Owning a Google Pixel device means that not only will you receive regularly scheduled monthly security patches, it also means you get quarterly Feature Drop updates that bring in new features. These are added bonuses that deliver new goods to new and older Pixel devices, some of which were previously promised, while others are surprises. Pixel Feature Drops have quickly become one of the most important selling points for Google devices through the added value they bring to your experience even after years of owning one.
For 2023, we once again received four Feature Drops, all of which brought several enhancements to the Google Pixel experience. Some new features were limited to newer devices, but there were plenty of goods for everyone as far back as the Pixel 4a before it reached end-of-life.
In all, we counted at least 44 new features that came to devices from the Pixel 4a up through the new Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, as well as some exclusive stuff to the Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet.
Here’s a recap of the 2023 year in Pixel Feature Drops.
Spring Pixel Feature Drop
The Spring Pixel Feature Drop was arguably the smallest of them all, and that’s not really that surprising. The Spring drop happens after the Fall and Winter drops from the previous year, which can both be substantial. The December drop for sure is usually one of the biggest, as it brings the first round of new features to newly released Pixel phones, so to see only a small batch of features arrive in the first feature drop of 2023 is not something to worry about.
Below, I’ll dive briefly into each, but to get the full details, you’ll want to check our full write-up.
1. Health Connect: Google built-in Health Connect to Pixel devices at this moment as a pre-loaded app/setting.
2. Cross Device Timers (At a Glance): Google added timers you have running on a Nest device as a part of Pixel phone’s At a Glance widget.
3. Multiple eSIM profiles: Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro phones gained support for dual eSIMs.
4. Faster Night Sight: Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 Pro gained “new and improved algorithms” to make Night Sight even faster.
5. Magic Eraser: Magic Eraser in Google Photos expanded to a bunch of older Pixel devices.
6. Direct My Call: This calling feature on Pixel devices began showing menu options to speed up calls.
7. Hold For Me: This calling feature expanded to Japan.
Summer Pixel Feature Drop
The Summer or June drop added new safety features, speaker labels in the Recorder app, Adaptive Charging, a redesigned Home panel on the Lock Screen, smart haptics, and hands-free selfies
The full Summer/June Pixel Feature drop can be found here.
8. Assistant Safety Check: Google let you start scheduling safety checks, where you could notify emergency contacts if you didn’t respond to a scheduled check-in.
9. Car Crash Detection: When in a wreck, Pixel phones can now share your real-time location and emergency call status automatically.
10. Emoji Workshop: This is now one of our favorite wallpapers of all time that lets you customize wallpapers using nothing but emoji. It’s so great.
11. Cinematic Wallpaper: Google turned 2D wallpapers into 3D scenes on your home screens.
12. Macro Focus for Video: Pixel 7 Pro’s Macro Focus came to video.
13. Home Panel: A redesigned Home Panel landed on lock screens, giving you better controls over smart devices.
14. Speaker Labels: In the Recorder app, Google added the ability to export transcripts into Google Docs, generate speaker-labeled video clips, and allowed you to search for specific speakers within recordings.
15. Adaptive Charging: When charging, your Pixel “now uses Google AI” to predict when a long charging session is about to start based on your previous charging habits/sessions. It could slow your charge depending on how much time remains to protect your battery.
16. Adaptive Haptics: The Pixel 6a and Pixel 7a got Adaptive Haptics that can lower vibration intensity if the device detects that you’ve set the phone down on a hard surface like your desk or a counter.
17. Hands-free selfies: For Pixel 6 and newer devices, you can now take selfies by raising your palm to trigger a timer.
Fall Pixel Feature Drop
The Fall feature drop was a big one because it came alongside the release of Android 14 to supported Pixel devices. So we got the joy of Android 14, as well as new features, and all of the bug fixes that accompany a quarterly update.
Again, we’ll briefly run through everything new below, but you’ll want to read through the full write-up too.
18. Lock Screen Customizations: A new lock screen picker let you choose from styles of clocks, as well as customizations of the lock screen shortcuts. It was a big overhaul for the lock screen setup on Pixel devices.
