Google’s latest phones come with new software, and this year there are quite a few changes. Android 12 brings lots of new features under hood, and that means lots of cool new stuff to discover.
Watch our video below for a visual guide on those features, or read on below if you’d prefer a written guide.
1. Make the fingerprint sensor more reliable
The fingerprint sensor on the Pixel 6 isn’t amazing, so if you want to make it a bit more reliable, there’s a handy trick from back in the days when iPhone’s TouchID sensors weren’t too hot either: simply register the same finger or thumb multiple times.
Once you’ve set up your first fingerprint scan go to Settings > Security > Fingerprint unlock. Now type in your PIN to get to the settings. Tap ‘Add fingerprint’ and scan that same finger or thumb again. In our testing we found this made the scanner a lot less likely to fail.
2. Back tap to take a screenshot
For years, the default way to take a screenshot on Android has been to press two buttons together. It can be a tad fiddly, depending on the position and layout of the buttons. But you can enable a gesture to take a screenshot just by tapping the back of your phone.
Open Settings > System and now select ‘Gestures’. Right at the top you’ll see ‘Quick Tap’. Select this option and toggle on the feature on the next screen. By default its action is set to screenshot, so now when you tap twice on the back of the phone it’ll snap a screenshot.
If you’d rather have a different function you can do, whether it be pausing or playing music, launching Google Assistant or showing notifications.
If you find it’s too easy to activate the double-tap feature, you can toggle on the option at the bottom of the screen that requires stronger taps in order for it to launch your chosen feature.
3. One handed mode
Pixel 6 and 6 Pro have big screens, and so you might find some stuff hard to reach. That’s why Android 12 now has a one-handed mode that brings stuff down from the top of the screen.
Head to Settings > System > Gestures and choose ‘One-handed mode’. Now toggle it on. Once active, when you swipe down at the bottom of the screen, it’ll bring the user interface lower down, allowing you to get to the stuff at the top with your thumb.
4. Turn off ‘At a Glance’
By default, the Pixel’s home screen features something called ‘At a Glance’ at the top. Most of the time it shows weather conditions, but it also automatically shows important calendar events and travel plans coming up from your Gmail account.
If you want to switch it off, just long press the ‘At a glance’ widget and tap ‘Customise’. Now tap ‘At a glance’ in the list, and then ‘Turn off’. You can also enable or disable specific features from showing up in there.
5. Allow Home Screen rotation
If you like to use your phone in landscape orientation, the Pixel having its home screen rotation feature turned off by default may be slightly frustrating, but thankfully you can enable it.
Long press on your home screen wallpaper and tap ‘Home settings’. Now toggle on the switch at the bottom next to ‘Allow home screen rotation’. And now whenever you rotate your home screen to landscape, the UI will turn with you. Just make sure you enable the ‘Auto-rotate’ feature in your quick settings shade too, to make sure you don’t have to press the little rotating icon on the screen every time.
6. Reverse wireless charging
Pixel’s reverse wireless charging is called Battery Share, and it’ll allow you to charge compatible devices wirelessly on the back of your phone. Just drop down the quick settings shade and tap the Battery Share option. Turn your phone over and place your wireless charging compatible product on the back of it.
Also, if you long press the Battery Share icon you’ll get to the main Battery Share settings. Here you’ll find a slider that allows you to set a limit for when to stop charging. Just in case charging your favourite buds or smartwatch drains your phone battery. Adjust this slider until that limit is at a comfortable level. The default is just 10 per cent.
7. Quickly get to Google Pay from the Lock Screen
Once you’ve set up Google Pay for contactless payments, you can access it directly from the lock screen. When your phone is locked you’ll see a little card icon at the bottom of the screen, in the right corner. Tapping it quickly launches GPay so you can use it to pay for goods.
If it’s not there, ensure Google Pay is set up for your chosen card, and now go to Settings > Display > Lock Screen and make sure you have the ‘Show Wallet’ toggle enabled.
8. Multilingual keyboard
If you speak more than one language and regularly communicate in them, you’ll probably find it useful to have a bilingual or multilingual keyboard. Rather than having to constantly switch between languages.
Go to Settings > System > Languages > On-screen keyboard and now tap ‘Gboard’. Now tap languages and ‘add keyboard’ and choose from one of the languages in the list.
When you start to type now the installed keyboard will automatically detect when you’re writing in one or the other and can correct and predict spellings for both without ever having to switch manually.
9. Quickly switch off your mic or camera access
This one’s a really quick one, but it’s a new feature. Drop down the settings shade and find the camera and mic toggles. Tap on one and it’ll immediately block your camera and mic so no app on your phone can access them.
10. Now Playing history
One of Pixel’s most useful features in recent years is displaying the name and artist of any song currently playing where you are. To activate it head to Settings > Display > Lock Screen and ‘Now Playing’ and toggle on the switch if it’s not already.
To view the songs that have been tagged recently, scroll down to ‘Now Playing History’ and you’ll see a list of songs, plus the time they were tagged. What’s more, if you want to add a shortcut to this list, you can. In fact, once you’re in the list a pop-up appears asking if you want to. Just tap ‘yes’.
If it’s not there, go to your home screen, long press the wallpaper and tap ‘widgets’ in the pop up menu. Now choose ‘Android System Intelligence’ and tap and hold the ‘now playing history’ shortcut and drag it to a space on your home screen.
11. Turn off your Google Discover page
To the left of the home screen you’ll almost always find the Google feed page, showing you news and videos it thinks are relevant to you, but you can switch it off. Just long press on your wallpaper and choose ‘Home setting’. Now toggle off the ‘Swipe to access the Google app’ option.
12. Show a RAW image switch in Camera
If you want a manual switch to choose between RAW and JPE, you can have one. Open your camera, tap the settings cog in the corner and now select ‘more settings’. Now choose ‘Advanced’ and toggle on the option that says ‘RAW+JPEG’ control.
When you open the camera settings menu that loads over the viewfinder/monitor view, you’ll now see an option that lets you toggle between RAW+JPEG or just shooting JPEG.
13. Android 12 easter egg
It’s not a new version of Android without an Easter egg, and the route to find it is the same as always. Open Settings > About Phone and tap ‘Android Version’. On the next screen tap ‘Android version’ multiple times until it loads an image of a clock widget.
Now, turn the minute hand on the clock until the time gets to 12’o’clock. It’ll now load up a spotty Android 12 Easter Egg in the colours of your phone’s theme.
There is one additional element to the Easter egg too: Long press your home screen and tap ‘Widgets’. Now choose ‘Android S widget’ and drag and drop the Paint chip shortcut to your home screen. If you want to you can resize the widget to show multiple colour cards. Tap on it, and they’ll load full screen, and you can tap any individual card to share that colour. It’s pretty pointless, but it’s an Easter Egg, it doesn’t need to have a point.