Google’s third Pixel Feature Drop update has been announced with a handful of new features and tweaks for the company’s line of phones. While we might yet find more minor changes hiding inside when it rolls out, we’re told there are four broad categories of new features Pixel owners can look forward to: New Adaptive Battery tweaks to stretch out battery life, Recorder app integration with the Google Assistant and Google Docs, tools to better manage your sleep, and new personal safety features including crisis alerts and a “safety check” feature that notifies emergency contacts if you don’t respond to a scheduled check-in.
If you’re out of the loop, every three months, Google’s usual security patches for Pixel phones also deliver some extra enhancements as part of regular so-called Feature Drop updates. Previously added features have included adding background blur to photos after they’re taken, automatic call screening, a new play/pause gesture for the Pixel 4’s Motion Sense, an outdoor high-brightness mode for the Pixel 4 and 4 XL, “firm” press support, and scheduled dark theme/mode.
As mentioned, this latest update has four main feature groups, starting with improvements for the Adaptive Battery feature that debuted with Android 9 Pie, which leveraged a bit of machine learning to extend battery life. Now the feature will try to estimate when your battery is set to die and proactively enforce more aggressive background app optimizations to stretch things out — developers might not be too happy about that.
That bedtime mode renaming and the mode’s associated changes that we spotted back in April are now official, together with a new set of bedtime features in the Clock app, which lets you set a sleep schedule, view your late-night screen time habits, play relaxing sounds to help you drift off, and offer some options to wake you up more gently. (Based on the GIF above, the app will also eventually move the nav bar to the bottom of the screen.) Part of these changes are dependent on your phone supporting Digital Wellbeing (which all Pixels do), but we’re told the Clock app’s bedtime features will be coming to all Android phones later this summer, following a short period of Pixel exclusivity.
Google’s Recorder app, which offers real-time local transcription for all recent Pixels, now offers Assistant-integration for recording controls, so you can start, stop, and search for your recordings with Assistant voice commands. You’ll also be able to save transcripts to Google Docs for use later — every blogger like me that has ever attended a product briefing and laments writing notes manually just got really excited.
Remember that car crash detection feature the Pixel 4 got? We spotted a version of the app that was able to be sideloaded onto older Pixel phones, and it turns out, that was an indicator of the future: The feature will come to the Pixel 3 series as well — though it’s still not available in all markets.
A new “safety check” feature that acts as a sort of dead man’s switch if you fail to check-in at a specified time is also coming. That means you can set a time to respond to a check-in after, say, a desolate hike, and emergency contacts will be notified if you fail to respond. A new “crisis alert” feature will also give you notifications for “natural disasters or other public emergencies.” All these safety features are provided via the Personal Safety app.
This quarter’s update is a little on the light side compared to previous releases, but that’s probably to be expected, given both the ongoing lockdown, which has surely made developing new features a little more difficult, and the approach of Pixel launch season, where developer attention is likely focused on upcoming hardware.
Currently supported Pixel owners can look forward to these features landing on their hardware with this month’s update, including the latest security patches, very soon.