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Google blesses Pixel phones with awesome new features

One of the best reasons to own a Google-branded phone is that it’s quick to receive timely software updates. That was the case with the Nexus line and it’s the same with the Pixel line.

Whereas major Android OS updates were critical in the first few generations of phones, the focus has shifted more to focus on security patches and bug fixes. Starting today, Google is introducing a new monthly “Feature Drop’ for its Pixel phones.

In a post on its official blog, The Keyword, Google describes the new features that are being issued to Pixel devices “on a regular basis”. The first so-called Feature drop includes automatic call screening, a new photo editing tool, improved Google Duo video calls, and more.

Automatic call screening

Thanks to an update to its Call Screen feature, Google Assistant can now automatically screen unknown callers and filter out known robocalls. Indeed, it will do the heavy lifting in the background and only notify users when it’s an actual call.

Call_Screen.gif

Should your call be legitimate, you’ll get a notification with contextual information about the caller and why they’re trying to reach you.

Google Duo ‘Auto-framing’

Making video calls gets more seamless and intuitive with the new update as Google Duo can now automatically re-frame the camera. If you’re moving around, or if someone else walks into the room, Google Duo can adjust the focus using the wide-angle front-facing lens.

Google Photos ‘Portrait Blur’

Taking photos with portrait mode is a sure-fire way to make your subject stand out from the background. Not only does it really help people look great, with blurred backgrounds, but it works on inanimate objects, too.

As part of the new Feature drop, Pixel users can now blur the background of an image even when the portrait mode was not used. What’s more, it even works for photos taken years ago.

Improved efficiency

Google is pretty tight-lipped on the details here, but does say all Pixel devices will also receive an update how it manages memory. Once in place, phones will proactively compresses cached applications so users can run multiple apps at the same time.

Other Features

There are plenty of other features being rolled out to various Pixel phones as part of the new Feature drop. Here’s a look at what to expect, even for older generations.

  • Google Duo machine learning to predict sounds and improve conversation on poor connections
  • Callers on Duo video calls for the Pixel 2, 3 and 4 can now apply a portrait filter
  • Faster accuracy in Google Maps with improved on-device computing for much better location quality
  • New apps and features for Pixel 2, 3, and 3a
    • 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.
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