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Update brings some "hidden" changes to the Pixel 4 series

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hidden improvement in pixel feature drop
Earlier today we pointed out that some Pixel units have yet to receive the latest monthly update or the new quarterly feature drop from Google. The latter will bring Pixel users enhanced multitasking capabilities thanks to improvements in memory management. Other parts of the update are app-specific. For example, with the update, video chat app Duo will keep Pixel users' faces centered in the middle of the screen even when they move. After the update is installed, Duo will blur the user's background if he wants to try and hide what his bedroom looks like, and the Pixel 4 will employ a machine-learning algorithm to guess the next sound in a conversation marred by a poor connection. Other new features will allow users to add a blur to old photos of faces or of people, and a new Call Screen update will automatically block calls from unknown numbers.

According to XDA, Google also added a trio of features for the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL that have not been widely publicized. For example, the latest and greatest Pixels will be updated to support dual-frequency Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). This will allow for more precise location tracking using the L5 and E5a frequencies for those using GPS or Galileo respectively. GPS is owned by the U.S. Government while Galileo was created by the EU. Google says that as a result, "you’ll also get amazingly fast accuracy in Google Maps with improved on-device computing for much better location quality."

Face Unlock will now improve over time


The second "hidden" new feature adds T-Mobile eSIM support. An eSIM is an electronic or embedded SIM card that is added to a phone's motherboard and replaces or works alongside the old physical SIM cards. The Pixel 4 series supports dual SIM, dual standby so a user can combine an eSIM and a physical SIM card from two different carriers. Both SIM cards are active until one is in use which automatically makes the other card inactive. Pixel 4 users on T-Mobile can now set up two different lines using one for home and the other for business.


Another "hidden" new feature for the Pixel 4 family will improve Face Unlock over time. Google has yet to push out an update allowing users to request that their eyes be open in order for it to work. This means that users are still open to getting knocked unconscious by someone who wants to unlock their phone. A bad actor could also hold up the phone to the owner's sleeping face in order to unlock it. But what Google has done with the Pixel Feature Drop is have Face Unlock employ recent images of the user's face to improve how well the facial recognition system works. These new images are created every time a Pixel 4 user unlocks his or her phone using Face Unlock.

Users first setting up Face Unlock after installing the December update will be informed of the change. A new sentence in the instructions for Face Unlock reads "Your phone will occasionally use your recent face unlock images to create improved face models." Those nervous about multiple images or models of their faces being stored online don't have to worry. These images are kept on-device using the Titan M security chip. And Pixel 4 users will now receive a notification when their face model no longer meets certain requirements and needs to be created again. Google noted these improvements in the changelog to the December 2019 monthly update but did not mention them in the blog post it published about the Pixel Feature Drop. They also weren't discussed on the company's support forums. If you missed out on hearing about the improvements to Face Unlock, well, now you know.

If you have yet to receive the December update for your Android 10 powered Pixel, you can see if it has belatedly arrived by going to Settings > System > Advanced > System update > Check for update.

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Google Pixel 4 specs
  • Display 5.7 inches 2280 x 1080 pixels 90Hz Refresh rate
  • Camera 12.2 MP (Dual camera) 8 MP front
  • Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 6GB RAM
  • Storage 64GB, not expandable
  • Battery 2800 mAh
  • OS Android 12
Google Pixel 4 XL specs
  • Display 6.3 inches 3040 x 1440 pixels 90Hz Refresh rate
  • Camera 12.2 MP (Dual camera) 8 MP front
  • Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 6GB RAM
  • Storage 64GB, not expandable
  • Battery 3700 mAh
  • OS Android 12
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