There’s a lot to learn with modern phones and the Google Pixel 3 is no different. The more I spend fiddling with mine, the more cool new features and capabilities I find. Many of which are unique to the Pixel line. My favorite so far? Now Playing. It ID’s all the music you hear, right on your lock screen…
One of the first apps I installed on my iPhone back in the day was “Shazam” and I marveled at the idea of a program that could sample the ambient audio and identify the song playing. Definitely verging on magic. Shazam has evolved and the program now has a constant-listening mode that lets you identify a sequence of songs. But it’s still a program and it still has to be running and constantly communicating with its server.
Google engineers were clearly impressed by that tech but asked the question – rather surprisingly, perhaps – of whether it was possible to identify songs in your environment without actually communicating with an Internet server. That’s where Now Playing came from, and on the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, it’s a pretty impressive feature.
Let’s start by setting it up, then I’ll share a quick demo screen or two. Enabling Now Playing is ridiculously easy, actually. Just go to Settings on the Pixel 3 and it’ll show up as a “setting you need to enable” box right on the top:
Tap on the “Identify music around you” pane (or if you don’t have that, search for ‘now playing’, but we’ll get back to that in a minute anyway). If you do have that tiny pane, it’ll take you to this screen explaining all about Now Playing:
Notice the disclaimer at the bottom: “Now Playing works offline and never sends songs or background conversations to Google.” How it does that I’m not sure (does it download a huge database of music?) but assuming that this is a truthful statement, it’s a pretty slick feature!
To enable it, tap on the blue “TURN ON” button on the lower right. Done.
But…. what did you just enable? What settings are there? To find out, do a quick Settings search for “now” or “now playing” to find the settings and preferences screen. Here’s what you’ll see:
Tap on the third choice: “Now Playing” with the subtitle “Show nearby songs”. You’ll (finally) get to the actual home settings page:
Notice that since it’s just been enabled, there’s no history. “No songs identified yet”. Okay, that’s fair!
Turns out that there’s an additional feature you can enable from the Now Playing History screen, however, one that probably should be on this main screen, but… so it goes. Tap on “Now Playing History” and you’ll see this:
That’s the ticket! Tap “YES” to add a Now Playing shortcut to your home screen.
It explains exactly what’s going on once you do that:
Okay, all done, all configured, all set up. Now what? Why is this so interesting?
To find out, lock your phone – and check Ambient Services if it’s not always on! – and let it sit near a speaker that’s playing some music. Without any fanfare it’ll suddenly show something like this:
You see it on the bottom, right? “Rudolph The Red N… by Jessie J”. That’s the song that’s currently playing! Yes, Christmas music!
That’s its main functionality and you’ll find that it’s pretty cool. The best thing is that this is a set it and forget it sort of feature that occasionally you’ll glance at and say “Ah, okay, that’s what this song is!”. Check the history after a while and it’ll have a nice list of all the songs it identified throughout the day:
Any guess what time of the year it is? 🙂
Anyway, really cool feature and I am definitely going to leave this enabled all the time. It’s quite cool to be able to just glance at your phone and identify the current song, or remember songs you heard earlier at a club, restaurant, friend’s house or even in >gasp< an elevator. All with Google Now Playing.
Pro Tip: Have a Google Pixel 3? Or another Android phone? I have tons of Android help here on the site. Please do check it out. And go #teampixel too!