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Google’s new Pixel feature drop brings car crash detection and better selfies

Google is about to roll-out its second Pixel ‘feature drop’, which includes a handful of useful new safety options and an all-important Emoji update.

There was quite a lot to shout about when Google first rolled out some special extras for Pixel owners, including better screening for nuisance calls and some neat photo editing tools.

The best news at the time was that this was going to be a regular event, with quarterly updates rolling out every few months. Google has actually managed to keep to its schedule, so here’s what’s new in the latest Pixel features drop.

Car crash detection

There’s a good chance that you won’t need your phone to tell you when you’ve been in a car crash, but it’s certainly useful for other people to know when you’ve had an accident.

Car-crash detection is part of Google’s Personal Safety app. It relies on the phone’s sensors to identify when you’ve been in a severe accident – when it thinks you’ve been in a crash, the phone will ask if you require assistance. If you don’t respond, your Pixel will ping over your location and details to the nearest emergency services.

This was something that had already been rolled out across the US, but now the UK and Australia are getting the goods too.

Even more photo and video tools

Google rolled out a few new editing options in the previous Pixel feature drop, but now it’s opening the possibilities even further. The latest update allows you to incorporate AR into your video calls with friends, overlaying some fun visual effects that change based on your facial expressions. Just make sure you don’t hit this option when you’re about to video call your boss.

The front-facing camera has also had a little software upgrade on the Pixel 4. It can now create images with depth, which means you can finally upload a 3D image to Facebook, if that’s your jam. Portrait blur and colour-pop should also be better when you snap a selfie.

Related: Read our Pixel 4 review

More emojis

No Pixel feature drop is complete without an unnecessarily big emoji update.

Google has added a grand total of 169 with the latest emoji 12.1 update. There’s probably a few boring new ones in there, but the roll-out of more skin tones and gender identities is a welcome addition.

Related: The best smartphones for 2020

Easier access to Google Pay and flight docs

Everyone’s had that excruciating moment where they’re stood at a counter hopelessly bashing their phone against a payment machine. Hopefully, Google’s new update will ease that stress a little, as they’ve made it a little easier to get to your cards.

Simply press and hold the power button to scroll through the various debit or credit cards you have saved. Sadly, this little feature is only rolling out to owners in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Taiwan and Singapore.

Google is also making easier to save your flight details. Lazy flyers can now take a screenshot of their boarding pass bar code and add flight details straight to Google Pay via a notification that pops up. Your phone will then give you flight updates and you can access your boarding pass by hitting the power button. This option is going to have a gradual roll-out in March across countries with Google Pay. At present, it’s only set to appear on the Pixel 3, 3a and 4.

Anyone with a Pixel 4 can also use the new power button options to pull up emergency contacts and medical details.

Dark mode and other customisation

Pixel owners will probably already be well aware of the Dark Mode setting, which saves both your retinas and your battery when you turn it on late at night. But Google is now rolling out an adaptive mode that will essentially tune this to your local sunrise and sunset times, so you’ll always have Dark Mode on when you most need it.

Apparently, some people are still using actual ringtones in this day and age (who are you? Show yourselves.) To save these people the embarrassment of having their phone go off at inappropriate times, Google has also created a new option that will automatically silence your phone when needed. You can now tell your Pixel to turn off when you connect to certain WiFi networks or when you’re in certain locations, so you can make sure your embarrassing ringtone only plays out in private.

Smaller updates

Unsurprisingly, owners of the latest Google models will receive a few extra treats. Pixel 4 phones will now pause and resume music when you tap above the handset thanks to the clever Motion Sensor system feature.

These handsets will also benefit from new adaptive lighting controls, which will adjust on-screen brightness in accordance with your environment. So it should still be easy to read Twilight from your Pixel 4 even when it’s blindingly sunny. And holding the Pixel launcher button for longer will now throw up additional helpful app options.

Finally, Live Caption, which basically whacks some subtitles at the bottom of any media, is rolling out to Pixel 2 owners. Lucky them.

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