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, in fact, is the latest Pixel Feature Drop, and not just that, but it’s the biggest one of all time. It even includes some new stuff for the recently launched Pixel Watch!
Let’s get into it then. The December Pixel Feature Drop comes with VPN by Google One at no extra cost for Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro owners. The VPN is “built to help ensure your network traffic can’t be tied to your identity”, including by Google. This service was already available for free for Google One members on Platinum plans (2TB and higher), but now it’s open to Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro owners regarding of their Google One subscription status. The VPN still works through the Google One app, though.
Moving on, security and privacy settings have been unified in the Android Settings, and this new section has action cards up top that notify you of any security risks and give you easy steps to make things better.
Next up, 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 if they’re in a noisy place.
The Pixel Recorder now identifies and labels each speaker and has line breaks when the speaker changes, so when you record an interview or meeting each person is labeled individually. It’s all done by machine learning, live while you’re recording, and if anything is wrong you can re-label speakers if you want to after you finish.
The Pixel Watch is getting the Fitbit Sleep Profile feature, as long as you’ve activated (and are going to keep) your Fitbit Premium subscription. This is free for six months for new Pixel Watch buyers, but after that you’ll need to shell out a tenner a month to get features such as this one.
Sleep Profile gives you a high-definition picture of your sleep quality at a glance, taking into account aspects such as duration, consistency, disruption, and presents you with an animal that most matches your sleep style. Results will adjust monthly based on your personal metrics. In order for this to work, you need to wear your Pixel Watch to bed for at least 14 days each month, so you get the results on the first day of the following month. Better keep that charger handy, then.
The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are getting cough and snore detection, which you can access through Bedtime mode. There are also new Pixel wallpapers to be had, and new tiles for the Pixel Watch, including a Sunrise/Sunset tile from the Weather app, while the Contacts app now lets you pin up to five contacts from your Favorites so you can call them and see their details with just one tap.
Digital car key lets you lock, unlock, and start a compatible car with your phone, and can be shared with friends and family who need access to said car. This currently works “across Pixel and iPhone”, but will soon be available on “select phones with Android 12+”, Google promises.
Additionally, Gboard gets Grammar Check in French too, Live Translate can translate texts in your messaging apps in Arabic, Persian, Swedish, Vietnamese, and Danish (on Pixel 6 and newer), on-device search got more powerful on the Pixel 4a and later, and Voice Message Transcription has made it to Pixel 4a and newer phones as well.
Google is also teasing that support for spatial audio is coming in January for Pixel 6, 6 Pro, 7, and 7 Pro paired with the Pixel Buds Pro, but also with wired headphones. As usual with Google software updates, it might take days, if not weeks, for the December update to roll out to all supported devices, so don’t fret if you don’t have it just yet.