Pixel owners are starting off March the best way: With a fresh “Feature Drop” software update. The latest quarterly Feature Drop adds a handful of frankly small features, making it one of the smaller and less impactful since Google started the program.
The Recorder app, which lets you make audio memos, now has a cloud component. Pixel owners can access the full Recorder experience at the Recorder website, and get shareable links so anyone can listen to your recordings. A fun feature, but one with a rather limited audience.
Pixels also now have a dedicated underwater photography mode, giving you access to most of the camera’s features even in the difficult shooting environment. Problem being you also have to buy a $325 phone dive housing — neat, but even more of a limited audience.
A more generally applicable feature is the expansion of Smart Compose, which initially debuted in the Gmail app. This is the feature that predicts where your sentences are headed, and gives you suggestions that you can quickly swipe to complete automatically. It’s now available in “select messaging apps” — though the update seems to just be tied to a Gboard update. Google shows it being used in Hangouts Chat, in particular.
For those who have, the latest Feature Drop includes fresh bedtime features as well. If you use the “bedtime” schedule in the Clock app, you’ll get a new screensaver with redesigned notifications while your Pixel is charging on the Pixel Stand. Google says this will help ease you into your bedtime routine, but honestly the best thing you can do to help you sleep is just turn off your phone’s screen entirely.
One feature that’s applicable to everyone is a new round of wallpapers from very talented artists. Given the timing of this Drop, a new slate of International Women’s Day wallpapers will be included.
If you just read about all of the additions in this Feature Drop and aren’t running to grab your Pixel and update the software, you aren’t alone. As someone who rarely uses Recorder, doesn’t go diving, and prefers to keep my phone completely off and silenced for bedtime … this Feature Drop is a real snoozer. I realize Google never promised that each Feature Drop would be a blockbuster release, but this is just a particularly weak release.
Past Feature Drops have built up the reputation that each one would add a good slate of widely useful features to the phones. The last Drop, in December, brought A.I.-based connectivity and battery management, sound profiles that adapted to your environment, and an expansion of Pixel 5 features back to previous models. That’s a serious update that has something applicable to every person who has a Pixel. This update could come through to most people and they’d have zero idea that their software added a thing. That’s really odd.
Those with a Pixel 3 or later can get in on the latest features in short order. Head into your settings and check for software updates, and if you’re early in the rollout you’ll have an update waiting to download.