One of the most interesting and most talked about features on the Pixel 3, is now making its way over to the Pixel 2 lineup. That is Call Screening. It’s a feature that works just as you’d expect, it will screen the call for you, using the Google Assistant to figure out who is calling and why. It will give you a live transcript of what’s happening, and there are even prompts you can use, like whether this is an important call, asking if you need to get ahold of the person urgently and so forth. The transcript is not stored on the phone, nor in the cloud, and in fact, the entire transcript is done on the phone, even without an internet connection.
When Google debuted Call Screening back in October at its Made By Google event, it did mention that it would be coming to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in November, and it appears that it is not rolling out to the devices. This is pretty common for Google, to leave a feature as an exclusive on its new Pixel, before it rolls it out to the older Pixel smartphone. Which is the case here. Currently, it’s unclear whether this is rolling out with an update to the Phone app (which was updated this week with a dark theme), or if it is rolling out over the air. Those with the Pixel 2 have told us that even with the older Phone app, they are seeing this feature. So it appears to be an over the air update or server-side switch flip. That essentially means that there is no way to get the feature available on your smartphone sooner. Which is unfortunate, but that is the way things go these days.
Background: This feature, Call Screening, is using the Google Assistant, and Google’s expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning to make it all work. It’s similar to Duplex, a technology that it debuted at Google I/O this past year, but not quite. Now when you do screen a call, it will notify the user that the person they are calling is using a screening service from Google. And this typically gets people to hang up, but those that do opt to stay on the line will talk to the Google Assistant and tell you why they are calling. The coolest part about this is that the conversation is transcribed all in real-time on your smartphone’s display. So you can see what is happening, as it is happening. Because this is done in real time, it means that users are able to pick up the phone and talk to the person. So maybe if FedEx is calling to let you know they are here with a package to deliver to you, you could pick up the phone and tell them you’ll be right there. Of course, it also works well to get rid of those spam and robocallers that you don’t want to deal with anyways. There is a way to set all calls to be screened by Google Assistant as well, but typically when you use that for everyone calling (like your family members), it can be a bit annoying, when they just want to talk to you.
This is really only the start for Google and its artificial intelligence. Now this feature may not roll out to all Android smartphones, much like the Now Playing feature is still exclusive to the Pixel, but it is going to be a game changer for Google. Especially when its Duplex technology starts rolling out. Now Duplex is a service that also uses the Google Assistant and acts as your own assistant – even more so than usual. It can call up a restaurant and get a table reserved for you, for later tonight or later this week. And it can also set up an appointment at a nail salon or barbershop and add it to your schedule. It actually works really well, but for now, it’s only available in San Francisco and New York City, but Google is planning to roll it out to more cities soon.
Impact: Call Screening is a feature that everyone will have wished to have on their phone before the mid-term elections, which happened last week. And that’s because many candidates do robocalls, not only to get you to vote for them, but to get you out to vote. And for many, it can be very annoying. Getting many phone calls each day about a candidate, when you are busy working and such. Luckily, that is over now, until the Presidential election in 2020 – which some candidates are preparing for right now. But that’s just one use-case for Call Screening, as you won’t even need to worry about who’s calling, as Google will show you, and you can decide to hang up whenever you want. Definitely a nice feature to have available for most people these days.
This is just one of many features from the Pixel 3 that are going to be coming to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in the very near future. Another one is Night Sight, which actually began rolling out to all Pixel smartphones earlier this week, even though the Pixel 3 didn’t launch with it. Which was a bit surprising, but in a nice way. This is pretty typical of Google, it doesn’t like to force users to upgrade to a new phone by keeping features exclusive to that phone forever. It will be exclusive for a few weeks or even a month, but typically, they launch on the older phones too. Providing the hardware can support it. But since the main change between the Pixel 2 and Pixel 3, internally, is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, it can definitely handle these new features. And that is giving users even less reason to upgrade to the Pixel 3, but that is not an issue for Google, as it wants people using the Pixel, and not an iPhone, and with as good as this camera has been, that won’t be an issue.