In this week’s top stories: Google Pixel series of phones receive their first ever “Feature Drop,” RCS messaging arrives on nearly every Android phone in the US through Google Messages, we explain the mysterious silent text messages that Google occasionally sends from your device, and more.
While Google Pixel phones are best known for having the greatest cameras on a smartphone, Pixel owners are also treated to consistent, monthly updates to their software. In an effort to make that fact more exciting, this week Google unveiled the first ever “Feature Drop” for Pixel phones, showing off a variety of new features — some of which are Pixel-exclusive — across many apps like Duo and Google Photos.
In a blog post, Google details what’s coming in the first “Feature Drop” for Pixels. This new “Feature Drop” is essentially an official announcement for many of the new features we often find Google working on or slowly rolling out. Google says that we can expect these “Feature Drops” on a “regular basis” alongside the usual monthly updates.
One small part of the Feature Drop is that the Assistant-powered Call Screen now saves both transcriptions and audio of your screened calls. Additionally, the Google Phone app’s “Call Screen” settings page has been revamped on the Google Pixel 4 to bring the option to automatically screen unknown numbers, in an effort to prevent robocalls from ever ringing your phone.
This new section is primarily used for Automatic Call Screen, a part of Google’s first Feature Drop for the Pixel line and also exclusive to the Pixel 4. The settings for Automatic Call Screen are granular, allowing the end user to select what gets screened before they pick up. By default, everything is set to ring your phone as usual, but you can select for Google to answer the call on your behalf depending on if it’s spam, a faked number, a first-time caller, or a private/hidden number.
This week also brought Google’s official rollout of RCS to Android devices across the US, which we discovered was directly connected to an update to the Carrier Services app. This technique to enable RCS was later confirmed by Google’s head of communication products Sanaz Ahari.
This afternoon, an update arrived for the Carrier Services app, bringing it up to version 32.0.283645144. In our testing on multiple Google Pixel devices, installing this update immediately triggers the availability of RCS messaging via the Google Messages app. The latest update for Google Messages may also be required.
Our Ben Schoon took some time this week to explain an interesting phenomenon of Android phones in which Google silently sends themselves a text message from your phone. To some, on first inspection, the messages look like spam, because they include a shortened “goo.gl” URL.
The shortened link, random code, and suspicious timing certainly could make this otherwise innocent message look like spam. However, there’s not really all that much cause for concern since the message is being sent from the phone and not received by the phone. Another reason some are irritated is that these messages can sometimes come with a fee on their carrier bill.
Finally, in an exclusive post from our Abner Li, a source tells us that Epic Games is seeking to get Fortnite for Android submitted to the Google Play Store. Thus far, installing Fortnite on Android has required the player to enable installing from “unknown sources.” The reason for that original arrangement is their unwillingness to use Google Play In-app Billing, but now Epic hopes Google will simply give Fortnite an exemption.
Epic using its own payment method would be in violation of Google’s policy that “developers offering products within a game downloaded on Google Play… must use Google Play In-app Billing as the method of payment.” On mobile, Apple’s App Store and Google Play have historically taken a 30% cut on purchases as “operating fees,” though both in recent years have acquiesced and are taking a smaller portion of recurring subscriptions.
The rest of this week’s top stories follow:
- OxygenOS 10.0.3 is rolling out now for the OnePlus 7/7 Pro w/ November patch
- Google Fi brings Wi-Fi calling, VPN, spam warnings to non-Pixel phones
- ‘Resume on Reboot’ will make Android OTA updates far more seamless
- Pixel’s improved memory management may expand to other phones w/ future Android versions
- Nokia 2.2 review: An ultra-basic but quite impressive Android One phone [Video]
- Android TV gets its Android 10 upgrade as Google details ADT-3 streaming dongle
- [Update: Chromium too] You can now search through Android Open Source Project code
Apps & Updates |
- [Update: Live] Google Photos rolls out new account switcher w/ integrated backup status
- Google Maps for Android testing full bottom bar redesign
- Stadia players immediately access Destiny 2 update, as some consoles fail to install
- Google Home app clarifies Nest Hub notification and personalization settings
- Alphabet Scoop 079: First Pixel 4a rumors, Pixel 4 sales, and a Fuchsia tablet?
- Fuchsia Friday: Upcoming Chrome OS tablet ‘Flapjack’ gains Fuchsia support
Google Assistant |
- ‘New’ Google Assistant starts rolling out in UK, Canada, and three other countries
- Google Assistant gains built-in Interpreter Mode on Android and iOS
Google Pixel |
- Pixel’s Call Screen now saves audio from calls, automatic settings roll out
- All Google Pixels will apparently get Automatic Call Screen ‘in the coming weeks’
- DxOMark ranks the Google Pixel 4 in top 5 smartphones for audio w/ 68 score
- Watch Google’s fun Pixel 4 ad for Night Sight featuring Santa [Video]
- Pixel 4 December security patch OTA starts rolling out
- Google Pixel 3a re-review: Still the best of Google in a budget package [Video]
- Review: Tech21’s ‘Made for Google’ Pixel 4 accessories are a bit of a mixed bag
- How to use Google Keep Notes with Google Assistant
- How to use Portrait Blur to add bokeh to old pictures w/ Google Photos
- Alleged Samsung Galaxy S11 leaks in especially grainy hands-on images
- Samsung Galaxy A71 goes official giving us a minor taste of the S11 design
- The Android 10 beta for Galaxy S9 and Note 9 adds Google Biometric API support
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