Pixel feature drops are part of an ongoing effort to improve Google’s homegrown phones with new upgrades and software over time. The first Pixel feature drop enhanced Google’s Call Screener, memory management, and more, and now Google’s second Pixel feature drop is bringing 12 new tweaks to the Pixel line.
For Pixel 4 owners, the biggest new update is the addition of a new Motion Sense gesture that lets you pause or resume music playback by performing a tapping movement above the phone (you don’t actually need to touch the phone). Previously, Motion Sense was only able to skip forward and backward between tracks with a swipe of your hand, so the addition of pause and resume is nice, though now I’d like to see Google add a gesture for adjusting volume too. We're not convinced it works all that well, though.
Google also added a new feature to Google Duo which gives Pixel users access to augmented reality effects during video calls that can replace your face with a giant sunflower, for instance, and other things that respond to your movements and reactions.
Following the first Pixel feature drop’s ability to add depth effects to pics in Google Photos long after they were taken, the second feature drop now lets you capture selfies with improved portrait-style depths effects, along with 3D photos that work in Facebook.
But perhaps the biggest change in the second feature drop is new functionality for the Pixel’s power button. By pressing and holding the power button, you can now quickly swipe through things like credit cards, boarding passes, event tickets, and more in Google Pay. And for those with a Pixel 4, these new swipeable cards will also contain other helpful things like emergency contacts and medical info.
All you have to do to add a boarding pass to Android Pay is simply take a screenshot before tapping on the follow-up notification. Doing this will also tell Google to send you alerts about your flight, among other helpful updates. Both the power button and boarding pass improvements are slated to arrive on the Pixel 3, 3a, and Pixel 4 sometime in March.
Meanwhile, when it comes to customising the way your Pixel looks, Google is adding the ability to switch between light and dark themes automatically depending on the time of day. And if you want to customise the way your Pixel behaves based on your location, Google’s second feature drop will now allow you to do things like automatically turn your phone’s ringer on silent when you connect to your work wi-fi network, or set your phone to Do Not Disturb when you get home.
On the safety side, after launching the Personal Safety app on the Pixel 4 in the U.S. last year, Google is now enabling the Personal Safety app in the U.K. and Australia, so that if you’re ever in a car crash, the phone will detect that and allow you to call emergency services with a single tap or voice command.
Finally, there are a few other small changes like a new temporary brightness boost that makes things easier to read when viewed in direct sunlight, and improved long press options in the Pixel launcher. For a full list of all the new updates, which Pixels they affect, and what countries these features will be available in, you can see a complete list of new Pixel features here.