Google has put out a new video showcasing all the features you can expect in the December Pixel Feature Drop. In these Feature Drops, Google does exactly what you’d expect: they give Pixel users additional, helpful features for their phones along with the necessary – and usually a bit boring – security updates. They are often surprising and generally quite useful, so when a Feature Drop arrives, it means there are some notable goodies in there to talk about.
Now Playing gets more powerful and can save your songs
The Now Playing feature on Pixel phones is pretty awesome. Once you have it, you will always – ALWAYS – miss it when you don’t. There’s just something handy about being able to glance down at your phone and see what that song is you are hearing in the moment. No app is needed, no interactions have to take place for your phone to quickly deliver up the name of the song you are hearing.
With this Feature Drop, Now Playing gets smarter, allowing users to perform a deeper search and also like a heard song to pull up in a list at a later date. The new search icon that will appear when the on-device database can’t tag a song will allow you to enable Google and the Assistant to leverage Google’s servers to dig a bit deeper to identify the song you are hearing. While the standard Now Playing feature never sends any audio off-device, this new feature will require you to get Google a bit more involved. If you’d rather not, you can simply opt not to hit that new icon or turn off the feature in your settings.
Either way, once you’ve identified a song, you’ll now be able to like that song for easier identification later. While the Now Playing list is always available in your settings, this new like setting will allow you to find it later in a much simpler manner.
Better bass control for your Pixel Buds
If you happen to be a Pixel owner who also leverages Pixel Buds, you’ll be happy to hear there is proper bass control coming to that pairing. As a Wyze Buds Pro owner, this isn’t a huge deal to me, but I’m sure there will be plenty of users who will be plenty excited to see this tweak become available as this new update rolls out.
Digital car key access
Again, this new feature won’t apply for everyone, but if you have a car that takes a digital key, you will be able to enroll your Pixel as one of those keys after the update. I personally don’t have a vehicle that can take advantage of this, but I absolutely love the idea of allowing my phone to be my car key both for entry and for starting the engine. Maybe one day I’ll drive a Tesla and this will be way more useful!
Improved Nearby Share via UWB
Google is enhancing Nearby Share by rolling out UWB (ultra-wideband) on the Pixel 6 Pro, allowing the phone to better understand it’s spacial orientation and thus, make it better at utilizing Nearby Share. There’s not a whole lot of detail on this and exactly how much better the sharing should be, but this feature will technically only affect the Pro version of the Pixel 6. Though both phones have mmWave 5G, only the Pro has a dedicated UWB chip, so some of these features will only apply to it.
Expanded regions for Car Crash Detection
Though Car Crash Detection has been around since the Pixel 4, the regions it has been available in have been limited. The new feature drop expands things to Taiwan, Italy and France, extending the useful and potentially life-saving tech to even more people around the world.
Tap to Snap arrives
In the Pixel 6 launch event, Google took a few minutes to invite Snapchat in to discuss a Pixel-exclusive feature called Tap to Snap. It uses the already-functional double-tap gesture on the Pixel to call up Snapchat’s camera so you can get your Snapchat on instantly. This is different from simply setting a 3rd-party app to launch on your double tap and will even work from the lock screen when it rolls out.
Press for Google Assistant options
Though I miss the days of being able to squeeze my phone for Google Assistant, the long-press of the power button is a decent work around. The latest Pixel Feature Drop will give users the ability to customize this action a bit, making the Google Assistant available via a short tap or a very long press. You’ll be able to use the settings menu to dial in the right amount for you.
To celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Google has collaborated with Dana Kearly and the wallpaper picker will be full of brand new art from the Vancouver artist. More colorful, purposeful wallpaper options are always welcome, and to see Google feature art like this is pretty awesome.
That’s about all there is in this feature drop. Though some of these features will only be useful for a subset of Pixel users, I’m always glad to see Google continue stepping up in this way. I love seeing Pixel phones get better and more useful over time, and Feature Drops are the way to do that on a consistent basis. Just like Chromebooks, these Pixel phones will be better and more useful months from now, and that’s a fantastic confidence booster for the user base.