Latest Pixel update adds background blur to photos and Duo calls, hangs up on robocalls

The latest “feature drop” parachutes a number of new apps as well as new functionality to the Pixel 4 and 4 XL, some of the new perks are available for older models as well.

First up is Portrait Blur in Google Photos – this feature blurs the background in your photo, turning any image shot by the Pixel into a portrait photo. This works even on old images.

Background blurring is now an option in Duo video calls as well and it works on 2nd and 3rd generation Pixels. A feature unique to the Pixel 4 duo zooms in on your face during the call and tracks you as you move. If someone else walks into frame, the camera zooms out to fit them as well.

Additionally, Google has enabled 90Hz refresh rate during Duo calls and is using machine learning to smooth out choppy audio caused by a bad connection.

AI is also taking on robocalls – the Pixel 4 will screen unknown callers and will directly hang up on robocalls. Interestingly, this feature works offline, it doesn’t need Wi-Fi or a data connection (this is a privacy consideration).

This feature drop should improve the memory management for all Pixels. Also, English speakers in the UK, Canada, Ireland, Singapore and Australia are getting the latest Google Assistant for their Pixel 4 or 4 XL.

Finally, a few goodies making their way to older models:

  • Recorder app can be downloaded by older Pixels
  • Pixel 3 and 3a get Live Caption
  • Pixel 2 and 2 XL get Flip to Shh

The feature drop is rolling out already, but Google warns that it may be a few weeks before it reaches all units. As a reminder, the December update will be the last for the original Pixel phones.


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