Next week’s major Pixel update could bring two long-awaited improvements

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Four times a year (every three months) Google freshens up the Pixel line by adding new features and capabilities via an update to Pixel units still receiving support from Google. And for June there is some excitement because of the possibility that Google will be adding Face unlock to the Pixel 6 Pro. The Pixel 6 line has suffered from a notoriously laggy optical fingerprint sensor and users would love to have the option of using Face unlock.

The 6th of June will be the following Monday. For many, that may have been just another routine early June day to start the week. The Pixel 4, 4 XL, Pixel 4a, 4a (5G), Pixel 5, 5a, Pixel 6, and 6 Pro, on the other hand, are like having Christmas, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, and their birthdays all wrapped into one. That’s because Google is anticipated to release the June Quarterly Pixel Feature Drop on Monday. The June Quarterly Pixel update should arrive on Monday for Google Pixel 4 and later users.

Highlights

  • Without the hardware used on devices like the iPhone X and up, and the Pixel 4 line for Face ID and Face unlock respectively, it would seem that there would be no way for Google to add a secure facial recognition system to the Pixel 6 Pro. After all, without the proper camera system, how could the Pixel 6 Pro create a 3D depth map of the user’s face? And with 2D facial recognition, simply putting a photo of a phone’s user in front of the camera could trick Face unlock into giving a hacker access to a Pixel 6 Pro.

  • The latest intelligence on the matter revealed that Google was originally planning to include Face unlock on the Pro model at launch, but it was pulled at the last minute by the manufacturer. Perhaps there wouldn’t be such a call for the facial recognition system to be added with the June Feature Drop to the Pixel 6 Pro had Google included a better biometric sensor with the phone at launch.

Google says that “If one imagines splitting the (tiny) lens of the phone’s rear-facing camera into two halves, the view of the world as seen through the left side of the lens and the view through the right side are slightly different. These two viewpoints are less than 1mm apart (roughly the diameter of the lens), but they’re different enough to compute stereo and produce a depth map.”
After Face unlock, this is the most requested feature Pixel 6 series users want from next week’s feature drop

But in April, we passed along some exciting news. A report stated that the Sony IMX 663 imaging sensor (used on the Pixel 6 Pro, but not on the Pixel 6) could create a depth map. In a blog post written in 2017, Google explained how a depth map for Portrait Mode can be created with just one camera. “To compute depth we can use a stereo algorithm. The Pixel 2 doesn’t have dual cameras, but it does have a technology called Phase-Detect Auto-Focus (PDAF) pixels, sometimes called dual-pixel autofocus (DPAF).”

One problem that doesn’t seem fixable is the Pixel 6 Pro’s lack of a flood illuminator. The latter shines infrared light to make sure that a person’s face can be seen by the facial recognition system being used, even under low-light conditions. It’s possible that Google will tell Pixel 6 Pro users that in low-light conditions, they should use the device’sbeleaguered under-display fingerprint scanner instead.

Google typically releases monthly Android and Pixel updates on the first Monday of each month and in June, that works out to June 6th. There is no guarantee that the June Quarterly Pixel Feature Drop will include Face unlock. This year, Google is allowing compatible Pixel models to join a beta program that gives them a chance to test some of the upcoming features.

The Pixel Feature Drop for June might also exterminate some of the troublesome issues that have plagued users of the 2021 Pixel 6 models, especially connectivity problems. And some users got excited when the vibration icon returned to the status bar with the latest beta release for the Feature Drop. A toggle switch will allow users to set their phone to “always show icon when in vibrate mode.” The vibration icon is important because it allows users to know whether their phone is going to ring loudly or vibrate softly when an incoming call comes in. If the Pixel user happens to be attending a meeting, for example, he wouldn’t want a loud and obnoxious ring tone to disrupt the conference.

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