September 28, 2020

Google Pixel, Android, and the haves and haves not, plus more tech news today

Google releases new ideas to the Pixel-first, but all Android phones should be getting more of these important features.

Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Tuesday, June 2. 

1. New Pixel and Android features, some coming to all

With a set of updates for Google Pixel devices overnight, including to the Pixel 3a XL I’m running at the moment, there’s new things. And some of those new things you’re going to want no matter which Android device you’re using, and that Apple might take a look at, too.

  • The good news is that Android will get some of these “later this summerâ€�, including the updated Bedtime and Clock app updates.
  • But, not all features. Let’s take a look.

 

Bedtime: 

  • This new Pixel feature was previously known as Wind Down, and brings more to Google’s suite of Digital Wellbeing tools with new tricks to help you get to sleep. In short, Google has more customizations for enabling the mode, based on your schedule, and even when you plug in your phone to its charger. 
  • The Clock app also gets a new Bedtime tab to set sleep and wake times, and an option to try a sunrise alarm. Previously only possible to use on a Pixel Stand, you can set your phone to start to brighten 15-minutes before your normal alarm sound. And, you can use a favorite song to wake you, a fast way to be irreversibly scarred by your previously favorite song each time you hear it. 
  • The perfect Sunshine Of Your Love by Cream will forever tainted, and it’s my own fault.
  • Now on Pixel, by late summer for all Android phones (possibly meaning inside Android 11?)

Personal safety features

  • The Personal Safety app on Pixel 4 will now be available on all Pixel devices, and car crash detection is also coming to Pixel 3, depending on availability in your country.
  • Safety check is new: it helps you check-in with friends and family while you’re traveling alone, like going on an evening walk alone, or date. If you don’t respond to a scheduled check-in, you can issue emergency alerts to several contacts all at once if you don’t respond, and share real-time location updates through Google Maps.
  • It’s a great idea focusing on a very specific use case that you hope is never used, and opt-in for now. But like all things, people find other use cases for applications too, and balancing privacy is key.
  • The new Personal Safety app also lets users set notifications for crises, including natural disasters, and other public safety concerns.

Adaptive Battery: 

  • Adaptive Battery will now predict when your phone will run out of battery and compensate by throttling down system activity as you get closer to zero.
  • There’s not a lot of detail beyond that: Adaptive Battery has already tried to lean your favorite apps and cut power to ones you don’t use much.
  • Pixel-only, for now.

Recorder and Assistant working together: 

  • Google’s powerful Recorder app makes it a snap to record lectures, interviews, and meetings. 
  • Now, you can use Google Assistant to control Recorder:  “Hey Google, start recording my meeting,â€� and export transcripts to Google Docs. Speech to text in Docs is basically the perfect use of some of Google’s best tools.
  • Again, Pixel-only.

Why it matters:

  • While the Pixel line from Google has a mix of short-sighted and overpriced hardware elements, it does see the very best of software features first, which is great for geeks and not always great for the Android ecosystem.
  • There’s a great debate to be had around core Android OS features vs Pixel features, and how different makers like Samsung and co. want control over their UI, even as Google continues to do, mostly, good things on the Pixel.
  • In short, while features like astrophotography serve Google as marketing tools for Pixels, things like clever Safety Check features should probably go to everyone without delay.

2. Oops: Google slipped out an Android 11 beta before it was announced or released, and some people with lucky Pixel phones started installing, too (Android Authority). (Note this isn’t about the above, either!)


3. We asked, you told us: Anxiety over smartphone battery life is a real thing (Android Authority).


4. Wallpaper crash explained: Here’s how a simple image can soft-brick phones (Android Authority).


5. Apps that let people listen to police scanners have skyrocketed to the top of the App Store (Vice).


6. Report: iOS 14 will support all iPhones that run iOS 13, back to the iPhone 6S (9to5Mac).


7. Facebook employees took the rare step to call out Mark Zuckerberg for inaction: resignations, walkouts, and in response, Zuckerberg reported moved end-of-the-week employee Q and A to today so he can respond (Wired).


8. A @ProductHunt twitter thread celebrating black makers (Twitter)


9. Researchers say Oura rings can predict COVID-19 symptoms three days early (Engadget).


10. Meet ACE2, the enzyme at the center of the COVID-19 mystery, with more than 700 studies trying to figure out the link to risk (Wired).


11. America has more new spaceships on the way: Starliner (SpaceX, 1-2 years), Orion (Boeing, 3-4 years), Starship (SpaceX, 4-8 years), Dream Chaser (Sierra Nevada Corporation, 5-10 years) (Ars Technica).


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