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I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been minding my own business when I hear a song I must know or add to a playlist. In that moment, I’ll call out, “Hey, Google, name this song!”

Sometimes I catch it in time and sometimes I don’t. When I miss out, I’ll try to google some of the lyrics. But if it’s a piece of classical music, I could be out of luck.

So when I discovered a handy feature on my Pixel 7 Pro that would automatically name a song on my home screen, naturally, I was first concerned about privacy. In order for a phone to recognize a song, it must be listening.

Also: The Pixel phones may be getting a long overdue feature

If a phone is listening, is someone receiving what it’s hearing or is what it’s hearing being saved on a remote server for later listening?

After a quick read, what I discovered was that the feature uses a song database that is stored on the device and the automatic recognition process never sends audio or background conversations to Google or a third-party service.

What this means is by enabling the feature, you’re not disabling your privacy. Of course, if you’re concerned about this, you can always enable the feature, switch your device to Airplane mode, and test it out. If it still works, you can be even more certain your phone isn’t sending information to anyone.

Also: How to find and remove spyware from your phone

I’ve tested the feature and found it to be pretty accurate, regardless of genre. I have found, however, that it will often depend on words to identify the piece of music. For example, it was able to identify Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor, K. 626 once the singers joined in.

When I gave it Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, it recognized it immediately. It did have a bit of trouble with the Hellraiser soundtrack by Ben Lovett, in that it couldn’t recognize a single song. I tested it against other soundtracks and found it couldn’t even recognize one of the most recognizable pieces of music, the Theme From Jurassic Park by John Williams — nor was it able to recognize Williams’ other giant hit, Star Wars Main Title.

Outside of original soundtracks, the feature was shockingly accurate, even with some of my more obscure artists. Just know that the feature is a bit iffy on instrumental tracks (although it did immediately recognize “YYZ” by Rush). In other words, your mileage may vary.

If this sounds like a feature you might want to make use of, let me show you how to enable it.

How to set your Pixel’s lock screen to identify music


The only thing you’ll need for this is a Pixel phone, starting with version 6 and up. Phones prior to 6 do not have this feature.

That’s all you need. Let’s recognize some music.

Unlock your Android device, pull down the Notification Shade twice, and tap the gear icon at the bottom right of the screen.

From the Settings app, locate and tap Sound & Vibration. From that new page, look for and tap Now Playing.

The Now Playing entry in the Sound & Vibration page.

Getting ready to enable the Now Playing feature on my Pixel 7 Pro.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Tap the ON/OFF slider for Identify songs playing nearby.

The Now Playing ON/OFF slider.

Enabling Now Playing in Android 13 on a Pixel 7 Pro.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

After enabling the feature, Android will automatically download the song database to your phone. Now Playing will not function until this playlist is saved to your device, so give it time.

Also: What are the best headphones for music?

You’ll know the database download is complete when the Downloading song database warning is dismissed.

The song database download warning.

The song database is still downloading.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

How to use Now Playing

You don’t have to do anything to use Now Playing. As your device hears music, it will automatically display its best guess (which is usually correct) on your device’s lock screen.

Now Playing listing Tom Sawyer by Rush on the Android lock screen.

Tom Sawyer, by Rush, was properly recognized (as it should).

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

And that’s all there is to enabling and using the Pixel Now Playing feature, which helps take the guesswork out of naming songs you don’t recognize.

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