Google Pixel 8 in mint

Google’s Latest Pixel Feature Drops are Worth Using

Ed Note: Article updated on January 26, 2024 to include release dates for each feature.

Google has announced several new feature drops coming to its devices and others, including ones for composing messages, searching, transforming messages, sharing content across devices, connecting audio, and more. Here’s a rundown of what you can expect.

New Colour for Pixel 8

Google Pixel 8 in mint

First comes a new colour for the Google Pixel 8 phones: mint green. The hue will be available for both the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro in the U.S., and just for the Pixel 8 in Canada.

Circle to Search

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

Google’s Circle to Search was announced alongside the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S24 series phones, and as confirmed then, the feature is now available to Google Pixel devices as well.

Google Circle to Search

Simply put, you can draw a circle around an item or text on the screen, tap it, or even scribble, and Google’s powerful generative AI technology will call up a search window instantly without you having to leave the app. In some cases, you’ll be able to interact further to ask more questions. I truly think this feature is a worthwhile next evolution in search, taking features like Google Lens to a new level.

Circle to Search will be available starting January 31, 2024.

Generative AI for Photos and Message Composition

Google MagicCompose

Also now announced is Photomoji, a simple way to turn your photos into emoji-like reactions. Once again, this feature will leverage on-device Google AI. It’s available now.

Also powered by Google’s generative AI is Magic Compose, which can craft suggested responses to your messages, taking context into consideration and even allowing you to choose a fun style for the reply. This will be a fun one to play with to see how accurate and useful it truly is. It’s “coming soon,” says Google.

Temperature Sensor Upgrades

Google Pixel 8 Pro temperature sensor

For customers in the U.S., you can now use the built-in temperature sensor of the Pixel 8 Pro to take your temperature, or the temperature of someone else. All you need to do is pass it across the forehead to run a scan and the results are captured and saved to your Fitbit profile. Reviewers have reported inconsistent results with this temperature sensor for measuring other items, like water. Nonetheless, it’s still a good back-up option in a pinch. Stay tuned for details about availability in Canada.

Quick Share is Another Game-Changer

Google Quick Share

There are other features Google previously announced that will be coming to Pixel phones now. One of the most notable is Quick Share. First, an interesting story. While traveling on a shuttle bus with a fellow Canadian journalist, I wanted to send a photo from my Pixel 8, which wasn’t on an active cellular or Wi-Fi network, to his Samsung Galaxy device. But there was no simple way to do it. I cursed the fact that Android didn’t have something similar to Apple AirDrop. Now they do.

With Quick Share, tap the icon to see a list of devices close by with which you can share content. This is already available in some fashion through Nearby Share and, with Samsung Galaxy devices, its own Quick Share. But this new version works across all compatible Android devices as well as Chromebooks. Google says it’s working with leading PC manufacturers like LG to expand Quick Share to Windows PCs as a pre-installed app. You can adjust privacy and hide yourself if you don’t want to be discoverable or receive files from unknown sources. Quick Share will begin rolling out to current Nearby Share enabled devices next month.

Seamless Audio Switching

Google Seamless Audio Switching

Another previously announced feature that will now officially become available is Seamless Audio Switching. With this feature, you can easily connect a pair of Pixel Buds Pro with a Pixel device, even when you switch among different ones. You can go from listening to music on a phone, for example, to pairing them with your Pixel Watch or Pixel tablet.

Fast Pair support has also expanded to the big screen. With Fast Pair, you can quickly find and connect to nearby Bluetooth accessories, including an Android phone or Chromebook. Over the next month, Fast Pair support will expand to Chromecast with Google TV, then to more Google TVs later this year. All you will need to do is put your device in pairing mode, then tap to connect the compatible headphones or speakers with the big screen. With audio output controls, you can easily switch back to your default TV audio at any time.

Google has promised up to seven years of software and security updates for the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. This includes includes Feature Drops like these, some of which can drastically change the way you use your phone and vastly improve the experience.