Pixel 3 features coming to older Pixel devices

Google hasn't forgotten about Pixel 2 owners, or even first-gen Pixel owners.

Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
2 min read
Juan Garzon / CNET

When Google announced the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, the company also unveiled new software-based features. Features that one might assume would work fine on older Pixel  phones.

One would be partly right. Google doesn't plan on updating older Pixel devices to bring feature parity with the Pixel 3. Instead, the company will add a handful of features that will make your Pixel or Pixel 2 more useful.

Watch this: 10 tips and tricks for the Pixel 3

I asked Google for a list of features that would trickle down to the older Pixels. Here's what I found out.

Call Screen

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

The Pixel 3's ability to answer the phone and screen your calls is a key selling point for some. I know I enjoyed testing it, dodging my friends and solicitors alike.

Call Screen began rolling out to Pixel 2 users in November and should be widely available. 


Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Google's Pixel line has made a name for itself thanks to its camera and its use of AI to try to improve photos without much work on the user's part. Some of the Pixel 3's new camera features will come to the original Pixel and the Pixel 2. You can read more about these new Pixel photo features here.

  • Top Shot: A slimmed-down version of Top Shot was supposed to make its way to older Pixel devices in October, however, it doesn't appear to have happened. There are some hardware requirements that allow the Pixel 3 to have the full experience, whereas the older Pixels have to do it all with software.
  • Night Sight: Available to all Pixel devices now. 
  • Playground: The Pixel 2 will gain support for Playground, the company's AR sticker feature, later this year.
  • Adjust background blur: Available now on the Pixel 2. The first time you use Portrait Mode after updating to the latest version of Google Camera, you will see a pop-up letting you know the feature has been added and where to access it. 

Google recently updated its Camera app for older Pixel devices, bringing the same interface as the Pixel 3 line to older devices and giving the Pixel 2 the option to adjust the amount of background blur applied to a photo.

Now Playing History

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 3 both have a feature that listens for music and then displays the song title and artists on the phone's lock screen. The feature is incredibly handy if you want to know who sings what you're hearing while you're in a coffee shop, but on the Pixel 2, it lacks one key part: a history log.

The Pixel 3 creates a list of songs it has identified that you can go back to. Pixel 2 users should also have this feature, thanks to an update that started showing up on devices in early November. 

Pixel 3 XL serves up Google’s latest goods on a larger screen

See all photos

First published Oct. 23, 1:40 p.m. PT.
Update, Nov. 30: Updated timing of features