Two months after announcing the Pixel 4, Google announced the first Pixel Feature Drop. Instead of rolling out major new features individually, Google decided to wait to unveil new features and drop them all at hence in the same update. Hence, Pixel “Feature Drop.” The first one only added a few features such as auto-framing in Google Duo, post-snap Portrait Mode in Google Photos, and automatic call screen in the Google Phone app, but the second Feature Drop is adding a dozen new features. Here’s a chart from Google that lists the new features arriving on Pixel devices with the March update:
You might be already familiar with many of these features since we’ve either documented them in the Android 11 Developer Preview or manually enabled them ahead of release. If you aren’t familiar, though, here’s a summary to get you up to speed:
- Cards & Passes: This feature lets you quickly access your debit or credit cards, event tickets, boarding passes, or any other cards stored in Google Pay, simply by pressing and holding the power button. The feature will be available to users in the following countries: U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Taiwan, and Singapore. On Pixel 4, you can also quickly access your emergency contacts and medical information stored in the “Personal Safety” app. For non-Pixel owners, this feature will arrive in Android 11 as “Quick Access Wallet.”
- Screenshot a boarding pass to add it to Google Pay: This does exactly what it says it’ll do. Simply take a screenshot of a boarding pass with the barcode showing, and then you can add the boarding pass to Google Pay by tapping on the notification that’s shown. Google Pay will then give you real-time updates on your flight, and on the day of departure, you can quickly pull up your boarding pass by long-pressing the power button to show the Cards & Passes menu. Oddly, this feature isn’t available on the Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL even though both devices support Cards & Passes. For the Pixel 3, Pixel 3a, and Pixel 4, the feature will gradually become available in all countries where Google Pay is available, so long as you’re on the March Pixel Feature Drop update.
- Tap to pause with Motion Sense: You can now pause and resume music playback on Pixel 4 by doing a “tap” gesture above the phone. This feature was first added to Motion Sense in the Android 11 Developer Preview, but it’s good to see it show up in the Pixel Feature Drop since few people are on the Developer Preview.
- Dark theme scheduling: One of the best new features in the Android 11 Developer Preview is the ability to schedule the dark theme. This feature is now available for all Pixel devices in the March Pixel Feature Drop, though it’s not as robust as the feature in Android 11. While you can schedule dark theme to coincide with the day/night cycle, you can’t customize the time for when you want to toggle dark mode.
- Rules: This is a new feature that lets you automate when you want your phone to enter Do Not Disturb mode, be silent, vibrate for notifications, or alert you for notifications. You can set triggers based on the Wi-Fi network or physical location. The feature has already started rolling out to most Pixel users.
- Emojis 12.1 Update: Google has added 169 new emoji to choose from, many of which have variations in gender and skin tones to be more accommodating.
- Duo AR Effects: During a live video call, you can show augmented reality characters that react to your facial expression and move with you around the screen. To use effects during a call, tap the menu button and then “Effects” to choose an effect. This feature isn’t available for the Pixel 2 or Pixel 3a as it might be too computationally intensive for these devices.
- Better selfies: On Pixel 4, the front-facing camera can now create images with depth, improving Portrait Mode and color pop. (The Pixel 4 only has a single front-facing camera unlike the Pixel 3 with its secondary wide-angle camera.) You can now create 3D Photos in Facebook using the single camera on Pixel 4, though this feature is broadly rolling out to devices with single cameras. To enable this feature, open the Google Camera app and go to Settings > Advanced > Social Media Depth Features.
- Car crash detection: Google is rolling out car crash detection, a feature in the Personal Safety app that detects when you’re in a motor vehicle accident and alerts emergency services if you’re unresponsive, to more areas. In addition to the United States, car crash detection is now available for Pixel 4 users in Australia and the United Kingdom with the latest Pixel Feature Drop update. Although the feature is still only officially available for Pixel 4 owners, the Personal Safety APK from the Android 11 Developer Preview can be sideloaded onto other Pixel devices to enable the feature.
- Live caption: This feature transcribes audio being played back on your phone and displays the transcriptions as floating captions on-screen. This feature debuted on the Pixel 4, came to the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a in the first Pixel Feature Drop, and landed on the Pixel 2 for many users with an update to the Device Personalization Services app. If you haven’t gotten the feature yet, then it should definitely arrive in the March update. Live caption is still limited to English and also doesn’t work with music, phone calls, or VOIP.
- Long press improvements: According to Google, the Pixel Launcher will have “improved long press options.” Google says that “you can now firmly press to get more help from your apps more quickly.” It sounds like Google is making use of the “Deep Press” API introduced in Android 10. Google trained an ML model to recognize when the user is pressing more forcefully on the screen. If that sounds like Apple’s now-abandoned Force Touch, then that’s exactly what they’re aiming for. With this feature, you can now access the long-press context menu in Pixel Launcher by pressing the screen with a bit more force in your finger. It’s not a huge change, but it’ll save you from accidentally launching an app when you wanted to long-press it instead.
- Adaptive brightness improvements: One of the flaws of the Pixel 4 is how disappointingly dim the display gets when you’re using the phone outdoors. We found out that Google wasn’t using the Pixel’s High Brightness Mode for outdoor use even though it can massively improve sunlight visibility. In the new Pixel Feature Drop, Google has updated Adaptive Brightness on the Pixel 4 so your screen brightness temporarily increases in extremely bright ambient lighting (like under direct sunlight).
That’s all the information that Google shared in their official blog post announcing the second Pixel Feature Drop as well as the announcement thread on the Pixel support forums. Here’s a short video showing off the key features of this big update:
Other, undocumented changes:
- Increased touch sensitivity: This feature wasn’t documented by Google in their official blog post, but XDA Senior Member cstark27 informed us that the “increase touch sensitivity” option is no longer exclusive to the Android 11 Developer Preview. This feature improves touch sensitivity, which could be useful if you’re wearing gloves. For Pixel 4 owners on the latest March update, you’ll find the new toggle in Display settings.
- Wireless charger realignment warning: If you misplace your Pixel 3 or Pixel 4 on the Pixel Stand, you’ll now be warned that you need to realign your phone to begin wirelessly charging. This feature was first spotted by Redditor /u/jotafett in the Android 11 Developer Preview but is now generally available in the March update.
- Pin items in the share sheet: Just like in Android 11, you can now long-press on any item in the share sheet to pin it. Pinned items show up underneath the row of direct share targets. You can only pin 4 items at a time.
- New copy text placement in share sheet: When you highlight text and open the share menu, the copy button will now be placed at the top underneath the text preview. This makes it so you don’t have to scroll through the items in your share sheet to find the copy action. This will be useful if you accidentally tap “share” instead of “copy” when highlighting text.
Update 1 (3/2/2020 @ 4:40 PM EST): This article was updated to clarify what the long press improvements mean, to rearrange the undocumented changes into their own section, and to add other undocumented changes.
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