Sticking with its December, March, June release schedule, Google has made it a habit of issuing ‘feature drops’ to its Pixel smartphones, with the latest one bringing new functionality to every generation as far back as the Pixel 3.
Some of the features detailed in the December 2021 ‘drop’ are more functional, practical upgrades – like Car Crash Detection on more devices and in more markets – while others are intended to improve the everyday user experience that Google’s Pixel smartphones offer up; such as with Quick Tap to Snap.
Here’s everything that the December 2021 Feature Drop brings to the table:
Car Crash Detection
One of the most far-reaching updates, Car Crash Detection – which was introduced alongside 2019’s Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL – is coming to devices in new markets; including France, Italy and Taiwan, and is available on every Pixel from the Pixel 3 onwards (excluding the Pixel 3a and 3a XL).
Digital Car Key
Sticking with the automotive upgrades, the UWB (ultra-wideband) chip that made its debut on the Pixel 6 Pro is being put to good use with the addition of digital car key functionality. Support for the feature was already added to Android 12 (which the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro run out the box) but it requires a device with an UWB chip to function.
At launch, the feature works exclusively with select 2020 to 2022 BMWs but more manufacturers are expected to join the roster at a later date.
Once paired, users with a compatible phone will be able to hold it against their car’s door handle to open the door and hold it against a reader in the cabin to start their car.
UWB in Nearby Share
Nearby Share is Android’s alternative to Apple’s AirDrop, letting users pass files and links to one another using a combination of WiFi and Bluetooth. With the December Feature Drop, support for transfers using UWB is being added for Pixel 6 Pro owners; allowing for a faster and more secure way to directly transfer media to those in the immediate vicinity.
Quick Tap to Snap
Quick Tap was already present in Android 12, letting you double-tap on the back of a compatible phone to quick-launch a chosen app, summon the Google Assistant or take a screenshot, however, Quick Tap to Snap – which was teased as part of the Pixel 6’s launch – is now finally coming to devices.
We teamed up with Google Pixel to make Pixel 6 the fastest phone to make a Snap.
With Quick Tap to Snap, you’ll be able to open the Snapchat camera right from the lock screen!
Look out for the feature and more #Pixel6 announcements coming soon. pic.twitter.com/s6hYV5N6b1— Snapchat (@Snapchat) October 19, 2021
Just double-tap the back of your phone launch straight into the Snapchat viewfinder, without even unlocking your device; letting you grab a Snap at a moment’s notice. A new Pixel-exclusive Snapchat Lens, called ‘Pixel Face’ is also coming as part of the update.
The Pixel’s native Recorder app already features an incredibly powerful real-time transcription feature, but at launch it only supported English. German, French and Japanese language support join the fray as part of this latest feature drop.
Sound Amplifier: Conversation mode
Sound Amplifier is an existing accessibility tool that can boost the volume and clarity of sounds your device picks up (when wearing headphones).
When enabled, the new Conversation mode zeros in on conversations you may be having with others and uses on-device machine learning to better filter out background noise; so that their speech is even louder and clearer than it would otherwise be. Ideal for those who are hard of hearing.
Now Playing (Search & Favourites)
Now Playing was first introduced on the Pixel 2, letting you know the name and artist behind any song your phone ambiently picked up within its surroundings.
With this latest feature drop Now Playing’s functionality has been expanded, so that you can manually have your phone listen for a song and, what’s more, you’ll then be able to favourite logged songs, so it’s easy to go back and listen later.
Pixel Buds A bass slider
If you’re a Pixel Buds A wearer, then a little extra addition coming to the Pixel Buds app is a new bass slider, granting access to twice the bass range as before and the ability to alter the Buds A’s bass output from a range of -1 to +4.
Hold for Assistant control
Android on Pixels already gives you the option to long-press the power key to wake the Google Assistant but the December feature drop update lets you vary how long you have to hold the key for before the Assistant kicks in.
December wallpaper collection
A new Curated Culture wallpaper collection that celebrates International Day of People with Disabilities, created by Dana Kearley (a chronically ill and disabled artist herself) features in this latest update.
In Google’s feature drop press release Kearley’s art “explores the complexities and nuances of living in a sick and disabled body while playfully using colour, texture, light, and shadow.”
When will my Pixel get the December 2021 Feature Drop?
Provided you’re rocking a compatible device, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are expected to be at the top of the list to receive the update, however, phones right back to the Pixel 3 can expect the Feature Drop to arrive sometime in December.
You can manually check for the update by going to Settings > System > System Update > Check for Update. Some upgrades that make up part of the feature drop aren’t available in all regions.
We touch on December’s Pixel feature drop in episode 95 of our weekly podcast Fast Charge: