Google’s approach to Android releases has changed a lot over the years. We used to get numerous “point” releases like 4.2 and 8.1 that added notable new features, but now we get a monolithic whole number update each fall and security updates throughout the year. Google does still add features to Pixel phones, and it formalized the process with Android 10’s “Pixel feature drops.” The second of those just appeared, bringing changes to dark mode, Motion Sense, and more.
The headlining feature of the Pixel 4, and one of its more disappointing aspects, was Motion Sense. This gesture control system used the Project Soli radar sensor that Google has been toying with for years. The new feature drop adds the first new capability for Motion Sense since its release: play/pause. You could already change tracks by swiping in the air over your phone, but now you can also hold up a hand to play or pause.
Android’s official dark theme was also a major change in Android 10, but Google didn’t include the ability to schedule dark mode. Thankfully, that’s available in the new feature drop. Instead of manually toggling dark mode each evening and morning, you can set your phone to enable and disable dark mode at specific times. In bright light, the Pixel 4 and 4 XL will also boost their display brightness higher to be more readable.
The power button card wallet Google teased prior to the Android 10 release is a reality in this update — we were beginning to think that wouldn’t come out until Android 11 was final. You can now long-press the power button to access your Google Pay cards and passes. You will soon be able to add screenshots of airline boarding passes to Google Wallet for easy access.
This feature drop is the first time Google has added new emoji outside of a major platform release. There are 169 new emoji from Unicode 12.1. In the same vein, Google has added AR effects for Google Duo video calls. It’s a bit like animoji on the iPhone but less capable and limited to one app.
While Google has made a big deal out of feature drops in Android 10, the new feature drop update is also just the standard monthly patch. So, you’ll get all the latest security patches and bug fixes in addition to the new features. The OTA is rolling out starting today on the Pixel 2 and newer, but it might take a while to reach everyone.
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