Apple’s iPhone update cycle is now routine for fans of the company: New devices are being launched every September, alongside a new version of iOS. Major app updates and new features are being implemented at least once per year, meaning that Apple’s most used apps (Apple Maps, Apple Mail, Apple Music, Reminders, Notes and others) will mostly stay the same for a whole year.
For many years now, Google has been trying to build their own version of the iPhone: an ideal mix of enhanced and optimized software and hardware that they have full control of. Their first attempt was the Nexus lineup, but as time passed, we got the Pixel, whose recent feature drop is Google’s latest ploy in getting people to switch to their ecosystem.
Google decoupled updates for their famous apps (like Drive, Maps and Gmail), which highlights the effects of Android fragmentation. Thankfully, even if your device isn’t running the latest version of Android, there still is a possibility to run the most up-to-date version of Gmail.
Google’s Pixel feature drop
Pixel feature drops are incremental upgrades (which may or may not be released frequently) for Pixel devices. Google is planning quarterly drops, but only time will tell whether they will meet the schedule or not.
Features like the Night Sight have been rolling out independently of Android updates and Pixel launches, but Google is making an effort to put everything on a more rigorous footing, as they say that Pixel devices should simply get better over time.
“Your Pixel automatically updates regularly with fixes and improvements. Now, your Pixel will also get bigger updates in new Pixel feature drops,” Google Product Manager Shenaz Zack wrote in a blog.
The first Pixel feature drop includes the Call Screen feature, which automatically screens unknown callers in the background and declines calls in case they are robocalls.
Also, the features that were added to Duo allow users to be kept in the frame when making video calls from a Pixel 4, which is very useful.
Future updates will improve memory management: “your phone proactively compresses cached applications so that users can run multiple applications at the same time—like games, streaming content and more,” Google stated.
Evolution in time
The first Pixel smartphone was released back in 2016, and Pixel Android successfully replaced core Android and proved Google’s point that their mobile OS can be extremely efficient. The experience is pretty stock, similar with the Android experiences provided by smartphones from the lineup of Nokia, but with added gizmos from Google to improve the wow factor.
Over the following years, Pixel exclusives have become more ambitious and highly desirable while also getting increasingly tied to the phone’s hardware. Google did an amazing job of turning Pixel devices into Assistant-powered smart displays while also being wirelessly charged (introduced with the Pixel 3 and also featured on the Pixel 4). Google also introduced the unique ability to squeeze the sides of Pixel devices to launch the Assistant app, which proves what an amazing synergy they managed to realize between hardware and software.
The Pixel 4 featured a clever real-time audio transcription app from day one, which is now on its way to Pixel 3a, Pixel 3 and Pixel 2 devices from all around the world as part of the first Pixel feature drop.