Google releases surprise software update for the Pixel 4 with one major caveat

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Google releases surprise software update for the Pixel 4 with one major caveat
Two years before Google decided to take its Pixel handsets to another level in a bid to challenge Apple and Samsung, it was thought that the Pixel 4 series might do the same thing. After all, Google threw everything but the kitchen sink into the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. There was a secure version of Face Unlock that used 3D facial recognition, a dot projector, a flood illuminator, and two infrared cameras similar to Apple's True Depth Camera used for Face ID.

The Pixel 4 series models also had a 90Hz refresh rate and let's not forget the Motion Sense feature. Using Google's Soli radar chip, Motion Sense allowed users to control certain aspects of their Pixel 4 handsets by making a gesture. Unfortunately, the capabilities were very limited and Google never brought back the feature. With Motion Sense, a call or an alarm could be dismissed with a wave of the hand, and the phone would unlock automatically when picked up.

The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL failed to succeed in the marketplace


Sales of the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL were dismal and a pair of Google engineers paid for the poor results with their jobs. Fast forward to just under three years later and the Pixel 7 series has been setting company sales records. The Pixel 4 line received its last major software update last August when Android 13 was released. The Pixel 4 models each were sent their last monthly security update this past October and are now considered to be at the End of Life (EOL) stage.


However, Esper's Mishaal Rahman (via AndroidPolice) has disseminated a tweet about a new Android build for the Pixel 4 series that he discovered. But there is a caveat; this update is for developers only and was sent to the Android Privacy Sandbox. As Google explains, "The Privacy Sandbox on Android aims to develop new technologies that improve user privacy and enable effective, personalized advertising experiences for mobile apps."  Interestingly, the Privacy Sandbox is only available for the Pixel 4, not the Pixel 4 XL.

Now we know that there are some of you out there with a Pixel 5, Pixel 6, or Pixel 7 series handset that has not received a security update since November. Suppose we told you that this surprise developer update for the Pixel 4 includes the December security patches.

Right now there is no indication that this build is going to be made available to the public although at this point you never know. The update is based on the latest Quarterly Feature Drop (QPR1) and as we said, it does carry the December security update so it is fairly recent.

The next monthly Android update could be just a couple of days away


Speaking about updates, this coming Monday, February 6th, Google will drop the February Android Security update. Or at least it is scheduled to do so. What we like to look at each month are the functional updates for Pixel handsets that exterminate bugs. Consider it like a can of Raid for your phone. This update is usually released on the first Monday of each month. We should remind Pixel users that the Android 13 QPR2 Beta 3 update was just released last week.

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If you're a member of the QPR2 Beta program, go to Settings > System > System update to check to see if it has hit your phone. If so, follow the directions to download and install it. The QPR2 Beta program expires in March when the stable version is released. We're guessing that this will take place on March 6th, the first Monday of the month. Once you install the March Quarterly Pixel Feature Drop (and not one second before), you can exit the Beta program without having to wipe your phone.

While Google has not announced a definitive list of which Pixel models are in line to get Android 14, based on release dates we could see the Pixel 4a (5G), Pixel 5, Pixel 5a, Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 6a, Pixel 7, and Pixel 7 Pro eligible for the next major Android build.

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