Technology

Google’s latest Pixel feature drop adds Circle to Search, Magic Compose, and more

A “fresh” new color for the Pixel 8 series isn’t the only thing Google is announcing today. The company is also detailing its latest feature drop, which brings the brand-new Circle to Search feature — first seen on Samsung’s Galaxy S24 — to both the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro. Google says Circle to Search will go live on January 31st, which just so happens to be the release date for Samsung’s S24 lineup. With a long press of the home button or navigation bar, you’ll be able to circle anything on your phone screen, and Google will serve up more information about the highlighted content.

This feature drop also makes the built-in thermometer on the Pixel 8 Pro at least a little more useful: you can now use it to take your own (or someone else’s) body temperature. Google describes this feature as “medical-grade,” so it seems all but certain that the company obtained some level of FDA clearance to use the thermometer in this way. It’s still puzzling to me that Google decided to build a thermometer into the phone to begin with, but now you’ve got a practical use for it instead of checking the temperature of your coffee or something silly.

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Older Pixels are getting some new tricks, too: Google says the Pixel 6 and newer will be able to use Magic Compose to “rewrite a drafted message in different styles” with the help of AI. That processing happens on-device in the case of the Pixel 8 Pro, but Google’s other phones will be able to leverage the cloud to give their messages a professional tone or make them more concise.

This feature drop also changes what was previously Nearby Share to the simplified Quick Share branding now shared by Google and Samsung. The functionality is still the same: Quick Share lets you send content to nearby Android, ChromeOS, and Windows devices that support the feature.

Rounding out the latest update, Google says automatic audio switching is coming to the Pixel Watch. “You can switch your Pixel Buds Pro from your Pixel Watch to any number of Pixel phones or Pixel Tablet and get helpful notifications about where your audio is switching to,” the company wrote in its blog post. And finally, Google is bringing “Photomoji” to its Messages app:

Want to react to a message with a cutout of you or your four-legged best friend? Photomoji on Google Messages allows you to transform your favorite photos into reactions with the help of on-device Google AI. Simply select the photo, review the object you’d like to react with and hit send. Your creations will be saved in a special tab for reuse, and, as a bonus, your friends in group chats can use your sent photomoji.

As always with these feature drops, they’ll begin rolling out to some Pixel hardware owners as early as Thursday, with others following “over the next few weeks.”

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