Thursday, 1 June 2023

A series of Pixel update oddities


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After a week-long delay, the March 2022 Pixel Feature Drop arrived on Monday as a somewhat unexciting update. It would have been a total bust if it weren’t for Cross Device Timers that appear in At a Glance and Google Assistant notifications. (Fun fact: this feature – for whatever reason – won’t work with timers set on the Google Home Max.) Meanwhile, Pixel 7 and 7 Pro users will benefit from the ability to use two eSIMs with Dual SIM Dual Standby, as well as UWB digital car keys.

Magic Eraser for all Pixel phones was deemed part of the Feature Drop following its announcement last month. It would have probably been better to hold that launch until this week. I don’t think older Pixel owners expected anything when Magic Eraser became a Google One capability for all subscribers. That expansion could have easily been the headlining capability. Speaking of expansions, there’s Direct My Call (now Pixel 4a-5a) and Home for Me (Japan).

The other way Google could have made a splash with this Feature Drop was by holding the Pixel Watch Fall Detection and Pixel Buds Pro Head Tracking releases until yesterday. This quarter could have been the big accessories update, especially since there was nothing too exciting for the phone. Personally, I’m surprised Watch Unlock wasn’t announced yet. The window for it launching before Android 14 is winding down. 

I’d argue Android 13 QPR2 with its many bug fixes was the bigger deal for most users. The oddity with that is how the March update is not yet available for the Pixel 6, 6 Pro, or 6a as of yesterday. Google’s original Tensor chip is the shared factor, while the faster Night Sight feature is overshadowed.

Lastly, there’s the change to the Android Beta Program. Google is no longer rolling out the stable release of Android 13 QPR2 to all users. Instead, you have to opt out to get it. Namely, you have to leave before Android 13 QPR3 Beta 1 rolls out later this week.

Once you exit the program, you have to avoid the downgrade OTA. Telling users to avoid an update feels precarious especially since there’s a high risk of users (going through the motions) accidentally accepting it and getting their data wiped. That is the big issue here, and Google should have exercised extreme caution instead. Now, you have people concerned about that data repeatedly asking it’s safe to leave the beta.

Video: Hands-on with all the new  March 2023 Pixel Feature Drop additions

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