Google today announced the latest “feature drop” for its Pixel line of Android phones. Adaptive Battery now predicts when your battery will run out, the Recorder app is getting Google Assistant integration, new bedtime features aim to help you sleep better, and the Personal Safety app is becoming more robust. Separately, Google today also highlighted some bedtime tools in Android to help with your sleep, but those already rolled out earlier in May. The only Android news is that today’s new Bedtime tab in the Clock app on Pixel phones will be a limited exclusive — it’s coming to all Android devices “later this Summer.”
Android is a massive platform with over 2.5 billion monthly active devices. Businesses, IT departments, and developers thus need to pay attention to new features coming to the platform. If they want to look further into the future though, they can simply watch Pixel updates. Most notably, Google’s Pixel phones are the company’s preferred way of showcasing its AI chops.
In December, Google decided to take a new approach with updates to its Pixel phones. In addition to monthly security updates, Pixel phones would receive new functionality as part of “feature drop” every three months. The first feature drop included more photo controls, automatic call screening, improved video calls, memory management improvements, and existing Pixel features rolling out to more phones. The second feature drop included Motion Sense pause/resume, new AR effects, power button tweaks, as well as improvements to dark theme, long press, and Adaptive Brightness. The third feature drop keeps the goodies coming, especially in the AI department.
Google introduced Adaptive Battery with Android Pie in August 2018. The feature uses a deep convolutional neural net to predict which apps you’ll use in the next few hours and which apps you probably won’t use until later. It then reduces power to the ones you rarely use.
Now, Adaptive Battery on Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, Pixel 3a XL, Pixel 4, and Pixel 4 XL is getting smarter. It can predict when your battery will run out before your next charge, further reduces background activity, and goes into an even lower power mode to keep your Pixel powered longer.
“Adaptive Battery now uses multiple models as input to determine how to best optimize your phone,” a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat. “In addition to the existing model to predict app usage we now also use a model that predicts how your battery is likely to discharge and another model that predicts when you’re next likely to plug in for a charge. These models run locally on the device and are personalized. Bringing these together the device can react if it predicts you’re likely to run out of charge and enable some additional power saving techniques to help your Pixel last longer.”
Recorder and Google Assistant
With the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, Google debuted a Recorder app that uses real-time speech-to-text transcription completely offline. The app lets you search audio files for words, export text transcripts, and even recommends audio message titles based on keywords in transcripts, or on music, applause, or speech.
Now, some of that functionality is being pulled out by Google Assistant so you can tell the Recorder app to start, stop, and search voice recordings. You can now say “Hey Google, start recording my meeting,” or “Hey Google, show me recordings about dogs.” Transcripts can now also be exported to Google Docs.
Android bedtime and personal safety
Your Pixel phone is also getting a new bedtime tab in the Clock app to “help you maintain a consistent sleep schedule.” You can now fall asleep to calming sounds from YouTube Music, Spotify, Calm, and other music apps. You can set a bedtime schedule, get a reminder when it’s time for bed, and limit interruptions while you sleep. If you stay up on your phone past bedtime, you’ll get a snapshot of how much time you’re spending awake and on which apps. In the morning, you can wake up to your favorite track or with a gradually brighter screen with Sunrise Alarm. Again, Android users will get the above functionality “later this Summer.”
Lastly, Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL’s personal safety features are expanding availability beyond those two devices. The Personal Safety app is now available on all Pixel devices. Furthermore, car crash detection is coming to the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.
Additional personal safety features are also rolling out. Safety check lets you schedule a check-in from the app — if you don’t respond, the app will automatically alert your emergency contacts and share your real-time location through Google Maps so they can send help or find you. Google envisions this feature being used if you are about to go somewhere alone. The app also now lets you turn on crisis alerts to get notifications about natural disasters or other public emergencies.