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Google’s Pixel 4 December update is live: The anticipated feature drop is now available to select handsets

If you're a Pixel 4 owner, you can check to see if December's feature drop is available by going to Settings and System

Earlier this month, Google promised Pixel 4 users the phone’s first “feature drop” was coming and while the search giant has remained true to its word, it’s not been quite the launch it had hoped.

 The promise, when buying a Pixel, is that you’ll always have access to updates first yet Google published its “Making Pixel more helpful with the first Pixel feature drop” blog post on 9 December and some Pixel 4 owners are only just seeing the update.

What’s more, this update doesn’t appear to have rolled out to everyone at the same time, nor are all the features listed in Google’s blog post being seen by users who have had the update. This happened in both October and November and it’s generating a fair bit of grumbling online. 

On the positive side, those who have got the update are seeing surprise new features that weren’t mentioned in the blog post. 

If you’re a Pixel 4 owner, you can check to see if December’s “feature drop” is available by going to Settings | System | System Update. If an update is available, select the option to install it. 

Once you’ve received the full update, you should see the following features:

Portrait Blur

Similar to the post-blur editing feature seen on iOS 13, Google’s latest feature update lets you turn a photo into a portrait on Pixel by blurring the background after it’s been taken, using an on-screen slider. However, Google goes a step further than Apple and lets you adjust these settings on photos from years ago, even if you didn’t capture them in Portrait Mode. 

Call Screen

Google Assistant now helps you automatically screen unknown callers and filter out detected “robocalls” before your phone rings, so you’re not interrupted by them.For all other unknown calls, Call Screen will instead show you context about who is calling and why. 

Duo calls now track you around the room 

Taking its cue from the likes of Facebook’s Portal, Duo video calls can now track you around the room thanks to the phone’s built-in wide-angle lens.  It automatically puts you in the centre of the frame and if another person joins you, the camera automatically adjusts to keep both of you in shot.

Google has also added more machine learning tools to Duo to avoid spotty audio and video connections and reduce drop-outs.

Improved memory management

Beyond features, all Pixel devices (which includes Pixel 2, 3 and 3a) are also having their memory management upgraded to make the handsets more efficient, making it easier to run multiple apps at the same time with less lag.

Surprise new features

In its blog post, Google additionally teased improvements to Google Maps, which has now transpired to be the addition of dual-frequency GNSS. This allows the Pixel 4 to use two different frequencies to track more than one signal from a satelitte, designed to improve your phone’s location tracking and accuracy.

Elsewhere, Google Pixel 4’s Face Unlock has been given a significant boost by including additional machine learning skills so that Face Unlock learns to be more accurate and responsive over time. Instead of relying on the face scan you uploaded when you set up the device, the Pixel 4 now uses recent images of your face to improve its model making it even more secure and unique. 

Older Pixel updates

In addition to the features coming to the Pixel 4, the Pixel 2, 3 and 3a arre also getting a number of improvements: 

  • The Recorder app is now available on older generations of Pixel.
  • Pixel 3 and 3a users are getting Live Caption. 
  • Digital Wellbeing is getting updates too. Focus mode is rolling out to minimise distractions by pausing select apps and you’ll be able to set an automatic schedule, take a break or end Focus mode early without disrupting your schedule.
  • Flip to Shhh is joining the Digital Wellbeing features on Pixel 2 and 2XL

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