At the launch of the Google Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL last week, Google piloted a new feature called "Now Playing" – which makes the Pixel 2 listen for any ambient music in the background and identify it on the fly – a lifesaver for those of us who catch the last few seconds of a great song on the radio and can't open Shazam quick enough to identify it. Now Playing identifies the song and then allows you to explore it – i.e. learn more about the artist, purchase the song, or play the track on your favourite music streaming service. However, to the dismay of music-lovers stuck with older Android phones, it is a Pixel 2 exclusive feature (for now at least).
Or so you think.
Today, we're going to walk you through a stupidly easy way to get the same innovative functionality on any Android device, using everyone's favourite music-identifying app: Shazam.
Step 1: Install Shazam from the Google Play Store
Yes, we know what you're thinking. However, it's worth considering that Shazam has the widest song recognition database on the planet, so there is no better tool for the job.
Also, Shazam recently added a feature known as "Auto-Shazam" which allows for the functionality we're seeking; so unless you own a Pixel 2 or a Pixel 2 XL, this is the only tool for the job.
Step 2: Enable Auto Shazam
Once you've installed Shazam and it sets itself up, press and hold the large Shazam logo in the middle of your screen. You should receive a prompt asking you if you want to enable Auto Shazam. Tap "Turn On", enable Shazam's audio recording permissions and you're good to go!
Shazam will now identify songs playing in the background. Even while the screen was off and my device was locked (as your device will probably be when you're out and about and music is playing in the background), it consistently and promptly identified whatever songs I played while writing this guide. It shows a notification on your lock screen, telling you how many songs it has found, and you can see the list and explore the song within Shazam's app.
But wait- won't this drain my battery like crazy?
Not necessarily. While we initially thought it would murder our batteries, testing done by Google Play app firm AppQuest when Auto Shazam was first released shows that this feature has a minor impact on battery life and data usage.
Compared to using Shazam with the feature disabled, Auto Shazam used 36% more background data. However, this statistic is slightly misleading, as Shazam's existing background data usage is in the kilobytes to begin with. As far as we're aware, you shouldn't need to worry about data usage, but note that it may differ from device to device.
Interestingly, the research indicated that Auto Shazam actually used less battery when compared to Shazam normally, including a 16% decrease in background runtime. Whether this is a bug or just a testament to Shazam's poor optimisation, we cannot tell.
In my time testing this feature while walking between fairly crowded shops in a mall, it identified every song playing without any quantifiable battery drain or increased data usage – therefore aligning itself with AppQuest's findings. However, your mileage may vary, as devices may handle the extra load differently depending on the amount of existing bloatware that may be plaguing your device.
If you experience high amounts of battery drain, or just don't like the idea of your mic always being on, you can disable the feature by opening the Shazam app, tapping the settings icon and toggling "Auto Shazam" off. Now your conversations aren't being sent to any foreign servers for the NSA to listen in on later (we think).
What do you guys think? Will you use this and never miss a song again, or just rub it in your Pixel-touting friends' faces? Or does it murder your battery and your data plan? Let us know what you think in the comments, or post over in the forums.