Google’s Pixel range is well-known for getting the latest Android builds and security patches before anyone other phones, and those advantages are about to include new features as well. The first of what Google is calling a “Pixel feature drop” is coming in December 2019, and it’s going to improve some of the Pixel 4‘s best features, including the A.I.-powered Call Screen, background blur in photos, and Duo video calling.
Don’t worry if you’re not rocking the latest Pixel 4 though, as some additional new toys are also coming to the older Pixels too. Read on for all the details.
Call Screen now gets rid of robocallers silently
Spam calls bother a lot of us, and Google changed the game when it introduced the Call Screen feature on the Pixel 3. Powered by the Google Assistant, Call Screen allows your A.I. assistant to reply to a suspicious call and report back whether it was worth your time or not. Now, Pixel 4 users in the U.S. won’t even have to trigger Call Screen when a suspected spammer or unknown number calls — Call Screen will take over automatically, intercepting the call and finding out whether it is legitimate.
If it’s a robocall, then Call Screen will dismiss it without ever bothering you. If it’s a legitimate call, then Call Screen will notify you and show you a transcript of who is calling and why. If you’re happy to take over the call, Call Screen will then hand control over to you. Best of all, Call Screen doesn’t use any mobile data or Wi-Fi, as the screening takes place on your device — which also makes sure your data is kept securely private.
Better photo and video calling controls
Camera quality is n enticing reason to buy a Pixel over one of the range’s many competitors. Google knows that, and is always upgrading its phones with new camera features. The latest addition isn’t as flashy as the astrophotography mode added with the Pixel 4, but it’s arguably more useful for most Pixel 4 owners. Once the feature drop arrives, you’ll be able to edit snaps in Google Photos to change the level of background blur present. It can even be added to a picture without background blur — so you can add that sweet portrait magic to a snap, even if you forgot to switch to Portrait mode.
Video calling on Google Duo through the Pixel 4 is also getting some significant improvements. Once the feature drop is live, your Pixel 4’s front-facing camera will be able to track your face as you move, keeping your face centered in the frame, so you can focus on talking, and not on logistics. If someone else enters the frame, Duo will automatically zoom out to accommodate both of you. If you have a bad connection, the Pixel 4 will use machine learning to fill in broken audio by predicting the most likely sound and inserting it into the call.
Finally, those placing calls on the Pixel 2, 3, and 4 will get access to a portrait mode during calls, so you can blur out the background and keep the focus on yourself.
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
While older Pixel won’t be getting all of these updates — yet — they will gain some juicy new features as part of the new feature drops.
Google’s new Recorder app will be available on every Pixel phone, as will the distraction-killing Focus Mode. Each Pixel will also get some minor performance upgrades to help your phone handle multiple tasks better. The Pixel 3 and 3a range will be getting access to the Live Caption accessibility tool, while the Pixel 2 range will get the Flip to Shh option in Digital Wellbeing.