Every quarter, Google breathes new life into its Pixel lineup with a Pixel Feature Drop. Each Pixel Feature Drop brings new software features exclusive to Pixel phones, ranging from incredibly useful ones like Gemini Nano-powered AI features to more mundane ones like new wallpapers or expanded language support. Most new features announced with a Feature Drop rollout through app or server-side updates to Google’s apps, but some new features come from the OS itself. Some of these new OS features get called out in Google’s announcements or social media posts, but a lot of them never get a shout-out.
For example, Google touted the new Android 14 webcam feature and Repair Mode in its marketing for the December 2023 Pixel Feature Drop, but it didn’t mention some of the other new features the update added, like the ability to override an app’s aspect ratio, view your phone’s battery health, or set a different live wallpaper on the lock screen and home screen. It’s clear that Google is picking and choosing which features to highlight, but that means you might miss out on the fact that a certain feature you’ve been waiting for has been added unless you stumble upon it yourself.
Well, this post is here to save you the trouble. I’m going to run down every new Android feature that’s coming in Google’s next Pixel Feature Drop, which should happen in March. Apart from the January 2024 Pixel Feature Drop, every Feature Drop coincides with an update to the Android OS that ranges from minor to major. The October 2023 Feature Drop brought Android 14, the current major Android release, while the December 2023 Feature Drop brought Android 14 QPR1, Android 14’s first quarterly platform release.
The March 2024 Pixel Feature Drop, therefore, should bring Android 14 QPR2, Android 14’s second interim update that’s currently in beta. While the current Beta 3.1 release is near final in terms of functionality, there’s no guarantee that every feature I’ll mention here will be included in the stable Android 14 QPR2 release next month. So keep that in mind as you read about these new features.
Android’s Bluetooth tile gets a long-awaited upgrade
No longer will you have to dive into the Settings app to switch between Bluetooth devices. Now, in Android 14 QPR2, tapping the Bluetooth tile in the Quick Settings panel opens a pop-up dialog that lets you toggle the Bluetooth radio or switch between your paired Bluetooth devices. There’s also a “pair new device” button, but tapping that just opens the full Bluetooth settings page.
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This is a feature that other Android-based OSes like One UI have had for a long time, so it’s good to see Google add it in Android 14 QPR2. Since this feature is now part of the Android OS codebase, any device maker that uses Android but doesn’t already have this feature will be able to ship it. However, you’ll likely have to wait until Android 15 to see it appear on other devices that don’t already have it due to the (complex) way that the Android OS is distributed.
Updates now install much more quickly
Android’s seamless updates feature brings minimal downtime to the OTA update process since your device does all the patching and optimizing in the background. However, one downside is that it’s notoriously slow, sometimes taking over an hour or more to complete the update. The good news is that Google worked some of its magic and made seamless updates much faster in Android 14 QPR2.
As for how they did that, Android Police founder Artem Russakovskii shared the technical details over on his X profile. The good news is that these improvements will come to any device that uses Android’s modern seamless updates scheme. That said, some popular devices, like the Samsung Galaxy S24 series, don’t support Android’s seamless updates feature.
You can now hide your notifications from screen recordings
Have you ever had to redo a screen recording because a notification popped up that you didn’t want to share with the world? When you start a screen recording in Android 14 QPR2, you now have the option to change from recording the entire screen or recording a single app. Recording the entire screen means everything you see and do will appear in the resulting screen recording, while recording a single app means that only the contents of that app will be recorded.
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This partial screen recording feature, like the rest of the features in Android 14 QPR2, should make its way to other Android devices in Android 15.
You can now hide your notifications while mirroring your screen
In a similar vein, Android’s screencasting feature in Android 14 QPR2 now also has the option to cast a single app instead of the entire screen. This means that when you mirror your screen to any Chromecast-compatible display, you can hide any miscellaneous UI elements or, more importantly, your notifications from appearing on the display.
It’s worth noting that although this feature will be available on other devices in Android 15, some OEMs like Samsung disable Android’s screen casting tile in favor of their own solution. Samsung’s screen mirroring service called Smart View, though, has offered the ability to mirror a single app for a while now.
The taskbar finally lets you search through your app list
If you have a lot of apps installed, it can be a pain to scroll through your app list to find the exact one you want to launch. If you know what you want to launch, you can enter its name in the launcher’s search bar to filter your app list, but the search bar is only available on the home page. Well, not anymore, because in Android 14 QPR2, the taskbar’s app drawer now has a search bar!
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It’s now easier to manage which apps have access to the camera or microphone
Your phone’s microphone and camera are two of its most sensitive sensors because they can be used to record your most private moments. That’s why in Android 12, Google introduced privacy indicators in the status bar that appear whenever an app is using the microphone or camera. The UI that appears when you tap the privacy indicator has now changed in Android 14 QPR2.
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Previously, tapping the indicator would open a full-screen page that was basically a mini version of the Safety Center experience Google introduced in Android 13, but it now opens a pop-up dialog.
This dialog shows you which apps are actively using the microphone or camera, close the app(s) that are using them, manage their access to these sensors, or see recent uses of these sensors.
It’s now easier to share your Wi-Fi network with other people
The pop-up dialog that appears when you tap the “Internet” tile in Quick Settings has added a new “Share Wi-Fi” button in Android 14 QPR2. This button, which appears in the bottom left, opens the existing “Share Wi-Fi page,” which shows a QR code that others can scan to join your current network, as well as a button to share the current network’s credentials using Quick Share (formerly Nearby Share).
- The “weather” lock screen clock now tells you when there’s an upcoming alarm or when Do Not Disturb mode is on
- One of the more popular lock screen clock styles that Google introduced in Android 14 has gotten a slight tweak in Android 14 QPR2. The “weather” style, as it’s known under the hood, now shows an alarm icon when there’s an upcoming alarm or a DND icon for when Do Not Disturb mode is on.
- The Pixel Launcher now shows app labels in two lines.
- This one is also pretty self-explanatory: App labels in the Pixel Launcher now take up two lines instead of being truncated.
- The “Restricted” battery optimization mode has disappeared
- If you like tinkering with battery settings, then you may notice that the “Restricted” battery optimization mode has disappeared in favor of an “allow background usage” toggle. Meanwhile, the other two modes (i.e. “Optimized” and “Unrestricted”) are now in a submenu. I don’t know exactly what this change entails, but it’s likely just to simplify things.
- You can now see the package name for an app in Settings
- Lastly, here’s a change that power users might appreciate: You can now see the package name for an app at the bottom of its “app info” page. The package name is a unique identifier for an app, as in, no two apps installed on a device can share the same package name.
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That’s it for all the new Android features you’ll actually be able to get your hands on in Google’s next Pixel Feature Drop! As always, there are loads more hidden features in Android 14 QPR2 that are still in development, but those won’t go public until the next QPR at the earliest, but more likely, they will be in Android 15.