The Best Android 10 Feature Will Debut on the Pixel 4

 

For its Pixel 4 launch yesterday (Oct. 15), Google touted a number of features coming to the new smartphone, including the ability to use gestures to control the phone, a smarter Google Assistant, and improved camera features. But Pixel 4 owners will be the first to get another capability that shows off the company’s flair for speech recognition.

Google said today that Live Captions would launch with the Pixel 4, which is currently available for preorder before hitting stores on Oct. 24. Live Caption provides automatic closed-captioning to any video or spoken audio on your smartphone whether it’s a live stream, video message or short clip that a friend is sharing with you.

Google first previewed Live Caption during its developer conference earlier this year, and it’s safe to say the feature really made an impression on people. Live Caption was touted as one of the improvements coming with Android 10, though the feature didn’t appear when Google’s mobile operating system arrived last month. In fact, the lack of Live Caption in the initial release was one of our biggest disappointments when we reviewed Android 10.

That’s because the benefits of Live Caption are readily apparent, even beyond if you have difficulty hearing. With Live Caption turned on, you’ll be able to watch videos with your phone silenced — helpful if you don’t want to disturb other people around you. You’ll also be able to enjoy content in noisy environments without having to crank up the volume to make out what’s being said.

According to Google’s blog post announcing the arrival of Live Caption, you’ll be able to position the caption box anywhere on your smartphone’s screen and you can expand the size of the box by double-tapping it. And all this on-the-fly speech recognition is happening on your device — the feature doesn’t require a cellular connection and any captions remain securely on your phone so you’re not sharing your private videos with Google’s servers. (Because of all the processing taking place on your smartphone, though, you may use up more battery than normal when Live Caption is enabled.)

In that sense, Live Caption works like another of the Pixel 4′s features — the new Recorder app. This voice recording tool transcribes audio recordings on the fly, with all that language recognition taking place on the phone itself.

The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL will be the first phones to benefit from Live Caption, but they’re not going to be the only ones to get the feature. Google says Live Caption will come to the Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL by the end of the year. It’s also promising to work with other Android phone makers to deliver Live Caption to their devices in 2020.

This is difficult to predict as it depends entirely on how much tweaking your handset maker likes to do – for example, Samsung has a reputation for dragging its feet when it comes to bringing the latest version of Android to its device portfolio.

For example, Samsung brought Android Pie to its Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus handsets at the tail-end of January this year – some four months after Android Pie debuted on Pixel devices.

OK, so what can you expect from the next major release of Android? Well, smartphone owners have been bashing away on the beta for the last few months, so we’ve learned quite a bit about the new features planned.

Google also highlighted a number of its favourite additions during the opening keynote of its Google IO developer conference back in May. Below are a number of the headline features now available on your smartphone

Excitingly, Android 10 offers native support for foldable devices like the Samsung Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X, so apps can quickly switch between screen sizes and extend (or shrink) as the form factor changes. That opens up the door for a bucket load more folding handsets, including ones in the Pixel range.

Arguably more important – although inarguably less flashy – is the ability to control how apps can access your device’s location in Android 10. It now works exactly like Apple iOS, enabling you to grant access all the time, never, or only when the app is open. Plus, apps are more limited in terms of what they can do when they’re not on screen, and they can’t ‘steal’ focus from another app like they could previously.

Another brilliant new feature that resembles the forthcoming update to iOS is the arrival of a system-wide dark mode, officially known as Dark Theme. This should give your eyes some rest and preserve battery life at the same time, and once it’s enabled, the change should apply across all the apps on your phone.

Remember that Google constantly pushes out new features to its apps and underlying technologies, so not everything new that arrives on Android is going to be part of Android 10. Google says its latest AI engines can work faster without needing to ping the cloud, which should mean a more responsive Google Assistant.

Google Assistant will be better integrated into Google Maps with this latest upgrade, so you’ll be able to use your voice to answer calls and play music while Maps is in navigation mode, meaning less of an excuse to take your eyes off the road.

Also new in Android 10 (but coming to Android 9 Pie in the future as well) is Focus Mode, a different slant on Do Not Disturb: it lets you block certain apps and allow certain others when you’re trying to focus on something.

Parental controls are expanding with Android 10, gaining the ability to set screen time limits for specific apps, and to grant “bonus” time to your kids when it’s needed.

In terms of notifications, you’ve got a few tweaks to play around with. With Android 10 you can long-press on a notification bubble to block future notifications from the app or to deliver them silently (so they still appear but don’t make a noise or vibrate your phone). That should make it much faster to sort the notifications you want from the ones you don’t – without having to spend the afternoon wading through a complicated settings menu.

Oh, and Android 10 includes some basic theming options. At the moment you can only adjust the accent colour, font, and icon shape. However, the underlying technology paves the way for some truly exciting customisation options akin to what is possible at the moment with third-party launchers.

There’s also an in-built screen recorder, so you can quickly record a tutorial for older family members pestering you with tech support questions over WhatsApp. And if you have an ‘always on’ mode activated on your Pixel phone, you’ll notice that Android 10 displays what’s currently playing, regardless of whether it’s a track from Spotify, a podcast episode, or anything else. It’s one of several nice little visual tweaks Google has introduced in Android 10.

Add to that a whole host of smaller updates and behind the scenes tweaks – from the ability to undo changes to the home screen to code optimisations – as well as new features still to be announced, and there’s a lot to explore in Android 10.

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