June’s Pixel Feature Drop is here, and there’s more new stuff than we expected


It’s June, and that means a few things: Nice weather, Pride Month, gardening, donut day, and the latest Pixel Feature Drop update. This month we’re getting several new features: previously leaked long-exposure Night Sight videos for animated astrophotography, the debut of the Locked Folder feature for Google Photos, a new Heads Up feature for Digital Wellbeing that leaked last year to help pedestrians, Assistant-based voice controls for answering or rejecting calls, a new Gboard feature to pull details like phone numbers or URLs from bigger chunks of text in your clipboard, and an expansion of car crash detection. Recorder and Call Screen are also coming to more markets and languages, plus a set of new Pride-themed ringtones and backgrounds.

To start, the new Night Sight video feature will let you take astrophotography videos, not just photos, as you already could. And it’s not either/or; you get both, sort of like how Motion Photos work. These videos will show the stars moving across the sky during the period of your exposure. Sadly for older Pixel owners, the feature is only supported on the Pixel 4 and later devices.

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Locked Folder for Google Photos was announced last month at Google I/O, and though Google hasn’t been, shall we say, entirely up-front about all of the most likely potential use cases (read: nudes), the feature is now rolling out for Pixel owners. Photos saved to the Locked Folder won’t appear in shared albums or be visible to any other apps and can only be accessed with a passcode or biometric authentication, and they can be saved there straight from the camera if you choose. They’re also only stored locally, for those worried about having whatever out in the cloud.

Though it leaked last year, Google’s also rolling out a new Heads Up feature as part of Digital Wellbeing for Pixels. Leveraging the existing ability to detect when you’re walking, the new feature will remind you “periodically” to look up from your screen. Screenshots of the setup process also previously leaked, though it’s possible things may have been tweaked since then.

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Images of Heads Up’s setup process, via XDA Developers

The Assistant is also picking up the ability to answer or reject calls with just your voice — handy if you’re near enough to hear your phone ring, but not so close you can actually answer it. Just say: “Hey Google, answer call,” or “reject call.”

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Gboard will soon be able to pull snippets of potentially useful information from bigger blocks of copied text as well. So if, say, you copy someone’s email footer, Gboard will offer to individually pull and paste contact details from that chunk separately, including phone numbers, email addresses, and URLs. It sounds like the content might vary by app, but we can’t be sure until we play with it ourselves.

Car crash detection, which debuted on the Pixel 4, later expanded as part of prior Feature Drop updates to more Pixel devices and markets like the UK and Australia. Now, as part of this latest Feature Drop, it’s spreading to Spain, Ireland, and Singapore.

Call Screen, which debuted with the Pixel 3 series all the way back in 2018, is probably one of the most singularly useful Pixel features, and it’s now expanding to Japan. Recorder, which transcribes and saves audio with cloud backups, is also expanding to Singaporean, Australian, Irish, and British English, though it’s still English-only — sorry, rest of the world.

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Lastly, Google’s rolling out a bunch of new Pride-themed content, including backgrounds and ringtones, as it’s previously done. They’re bright, colorful, and a fun way to celebrate the occasion.

Individually, these might seem like smaller features, but it’s a pretty big list and a definite perk of Pixel ownership. And keep in mind, some of these might be tied to the system update rolling out today, but others may also require separate app updates. Google announces this all at once as a single big thing, but often prerequisite app components roll out separately over time, so don’t worry if it all isn’t available at once.

Usually, we also get a big table of which features are coming to which devices, and once we track that down, we’ll toss that in here as well. In the meantime, exceptions are noted where we know them, and the Feature Drop is generally only for the Pixel 3 series and later.

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