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Pixel, android at it's best

Mon, 14 Mar 2022 00:00:00 GMT

Yesterday, I upgraded from Android 9 to 12, a small change in numbers but a large change in features. For me, Android 9 was what a phone is, and Android 12 is what a phone can be. Unraveling this a bit, Android 9 was purely functional, and Android 12 sprinkles so much sugar on that, to make your phone a powerhouse.

I noticed two themes in these updates:

  • Quality of life
  • Efficiency

These changes make people happy, and can be interpreted in many ways. For this node, I am bucketing everything not efficiency related into QoL, because I really want to narrow down on efficiency, but I still want to share the other glaringly obvious changes between the two versions over multiple years, one the normal consumer might have become accustomed to as they gradually got implemented.

It’s worth noting that yes, all the efficiency features are also QoL features, because I imagine most people consider better efficiency better life. Also, certainly most QoL features improve efficiency, but it’s not glaring, and not all QoL features do so. Point being, there is overlap, ignore it.

In making this sorta review, I hope to shed light where other reviews fell short. It’s not the hardware, not the camera, not the screen, not the benchmarks. It’s how it feels to use. It finally feels like my phone is working for me, and that’s a wonderful feeling.

*Pixel exclusive

Quality Of Life


New design

I’m not sure how I feel yet. Everything is colorful and… large? It’s certainly fluid and well thought out. I will certainly get used to it, and I feel more powerful using it. I suppose that’s what matters. Still, I miss the simplistic and properly sized UI I loved before.

To be clear, the new UX is certainly better, I switch to 12 in a heartbeat, but I’m not sure that the new UI is the causation.

Live wallpapers revived

I loved them, then hated them. Now we have great live wallpapers that respond to our swipes between pages and time change in a natural and subtle way.


There are certain sub themes here, like:

More applications

No, not bloat. I’m specifically talking about applications I uninstalled because there is now a replacement that works better.

Shazam (What song)*

Love it or are creeped out by it, on android 12 your phone is always listening, specifically for music. On the lock screen, the song playing will show. Always. Even if it’s not you playing it. Even if it’s your drug dealer. This feature is local to your device, apparently.

Otter (Audio recorder)*

Another app replacement, pixel phones come with an audio recorder. The interesting bit is that the audio recorder also transcribes, and it does a pretty decent job at it! Certainly, I could make sense of what was said after the fact in all circumstances. I uninstalled Otter after trying the recorder, it has no paid version, and it works offline with the help of google’s tensor chip. This is immensely useful for recording meetings and arguably the best feature of pixel devices.

Tasker (Simple automation based on location)*

For instance, setting your phone to “vibrate only” at work.

Generic Screen Recorder

:), Not positive why this took so long to implement

Camera Share shortcuts*

this feature is gcam exclusive

I hated this feature and had an internal thought along the lines of

Gee, are people this addicted?

– Evan

I’ve come to view this in a more healthy way. I’m not an avid social media user, but I imagine when people take a photo it’s common to have the intent to share it right away. Save a few seconds I guess!

Lens everywhere*

In the recent apps, an interesting feature is little Google lens tidbits. It can be used to extract images from pages, extract text from pages, or copy the open URL in chrome. It saves lots of time in apps where you can’t download images easily.

Google Assistant now very attentive*

After an alarm rings you can shout “stop”. After your phone rings you can shout “decline”. No “Ok google”, just pretend it’s your mother and you are a teenager.

Voice typing is much faster and more accurate

This also includes assistant.

Call screening

When a new number calls you, you can have google screen your call as a third option, instead of accepting or declining. It will ask the caller why they are calling in the background, transcribing what they say, and then let you hit buttons to direct the conversation until you eventually decide to pick up.

Save tons of time on automated numbers*

For toll free numbers, pixel devices save users time by holding for them until something interesting happens. During the initial questioning phase, google transcribes automated messages so you don’t need to listen, and at prompts presents dialpad options as a list. I don’t make many phone calls to toll free numbers, I am very much a do-it-yourselfer, but when I do need to do so this will save lots of time.

Magic eraser*

This saves time when you need to remove something from a photo, say a photobomber or, although not advertised as being good for such, personal information. The alternative here is opening the photo on your computer in photoshop.

Live translate*

This works in texting applications, allowing you to read messages sent in a different language instantaneously.


Android enthusiasts might be thinking “He just listed all” of the pixel exclusive features!

  1. Lies! I listed almost all of the exclusive features, not all are efficiency related (like the safety app or skin color respecting cameras)
  2. The fact that I did manage to list most exclusive features really drives my point home. Google has very clearly taken an usability first approach to their features.

While it probably took longer to write this post than all these features combined will ever save me, that’s besides the point. These features make the phone feel good to use, like you are powerful. Not to mention, it’s a beautiful stock experience, getting updates faster than anyone in a bloat free package. It’s really android as it was meant to be used.

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