Those with the older Pixel 2 or Pixel 3 are likely considering upgrading to Google’s latest Pixel 4 and with good reason. And while the Pixel 4 is temping, several of the best features are coming to the older Pixel 3, and even the cheaper Pixel 3a. Most of those neat features arrived late last year, and more are coming.
In this guide we’ll explain some of Google’s neat new features. Then, we’ll let you know if your older Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL will get it, and when. Including the new astrophotography camera controls, call screening for spam, or that fancy recording app and live captions.
Some of Google’s new additions are exclusive to the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, or just aspects of Android 10, which is why a lot of these features will roll out to other Pixel phones. You don’t need to spend $800-$900 on a Pixel 4 to get these sweet new camera tricks. And while we knew most of these were coming, we didn’t know when.
Best New Pixel 3 Features (from the Pixel 4)
- The New Google Assistant
- Astrophotography Mode & Night Sight (Taking photos of stars)
- Live Captions
- Top Shot for Videos
- Automatic Call Screening
- Recorder App & Live Transcribe
A Better & Faster Google Assistant
The Google Assistant just keeps getting better and better. Furthermore, we’re still waiting for some pretty awesome features coming later this year. As we saw back at Google I/O in March, the Assistant team managed to compress the 100GB cloud model and artificial intelligence behind the Google Assistant into a tiny file that fits on EVERY device.
What this means is everything happens on the device, even without an internet connection. This makes it better, faster, and available on your Pixel 3, a tablet, laptop, and more. Basically, the powerful new Google Assistant we’re seeing on the Pixel 4 will be available on older devices very soon. Google claims it’s actually up to 10x faster than before.
Astrophotography Mode & Night Sight (Taking photos of stars)
Google’s new astrophotography mode on the Pixel 4 is stunning, just look at these photos. Which, by the way, is an addition to the Night Sight camera controls introduced with the Pixel 3. We’re happy to announce that the late November update for Google camera delivered all of this to older devices. You can enjoy the latest camera user interface, Astrophotography mode and more on your Pixel 3 right now.
Google confirmed this on Twitter, then delivered it shortly thereafter too. Now you can capture amazing photos of the stars, big dipper, and even the milky way using your Pixel 3 — without a tripod. Amazing, right? Better yet, you can do this on the cheaper Pixel 3a too.
Perhaps one of the best new features of the Pixel 4 is Live Captions. Google added the ability to take any audio, from any video, and instantly add captions to it. Basically adding your own CC (closed captions) button to anything you want to watch on your phone.
This might sound like no big deal at first, but imagine all the times you’re at work, on public transit, or waiting at the barbershop watching a video but have it turned down or with no sound. Now, you’ll be able to know exactly what’s going on thanks to Live Caption. It’s pretty remarkable, really, and yes, it’s finally available on the Pixel 3 following the latest December Pixel update. Furthermore, the update added the new Styles & Themes option too, which is pretty nice.
You can easily toggle captions on or off, and even drag them around the screen to keep it out of your way. Better yet, it works without an internet connection, which is crazy. If you already have the December update try the new Styles in the wallpaper section, or give Live Captions a try and get ready to be amazed.
Top Shot for Videos
Top Shot on the Pixel 3 is an AI feature that uses artificial intelligence to save a better photo than the one you snapped at any given moment. It basically takes a burst of images when you hit the shutter, and looks for mistakes like hair in your face, closed eyes, or blurry subjects. If any moment before or after you clicked was better, it’ll choose and save that for you — automatically. It’s just one of many things that makes the Pixel phone smarter than most.
And, surprisingly, Google just added the same technology to videos, with what they’re calling “short videos”. When taking a photo, if you tap and hold the shutter button, it will also save a mini video. You can get the best shot of that video, or great photos, all automatically. This is available now for the Pixel 3 and the newest Pixel 4.
Automatic Call Screening
Perhaps the most useful new feature is Google’s Automatic Call Screening that weeds out all those irritating spam and robocalls. Automatic call screening does exactly what it sounds like, and cross-checks numbers and information ahead of time. That way you don’t have to deal with all that junk.
Last year Google said this would roll out to all Pixel devices on Android 10 “in a few weeks” but it took a little longer than expected. We can now confirm that after the February Pixel Android 10 update those with the older Pixel 3 are getting call screening, and we’re seeing reports the Pixel 2 is as well. You might need to go into the phone app and enable it, so give that a try too using the steps above.
Recorder App & Live Transcribe
Google’s all-new Recorder app looks like a powerful tool for students, journalists, business users, or anyone really. It’s a recording app that can also transcribe everything it hears, in real-time, without an internet connection. Furthermore, you can search for specific words, sounds (like music or clapping) and it’ll find those for you.
So, you could record a 2-hour lecture in class and find specific areas or subjects in a matter of seconds. It looks pretty neat, and it’s not readily available for all Pixel devices right here. While Google’s videos all say “only on Pixel 4” we’ve already installed the app on our Pixel 3 and it works great.
Furthermore, Google recently confirmed that the Recorder app will roll out to older Pixel devices in a future software update. That comment doesn’t specifically say the Pixel 3 either, which leads many to believe all Pixel devices will get the new Recorder and live-transcribing features.
A Few More Details
That’s all we know about so far, but we have a feeling more are on the way. Google didn’t share a list of every feature older Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a devices will get, or when they’re coming. So while we’ve detailed some here, we could see even more arrive in the near future. Like that neat new Dual Exposure control in the camera, or car crash detection emergency controls. The December update added a bunch of new stuff, but we could get more in 2020 or with the Android 11 beta in March, known as Android R.
That said, don’t expect things like Motion Sense, as that’s using an actual radar chip inside the phone that older models simply don’t have. Either way, while Pixel 4 is a great phone a lot of people will love, if you have the Pixel 3 you might not need to upgrade. And those with an older Pixel 2 might be just as happy spending less on a Pixel 3a XL instead of the Pixel 4 XL.
In closing, Pixel 4 is readily available so get yours by clicking here.