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What’s new on your Google Pixel smartphone?

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What’s new on your Google Pixel smartphone?

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Robert Triggs / Android Authority

If you’re looking for a stellar camera phone, you can’t go wrong with a Google Pixel smartphone. But Pixels are much more than just their camera. The software of Pixel smartphones is what makes them unique, as these phones tend to get better over time. Google does push the hardware to its limit in all the right ways, and the software magic on Pixels, as experienced through Pixel Feature Drops, is proof of it. But what are Pixel Feature Drops, and what do they bring to the table for your Google smartphone and other Pixel devices? We explore this in this article!

What is a Pixel Feature Drop?

When people refer to Android as a platform, they are referring to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). AOSP is the barebones but open version of Android that Google develops. Anyone can take AOSP, make modifications on top of it, and release this modified version of Android. This is what manufacturers like Samsung and OnePlus do for their own phones by releasing heavily modified Android skins.

In fact, Google also does the same thing. It takes AOSP (the open platform that it develops) and makes modifications on top of it. These select modifications are exclusively released to Pixel smartphones in the form of Pixel UI.

Pixel Feature Drops add and update Pixel-exclusive features.

Thus, a Pixel smartphone can get three types of updates. The first is monthly security patches, which fix critical security issues. The second is Android platform updates, which upgrades the base Android version on the device. These happen annually for the major Android versions and periodically in between for minor releases. The third is Pixel Feature Drops, which adds exclusive features to Google Pixel smartphones.

google pixel tablet pixel 7 pro hazel 2

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Google sometimes opens up some select Pixel-exclusive features to the broader Android community. So, while Pixel Feature Drops are Pixel-exclusive, they may not forever remain so.

On the opposite end of the above statement, some features from Pixel Feature Drops also do not make it to older Pixel smartphones. This is mainly because these old smartphones either do not have the requisite hardware for a good experience or the phones are no longer supported.

Pixel Feature Drops include features for all devices in the Pixel ecosystem, including the Pixel Fold foldable, the Pixel Tablet, the Pixel Watch, and even the Pixel Buds.

When is the next Pixel Feature Drop?

google pixel 7 pro home screen in hand

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Google has not committed to a specific release schedule for Pixel Feature Drops. Instead, the company says that Feature Drops arrive “every few months.”

Based on historical trends, Pixel Feature Drops arrive once in three months. The last one was released on June 13, 2023, so we expect the next Pixel Feature Drop to be released in the first half of September 2023.

Google likes to release updates on the first Mondays of the month, but sometimes, it gets delayed to the following week.

Since the September Feature Drop has not arrived yet, there’s a chance the next one could be released on September 12. It may get delayed further and arrive directly on October 4, alongside the Pixel 8 series and Android 14.

Rumored features for future Pixel Feature Drops

google pixel 7 pro quick settings 1

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Feature Drops hold a lot of surprises for Pixel users, but we have a few leaks that shed light on what could come in the future.

  • December 2023 Pixel Feature Drop:
    • Users could potentially be able to set different live wallpapers on the lockscreen and homescreen (h/t Mishaal Rahman).
    • The taskbar on tablets and foldables could get a search bar (h/t Mishaal Rahman).

We’ll update the article when we hear about more of these upcoming features.

Google Pixel Feature Drop: June 2023

  • Released on June 13, 2023.

Here are all the new features Google announced as part of the June 2023 feature drop.

Macro Focus Video

  • Available on Pixel 7 Pro.

The big highlight of this feature drop was the rollout of macro focus to video mode. This feature uses the Pixel 7 Pro’s new ultrawide lens to get close in on subjects. Previously, this feature was used only for still photography. But with this update, Pixel 7 Pro users can also record macro mode videos.

Palm Trigger for hands-free photos

Google Pixel Feature Drop Palm Detection in Google Camera
  • Available for Pixel 6 and newer phones.

You can take a hands-free selfie on newer Pixel smartphones by raising your palm. This will trigger a timer, which can be either three or 10 seconds.

Cinematic Wallpapers and Emoji Workshop

  • Available for Pixel 6 and newer phones.

On newer Pixel smartphones, you can use AI to transform your 2D wallpaper into a dynamic 3D wallpaper. The phone automatically identifies the subject in the foreground and the background and separates the two with motion animation for a cinematic look.

If that is not to your taste, you can also create emoji live wallpapers by mixing and matching over 4,000 emoji with different patterns and colors.

Safety Check and Emergency Sharing

Google Pixel Feature Drop Car crash detection, safety check, and emergency sharing

Users can ask Google Assistant to schedule a safety check on their Pixel phone. If you don’t respond to your safety check that is triggered after the set duration, your emergency contacts will be notified, and your real-time location will be shared.

