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Like SNLs not hosted by John Mulaney, the quality of Pixel Feature Drops has fluctuated. What follows is an abbreviated list of the more significant additions in each quarterly update:

  • December 2019: Portrait Blur, auto-Call Screen, Google Duo auto-framing + smoother audio with ML + portrait filter, Digital Wellbeing Focus Mode, better memory management
  • March 2020: Pixel 4 Motion Sense play/pause, Duo AR effects, depth selfies, new emoji, Cards & Passes, adding boarding pass screenshots to Google Pay, Dark Theme sunrise/set scheduling, Rules 
  • June 2020: Adaptive Battery improvements, Bedtime in Google Clock, Recorder NGA + Google Docs integration
  • September 2020: Android 11, Google Maps Live View for Location Sharing, Gboard Smart Reply, app suggestions in dock, Recents menu, folder name suggestions 
  • December 2020: Adaptive Sound, Adaptive Connectivity, Adaptive Charging, improvements to Adaptive Battery, improved GPS accuracy, Now Playing export to YT Music, more emoji, Duo screen sharing in group calls, Google Photos editing suggestions, GPS improvements
  • March 2021: Recorder cloud backup and web app, camera-powered Google Fit heart & respiratory rate readings, underwater camera app for case accessory, Gboard Smart Compose, Pixel Stand bedtime screen 
  • June 2021: Night Sight time-lapse video, Locked Folder, NGA can answer/reject calls, Gboard copy highlights, Digital Wellbeing Heads Up
  • December 2021: Pixel 6 Pro UWB for Nearby Share, Digital Car Keys, adjust Assistant power button hold duration, Sound Amplifier Conversation Mode, Quick Tap to Snap, Now Playing cloud search, Pixel Buds A-Series bass control  
  • March 2022: At a Glance (Bluetooth battery status, earthquake alerts, Safety Check countdown, turn off alarms for holidays), Battery Widget, Night Sight in Snapchat, custom Gboard stickers, Live Caption call typing
  • June 2022: At a Glance (Nest Doorbell video feed, Flashlight reminder, Air Quality alerts), pocket operator, save digital vaccine cards to Google Pay, Sound Amplifier Conversation Mode 
  • December 2022: VPN by Google One, Recorder Speaker Labels, Pixel 7 Clear Calling, Security & privacy menu, unified Pixel Launcher search, Live Bloom wallpapers

Some Feature Drops introduce more than others, and March 2023 is shaping up to be a bigger one if you look across Pixel phones, Watch, and Buds Pro. 

The Pixel Watch could be the focus with Fall Detection – just this week, we’ve shown how it will work – slated to arrive this winter, which ends on March 20, while Watch Unlock is long overdue. At CES 2023, Google showed a Pixel Watch being able to unlock a paired phone. It was first announced for Wear OS in January of 2022, and we’ve since learned that it will require Android 13.

Meanwhile, we previously reported that Gmail and Google Calendar Wear OS apps are in development, while a Google News app/Tile has been spotted. It’d also be great if Fitbit enabled SpO2 on the Pixel Watch, while the spring will bring the $129 Metal Mesh Band and $199 Metal Links Band.

On Pixel phones, there’s the launch of Android 13 QPR2. In terms of user-facing changes, it’s a bit minor, though you will get a large clock in Quick Settings. I think Watch Unlock will be the biggest addition here, while the old Smart Lock is sticking around and becoming “Extend Unlock.”

Lastly, we’re still waiting for the Pixel Buds Pro update that enables Spatial Audio with head tracking.

From 9to5Google

First: Android 13 should be the next upgrade for ChromeOS, but I’m personally more excited about the browser and other parts of the UI getting Material You redesigns. I’m still bearish about Android on Chromebooks, but there’s finally one service that’s better as an app than a website: Google Keep. The dual-pane UI that resulted from Google’s large-screen optimization push is fantastic and better than keep.google.com.

Insight: From Contacts to Google TV, more first-party Android widgets are coming after a lull. The last additions were tablet-optimized widgets for Drive and Keep in September. The upcoming widgets from Google Contacts are quite nice and fluid. They’re the quintessential widget by being faster than if you opened and navigated the full app.

Trending up: Google Fiber just launched a 5 Gig tier and announced its next two cities as part of the expansion to five states previewed last year. 

It currently lists 25 markets (this includes several “coming soon”) in 16 states. That’s far from nationwide coverage as others, especially cell carriers providing home internet, are ramping up. Traditional ISPs have also been making more noise around fiber optic service.

At the moment, Google Fiber — which is an Alphabet company and not part of Google proper, despite the name –  looks to have okay to maybe even good prospects, but it does not seem to be a revolutionary product that will scale massively. If nothing changes, its path to wider availability remains literally digging and construction. This might be enough for the business to continue, but it is far from its aspirational origins.

What (else) is happening:

Update: Assistant Reminders to Google Tasks migration starting in March

Review: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra – Stellar battery life, disappointing camera

Tip: The Google Home app can now remote control your Xbox

Video: One UI 5.1 hands-on: What’s new for existing Samsung Galaxy devices?

First: Google is gradually rewriting Android’s Settings app with Jetpack Compose

Tip: The Google Home app is now the easiest way to control the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync box

From the rest of 9to5:

9to5Mac: This is iPhone 15 Pro: Thinner bezels, thicker ‘curve’ design, no Lightning port, more

Electrek: VW Golf set to go electric as entry-level ID 2 EV with upgraded MEB-Plus platform

Connect The Watts: WHOOP announces lower prices and new features on the way

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

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About the Author

Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: abner@9to5g.com