Owners of Google's Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL handsets now appear to be on the receiving end of a new feature that enables the devices' "Now Playing" to store and retrieve a history of detected songs, according to a small group of users on Reddit. The change appears to have been tied in with an easy-to-miss server-side update to the feature via the required Pixel Ambient Services app in order to function. Once that's all in place, a new option called Now Playing History shows up in the appropriate system menu under 'Sound' and then 'Now Playing' within the Settings application. Opening that will show users a list of tunes that the feature has recognized, with some Redditors claiming their own history shows songs as far back as early October.
Background: For clarity, the newly added feature builds on the Now Playing functionality already present on Google's Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL flagships by essentially unlocking the ability to review songs that have been recognized over time. Users need to have had that activated and to have activated the Always On display features of their devices in order to have accessed that - following the outlines steps above. Once the feature is turned on, the Pixel 2 handsets actively listen for music to be playing within earshot of the user while the display is either locked or on standby. Sounds and songs heard by the handset are then analyzed for markers and patterns to be compared against a library of songs via machine learning. Once the song is recognized, the handset displays the pertinent information at the song's title and artist along the bottom portion of the Always On UI.
This is not an exactly a brand new feature either since it is actually available already to owners of Google's latest flagship handsets, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. Prior to this, however, it wasn't really possible for owners of the older Pixel-branded flagships to go back and see what songs might have been detected while they weren't looking. For example, a user might have their device in a pocket, handbag, or simply be in a situation where it isn't possible to pick up the gadget to check. Under those circumstances, with the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL they'd basically just be left unable to learn from Now Playing what song it was they were hearing. There are a number of third-party applications available to owners of either device but many of those actually replicate the same type of functionality, to begin with, rendering the native functionality provided by Now Playing redundant.
Impact: What's more, the update isn't necessarily surprising since it isn't out of the ordinary for Google to roll some of its smaller features and updates to older handsets once new once launch. That's historically included software-based camera features and updates to core apps, such as Now Playing, that are found in the search giant's own hardware. However, for those who may have been reluctant to upgrade to the latest in Google's smartphone lineup - and especially those who have used the Now Playing feature already - the arrival should at least make music discovery a bit easier.