Pixel phones also have had car crash detection for a few years. Now, in addition to contacting emergency services, the feature can also share your real-time location and call status with your emergency contacts.

Recorder Improvements

Google Pixel Feature Drop Recorder app improvements
  • Available for Pixel 6 and newer phones.

The Recorder app on Pixels is excellent for recording sound and audio conversations. With this update, the Recorder app can generate speaker-labeled video clips, search for speakers within recordings, and export transcripts into Google Docs.

Redesigned Google Home panel on Pixel lockscreen

Google Pixel Feature Drop Google Home home screen on Pixel lockscreen

If you use the Google Home app to control your smart home devices, you can now access the newly redesigned home panel of the Home app from the left of your lockscreen. This makes it easy to access your favorite smart home devices, turn off lights, see your cameras, and much more.

Smarter haptics

  • Available for Pixel 6a and Pixel 7a.

Pixel’s adaptive haptics on the Pixel 6a and Pixel 7a can now lower its intensity when it detects that it is on a hard, flat surface like a desk or table.

Adaptive Charging now uses Google AI

The Adaptive Charging feature on the Pixel now uses Google AI to help extend the lifespan of your Pixel battery. Your phone can now predict a long charging session based on your previous charging habits. Then, it can modify the charging rate to slowly reach 100% one hour before it is expected to be unplugged.

Two new Google Assistant voices

Google Assistant now has two more voice options, totaling 12 voices for US English.

New Pixel Watch features

This update included a lot of new features for the Pixel Watch:

  • Added blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) monitoring.
  • Added high and low heart rate alerts.
  • Google Assistant on Wear OS is now available in Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Polish, and Spanish.
  • Added three new Spotify tiles.
  • Added ability to automatically pause and resume run, walk, or bike exercise.

Google Pixel Feature Drop: March 2023

  • Released on March 13, 2023.

Here are all the new features Google announced as part of the March 2023 feature drop.

Faster Night Sight

Google Pixel Feature Drop Faster night sight
  • Available on Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.

When Google launched the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro, it included a new faster Night Sight feature that used new algorithms to take faster low-light photos. With this feature drop, the feature has also been extended to the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.

Magic Eraser comes to more phones

Google Pixel Feature Drop Magic Eraser
  • Available on all Pixel phones through the Google Photos app.

Magic Eraser allows you to remove objects from your photos easily, and it is surprisingly good. The feature remained a Pixel 6 series and Pixel 7 series exclusive for a while.

With this feature drop, Google extended the feature to all past Pixel phones. Non-Pixel users can access this feature through a paid Google One subscription.

New Direct My Call comes to more phones

Google Pixel Feature Drop Direct My Call
  • Available on Pixel 4a and newer phones in the US.

With the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, Google launched an improved version of the Direct My Call feature. This improved version lists out menu options for select toll-free numbers in the US before they are even spoken. This makes it as easy to navigate those calls as it is to navigate a visible menu on your phone.

With the March 2023 feature drop, the feature has been extended to the Pixel 4a and its newer siblings.

Built-in Health Connect

Google Pixel Feature Drop Health Connect

The Health Connect app was announced at Google I/O 2022. It is a service that syncs data across several different health and fitness apps and gives you a central set of controls for managing this data. With this feature drop, Google is integrating Health Connect into Pixel UI, so you don’t need to download an additional app to begin using it.

If you want this feature on your other smartphones, Google has planned to integrate Health Connect into the Settings app on Android 14.

Cross-device timers

Google Pixel Feature Drop Cross device timers

With this update, you can see timers that you have set on your smart speaker on your Google Pixel smartphone. The At a Glance widget will show the countdown on your phone. You will also receive a push notification when the timer goes off, letting you disable or extend it.

Expanding existing features

In addition to new features, Google also took the opportunity to expand some existing features to new regions:

  • Fast Pair was expanded to Chromebooks to let them automatically pair with Pixel Buds and other Fast Pair-enabled Bluetooth headphones.
  • New emoji combinations are now available on Emoji Kitchen via Gboard.
  • Hold for Me expands to Japan (in addition to the US, Australia, and Canada).
  • Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro now support two eSIMs in Dual SIM Dual Standby mode.
  • UWB digital car key rolled out in the weeks after this announcement.

