Google is just a couple weeks out from the release of its first Pixel foldable, and the company is also inching closer to the launch of Android 14. But despite that busy calendar, today, the company is announcing one of the more substantial “feature drop” software updates that it has rolled out to Pixel smartphones in some time. The additions range from camera enhancements to new personal safety features. And Google isn’t stopping at phones; this feature drop also brings new capabilities to the Pixel Watch and Fitbit devices.
For starters, the Pixel 7 Pro’s macro mode can now be used when recording video. That phone hit the market in October, and we’re firmly in June, so I’m more than a little curious about what took so long to make macro video happen. But at least it’s here. “You can create larger-than-life videos of the smallest details, like butterflies fluttering or flowers waving in the wind,” Google wrote in its blog post. The fine print notes that macro video is “not available for all camera apps or modes.” Macro video is exclusive to the Pixel 7 Pro, but all phones from the Pixel 6 onward will gain a new hands-free gesture for activating a timed shutter: you just hold up a palm within the viewfinder frame, and the camera will count down from either three or 10 seconds before snapping a shot.
If you’ve got a Pixel 6 or newer, you can now create cinematic wallpapers to give your lock screen greater depth and a slick parallax effect. Google says it’s using AI to “transform your 2D wallpaper photos into dynamic 3D scenes for a truly magical look.” Cinematic photos have been one of those Google Photos specialty tricks for a few years, but the app would randomly choose which images in your library were a good fit for the effect. Now, you can make them on demand. And like Apple has already done with iOS, Google is also letting you create custom, emoji-laden wallpapers.
Google is also continuing to build out its personal safety features with this feature drop. After the update, you’ll be able to “use your voice to ask Google Assistant on your Pixel phone to start emergency sharing or to schedule a safety check for some extra peace of mind.”
If you’re out for a night run, just say, “Hey Google, start a safety check for 30 minutes.” If you don’t respond to your safety check in the set duration, your emergency contacts will be notified and your real-time location will be shared.
In countries where the Pixel supports car crash detection, you can configure the phone to notify your emergency contacts — in addition to emergency services — and share your real-time location with them within seconds of an accident being detected.
There are also more subtle tweaks to haptics and adaptive charging. Google says the Pixel 6A and 7A will automatically lessen the intensity of their vibrations when on a hard, flat surface (like a table). Those devices can occasionally exhibit some unpleasant rattling at full power, so it’s nice to see Google acting on customer feedback.
And adaptive charging “now uses Google AI to help extend the lifespan of your Pixel battery. When you plug in your phone, it can predict a long charging session based on your previous charging habits, and slowly charge to 100 percent one hour before it’s expected to be unplugged.”
Last up are some upgrades to the excellent Recorder app. With this feature drop, you’ll be able to export video clips of your transcriptions (complete with speaker labels), which could be useful for social media purposes or sharing with colleagues. Google says this feature drop will reach some customers as early as today and will continue rolling out over the next few weeks.