Today is the first Monday of the month, and that means it’s time for Google to release its monthly software update for the Pixel phones. Only this time it’s special. This is indeed the latest Pixel Feature Drop, and not only that, but it’s the biggest ever. It even includes some new stuff for the recently launched Pixel Watch!
Let’s get into that then. The December Pixel Feature Drop comes with VPN from Google One at no additional cost for Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro owners. The VPN is “built to ensure that your network traffic cannot be linked to your identity,” also by Google. This service was already available for free to Google One members on Platinum plans (2TB and above), but it’s now open to Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro owners regarding their Google One subscription status. However, the VPN still works through the Google One app.
Moving on, the security and privacy settings have been unified in Android Settings, and this new section has action cards at the top, letting you know about security risks and giving you easy steps to make things better.
Next, Clear Calling on the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro enhances the other caller’s voice and reduces their background noise so you can hear them clearly even in a noisy place.
The Pixel Recorder now identifies and captions each speaker and has line breaks when the speaker changes, so when recording an interview or meeting each person is captioned individually. It’s all done by machine learning, live as you record, and if something’s wrong you can rename the speakers when you’re done if you want.
The Pixel Watch gets the Fitbit sleep profile feature as long as you have (and will keep) your Fitbit Premium subscription. This is free for six months for new Pixel Watch buyers, but after that you’ll have to shell out a tenner a month to get features like this.
The sleep profile gives you a high-resolution picture of your sleep quality at a glance, taking into account aspects such as duration, consistency, interruption and presenting you with an animal that best suits your sleeping style. Results are adjusted monthly based on your personal metrics. For this to work, you need to wear your Pixel Watch to bed for at least 14 days each month so that you get the results on the first day of the following month. Then keep the charger better to hand.
The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro get cough and snore detection, which you can access via bedtime mode. There are also new Pixel wallpapers and new tiles for the Pixel Watch, including a sunrise/sunset tile from the Weather app, while the People app now lets you pin up to five contacts from your favorites for you to call and can see their details with just a tap.
The digital car key allows you to lock, unlock and start a compatible car with your phone and can be shared with friends and family who need access to the car. This currently works “across Pixel and iPhone,” but will soon be available on “select phones running Android 12+,” Google promises.
Also, Gboard gets a grammar checker in French, Live Translate can translate text in your messaging apps into Arabic, Persian, Swedish, Vietnamese and Danish (on Pixel 6 and newer), on-device search became more powerful on Pixel 4a and later later, and voice message transcription has also made it to Pixel 4a and newer phones.
Google also teases that spatial audio support is coming in January for the Pixel 6, 6 Pro, 7 and 7 Pro in conjunction with Pixel Buds Pro but also with wired headphones. As is usual with Google software updates, it may take days, if not weeks, for the December update to be available on all supported devices. So don’t worry if you don’t already have it.