New Pixel Watch features

This update included a lot of few notable features for the Pixel Watch:

  • Fall detection is now available on the Pixel Watch, letting you connect to emergency services if the watch detects you’ve taken a hard fall.
  • While not directly included in this update, the announcement post also mentions the new sound and display settings available through the Wear OS 3 update that was slated to arrive on the Pixel Watch soon. This would allow the Pixel Watch to:
    • Use mono-audio to limit disorientation caused by split-audio.
    • Use new color correction and greyscale modes.

Google Pixel Feature Drop: December 2022

  • Released on December 5, 2022.

Here are all the new features Google announced as part of the December 2022 feature drop.

VPN by Google One

Google Pixel Feature Drop VPN by Google One
  • Available on Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro.

The Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro now include VPN by Google One for free in several countries. VPN, short for Virtual Private Network, adds a layer of security to your internet surfing. So, if you need to access important information like your bank account from public Wi-Fi in an airport, you can have some peace of mind. Your internet activity will be shielded from eavesdropping hackers and network operators, while your IP address will be masked from sites and apps that you visit.

VPN by Google One is usually included as part of the Premium 2TB plan of Google One. Now, Pixel 7 and 7 Pro users can avail of the same without subscribing to Google One.

New unified security and privacy settings

Google Pixel Feature Drop Security and privacy settings

This feature drop now consolidates security and privacy settings, risk levels, and other security-related information in one place. Consequently, reviewing all of this information is now easier. New action cars also notify of any security risks and their remedies.

Clear calling

Google Pixel Feature Drop Clear calling
  • Available on Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro.

The Clear calling feature uses machine learning and AI to reduce the background noise from the other party and enhance the caller’s voice. So, even if your caller is in a noisy place, you can still hear them clearly.

Recorder: Speaker labels

Google Pixel Feature Drop Recorder speaker labels
  • Available on Pixel 6 and newer.

When you record and transcribe an English conversation through the Pixel’s Recorder app, the app will now identify and label each speaker and even insert line breaks when the speaker changes. This feature uses machine learning to process speaker labeling live and on-device. Once the recording is complete, you can re-label the speakers with their names. Thus, with this, you can easily record an interview, meeting, lecture, or conversation with each person labeled individually.

Cough and Snore Detection

Google Pixel Feature Drop Cough and snore detection
  • Available on Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.

Google launched cough and snore detection with the Pixel 7 series, and this feature drop brings the features to the previous flagships. You need to set up Bedtime mode in Clock and Digital Wellbeing settings and then use the Pixel to help you understand what affects your sleep.

New wallpapers and live wallpapers

This feature drop includes three new Curated Culture wallpapers to celebrate the International Day of People with Disabilities. It also includes the new Live Bloom wallpaper collection that shifts and sways images when your Pixel homescreen moves around.

Spatial Audio

  • Available on Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro.

Spatial Audio support was announced for the abovementioned devices. You would need a Pixel Buds Pro alongside a compatible app and content. You can even use it with wired headphones.

Expanding existing features

In addition to new features, Google also took the opportunity to expand some existing Pixel features to new regions:

  • You can now share your digital car key with iPhones and devices with Android 12 and above.
  • Gboard’s Grammar Check is now available in French, in addition to English and Spanish.
  • Live Translate can now translate sent and received texts in your messaging apps in five more languages: Arabic, Persian, Swedish, Vietnamese, and Danish.
  • Pixel 4a and newer Pixels now get access to the more powerful Search.
  • Pixel 4a and newer Pixels now get access to Voice Message Transcription in Messages.

New Pixel Watch features

This update included a lot of few notable features for the Pixel Watch:

  • Sleep Profile: Google expanded a Fitbit Premium feature to the Pixel Watch. With Sleep Profile, the Pixel Watch considers ten aspects of sleep, including duration, bedtime consistency, and disruption, to give you insights into your sleep habits. You need to wear your Pixel Watch for at least 14 nights every month, and results will be available on the first day of the following month.
  • Pixel Watch gets a new Sunrise/Sunset tile from the Weather app.
  • The Contacts app now lets you pin five contacts for easier access.

FAQs

The latest Pixel Feature Drop will automatically be downloaded and installed on your Pixel smartphone. You can check if you have any pending software updates by going to Settings > System > System update.



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Harmony Evans is an award-winning author of Harlequin Kimani Romance, African-American romance, and so on. Harmony Evans is an award-winning author for Harlequin Kimani Romance, the leading publisher of African-American romance. Her 2nd novel, STEALING KISSES, will be released in November 2013. Harmony is a single mom to a beautiful, too-smart-for-her-own-good daughter, who makes her grateful for life daily. Her hobbies include cooking, baking, knitting, reading, and of course, napping and also review some of the best-selling and popular brands and services in the market and also write comprehensive blogs.

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