The December Pixel Features Drop comes with Gemini Nano, WatchUnlock, and more

The December Pixel Features Drop comes with Gemini Nano, WatchUnlock, and more

summary

  • Google has announced the Pixel Features Drop for December, focusing on the AI-powered features of the Pixel lineup, including the new lightweight version of Gemini on the Pixel 8 Pro.
  • Gemini Nano will power features like Summarize in Google Recorder and Smart Response in Gboard, enhancing AI capabilities for users.
  • Other upgrades include improved Photo Unblur and Portrait light features, access to Night Sight in Timelapse, and the availability of the Video Boost feature on the Pixel 8 Pro. More details about the update will be available soon.


Pixel fans are usually software-oriented, and Google knows that, so it’s started bundling feature-heavy Android updates together for quarterly releases that come packed with fun new functionality. These pixel features drop in March, June, September, and December. Google beta tested the Pixel Features Drop for December as Android 14 QPR1, and now, it looks like the update is ready for prime time.

Google announced the December 2023 feature launches today on its blog, and just like the hardware event on October 4 and Google I/O 2023 before it, AI is the obvious topic. Notably, the Google Gemini, which also debuted this morning, will now be present in a lightweight form on the Pixel 8 Pro. As it turns out, that basic on-device model that the 8 Pro could run — a model that Google said was the first ever on a smartphone — was none other than the Gemini Nano, a watered-down version of Google’s real answer to GPT-4.

The Gemini Nano will be used to power features like Summarize in Google Recorder, which relies on the new speaker labels feature to create an AI summary of what was said. Multimedia AI will also power Smart Reply in Gboard, which was just opened as a developer preview.

Along with the Pixel 8 Pro, Google is also bringing a lot of smart AI-powered features to the entire Pixel lineup all the way to the Pixel 5a. Photo Unblur is better at handling pet photos, and the upgraded Portrait Light feature will now better remove harsh light in new or old photos.

The entire Pixel 8 series now has access to Night Sight in Timelapse, which should give timelapse videos a brighter look. The Pixel 8 Pro’s Video Boost feature is finally available, though it doesn’t use the Gemini Nano — instead, it adjusts color, lighting, and stabilization using a cloud-based computational photography model on Google’s Photos servers.

Finally, after teasing the function back in January at CES 2023, Google’s new WatchUnlock feature has made its debut. Pixel Watch 1 and 2 users alike can now bring their unlocked watches closer to their phone to unlock the phone, and this should work on all Pixel phones, tablets and foldable devices from the 5a to the 8 and 8 Pro.

A person shows the Slide to unlock feature on the Google Pixel Watch at Google CES 2023

The first-generation Pixel Watch will also sync DND and Bedtime modes from your phone to the wearable, ensuring you’re not woken up by notifications or distracted no matter where they arrive. Google’s popular Call Screen feature will now also work on Pixel Watches. Allowing you to interact with incoming calls from your wrist during scanning.

The weather and clock integration we’ve been tracking throughout development is now also here. This enhances your world clock view with weather data and forecasts from every city, including your own.

Meanwhile, the Pixel Tablet now supports spatial audio, and Google’s Clear Calling feature that filters out background noise in phone calls has also made its way to the tablet. Finally, a new cleaning feature will remove stains and wrinkles from scanned documents, and a new repair mode will keep your data safe and secure while you send your device in for repairs.

As far as Drops go, this is an absolutely huge feature. It seems that the perfect storm of need to deliver promised Pixel 8 features, give Android 14 its first significant update, and increased interest in its end-of-year feature pack has prompted Google to release one of its biggest updates ever in terms of functionality. And we are here for that.

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