Google has started rolling out the first over-the-air (OTA) update for 2024 to its Pixel devices. The January update brings camera and user interface improvements as well as the latest Android security patches.
Update Focuses on Camera and UI Enhancements
According to the changelog published by Google, the January 2024 update for Pixel phones focuses primarily on camera and user interface fixes and enhancements.
Key improvements include:
- Enhanced image quality in low light scenarios
- Faster processing when capturing Night Sight photos
- Smoother zoom transitions in the camera app
- Fix for issue causing viewfinder to appear zoomed in
- Optimized screen wake behavior
- Improvements for audio playback over Bluetooth
Several users are also reporting fixes for random app crashes and improved fingerprint sensor recognition after installing the update.
January Android Security Bulletin Also Released
Along with the Pixel update, Google has also published the January 2024 Android Security Bulletin. The bulletin mentions that Google had fixed close to 100 security issues in December 2023 across the Android platform and kernel layers.
The January patch level includes fixes for 2 critical vulnerabilities and over 30 high severity issues that could lead to remote code execution or escalation of privileges. All Pixel devices will receive these security updates as part of the OTA update.
Update Now Rolling Out to All Google Pixel Phones
The January 2024 update is currently rolling out to all Pixel phones including the newly launched Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro and the Pixel Tablet. The update is around 500 MB in size.
Here is a table summarizing the version numbers for each device after installing the January update:
|Pixel 6/6 Pro
|Pixel 7/7 Pro
|Pixel 8/8 Pro
Users should get an automatic notification once the OTA rollout reaches their device. However, one can also manually trigger the update check by heading over to Settings > System > System update.
Update Brings Minor Improvements, Bigger Changes Expected Later
While the January release does not include any major new features or changes, it lays the groundwork for more significant upgrades planned for later in 2024 according to various reports.
Some of the anticipated features that might get introduced include:
- New augmented reality (AR) functionality in Google Search
- Face unlock for Pixel 7 and 7 Pro
- Wear OS improvements like extended battery life
- Better integration with recent acquisition Fitbit
- Native VPN support in Android 14
Mishaal Rahman, Senior Technical Editor at Esper, tweeted that the builds indicate continued work on satellite connectivity for emergency scenarios. Satellite connectivity would utilise Band 53 to provide basic messaging functionality in areas without cellular reception.
Meanwhile, some Pixel tablet owners are complaining about firmware issues like random reboots when switching orientations. Google will likely issue monthly patches to fix these tablet-specific problems too going forward.
Adoption Rate for Latest Android Version Still Low
While Pixel devices are running the latest Android 14 OS after the update, adoption rates for recent Android versions remain low. As per latest distribution numbers, only about 31% of Android devices are on the latest Android 13 version.
This highlights the massive device fragmentation that exists across manufacturers. Many budget Android OEMs are slow to push the latest updates to their devices or only guarantee 1-2 years of major Android version upgrades.
However, Google has taken multiple steps to address this issue in recent years. This includes:
- Unbundling security updates from full OS updates
- Working with silicon vendors for regular security patch support
- Launching programs like Android Enterprise Recommended to highlight OEMs providing timely updates
- Adding update guarantees as a requirement for accessing Google apps and services
- Upstream Linux kernel changes to enable update support
These efforts have allowed many models to receive quarterly security patches even if they do not get major Android version bumps. Going forward, Google plans to mandate 3 years of security updates for all devices launching with Android 14 and higher.
In summary, the January 2024 update for Pixel phones brings useful camera and UI tweaks. More importantly, it keeps the devices secure with the latest Android security patches.
Bigger feature updates are likely later this year that might include satellite connectivity, new AR capabilities, better smartwatch integration and more. Google is also expanding its efforts around improving Android security updates across the ecosystem.
So while not particularly exciting, the first 2024 Pixel update lays the groundwork to enable compelling functionality in future releases.
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