Google kicked off a cycle of updates that started around the time it dropped the first Android 12 developer preview last week. Since then, it announced a bunch of new features for Android devices, and today it’s sharing a few more improvements coming to Pixel phones. These features appear to be rolling out now, and include tweaks to the Recorder app, an underwater upgrade for photography and Smart Compose coming to more apps.
Google’s powerful Recorder app launched as a rival to Otter.ai in 2019 and had some notable differences. Unlike Otter, the Recorder app used on-device machine learning to transcribe your interviews, so your sensitive information isn’t transmitted anywhere unless you decide to share it. But Otter had a more powerful online editor that allowed you to edit your transcripts more easily, which is a blessing since neither service is still perfect at interpreting what you or your interviewees said.
Now, Google is launching a new site at recorder.google.com and is making it easier to share your audio files with their transcripts so people without Pixels can also read and listen. Recorder has the potential to be a great tool for accessibility, since you can use it to record snippets of audio and generate an animated transcript to share as an MP4. But the usefulness of that feature relies heavily on the accuracy of the transcription, and having a new portal and way to share these clips could make this tool more inclusive.
Google’s Smart Compose tool initially showed up to suggest ways to complete our messages in Gmail and Docs, and it’s now expanding to chat apps. Through GBoard, the feature will be available on Android Messages, Google Chat / Hangouts, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Verizon Messages, Line, Telegram and Slack. When you have Smart Compose enabled and start typing in one of these apps, you’ll see suggestions for how to complete your message based on what Google’s machine learning determined is appropriate or common. You can swipe on the spacebar to accept the suggestion (similar to how you’d do it on the Gmail mobile app).
The company is also announcing a way to use the Pixel camera underwater… by putting your phone in a Kraken case. If you plan on going diving, you can get the Kraken Sports Universal Smart Phone Housing to take your Pixel with you and use things like Night Sight and Portrait mode. If you were wondering why you can’t use some other case rated to protect your phone underwater instead of this $325 option, Google told Engadget it actually created a native camera integration with this case that works over Bluetooth. It’s more likely to deliver clear images under greater distance or pressure (and is one of few cases rated to withstand deepwater pressure).
If you use a Pixel stand to charge your device, there will be a new bedtime screen with redesigned notifications to “help you ease into sleep.” Google said this will be “more seamless,” and based on the renders the overall appearance is cleaner than before.
Finally, Google is also releasing a set of new wallpapers for Pixel phones celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8th. These feature artwork by Spanish duo Cachetejack and focus on “the strength and transformation of women.” While not all of these updates might feel immediately useful to all users, you might appreciate Google’s approach of releasing new features in batches throughout the year instead of waiting for an arbitrary date each year.