5 features the Google Pixel should take from third-party Android skins

Google’s Pixel phones are critically acclaimed in two specific areas: camera performance and overall software. The former is well deserved, as Pixel phones have consistently ranked at or near the top of all the best smartphone camera lists despite never actually having the best camera hardware. But the unanimous praise for Pixel software? I always thought it was more of a reputation award. After all, Google does Android, so its version of Android duty be the best, right?

While I really like the Pixel experience, especially in the last couple of years where Google has added some UI flavor, I wouldn’t call Pixel UI my favorite version of Android. There are third-party Android skins with features that are genuinely useful to me, and their omission from Pixel phones is an active annoyance. Here are five examples that Google should really consider stocking Android and, by extension, Pixel UI.



1 Resizable floating app windows

Samsung, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi phones running apps in a floating window

Literally every Android phone lets us open apps in a smaller window like this, except the Pixel.

One of the main reasons I prefer using Android over iOS is that I work quite often from my phone and the ability to run two apps simultaneously is key. Android officially offered this capability with 2016’s Android 7 (codenamed Nougat) via a split-screen method, with each app taking up about half of the screen and separated by a virtual border.

But as smartphones got more powerful, third-party Android skins started offering a more flexible way to run two apps simultaneously. Whether it’s Samsung’s OneUI, Xiaomi’s MIUI or Oppo’s ColorOS, you can launch an app in a resizable and moveable floating window on the screen. You can even push the window off the screen and bring it back into view later.

Why this method of multitasking is better than having two apps in a locked grid should be self explanatory. It’s always better when you can move the windows around or make them smaller or bigger depending on what you need.

Telegram running in split screen mode on Pixel 7 Pro and floating window mode on another Android

Telegram running in split screen mode on Pixel 7 Pro and floating window mode on another Android

For example, I communicate with most people via chat apps like Telegram, WhatsApp, and WeChat, and if I have an ongoing conversation that needs my attention, I’ll shrink the chat app into a smaller window in the corner, so I can free up the rest of the screen to do other things. Sure, I can do it in split screen mode, but having a passive app that takes up 50% of the screen isn’t ideal. I’ve also pushed overlong work video calls into a smaller floating window, so I’m still “in” the call, but my phone screen is free for me to scroll through Instagram or check email.

It’s not like these other brands have replaced the conventional split screen with this floating window method. You can still do split screen on any Samsung, Xiaomi or Oppo phone if you want. These third-party skins simply give you another option for multitasking. And trust me, once you try this, you’ll never want to go back to split screen.

2 A separate space for private files

SEcure folder in One UI and Privacy System in OriginOS of Vivo

SEcure folder in One UI and Privacy System in OriginOS of Vivo

Our phones have become an integral part of our lives and hosts Very of crucial and sensitive data, stuff you probably don’t want whoever to be seen. While the lock screen is probably enough to safeguard that data from complete strangers, it gets trickier with people like a partner, best friend, or family member.

There are many real reasons why you might need to hand your unlocked phone to someone you know, perhaps they’re helping you take a photo or navigate Google Maps. But the idea that a nosy person could then go through all of your data should be unsettling.

If you have files that you don’t want anyone to see under any circumstances, the ability to lock them in a separate space within your phone is a godsend.

OneUI from Samsung, MIUI from Xiaomi, MagicOS from Honor and OriginOS from Vivo offer a great solution – the ability to separate a part of the phone’s memory into a completely separate space. Any files (photos, videos, text messages, even entire apps) that you enter require different passwords or biometric authentication to access. And that data won’t even show up in the broad search as long as the segregated part is locked down. Let’s say I have Tinder installed in my Samsung phone’s secure folder. As long as that folder is locked, there will be no traces of Tinder anywhere on the “root” part of my Samsung phone.

If you have files you don’t want anyone to see under any circumstances, or if you use apps you’d rather no one knew about, the ability to lock them in a separate space within your phone is a godsend.

3 Double tap to lock/unlock screen

The Pixel 7 Pro's power button is too far up for my particular left-handed use.

