Through a new initiative called "feature drops", Google said it plans to regularly release software updates for its Pixel phones. These updates will bring new tools and fun things to enhance the devices themselves. The first feature drop is scheduled to roll out from December 2019.
Here's what you need to know.
What are Pixel feature drops?
Google said it believes your phone should get better over time. As a result, Pixel phones receive monthly updates to improve their performance. But beyond these fixes and improvements, should your phone receive bigger updates, too? Enter: Feature drops. Exclusive to Google Pixel phones, feature drops are software updates that aim to bring major new features to the Pixel line.
What's in the latest update and who gets the new features?
The first feature drop, which released 9 December 2019, includes robocall screening, a portrait mode, and a memory management feature. Here's a closer look at what you can expect from the software update:
Automatic robocall screening
- Exclusive to Pixel 4 users
Google’s phones let you manually screen calls with Call Screen, but now that feature isn't being enhanced so that it can automatically ignore detected robocalls. It will also automatically screen calls from unknown numbers - ringing only after it has an initial transcript from the caller.
Google Photos portrait mode
- Available to all Pixel users
The Google Photos app can now apply a portrait mode effect to any photo of a person, even if you didn't enable portrait mode while shooting.
Duo app framing effects and quality improvements
- Available to Pixel 4 users
Google said video calls are better on Pixel 4 with auto-framing, which keeps your face centered during your Duo video calls, even as you move around. Playback on your Duo calls is even smoother, too, as a machine learning model on your Pixel 4 now predicts the likely next sound to minimize disruptions, and the Pixel 4’s Smooth Display reduces choppiness on your video feed, refreshing up to 90 times a second.
Duo app portrait filter
- Available to Pixel 2, Pixel 3, and Pixel 4 users
When you make Duo video calls, you can now apply a portrait filter.
- Available to all Pixel users
Google said it’s updating “memory management” on Pixel phones so that they can now “proactively compress” background apps, which will supposedly improve multitasking. Google said the feature allows Pixels to “run multiple applications at the same time -- like games, streaming content and more".
How to update your Pixel phone
To get a feature drop, update to the latest version of Android and go to the Play Store to start downloading your updated apps.
- Open your phone's Settings app.
- Near the bottom, tap System > Advanced > System update.
- You'll see your update status. Follow any steps on the screen.
When will the next feature drop roll out?
Google didn't specify how often feature drops will roll out, but it suggested they’ll be a regular event, and some sites have said Google wants to push them quarterly. The first feature drop is arriving now for Pixel users. It's supposed to hit all compatible phones in “the coming weeks".