The March Pixel Feature Drop is here which means if you’re a Pixel owner, you’re about to get a ton of new features to enjoy on your smartphone.
Quite a few of the new inclusions were added as part of the first Android 11 Developer Preview, but rather than wait for the full release, Google has decided that some of these features are ready for primetime and added them nice and early.
Coming along with the March 2020 security patch is a neat way of giving us a taster of the next iteration of Android as an OS, plus its another boon for fans of the Pixel series. Because we’ve seen the hardware on Pixel diverge a little with the Pixel 4, there are some options that take advantage of the Motion Sense and Soli chip, plus added camera hardware. However, for the most part, everyone will get a taste of something new.
With that in mind, we’ve decided to go hands-on to showcase everything so that you know just what to expect when you come to download the latest security patch.
Motion Sense Play/play ‘Air Gestures’
Added as part of the first Android 11 Developer Preview, the new air-gestures have made their way to Android 10, which allow you to “air-tap” above your display to pause or play music, podcast or audio on your Pixel 4 or 4 XL. Recent updates have improved the other air gestures, but we feel this is the best of the lot by some margin.
Another Pixel 4 exclusive, depth selfies use a combination of the Face Unlock tech and front-facing camera to enhance the portrait depth effects and even improve Color Pop within Google Photos. Not something you might see massive improvements with but improvements all the same.
Updated ‘Adaptive brightness’
The updated Adaptive brightness should provide a much-needed boost to the display luminance levels when in troubling lighting conditions. This option will temporarily increase screen brightness in extremely bright conditions — such as direct sunlight — to help with reading and screen legibility. It’s something that is clearly hard to quantify if you live in a dull part of the world but will be welcome for anyone in sunnier climates.
Car crash detection
A recent unofficial APK file allowed older Pixels to access the new Personal Safety car crash detection features but this is official support and is only for Pixel 4 users in the US, the UK, and Australia. The Personal Safety app is now able to use devices sensors to work out if you’ve been in a severe collision. It will then let you call emergency services with a voice command or single tap. Let’s hope this is a feature nobody ever has to use.
App pinning in the Share Sheet
A great new addition that was first seen on the Android 11 Developer Preview, no longer do you have to take Google’s interpretation of what apps you want quick access to when sharing.
Pinning your favorite apps or contacts to your Share Sheet will be very welcome for anyone that sends a multitude of content to friends and family. All you need to do is expand your Share Sheet out, tap and hold an app, contact or quick action – now you’ll be able to pin it for even faster sharing.
Dark mode scheduling
One of the headline inclusions as part of the March Pixel Feature Drop, dark mode scheduling has trickled down from the first Android 11 Developer Preview and on to all Google Pixel devices running Android 10. A fantastic and much-needed inclusion, you can now schedule just when your device toggles the system-wide dark theme.
This is potentially a long term Tasker replacement and will no doubt rival the Shortcuts feature seen on iOS. Rules allows you to automate certain actions on your device, like turning off Wi-Fi at a preset time or entering vibrate mode when connecting to a specific network.
It doesn’t quite have the same level of customization and control as Tasker, but with some more updates, upgrades, and integrations it could potentially be a truly killer Android feature in the future. The feature does come as part of the March Pixel Feature Drop but it’s not entirely clear if it’s region-specific, as I’m not able to access it on any of my devices running the most recent patch.
Card and passes
Card and passes is a feature that we thought might never come, after tracking it way back during the original Android 10 Developer Preview and beta phases. However, the new UI and quick switcher is now part and parcel of the latest March update — and it’s pretty fantastic if you use Google Pay.
So long as you have Google Pay installed on your device, you can add your contactless payment cards to a quick switch access panel that you can activate just by holding the power button. The new UI works from everywhere and allows you to load cards instantly for even faster contactless payment.
Brand new emoji
Not quite the full set that we’ll see on Android 11, but the latest Pixel Feature Drop now has all of the Emoji 12.1 updates. The 169 new additions are aimed at increasing the variety of skin tones of existing emoji — which is great for inclusion!
What’s your favorite new feature as part of the March Pixel Feature Drop?
Do you have a favorite new addition? What else would you like to see in future Feature Drops? Let us know down in the comments section below.
More on Google Pixel:
- Google’s March Pixel Feature Drop adds Cards & Passes, Motion Sense play/pause, more
- Google pulls March security update for AT&T Pixel 4 users over broken Google Pay
- What are you most excited for from the latest Pixel Feature Drop? [Poll]
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