.
Now, mind you, these may not all be life-changing, revolutionary sorts of things, but sometimes, it’s the smaller touches — the ones that make our lives just a teensy bit easier in some subtle but significant way — that have the greatest impact of all.
Smarter storage management
Our first feature of the day fits perfectly into that “small touch with a significant impact” narrative. It’s something Google calls Smart Storage, and it’s a perfect example of how Pixel phones make Google services feel like native, consistent pieces of the overall phone experience.
In short, Smart Storage works hand in hand with Google Photos to automatically remove local copies of backed up media after a certain period of time. Photos and videos tend to be some of the biggest consumers of local phone storage, and provided you use Photos’ built-in backup service to sync all your media to the cloud, there’s really no reason to keep the redundant local copies in place.
Typically, though, it’s up to you to manage that process by periodically going into the Photos app, finding the option to remove local copies of photos and videos, and then going through the process of having the app clean it all up. Smart Storage takes that extra legwork away and handles the whole process for you; all you’ve gotta do is activate it and then decide how often you want it to work its magic.
To set up and start up Smart Storage, if you have the Pixel 3 or higher and it’s running Android 12 (as it oughta be by now), open up the Files by Google app — or go download it, if you don’t already have it.
Tap the three-line menu icon in the app’s upper-left corner, select “Settings,” and then flip the switch next to “Smart Storage” into the on position and confirm that you want to activate the feature.
If you have a first-gen Pixel, a Pixel 2 series phone, or are still running Android 11 or lower on any other Pixel for any reason, your path will be a bit different: Start by opening your Pixel phone’s system settings and heading into the Storage section. Tap the line labeled “Smart Storage,” make sure the toggle at the top of the screen is on, and then select whether you want your backed up photos and videos to be removed when they’re 30, 60, or 90 days old.
Be sure the toggle at the top of the screen is on, and that’s it: You can now rest easy knowing your phone’s storage will manage itself from here on out, and you’ll never have to lift a finger again.
Better battery management
No one wants a dead device halfway through the day. Your Pixel has a built-in system that can learn how you use your phone over time and then adjust its power habits accordingly to make every charge last longer.
Head into the Battery section of your system settings and tap the line labeled “Adaptive Battery” — or “Adaptive preferences,” on more recent Pixel models. Turn the toggle on the screen into the on position, if it isn’t already, and then give the system a few weeks to watch and learn. It may be subtle, especially at first, but your device’s battery life should get at least a little bit better over time.
A more sensible power saver
You know about the Pixel’s Battery Saver system, right? Whenever your phone is in danger of running out of power, Battery Saver kicks in and does a bunch of different stuff to extend whatever charge is left for as long as possible. Among other things, it restricts background activity so apps won’t check in and refresh themselves unless you actively open ’em; it turns off your device’s location services; and it turns on your phone’s Dark Mode.
By default, though, a Pixel phone’s Battery Saver is typically set to come on based on a static number — usually when your device hits 15% of its charge remaining. And Google’s got a better, more intelligent, and more data-driven way to handle that.
It’s an option to have your phone’s Battery Saver activate based on your own personal routine and how you tend to use your phone. So in other words, your Pixel will learn your usage habits over time and then figure out at what point it’s most optimal to have your Battery Saver come on in order to safely allow you to make it through your entire typical day without running out of power.
No matter what Pixel phone you’re using, you can switch over to your Battery Saver’s custom-usage mode by galloping into the Battery section of your system settings, tapping “Battery Saver,” then tapping “Set a schedule” and changing it to the “Based on your routine” option.
Just like with the Adaptive Battery function, give it a little time to watch, learn, and adapt — and then see if its personalized behavior helps your phone last a little longer.
Automatic sound adjustments
Android has all sorts of advanced possibilities for automation, but a super-simple system for controlling your phone’s sound profile is actually built right into your Pixel. All you’ve gotta do is find it — and take about 60 seconds to set it up.
Just head into the System section of your phone’s settings, then tap “Advanced” followed by “Rules” to get started. If you see a line at the top of the screen telling you that the feature needs to run in the background in order to update your settings, tap the prompt alongside it to make the necessary changes and get everything up and running.
Then, tap the line labeled “Add rule.” That’ll take you to a screen that looks like this:
Now, you have to decide what situation should act as the trigger for your profile change. You can pick either a specific Wi-Fi network that your phone connects to or a physical location, defined by address.
Put in whatever network or place you prefer — maybe your home, your office, or your favorite pickle purveyor — and then decide whether you want your phone to always enter Do Not Disturb mode, silent mode, vibrate-only mode, or the regular ring mode when you’re in that situation. Uncheck the “Send notification” line if you don’t want the system to notify you every time it makes that change, then click “Add,” and that’s it: You’ve just made your Pixel a touch more intelligent.
An easier way to focus
Our phones can make us more productive, but let’s be honest: More often than not, they do the exact opposite and take us away from whatever it is we actually want to be doing. We’re all guilty of the absent-minded app tap-dance or the glazed-eye website scroll. Well, your Pixel has a fantastic way to save you from yourself and let you tune out the distractions whenever you want.
The feature is a super-useful little somethin’ called Focus Mode. It lets you specify certain apps you want to avoid. You then either set a schedule or activate it on demand to keep those apps and their notifications out of sight and out of mind. And it’s as easy as can be to set up.
Head into the Digital Wellbeing section of your system settings, then tap “Focus Mode.” (If you don’t see that option right away, tap the line labeled “Show your data,” and then it should show up.) Now think carefully about which apps you want to block when you’re trying to focus. I’d look at any non-essential messaging apps along with news apps, social media apps, and anything else you tend to treat as a digital pacifier.
Conversely, you could configure Focus Mode as a way to shut out your work-related noise during off-work hours. Whichever route you go, just be sure to select every app that applies, then tap the “Set a schedule” command if you want your fancy new Focus Mode to turn on automatically at the same time on certain days.
If you’d rather activate Focus Mode manually when you need it, here’s a handy trick: Swipe down twice from the top of your screen to open your Quick Settings — that series of icons that lets you activate certain functions with a single tap. Tap the pencil-shaped icon in its lower-left corner, then scroll down ’til you find the Focus Mode tile. Touch it and drag it up to a spot toward the top of the Quick Settings menu — a spot in the first four positions, if you want to make it especially easy to get to — and then you’ll have a fast way to flip Focus Mode on and off anytime, no matter what you’re doing at that moment.