The Pixel 7 Pro’s power button is too far up for my particular left-handed use.

The Pixel has an unusual power button location, positioned above the volume rocker instead of below it like pretty much every other phone. This was a particular annoyance for me because I hold the phone in my left hand and the power button is too high up for me to reach naturally. So this means that every time I want to lock the phone, I have to readjust my grip and reach out to press the power button. Every single time. It’s annoying, to say the least.

This wouldn’t be a problem if the Pixel UI offered us the ability to lock the screen with a double tap. This feature was first introduced in LG phones and has since made its way to just about every third-party Android phone I can think of. Samsung’s OneUI, OnePlus’ OxygenOS, Xiaomi’s MIUI, and both Vivo’s China and global Android skins have it. Oppo’s ColorOS and also Motorola’s MyUX.

It would benefit you as an Android user for Google to implement these features into the Pixel UI because then they would become a core part of Android.

Even if the Pixel’s power button wasn’t that high up, I’d still prefer double-tapping to lock because it’s faster and more energy efficient. Regardless of how you hold the phone, your thumb hovers over the screen 99.9% of the time. You don’t have to reach for a button and physically click on it. If your phone is face up on a table, it’s also easier to double-tap the screen than pressing the side button.

The only Android skin other than the Pixel UI that doesn’t support double-tap to lock is the very similar software from Huawei and Honor, and they’re widely panned Android skins for a reason.

4 Multiple gestures to trigger actions

In terms of navigation and activity on the phone, Pixel UI gestures are very simple. You have the standard Android gesture navigation system (which was lifted wholesale from iOS, by the way) and that’s it. All other actions require a physical button press or an on-screen button tap.

With third-party Android skins, most notably Oppo’s ColorOS, you get nearly a dozen more gestures that you use as shortcut methods for actions. For example, you can swipe down the screen with three fingers to take a screenshot. You can control music playback on a locked phone without ever waking up the screen via a couple of finger gestures. You can swipe sideways and hold to open a shortcut app menu.

The thing is, if you don’t want to use these gestures, you don’t have to. You can simply ignore them or turn them off completely. The point is, you have the ability to launch an app, take a screenshot, or start screen recording much faster if you want.

5 Pro mode (manual) in the camera app


This might be a long shot (so to speak), considering how proud Google is of Pixel’s computational photography, but it would be nice if the Pixel camera app offered a “Pro mode,” which grants users control over features settings such as ISO, white balance, shutter speed and AF point. This mode is available in All non-Pixel Android phones for at least half a decade.

Pro mode gives users a little more creative freedom in creating a photo with a specific look. To Google’s credit, its main camera app includes sliders for changing color temperature and exposure, but a full Pro mode to let us control shutter speed would also be ideal.

But like I said, this will almost certainly never happen because the Pixel camera has always seen that their super smart AI algorithm can help you churn out a great photo.

Adding these features also standardizes them for all Android devices


I mainly want the above features in the Pixel UI because they would greatly enhance the Pixel experience. The fact that the Pixel Fold will give us a bigger screen but still limit us to only split-screen multitasking is a waste of screen real estate (and yes, I’ve tried the Pixel Fold and so far there’s still only a split-screen option).

But even if you don’t use Pixel devices at all, it would still benefit you as an Android user for Google to implement these features into the Pixel UI because then they would become a core part of Android. This would add some uniformity to the way core functionality behaves in Android devices.

Some readers may remember this, but there was that time in late 2017 and early 2018 when every Android brand offered their own take on swipe gesture navigation, and the experience was a disaster. It wasn’t until Google rolled out a universal swipe gesture system (copying that of the iPhone) that other Android brands followed suit.

The Google Pixel 7 series is a great phone and I’m super excited about the Pixel Fold, but the software experience leaves me wanting. I am always slightly annoyed by having to do yoga with my hands just to lock the screen 150 times a day. And I’ll be really annoyed that an $1,800 foldable phone won’t let me freely multitask without conforming to a locked grid.

#features #Google #Pixel #thirdparty #Android #skins

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