Google Pixel phones just got a lot better - but worse in one way

Google can be great for supporting its phones with consistent feature updates, and the latest for March has brought some useful upgrades, like a battery widget that shows you the charge left on connected gadgets, and the ability to auto-transcribe phone calls.

These features rolled out a few weeks ago, but the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro got them late (likely due to using a different chipset, which means the software needs tweaks). However, now that this feature drop is on the best Pixel phones, some users have noticed something off about the update.

According to loads of comments on Reddit (as spotted by PhoneArena), the new Pixel feature drop has changed haptics (or vibrations), and most of the responses are negative.

It seems that phone vibrations are noticeably softer in updated phones, with lots of users seemingly pretty annoyed by the change.

The commenter has stated that they've found the issue on their Pixel 6, but the r/GooglePixel subreddit lets you pick a flair (an identifier next to your name) based on which Pixel phone you own. Based on this, and other commenters who've noticed the issue, we can tell it's not exclusive to the Pixel 6.


Analysis: bug or feature?

It's not clear whether this is a bug or a feature (i.e., intentional or not on Google's part).

Some people are keen on this update, saying that they like the softer rumble, and are finding it "naturalistic" and "refined".

But from a brief skim of the subreddit, it seems the general feedback is trending towards the negative, with people calling the haptics "mushy" and "weak".

We understand this latter perspective a lot - if you've already gotten used to the particular cadence of your phone's notification vibration, it's very likely you'll miss some messages now.

Whether or not you like this change, we can't help but feel that it'd be better for Google to offer more customization over vibrations, instead of just changing them for all users.

Curiously, feedback is divided on which apps are actually affected by this change. Some users say that only the Messages app is affected, while others are claiming that many social media apps have also seen notification changes.

It's impossible to know for sure whether this is an intended change or not, because Google has been reluctant to comment on the long history of Pixel bugs that have plagued the phones in the last six months. The best way of knowing whether this was an intentional change or not, is to wait and see if Google 'fixes' it in a subsequent patch, or simply leaves it as is.

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