19. Monochrome Theme: As a part of Android 14, Google gave us a monochrome theme that does indeed turn everything to black and white and grey.
20. New Pixel Camera: The Google Camera (now Pixel Camera) picked up an entire refresh of its UI. I love it – not everyone else does.
21. New Clock and Wallpaper Collections: Google added new lock screen clocks we tracked in betas and also some new wallpaper collections.
22. Dual Screen Interpreter Mode: Pixel Fold owners received a cool way to translate a conversation with someone in real-time using both screens.
23. Easier RAW image editing and viewing: Google made it easier to edit RAW images on Pixel 6 and newer and also let you choose your favorite RAW editor directly from the Photos editor.
24. Pixel-to-Chromebook App Streaming: Chromebook owners, you can stream apps from your Pixel device to your Chromebook. This sounds awesome, I just don’t own a Chromebook. You’ll have to tell me if it’s great.
25. Incompatible Charging Cable Notifications: If you plug-in a power adapter or USB cable that is bad or slow, Pixel devices can tell you now.
26. New Battery Save Design: A new design in Battery Saver shows us exactly what is being restricted, plus you can choose apps to continue to run even if you’ve turned on Extreme Battery Saver.
27. Kids Space Navigation: On a Pixel Tablet in Kids Space, a new navigation bar can be chosen to make it easier for kids to get around.
28. News and Podcasts on Tablet Hub Mode: On Pixel Tablets, Google News and Podcasts can now be played through Google Assistant when the tablet is docked in Hub Mode.
Winter Pixel Feature Drop
And finally, we have the Winter or December Pixel Feature Drop that was pretty huge. This update brought more to Recorder, Gboard, and the camera, plus we got a taste of on-device AI in the Pixel 8 Pro. The quick list is below, but trust me, you’ll want to dive into more if you already forgot what Google gave you this month.
29. Summarize in Recorder: The first for Gemini AI on the Pixel 8 Pro, users can now have Recorder summarize recorded conversations on-device.
30. Smart Reply in Gboard: Also from Gemini AI on the Pixel 8 Pro, Google is adding Smart Reply to Gboard in WhatsApp. This is only a beta test, but could rollout more widely in 2024.
31. Video Boost with Night Sight: Lastly for exclusive AI features, the Pixel 8 Pro got Video Boost with Night Sight that takes your Night Sight videos, sends them off to a cloud server for processing, and then returns them later with boosted everything.
32. Night Sight in Time Lapse: For the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, Night Sight can now do sweet time lapses. Yay.
33. Portrait Light with AI: A new AI model enables “Balance light to easily remove harsh shadows and improve portrait photos” in the Google Photos app.
34. Photo Unblur Upgrades: Photo Unblur now works on dogs and cats!
35. Dual Screen Preview: Using the outer screen as a preview on a Pixel Fold, photo subjects can see their own pose or appearance before you snap.
36. Device as a webcam: You can now plug in your Pixel device to a computer and use it as a decent webcam.
37. Cleaning Image scanner: Scanning documents in Google Drive can be cleaned up with a new Clean image feature that removes smudges and stains.
38. Passkey in Password Manager: Google Password Manager now supports your passkeys.
39. Repair Mode: When your device needs servicing, a new Repair Mode can be turned on to protect and preserve your personal data.
40. Contextual replies in Call Screen: Call Screen is smart enough now to suggest replies that better fit calls you are screening.
41. Pixel Tablet Clear Calling: Clear Calling is here for Pixel Tablet users who make video calls.
42. Spatial Audio on Pixel Tablet: Got some Spatial Audio-equipped headphones? They too work better on Pixel Tablet now.
43. Direct My Call & Hold For Me with non-toll free numbers: Both of these calling features now work with business numbers “without a toll-free prefix.”
44. Weather in Clock app: The World Clock tab in the clock app now shows weather. Neat.
So there you have it – all 44 or so features that came to your Pixel phone, tablet, or foldable in 2023. That seems like a lot! And yes, I’m sure you noticed we didn’t include the Pixel Watch in this list. Maybe we’ll do that next.
Got a favorite new feature from the past year that arrived in a Pixel Feature Drop? Let us know.