Late last year, Google decided to take a new approach with updates to their Google Pixel phones. In addition to the monthly security updates, every three months Pixel phones will get a larger “feature drop,” with the first drop bringing helpful features like automatic call screening. Pixel Tips got an update today, which lays outs the new features coming in the March 2020 feature drop, including dark mode scheduling and the long-anticipated “Cards & Passes.”

About APK Insight: In this “APK Insight” post, we’ve decompiled the latest version of an application that Google uploaded to the Play Store. When we decompile these files (called APKs, in the case of Android apps), we’re able to see various lines of code within that hint at possible future features. Keep in mind that Google may or may not ever ship these features, and our interpretation of what they are may be imperfect. We’ll try to enable those that are closer to being finished, however, to show you how they’ll look in case they do ship. With that in mind, read on.

March feature drop

Last year, before Pixel phones ever received a “feature drop,” the Pixel Tips app was updated with a new file named “tips_sw_201912a.json”. Within a few weeks, the features laid out in this file became the December 2019 feature drop for Pixel phones, starting a cycle that gives owners of Google phones something to regularly look forward to.

Today, an update to Pixel Tips 2.0.1 (6231163) arrived on some Pixel phones, and inside we find another new file, this time named “tips_sw_202003a.json”. Looking back at how the last file, with “201912” clearly described the December 2019 (2019/12) feature drop, it seems safe to assume that this new file will describe the March 2020 (2020/03) Pixel feature drop. So let’s take a look at what’s inside!


Update 3/2: Our Dylan Roussel managed to get the associated videos for each feature coming in the March Pixel feature drop, courtesy of Pixel Tips. You can see each one embedded in the appropriate section below.


Dark mode scheduling

One of the most exciting features seen so far in the Android 11 Developer Preview is the ability to schedule dark mode to activate automatically either at sunset or a custom time. When we first discovered it, it seemed likely to be an Android 11 exclusive feature.

Our newly added file points to “tips_darktheme2” as part of the March feature drop, which is connected with a handful of strings also added to Pixel Tips with this update. Pay close attention to the first two.

<string name=”tips_darktheme2_feature_description”>Dark theme turns on automatically at sunset</string>

<string name=”tips_darktheme2_feature_name”>Schedule Dark theme</string>

<string name=”tips_darktheme2_link”>Dark theme settings</string>

<string name=”tips_darktheme2_media_description”>Video about Dark theme. To add Dark theme to Quick Settings, swipe down twice from the top of your screen and tap Edit.</string>

<string name=”tips_darktheme2_summary”>”Dark theme uses a black background to keep your battery alive longer. It also changes the appearance of your Google apps, like Gmail and Photos.\n\nAdd Dark theme to your Quick Settings to turn it on or off anytime. Touch and hold to set up a schedule.”</string>

<string name=”tips_darktheme2_title”>Take it easy on your eyes and your battery with Dark theme</string>

If these strings are to be believed, scheduled dark mode is in fact not an Android 11 feature, but will arrive for Pixels on Android 10 next month, which is absolutely exciting!

Cards & Passes

Since Android 10 was in beta (Android Q, at the time), we’ve been tracking a feature for Pixel phones called “Cards & Passes” that will make every card in your Google Pay wallet easily accessible from the power key menu. More info about Cards & Passes actually appeared in the last Pixel Tips update, but it wasn’t attached to the December feature drop’s file.

However, what we believe to be the March feature drop file very clearly lists “tips_powerkey_features” which points directly to existing strings in the app about Cards & Passes.

<string name=”tips_powerkey_features_link”>Cards &amp; passes settings</string>

<string name=”tips_powerkey_features_feature_name”>Quick access to wallet</string>

<string name=”tips_powerkey_features_summary”>”Press &amp; hold the Power button to access payment methods, passes, and emergency info.

– Payment methods in Google Pay: If your phone is locked, you’ll need to unlock it to complete payment.

– Boarding passes and tickets: Available from the lock screen before a flight or event.

– Emergency info: To help in an emergency, people with access to your phone can view your medical info and dial your emergency contacts without unlocking your phone.”</string>

Play/pause Motion Sense gesture

Another new feature spotted in the Android 11 Developer Preview, and one that didn’t make sense to be Android 11 exclusive, is a new gesture for Motion Sense on the Google Pixel 4. The gesture is a simple “air tap” near your phone to indicate that you want to pause or play your music/media.

The Pixel Tips also includes this air tap gesture in with the March feature drop list as “tips_oslo_music” and the update adds a new pair of strings describing the gesture.

<string name=”tips_oslo_music_feature_description”>Use Quick Gestures to pause or skip songs</string>

<string name=”tips_oslo_music_summary”>”Pause or resume music by tapping the air above the phone.

Skip songs by swiping left or right above the phone.”</string>

Car crash detection

Finally, many noted that the Pixel 4’s “Personal Safety” app, which includes the fantastic feature of car crash detection, is now able to be sideloaded and used on older Pixel phones. Thankfully, for those who don’t want to take the risk of sideloading, Pixel Tips suggests — with “tips_carcrash” — that the March 2020 feature drop will herald the official arrival of the Personal Safety app for older Pixels.

<string name=”tips_carcrash_title”>Get help calling emergency services after a car crash</string>

<string name=”tips_carcrash_feature_description”>With car crash detection, your phone can call emergency services</string>

It’s great to see Google rolling out the Personal Safety app and its car crash detection to more Pixels. More than any other, this is the must-have feature of the March 2020 feature drop, and Google genuinely cannot release it soon enough.

How to update?

Pixel Tips 2.0.1 (6231163) is rolling out now to Pixel phones old and new via the Google Play Store.

Dylan Roussel contributed to this article

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