Google has dropped its second batch of new features for its Pixel phones. Pixel owners can now schedule dark mode to activate automatically between sunset and sunrise, they can use a new gesture to pause or play media, and can access cards stored in Google Pay by pressing and holding the power button. There's also the option to add boarding pass information to Google Pay by taking a screenshot.
Many of these features, like the new gesture support, are limited to the latest Pixel 4, but some older devices are getting new features, too, like the Pixel 2 which gets live captioning support. Google's update packs demonstrate the benefits of owning a phone it makes. Relying on other Android phone makers means being beholden to them for updates to the core operating system, let alone getting cutting-edge updates like Pixel owners do.
Finally, smart scheduling — The most notable enhancements, I think, come in the form of new scheduling features that automatically adjust settings based on time and place. The Dark Theme can, at last, be scheduled to activate at sunset, and Google has also added the ability to silence your phone or activate Do Not Disturb based on your location. So, for instance, you can set a geo-fence around your office to automatically silence your Pixel phone when you arrive at the office. Or you could set Do Not Disturb to activate when you arrive at home so you're not distracted when you should be, you know, interacting with your family. It's been possible to do the same thing with IFTTT on Android devices, but having it built into the Pixel setting menu is definitely more convenient.
Faster Google Pay access — Another useful change is that Pixel owners can now access their credit or debit cards, or event tickets stored in Google Pay with a long press of the power button. You can also quickly add boarding passes to Google Pay by taking a screenshot of the ticket, upon which Android will recognize the barcode and present you with the option to add the ticket to Google Pay. It'll also ensure you get updates if your flight is delayed or canceled, which is pretty neat.
And a bunch more — Besides those updates, some small enhancements have been made in other places. In Duo, Google's person-to-person video and audio calling app, you can now activate SnapChat-style AR effects that move in sync with your facial expressions. There are also 169 new emojis meant to better represent a wider range of genders, skin tones, and couple combinations.
If you want to see a more detailed list of all the changes included in this update be sure to check out Google's blog post. The company says today's feature drop should be available now, though some features are region specific. The latest Pixel 4 wasn't a big winner on the hardware front and rumors suggest Google may address some of its shortcomings in the Pixel 4a or Pixel 5. For now, though, regular feature drops are a good way to make sure recent Pixel buyers still feel loved, and hopefully love their phones in turn.