It’s the season of giving, and it seems that in spirit of the holidays, Google is rewarding Pixel phones owners with a slate of software upgrades as part of its first Pixel feature drop.
The three headline improvements include enhanced editing for pictures stored in Google Photos, tweaks to Google’s Call Screener, and better quality video calls in Google Duo. And for Pixel owners who might not have bought Google’s latest flagship phone—the Pixel 4—don’t worry, because Google’s software bundle also has a bunch of improvements for older Pixels as well.
Starting with Google Photos, you can now turn ordinary pics into portrait-style shots complete with blurry backgrounds, even on photos that were taken months or even years ago. There’s even a slider so you can adjust the amount of blur to suit your taste. Though it is unclear if this will work on any image or only those taken on a Pixel
As for Call Screener on the Pixel 4, Google is using the Google Assistant to automatically sort calls before your phone ever rings. (Previously, a call would ring your phone and you would have to manually choose between screening the call, answering, or declining.) If the call is legit and the person stays on the line, your phone will ring shortly after screening the call and provide context about who is calling and what they want.
Finally, rounding out the list of Pixel 4 software upgrades are a number of video calling enhancements for Google Duo. Duo now has the ability to keep video calls automatically centered on your face, smoother playback that helps reduce any lag or stutter, an AI-powered sound feature that makes audio sound clearer, and added support for the Pixel 4’s 90Hz display.
Additionally, on the Pixel 2, Pixel 3, and Pixel 4 (sorry OG Pixel owners), you can also apply a portrait filter on video calls in Duo so people stay focused on your face instead of your messy room.
On older Pixels including the Pixel 2, Pixel 3 and Pixel3a, the Pixel feature drop is bringing Google’s Recorder app (which includes the nifty live transcribe feature), updates to Android’s Digital Wellbeing tools like “Flip to Shhh” and Focus Mode, and the Live Caption setting we wrote about last week (but only for the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a).
Finally, in what may be the most important but also most overlooked upgrade, all Pixels will be getting an update to their memory management that allows the phone to more proactively cache apps so you can multitask better and more easily than before.
Also, for folks in the U.K., Canada, Ireland, Singapore, and Australia, the Pixel feature drop is bringing the new and improved Google Assistant to the Pixel 4 (but only in English).
The Pixel feature drop updates have already started rolling out, so for features built into to Android, just go into the phone’s settings to see if updates are available for your device. And for things like the new Recorder app, just update your phone first and then go to the Play Store to download the app.