7 tips and tricks to master your Google Pixel Tablet

Google's Android-powered tablet can automatically identify songs playing nearby, and much more.
A person holding a Google Pixel Tablet, showing a bird as the wallpaper and various apps on the screen with a clock and weather widget.
There are lots of features to explore on the Pixel Tablet. Google

Google is back in the tablet game with the Pixel Tablet, a 10.95-inch slate that will set you back $499 and comes with a charging dock that’s also a stand and speaker. As you would expect, it runs the latest Android 13 software too.

If you’ve just picked up a Pixel Tablet, or are thinking about it and want to know what the hardware can do, these tips should be useful—it’s capable of much more than your smartphone is.

1. Run apps side-by-side

A tablet gives you significantly more screen space than a phone, so make the most of it by running two apps side by side (in landscape mode) or stacked on top of each other (in portrait mode). You can check social media while watching a video, for example, or look up information online while writing an email.

Launch both apps you want to use one after the other, then swipe up from the bottom of the screen and hold your finger briefly in the middle to bring up a gallery of thumbnails showing recently used apps. Swipe to the app you want to position on the right (landscape) or at the top (portrait), tap Split, and then select the second app you want to place on the left or at the bottom.

The Pixel Tablet splits the screen in half by default, but you can change this by dragging the center dividing line with your finger—doing so will allow you to give more room to one app (such as a video player) and less room to the other (like a note-taking app).

2. Identify songs playing nearby

Like the Google Pixel phones, the Pixel Tablet has a few exclusive apps and features, including the Recorder app that can transcribe spoken audio into text. There’s also a Now Playing utility that works in the background, automatically identifying songs that are playing close by the Pixel Tablet.

[Related: The best apps for listening to music on your phone]

So, for example, if you’re watching a television show and a compelling needle drop happens, you don’t have to scramble to launch Shazam or something similar on your phone—just check your Pixel Tablet’s screen.

But Now Playing isn’t enabled by default, so you’ll have to turn it on before you can do any of that. To do so, open Settings, choose Sound, then Now Playing, and turn on the Identify songs playing nearby toggle switch. You can come back to this screen later to tap Now Playing history to see tunes the Pixel Tablet has recently identified.

3. Enable hub mode

The hub mode settings on a Google Pixel Tablet.
Hub mode turns your Pixel Tablet into a digital display. David Nield for Popular Science

When your Pixel Tablet is charging on its official dock, you can put it into “hub mode.” This essentially gives you easy access to smart home controls and Google Assistant, as well the option to display your choice of photos or artwork when the tablet isn’t in use.

When you set up the tablet for the first time, you’ll have the option to enable hub mode, but you can toggle the feature on or off later too. Just open Settings, then tap Hub Mode. There, you can configure settings such as what the tablet uses for a screen saver, and what sorts of alerts and reminders are shown.

Pick Screen saver, and your options are Art gallery, Full-screen clock, Google Photos, Weather, and the even cuter Weather frog. Within some of these, there will be an extra Customize button—for choosing the type of clock face you want to use, for example.

4. Use picture-in-picture video mode

Another way to make full use of your tablet’s 10.95-inch screen is by keeping videos playing while you use other apps. The same picture-in-picture mode is available on Android phones too, but it looks a lot less cluttered on a tablet.

All you need to do is launch a video in an app that supports picture-in-picture—like Netflix, Disney Plus, Prime Video, or YouTube (with a premium subscription)—then swipe up from the bottom of the screen to launch another app. A mini player will stay on the screen, and you can reposition it by dragging it around. Tap on the mini player to get playback controls, or drag it down to the X at the bottom of the screen.

To disable picture-in-picture for a particular app, open Settings, then choose Apps and See all apps. Find and select the app you want to disable the feature for, tap Picture-in-picture, and turn the toggle switch off.

5. Stay in the frame

If you’re using your Pixel Tablet to make video calls to friends, family, or colleagues, there’s a neat little feature that ensures you’re always in the frame and in focus, even if you’re moving around while you’re on the call.

[Related: Powerhouse tips to improve your favorite video call app]

For this to work, the tablet needs to be on its dock and using the front camera for the video call. You also need to be using the Google Meet app, which you’ll have to get from the Play Store—it’s not installed on the Pixel Tablet by default.

The feature you want is called continuous framing, and you activate it by tapping the relevant icon while you’re on a video call—it looks like a person’s profile with four corners around it. One note: You can’t use continuous framing if you’re using background effects on a call.

6. Give kids their own space

The parental control options for a Pixel Tablet.
You can put protections in place for when your kids or young relatives use your Pixel Tablet. David Nield for Popular Science

Fire up your Pixel Tablet for the first time and you’ll notice a Kids Space app. If you’ve got younger family members using the tablet, it’s a great way to keep them entertained and safe.

Launch the app and you’ll be asked to create a child account for the tablet, or pick an existing one you’ve set up through Google’s Family Link service. As you go through the initial setup process, you’ll be able to put filters in place for Google search and Google Chrome, and put limits on accessing content from the Play Store. You can also choose which apps are available to the child.

With that done, the Kids Space app can be used for curated videos, books, music, and games, while the rest of the tablet stays locked down to your specifications. To switch back to your account, tap the username icon (top right).

7. Send audio and video via Chromecast

The Pixel Tablet dock comes with Chromecast capabilities built right into it, so you can beam audio and video over from compatible apps on an Android phone or iPhone—as long as the tablet is docked, charging, and on the same WiFi network as the device you’re casting from.

Most video and audio apps offer a Chromecast option: If it’s available, somewhere in the app you’ll see a button that looks like a rectangle with three curved lines in the lower left corner. A variety of web apps that run in a browser, including those for YouTube and Netflix, have a Chromecast button too.

Once you tap or click the button, you’ll see a list of Chromecast devices on your local WiFi network, which should include your tablet: Select the Pixel Tablet to connect. You can control playback from your phone or on the tablet screen. To break the connection, tap the Chromecast button in the originating app again, then Stop casting.