With the Google Pixel 7 series around the corner and, with it, the anniversary of the Pixel series, we’ve been reflecting on the history of Pixel smartphones and some of the changes that have come about thanks to it. The Google Pixel series has been a driving force behind ambient computing in smartphones, with amazing features such as Live Transcription, nearly real-time voice transcription, Now Playing, and more. While many consider the Pixel series as a reference for software, it is important to note that the software you get on a Pixel smartphone has increasingly deviated from stock Android, and for the better. These are just some of our favorite features of the Google Pixel series.
As a music nerd, Now Playing is one of my favorite features on any smartphone — ever. How it works is so simplistic, and that’s why I love it. Put your phone in your pocket, and it will identify all of the music playing around you throughout your day.
That’s seriously it.
For a long time, Now Playing was one of the biggest reasons I kept using a Pixel. I stayed on the Pixel 5 despite having more powerful smartphones just for Now Playing, as it’s so much more convenient than needing to constantly Shazam the music around me. Now Playing uses the microphone to listen for music around you in an attempt to identify everything that it picks up. It works entirely on device, so nothing is ever sent to Google’s servers. This is also why it may not identify every song—it works by downloading a regional database of songs that are then compared on-device to whatever is playing around you. When it finds a match, it displays it on the lockscreen, always-on display, and saves it in a Now Playing section in your sound settings.
Nowadays, you can get Now Playing on any smartphone thanks to an unofficial port, but the official feature on Google Pixel phones still works the best out of any of them.
While not technically a Pixel-exclusive feature, Live Transcribe is a feature that comes pre-installed on Google and Samsung smartphones. It’s an accessibility app that helps people with hearing disabilities. The app uses Google’s speech recognition and sound detection technology to provide real-time transcriptions of conversations. However, the Pixel-exclusive feature it does have is Live Translate. it’s Live Transcribe, but with the built-in ability to translate whatever is being said in other languages. It’s quite popular to use for watching anime and other foreign-language content. You just need to specify the languages.
Voice typing is something that Google touted as being much improved and faster than typing in its announcement, and so far, that definitely seems to be the case. I was greatly surprised by its voice recognition ability, and in some instances, I can definitely see it being faster and more convenient than typing. However, I noticed in louder environments (outside, for example), it appears to struggle a little bit.
It’s simple, it works, and it’s a great way to talk to send messages to people quickly with all the convenience of a voice message, without the hindrances of somebody needing to actually listen to your voice message.
Magic Eraser is more or less the same as the context-aware heal within Adobe Photoshop, but it works extremely well at times. This is one of the hallmark features of the Google Pixel 6 Pro, and it’s been a blast to play around with it. I have a really good example of this that I showed in my review of the Google Pixel 6 Pro last year.
While not perfect, Magic Eraser was able to recognize the rocks behind my friend, and appropriately filled in behind him. It’s obviously not perfect and you can spot some artifacts, but at a glance, it works really, really well. This level of removal works well for social media, especially for removing photobombers and the like as people will obviously not be pixel-peeping.
While no longer a Pixel-exclusive, the Google Assistant started off as an exclusive that was only baked into Pixels. We saw it arrive in the form of a squeeze for assistant in the Pixel 2 series, though typically, “hey Google” is the way that you’ll now look to access it. It’s still a crucial part of Pixel smartphones and adds to the overall ambient computing thing that Google is going for. Your phone is an assistant, and being able to speak to it to quickly add reminders and other bits of information throughout your day really helps.
Google is all about artificial intelligence
Given that a huge part of Google Tensor is its artificial intelligence capabilities, it’s unsurprising how much Google leans on these kinds of features. There are other features that Google has brought to its own smartphones over the years, including the HDR+ algorithm that has undeniably influenced the smartphone ecosystem, Snapchat integration, voice recording transcriptions, and so much more.
What are your favorite Pixel features? Let us know in the comments!
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