July 21, 2024

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Pixel 7 Gets a Big Update With Free VPN and AI-Enhanced Call Audio

Pixel 7 Gets a Big Update With Free VPN and AI-Enhanced Call Audio

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Google launched the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro in October and pushed a small security patch with some bug fixes in November. Now, the latest Google phones are getting their first major Feature Drop update with enhanced call quality, a free VPN, and more. It’s a big patch, but you can download and install it on your phone right now.

The new update, which goes by the catchy name “Android 13 Quarterly Platform Release 1 (QPR1),” is an omnibus update with a ton of bug fixes, security patches, and a few new features. Google has posted a massive list of Pixel-specific bug fixes that you can peruse, and there are details on the security flaws in the monthly Android security bulletin. But you get that kind of treatment every month with a Pixel. The fun of QPR1 is the raft of new features.

First up, there’s Clear Calling, which was announced for the Pixel 7 even before release. However, the feature was not available until now. Many smartphones barely qualify as “phones,” but Google has tried to make phone calls on the Pixel less aggravating with features like Call Screen. Clear Calling leverages the power of Google’s custom Tensor chip, using machine learning to filter out background noise and pump up voices so your phone calls sound better. This feature is only available on the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, and you’ll have to turn it on in the call settings.

Google’s Pixel phones also have access to the excellent recorder app, which saves audio and transcriptions to the cloud. In this update, Google has added the ability for Recorder to identify different speakers and label them in the transcription. The machine learning model responsible for this requires a Tensor chip, so speaker labels are only available in Recorder on the Pixel 6, 6 Pro, 7, and 7 Pro.

The last big change is in the realm of privacy — sort of. The Google One VPN is now available on the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro at no additional cost. This is the same feature that all Google One subscribers get, allowing you to route all your traffic through an encrypted Google server. This can help ward off snooping on public Wi-Fi networks, but you do have to trust Google with your data. It says the VPN service does minimal logging and does not track individual users.

The QPR1 update weighs nearly 500MB, and Google’s phones install updates silently in the background. So, it can take a little while, but your phone is usable the whole time except for the minute it takes to reboot after the process is done. If the update has not appeared in your notifications, head to Settings > System > System Update to get started.

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