The Best Android 10 Feature Will Debut on the Pixel 4

(Image credit: Google)

For its Pixel 4 launch yesterday (Oct. 15), Google touted a number of features coming to the new smartphone, including the ability to use gestures to control the phone, a smarter Google Assistant, and improved camera features. But Pixel 4 owners will be the first to get another capability that shows off the company's flair for speech recognition.

Google said today that Live Captions would launch with the Pixel 4, which is currently available for preorder before hitting stores on Oct. 24. Live Caption provides automatic closed-captioning to any video or spoken audio on your smartphone whether it's a live stream, video message or short clip that a friend is sharing with you.

Google first previewed Live Caption during its developer conference earlier this year, and it's safe to say the feature really made an impression on people. Live Caption was touted as one of the improvements coming with Android 10, though the feature didn't appear when Google's mobile operating system arrived last month. In fact, the lack of Live Caption in the initial release was one of our biggest disappointments when we reviewed Android 10.

That's because the benefits of Live Caption are readily apparent, even beyond if you have difficulty hearing. With Live Caption turned on, you'll be able to watch videos with your phone silenced — helpful if you don't want to disturb other people around you. You'll also be able to enjoy content in noisy environments without having to crank up the volume to make out what's being said.

(Image credit: Google)

According to Google's blog post announcing the arrival of Live Caption, you'll be able to position the caption box anywhere on your smartphone's screen and you can expand the size of the box by double-tapping it. And all this on-the-fly speech recognition is happening on your device — the feature doesn't require a cellular connection and any captions remain securely on your phone so you're not sharing your private videos with Google's servers. (Because of all the processing taking place on your smartphone, though, you may use up more battery than normal when Live Caption is enabled.)

In that sense, Live Caption works like another of the Pixel 4's features — the new Recorder app. This voice recording tool transcribes audio recordings on the fly, with all that language recognition taking place on the phone itself.

The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL will be the first phones to benefit from Live Caption, but they're not going to be the only ones to get the feature. Google says Live Caption will come to the Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL by the end of the year. It's also promising to work with other Android phone makers to deliver Live Caption to their devices in 2020.

Live Caption supports English initially. Google says it wants to add support for more languages "in the near future."

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.