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Life-helper features in Google Pixel phone

More on that in a minute — but first, the subject at hand today: thoughtful Pixel features that’ll enhance your life and help you out in some significant ways. Ready?

A way to “listen” to something in silence

Picture this: You’re sitting somewhere relatively quiet — a place where only a barbarian would be boorish enough to blare audio from their phone with complete disregard for the people around them. And you don’t have any headphones handy or hooked up to your cellular telephone apparatus at the moment.

When you’re in such a situation — and you’re the cordial sort who still has some sense of decency — your Pixel phone’s Live Caption feature gives you an easy way to consume multimedia content without having to impose on everyone around you. It’s a fantastic way to see what a video’s all about or even to “listen in” to part of a podcast without having any sound blaring from your phone. Handy, no?

On the Pixel 2 and higher, just press your phone’s volume-up or volume-down button and look for the little box with a line through it beneath the regular volume slider. Tap that, then start playing any type of audio or video content, and ta-da:

A way to "listen" to something in silence

You’ll see a box with a live, real-time transcription of everything that’s being said. And it’ll stay present even if you turn the volume all the way down. You can double-tap the box to make it bigger or press and hold your finger to it to move it anywhere on your screen.

Just be sure to press one of your volume keys and turn the option back off when you’re done.

Your personal closed-captioning system

Maybe you’re in an impossibly noisy environment and need to tell something to a friend or colleague who can’t hear you over all the ruckus. Or maybe you’re giving a talk somewhere and want to have your words appear on a projector or TV, courtesy of Android’s built-in casting capability, so anyone can follow along with what you’re saying — even if they’re too far back in the room to hear you clearly.

Whatever the case, your Pixel’s Live Transcribe option is ready to help. The feature is as simple as can be: You fire it up, and it puts whatever you’re saying into words on your screen. It’s like automated closed captioning for regular life, and it works impressively well.

Open up the Accessibility section of your system settings and look for the “Live Transcribe” option. Tap it, then tap “Open Live Transcribe” and follow any necessary steps to activate the app. (If you don’t see “Live Transcribe” anywhere in that menu, go download the official Live Transcribe app first, then go back and try again.)

You can also give yourself a quick shortcut to open Live Transcribe on demand, if you want — either by pressing a special on-screen button or by pressing and holding your volume-up and volume-down keys together. However you get to it, once it’s open, all you’ve gotta do is start talking.

You can also give yourself a quick shortcut to open Live Transcribe on demand, if you want — either by pressing a special on-screen button or by pressing and holding your volume-up and volume-down keys together. However you get to it, once it's open, all you've gotta do is start talking.

If you tap the gear icon in the lower-left corner of the tool, you’ll find an option to adjust the text size as well as to activate a “Transcription history” option that’ll save any transcribed text for 24 hours. You can also always press and hold your finger to any of the transcribed text on the screen to copy it and then paste it wherever you want.

A mono audio option

Speaking of listening, ever find yourself wanting to take in a podcast or some other form of audio with just a single earbud in your head? By default, that’ll usually result in an awkward experience where you hear only one channel of audio and thus miss out on half of what’s playing. But Android has a tucked-away option for converting any audio into mono and making it so that everything gets played on both the left and right side.

Head into the Accessibility section of your Pixel’s system settings and scroll down ’til you see the “Audio adjustment” option. Tap that, then tap the toggle next to “Mono audio” to activate it — and then prepare to listen with a single ear and without any compromises. (Note that if you’re using a Pixel that’s running Android 11 or earlier, the “Mono audio” toggle will be on the main Accessibility menu.)

Smarter phone pass-off protection

Before you pass your phone off to a friend, co-worker, kid, or pet parakeet to let them look at something, make sure they don’t get into anything they shouldn’t by pinning your current app to your screen.

It’s an oft-overlooked feature that’s more buried than ever these days, but it can really be helpful to have ready in the right situation.

First, open up the Security section of your system settings, then tap “Advanced” or “Advanced settings” followed by “App pinning.” Turn the toggle at the top of the screen on, if it isn’t already, and go ahead and activate the “Ask for unlock pattern” option while you’re at it.

Then, the next time you’re about to hand your phone to someone, swipe up from the bottom of your screen and hold your finger down to open the Overview interface — that area of the system where you see all your recent apps as large cards. (If you’re still using the old three-button navigation system instead of gestures, you’ll want to tap the square-shaped icon at the bottom of your screen to get to that same place.) Tap the app icon at the very top of the card in front of you, then tap the “Pin” option that pops up above it.

Tap the app icon at the very top of the card in front of you, then tap the "Pin" option that pops up above it.

That app will now be locked in place on your screen, and you won’t be able to open anything else on your phone without first unpinning it — by swiping up and holding again, as if you were opening the Overview screen — and then putting in your personal PIN, pattern, or passcode.

A personal safety blanket

Every Pixel phone has a built-in safety system that lets you specify an emergency contact and then easily share your real-time location with them if such a need ever arises. It even allows you to activate a “safety check” mode where your phone checks in to make sure you’re safe at a regular, specified interval and then automatically shares your location with your emergency contact if you don’t answer.

On the Pixel 4 and higher, you can find and set up the safety system simply by opening the Safety app within your app drawer. On Pixels earlier than the 4, it’s a bit more complicated — but you can still do it!

If you don’t see the Safety app in your phone’s app drawer, follow these steps to reveal it:

Step 1: Open the About Phone section of your system settings.

Step 2: Tap Emergency Information.

Step 3: Look for the Update app banner at the top of the screen. Tap the Update button within it.

And that’s it: You should now see the Safety app within your app drawer. Hip, hip, hooray!

Once you open the app, you’ll find easy-to-follow instructions for identifying your emergency contact and setting things up for the location-sharing and “safety check” features. Set ’em up now so they’ll be ready in case you ever actually need ’em!

And one last bonus tip: If you ever want to share your location in a non-emergency situation, just open up the Maps app, tap your profile photo in the upper-right corner, and select “Location sharing” from the menu that comes up. You’ll see a blue Share Location button there, and when you tap it, you’ll be able to select a contact or even just get a shareable link to let someone see your real-time location, as you move, for any amount of time you want.



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