There are a few key selling points for Google’s Pixel smartphones. They tend to have great cameras. They get security and software updates delivered straight from the company that makes the Android operating system that powers most of the world’s smartphones. And they have some unique features that aren’t widely available on other phones.

From time to time Google also brings new features to its phones via major OS updates or when it rolls out monthly security updates.

But now Google is promising to deliver a pack of new features all at once with “Pixel feature drops.” The first one is set to roll out to Pixel phones this month.

The first update includes a bunch of new features for the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL smartphones… but it also brings some features that had been elusively available on the Pixel 4 series smartphones to older devices.

For example, the Pixel 3 and 3a are getting support for the Live Caption feature that can provide real-time captions for any video. The Pixel 2 and 2 XL are gaining support for Flip to Shhh, which lets you enable Do Not Disturb by flipping your phone so that it’s face down on a table.

Focus Mode is rolling out to the Digital Wellbeing app for older Pixel devices, giving you the option to pause selected apps with a single tap. And the Recorder app that creates transcripts of voice memos in real-time is now available for older Pixel devices.

Google says it will also bring improvements to memory management to all Pixel devices.

As for the new Pixel 4-exlusive features, Google is bringing:

  • There’s support for adding portrait-style blurred backgrounds to photos after they’ve been saved by using a Portrait Blur feature.
  • Call Screen can use Google Assistant to automatically screen calls in the US and filter out robocalls.
  • Auto-framing for Google Duo can automatically keep your head in focus while you join and/or expand the view if another person walks into the view.
  • Duo also picks up support for a Portrait Filter (with a real-time blurred background), and uses machine learning to improve call quality.

It’s unclear how often Google will offer Pixel feature drops in the future.

Update: A Google official tells The Verge that the company is “targeting a quarterly cadence” for feature drops.

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2 replies on “Pixel feature drops to bring new tricks to Google’s smartphones”

  1. XDA will have many of these working on other phones in a short while. The only “gotta have it” is the filtering of robocalls.

    1. Agreed.
      The rest of these are just the bloat/gimmick that Google inherited from HTC/Sense. No thank you.
      I rather a lean, clean, experience… with the modularity to add these features only if I please.
      Otherwise, it’s just better to use a Custom Rom (ResurrectionRemix) or a much better SkinnedOS (FlymeOS).

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