It's that time again, every* Pixel owner's favorite day of the month: security patch day! Updates for the Pixel 3, 3 XL, 3a, 3a XL, 4, 4 XL, 4a, 5a 5G, and the Pixel 5 should all be heading out via over-the-air update over the next few days. And since there's a (sort of) new Pixel on the block, let's all welcome the Pixel 5a to its first monthly security patch.
I may be one of a small minority of Android and Pixel enthusiasts who really love the Pixel 5. In my opinion, it was the perfect Google phone for 2020, excellent without being too expensive. But putting aside the processor, camera, display, and software, the one factor that made me properly love the Pixel 5 was its size. It's just right, and I'm feeling reluctant to move back to a larger phone.
Google is extending the warranty for the Pixel 4 XL by an extra year. Before you get too excited, the extension only covers a handful of specific power-related issues, including charging, faster-than-expected drain, random restarts, and being unable to power on the phone. It's only valid for Pixel 4 XL's purchased in available markets previously limited to a single year of warranty support — specifically, in the US, Singapore, Canada, Japan, and Taiwan. Warranty eligibility for these issues as part of the extension can be verified online or in person at uBreakiFix.
Ever since the Nokia N95, my phone has always been my main camera. I've bought point and shoots, mirrorless/DSLRs, several 360 cams, but nothing beats the simplicity of pulling out the device that's already in my pocket, tapping a few on-screen buttons, and snapping the photo I want. On big occasions, I'll make the effort to take my Olympus mirrorless with me, but smartphones — especially Pixels — have gotten so good that I still revert to them when I'm in an especially challenging situation. This often happens in cathedrals and other half-dark half-brightly lit places where capturing the image that's in my head would require a level of cam-manipulation and post-processing knowledge that I don't have.
Pixel device owners, start your Wi-Fi radios. The monthly security update for Pixel phones has been posted by Google. The updates are available as both direct download of the firmware and OTA files, but it should be showing up on at least a few phones starting today.
Some Pixel owners have noticed over the last couple of monthly updates that their phones have lost Widevine L1 status, falling to L3 and rendering them incapable of playing back some DRM-protected content at high quality. More simply, that means they can't play HD content in apps and services like Netflix. By far the majority of devices are not affected and the cause isn't immediately clear. Google tells us it's aware of these reports and working on a fix, and devices from other manufactures may also be affected.
While we don't come across the boot animation that often, it still is a part of the core Android experience and needs to match up with wider design choices. A subtle tweak, but with Android 10, even the boot screen of Pixel phones gained a dark background that would automatically be used if the system theme was set to dark mode. Going forward, it might not cycle between the two modes at all.
Google's ARCore SDK allows phones to place virtual objects in mixed reality situations using their processors, motion sensors, light sensors, and, yes, their camera. However, even with the proliferation of quadruple rear camera phones, ARCore has only been able to use one of them. But soon enough, it'll work with two cameras on a couple of choice devices.
Following Verizon's early teasing, Google has just released details about the March 2021 Feature Drop update, which should be rolling out today. Pixel owners can look forward to enhanced underwater photography when paired with a specific case, expanded Smart Compose support for some messaging apps, a snazzy new bedtime screen when using the Pixel Stand and Clock app, and wallpapers for International Women's Day. On top of that, Google promises more fixes for Android Auto disconnection issues.
Google bundles a lot of clever software features with its Pixel phones, including Call Screen, Adaptive Sound, and car crash detection. One Missouri man is particularly thankful for that last feature. Late last year, Chuck Walker found himself injured and trapped in an overturned Bobcat loader. According to the story he shared on Reddit this week, his Pixel 4 XL managed to detect the accident and ring emergency services, thus saving him from a very lengthy and unpleasant stay.