[Poll results live] Have recent Google Pixel feature drops become lackluster?

New updates are being added to the bottom of the story…

Original story (from June 05) follows:

There are various perks that come with ownership of a Google Pixel smartphone, but lately none beats the idea of regularly getting a bunch of new features via the Pixel Feature Drop updates.

For those who’ve been living under a rock, Google’s regular security updates for its line of Pixel phones also deliver some extra enhancements after every three months.

The most recent release came out in March 2022, with the search giant expected to release its next Pixel Feature Drop update this month. But there’s little fanfare in the Pixel camp regarding what’s in store.

Here’s the thing, unlike previous editions of the feature drops where Google shipped tons of new features with each release, recent editions are slowly becoming less exciting due to the lack of new, ground-breaking additions.

Google-Pixel-4a-5G-inline-new
Google Pixel 4a 5G

For the most part, Google has been pre-occupied with fixing the many Pixel 6 bugs affecting multiple functionalities of the handsets and refining some of the existing features.

Recent releases have also focused more on bringing features that were previously exclusive to the Pixel 6 to older units without necessarily introducing big features.

The first release, which arrived in December 2019, came with a handful but eye-catching new features and improvements, perhaps as a precautionary approach to the new premise.

The major highlight was Google Photos getting the ability to add background blur to any photo, whether it was taken in portrait mode or not.

The update also made it possible to automatically screen and filter calls from unknown numbers. This very first Pixel Feature Drop also added live background blurring during calls and auto-framing to Google Duo, now Meet.

Google-Pixel-call-screen

Just as Pixel owners were getting the hang of it, Google went ballistic with a plethora of new features for the second Pixel Feature Drop update, which arrived in March 2020.

The update introduced features like Cards and Passes, option to screenshot a boarding pass and add it to Google Pay, tap to pause with Motion Sense, dark theme scheduling, Rules, 169 new emojis, AR Effects on Duo calls, and so on.

The update, as expected, also tagged along plenty of improvements, but Google wasn’t done yet. Three months later, the June 2020 Pixel Feature Drop arrived and just like the previous release, a bunch of new features were included.

This time, Google focused more on personal safety by introducing features like emergency sharing with real-time location, safety check, and crisis alerts. But there was more to this update than just safety perks.

The 4th edition also came with some interesting additions to the Pixel lineup. At the time, an Android Police article even claimed that the features were too many to count.

Among them were features like Adaptive Sound, Adaptive Connectivity, more accurate GPS while walking, and ability for Google Lens to translate from the multitasking menu.

Google-Lens-in-Pixel-Feature-Drop

Older Pixels also got to enjoy features that were previously exclusive to the Pixel 5/Pixel 4a 5G via this update, among them Extreme Battery Saver, Hold for Me, Google Duo group call screen sharing, and a revamped Photos editor.

With all these goodies coming with each Pixel Feature Drop, you’d understand why Pixel owners often have high expectations for every release. However, it is with the March 2021 release that things started taking a twist.

Not to say new features weren’t part of this release, but when compared to its predecessors, Google kind of fell short of expectations.

The update landed with support for backups and site for managing recordings from the Recorder app, enhanced underwater camera photography and bedtime screen for the Clock app, and expanded support for the Smart Compose feature.

As you can see, the update was mostly about enhancements than introducing new features like its predecessors. And while Google stepped up with the next feature drop, signs of a slowdown had already started showing.

With the June 2021 version came the likes of video astrophotography, Locked Folders for Google Photos, Heads Up for Digital Wellbeing, ability to answer or reject calls using Google Assistant, and more.

google-assistant

This was indeed a sigh of relief, but as noted earlier, it was evident that the Pixel Feature Drop updates were no longer the same as we once knew them.

This was more evident with the December 2021 release, which also happened to be the first Feature Drop for the Pixel 6 series. Google introduced some new features, but the update was mostly about improvements to existing functions.

If anything, the new additions weren’t as groundbreaking as the likes of Call Screening or even Google Photos’ background blur. For instance, Quick Tap to Snap was an enhancement to the pre-existing Quick Tap function.

Others like UWB in Nearby Share and digital car key were undoubtedly cool, but arguably nowhere near being termed as game-changing features.

As for the likes of Now Playing favorites and Now Playing search, they came simply as improvements to the pre-existing Now Playing feature. The rest of the update was all about bug fixes.

Google-Pixel-Now-Playing-Feature-Drop

Then came the March 2022 update that introduced Night Sight support in Snapchat for Pixel 6, Live Caption for calls, and support for custom text stickers in Gboard. These are mere improvements to pre-existing features.

The rest of the update was meant to bring Pixel 6 features to older Pixels and improvements to existing functions like At a Glance, Google Assistant Quick Phrases, and more languages for Live Translate and Recorder app.

Again, Google had released yet another Pixel Feature Drop update without adding major features.

But even as the hype that often preceded the release of a new feature drop seems to be dying a slow death, it will be interesting to see what Google is lining up for the upcoming edition.

It’s been long since Google released a feature-packed Pixel Feature Drop and I hope we’ll see a return to the good old days with the next iteration.

pixel 4 face unlock feat

And while the talk of Face unlock making a comeback could go a long way towards appeasing some disgruntled Pixel 6 owners, it’s only hearsay for now. Perhaps you should keep your fingers crossed.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. As for the Twitter poll below, results will be announced after a week.

Update 1 (June 12)

The results for the poll are out. Interestingly, there’s a tie between those who voted yes and those who voted no, indicating there’s still a significant excitement among users regarding Pixel Feature Drops.

In case you missed the poll, you can still share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom.

PiunikaWeb started as purely an investigative tech journalism website with main focus on ‘breaking’ or ‘exclusive’ news. In no time, our stories got picked up by the likes of Forbes, Foxnews, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, Engadget, The Verge, Macrumors, and many others. Want to know more about us? Head here.

Want to work for PiunikaWeb and enjoy best-in-industry compensation & benefits? You'll be glad to know we're hiring experienced candidates.

Hillary Keverenge

Review Editor. Besides phones, I also enjoy the farm, music, football, and, of course, food.