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Screen smarts in Google Pixel phone

Your smartphone’s screen is the portal through which you perform all your interactions — and your Pixel has some noteworthy options for making it meaningfully more pleasant for your peepers.

Screen smarts on Google Pixel phone

Ready for today’s hidden Pixel tricks?

Content Summary

Screen sensing
Tapping power
Better brightness
Gentler nighttime viewing
Automated dark mode

Screen sensing

Few things are as irksome as looking at something on your phone — maybe a document, an article, or an email with lots of text — and then having the screen time out and turn off whilst you’re in the midst of reading. It’s a great way to make you want to throw your phone and scream, but unless that’s your goal (and if so, hey, don’t let me stop you), it tends to be a counterproductive pattern.

Well, take note: As of the Pixel 4, Google’s got a built-in option to prevent such actions from ever occurring. Just flip one little switch, and whenever the phone detects your prickly little porcupine face staring at its screen, it’ll keep the display from timing out and powering off on ya.

Yes, please.

On the Pixel 4 or higher, head into the Display section of your system settings, tap “Screen timeout,” and then look for the line labeled “Screen attention.” There, right there in front of your shiny nose, is the toggle you need. Just flip that bad boy over into the on position, then rest easy with the knowledge that you can read your Very Important Educational Materials (the only thing you ever read on your phone, obviously) without the fear of any screen-shutting-off interruptions.

Tapping power

An old-fashioned phone trick that’s still plenty useful is the ability to tap on your screen twice to wake it up and get a quick peek at the time and your pending notifications. If you prefer to keep the Pixel’s always-on display mode off, as I do, it’s a fantastically simple way to see what’s going on without having to so much as pick up your device.

Look in the System section of your phone’s settings, then tap “Gestures” followed by “Tap to check phone” and confirm that the toggle is in the on position.

Then, while your screen is off, just tap anywhere on the display twice in a row with your favorite fingie — and say “Lumos!” for good measure, if you’re feeling whimsical — and just like that, your screen will light up.

Better brightness

One of the Pixel’s most helpful features is one you’ll never actively think about. It’s called Adaptive Brightness, and it uses Google’s artificial intelligence systems to learn how you like your screen’s brightness in different lighting environments — and then to start adjusting that for you automatically throughout the day.

You can confirm Adaptive Brightness is on by going into the Display section of your system settings and looking for the “Adaptive brightness” option. Just note that after you enable it (or even if it’s already enabled), you’ll want to make a point to manually adjust your screen’s brightness — using the brightness slider in the Quick Settings area, when you swipe down twice from the top of the screen — in a variety of situations all throughout the day for a week or so in order to teach your phone what brightness levels you prefer.

Before long, it’ll pick up on what you like and start making the appropriate adjustments for you (ooh, ahh, etc).

Gentler nighttime viewing

A screen’s bright whites aren’t exactly easy on the eyes when you’re in a dim room. The Pixel has an awesome way to help with that, and you only have to set it up once.

Head into the Display section of your system settings and tap the line labeled “Night Light” — the actual words, not the toggle next to them! — then tap “Schedule” and either set it to “Sunset to sunrise,” if that works for you, or follow the option to set your own custom schedule (a useful option if you keep unusual hours).

Once that’s done, your phone will automatically adjust the tinting of its screen to make it less glary in the darker hours. Trust me: It makes a world of difference.

Automated dark mode

You can round out your optimized nighttime viewing by telling your Pixel to also enable its system-wide Dark Theme during certain times of day. That causes the interface all throughout your phone and many of its apps to use a darker motif, which is a lovely complement to the Night Light tinting.

In that same Display section of your settings, find the line labeled “Dark Theme.” Tap it — again, the actual words, not the toggle next to them — and then tap “Schedule” to put it on a matching sunset-to-sunrise (or whatever schedule you prefer) automation.

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