With the Pixel phones, Google aims to make a compelling smartphone experience, even if that means making some changes to Android. That’s why the version of Android 8.0 Oreo that ships on the Pixel 2 and 2 XL isn’t quite what you’ll find on other stock Android devices. Some of the coolest bonus features are hiding beneath the surface of Google’s latest phones, but we’ll tell you our favorites here. 

Wallpaper-based themes

Changing your wallpaper is something you probably do on a regular basis. Usually, that just gets you a new wallpaper as expected, but there’s a neat extra on the Pixel 2. The theming of the home screen and some system elements changes based on the color of your wallpaper.

google pixel 2 themes Ryan Whitwam/IDG

Change the UI just by swapping wallpapers.

Pick a dark-colored wallpaper, and your launcher will switch automatically to dark mode. This includes the app drawer, folders, power menu (restarting and powering off), and the quick settings. Anything with ligher colors (or live wallpapers) gets the standard light theme you’ve seen on other Oreo devices. You do need to choose a wallpaper that’s mostly dark or black to trigger the change, though.

In addition, the color of your wallpaper alters the tint used in certain areas of the UI. Try picking a wallpaper that’s mostly one color, and you’ll see a corresponding tinted shadow under the notification shade on the home screen, the lock screen, and when the power menu is displayed.  

Display color options

The default display calibration on this year’s Pixel phones has been contentious, to say the least. Google chose to use sRGB as the standard color profile, which is much more muted than the calibration on screens from Samsung, LG, OnePlus, and others. The original “vibrant” slider didn’t change the colors much, so Google pledged to offer more options.

google pixel 2 colors Ryan Whitwam/IDG

Pump up the colors for a more vibrant display.

Indeed, in the first major OTA update, Google has added additional color profiles to the Pixel 2. You can find these features in Settings > Display > Advanced > Colors. The default Natural setting is sRGB, but there’s also “Boosted” and “Saturated.” You can leave it on the natural setting if you want to keep the more realistic colors, but Saturated mode pops and generally looks nicer.



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