Google Announces Impressive Set of Pixel “Feature Drops”

Posted on December 9, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 11 Comments

Google revealed today that it will make the Pixel family of smartphones better over time with so-called “feature drops.” The first one is arriving later in December.

“Your phone should get better over time,” Google’s Shenaz Zack writes in the announcement. “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.”

Here’s what’s coming in the first Pixel feature drop:

Post-snap photo blur. Today, Pixel owners have to choose portrait mode when taking a shot in order to get a background blur effect. But now, you’ll be able to blur the background at any time later. This works for new photos as well as photos that were taken years ago.

No more robocalls. The Call Screen feature, available on Pixel 4 in the US, helps you automatically screen unknown callers and filter out robocalls before the phone even rings. If the call isn’t a robocall, the phone will ring a few moments later and tell you who is calling and why. This feature works on-device and does not use Wi-Fi or data, Google says, ensuring your privacy.

Improved video calls on Duo. Google Duo is picking up a new auto-framing feature on Pixel 4 that will keep your face centered during video calls even while you’re moving, and will adjust automatically if another person joins you in the shot. Additionally, Duo will use machine learning to reduce video choppiness, even on bad connections. And on Pixel 2, 3, and 4, Duo will offer a portrait filter that gently blurs the background.

Better location quality in Maps. Pixel 4 users will also “get amazingly fast accuracy in Google Maps with improved on-device computing for much better location quality,” Google says.

Better memory management. Pixel 4 is getting a memory management update that will proactively compress cached applications so that users can more ably run multiple applications at the same time. This includes games, streaming content and more, Google says.

In addition to these new features, Google says that it is bringing some Pixel 4 features to older Pixels, too. The Recorder app is now available on all supported Pixels. Pixel 3 and 3a users will get Live Caption functionality. Focus mode is out of beta and now rolling out to Pixel owners via the Digital Wellbeing app. The “Flip to Shhh” feature is also coming to Digital Wellbeing on Pixel 2 and 2 XL. And those with a Pixel 4 in the UK, Canada, Ireland, Singapore, and Australia will soon get (English-only) access to the new Google Assistant experience.

Google says you can expect these features within “the coming weeks.”

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