Google Pixel phones will better capture the night sky

Google Pixel 5 review
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Google's Pixel phones are picking up a new photography skill and also getting smarter, thanks to new features rolled out by Google as part of its June update. The update also includes a promised change from last month's Google I/O event aimed at boosting the phone's privacy features.

For photographers, the highlight of the June Pixel feature drop will be an expansion to the Google phone's astrophotography features. Introduced with the Pixel 4 back in 2019, astrophotography lets you take clear pictures of the night sky. With this latest update, you'll be able to also create videos of stars moving across the sky during the same exposure.

According to Google, when you take a photo in Night Sight, your Pixel will save both the still image and the video onto your camera roll. The feature's no surprise — the latest Google Pixel Tips app update included code pointing to astrophotography improvements. It will be available on the Pixel 4 and newer models.

As for improved smarts, Google is adding a feature to its Digital Wellbeing tools that could reduce your chances of walking into someone or some thing when you're moving about while also looking at your phone screen. Dubbed Heads Up, the new feature allows your Pixel to detect when you're walking and send periodic reminders to look up from your screen. Whether you listen is up to you.

Other improvements to the Pixel phone's smarts include the ability to answer or reject calls via voice commands to the Google Assistant. ("Hey Google, answer call" or "Hey Google, reject call" should do the trick.) Gboard gets improvements to where you can copy text that includes contact info like a phone number, email address or URL, and snippets will appear in the clipboard for easy pasting in other apps.

At Google I/O, the software giant announced it would be bringing a Locked Folder feature to Google Photos where you could store images that you didn't want to include in Shared Albums. That feature's now live, Google says.

Additionally, the Pixel feature drops brings car crash detection to Spain, Ireland and Singapore, after the feature had already been available in the U.S., UK and Australia. Call screening features are now available in Japan, while Google's recorder app now supports more English dialects. For Pride month celebrations, Google's added wallpapers and ringtones to mark the occasion.

Google's latest feature drop comes just before Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference is about to begin, featuring a preview of the new features coming in this year's iOS 15 update. It's not too cynical to suggest that the timing isn't exactly coincidental. Think of this as Google's way of throwing down a marker to show that its phones are still adding features to compete with Apple's iPhone.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.