Google recently released the Pixel 4 and 4 XL to wide ranging feedback. Amazing cameras but terrible battery life pretty much sums up the excellence in frustration on offer for Google yet again with its Pixel line.
Pixel phones benefit from at least two Android OS updates in their lifetime as well as monthly security and software updates monthly for three years. Google has today promoted some of these new features in what it is uncoolly referring to as the “first Pixel feature drop.
In a blog post Shenaz Zack, Group Product Manager said:
“Your phone should get better over time. Your Pixel automatically updates regularly with fixes and improvements. Now, your Pixel will also get bigger updates in new Pixel feature drops. Our first one, coming this month, includes a new way to capture portraits, easier Duo calls and automatic call screening.”
With it, Google is introducing quite a few new features that are specific to certain Pixel generations.
You can now blur the background on any photo in Google Photos, even if it wasn’t originally turned on when you took it. This appears to be for every Pixel, and uses Google’s machine learning AI to achieve. It looks pretty cool – hopefully it works as well as the actual portrait mode.
Call screening is still exclusive to the Pixel in the US, and the Pixel 4 has got an update to better integrate the feature with the Assistant.
An update to Duo for Pixel 4 only intelligently keeps your head in the centre of the frame on video calls and auto-widens the camera angle if someone else comes into frame with you. Pixel 4 also gains on-device machine learning that will fill in audio on bad connections by predicting the next likely sound in order to minimise choppy audio. If that works, it will be magic.
Pixel 2, 3 and 4 gain the ability to blur your background when on video calls too, portrait style.
Google also added the following features:
“The Recorder app is now available on older generations of Pixel.
“Pixel 3 and 3a users will get Live Caption.
“Digital Wellbeing is getting updates too. Focus mode is rolling out to help you stay productive and minimize distractions by pausing apps you've selected in a single tap. You can now set an automatic schedule, take a short break or end Focus mode early without disrupting your schedule.
“Flip to Shhh will also join the Digital Wellbeing features on Pixel 2 and 2XL.
“If you use a Pixel 4 in the UK, Canada, Ireland, Singapore and Australia, you’ll soon get the new Google Assistant (English only), which is even faster and more helpful.”
That’s a pretty decent ‘drop’, though we wish Google would just call it a software update. It’s unclear if these features will come in separate downloads to the monthly update, but we suspect they’ll be included in it.
In the post Google also claims Pixels are getting improved memory management. If effective that’ll be great news to Pixel 3 owners in particular – the Pixel 3 XL famously suffers from terrible memory issues and background app treatment.
To get the features, Google recommends updating your software and ensuring all your apps are up to date on the latest version.