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 basically the latest Pixel Feature Drop, and not only that, but it’s the biggest of all time. It even includes some new stuff for the recently launched Pixel Watch!
Then let’s get into it. December’s Pixel Feature Drop comes with Google One VPN at no extra cost to 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 with Platinum plans (2 TB and above), but is 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, security and privacy settings are unified in the Android settings, and this new section includes action cards at the top that notify you of any security threats and give you simple steps to improve things.
Then, Clear calling on Pixel 7 and 7 Pro enhances the other caller’s voice and reduces background noise, so you can hear them clearly, even if they’re in a noisy environment.
The Pixel Recorder now identifies and tags each speaker and has line breaks when the speaker changes, so when you record an interview or meeting, each person is tagged individually. It’s all done by machine learning, live as you record, and if something goes wrong you can relabel the speakers if you wish after you’re done.
The Pixel Watch will get the Fitbit Sleep Profile feature, as long as you have activated (and will keep) your Fitbit Premium subscription. This is free for six months for new Pixel Watch buyers, but after that you have to pay a tenner a month to get features like this.
Sleep profile gives you a high-definition view of your sleep quality at a glance, taking into account aspects such as duration, consistency, disturbance, and presents you with an animal that best suits your sleeping style. The results are adjusted monthly based on your personal statistics. For this to work, you’ll need to wear your Pixel Watch to bed for at least 14 days a month, so you get the results on the first day of the next month. Then keep that charger handy.
The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro get cough and snore detection, which you can access through 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 Contacts app now lets you pin up to five contacts from your Favorites so you can call them and view their details with just one tap.
The digital car key allows you to lock, unlock and start a compatible car with your phone, and it can be shared with friends and family who need access to that car. This currently works “across Pixel and iPhone,” but will soon be available on “select phones running Android 12+,” Google promises.
In addition, Gboard also gets grammar checking in French, Live Translate can translate texts in your messaging apps into Arabic, Persian, Swedish, Vietnamese, and Danish (on Pixel 6 and later), on-device search has become more powerful on the Pixel 4a, and later, and Voice Message Transcription has also made it to the Pixel 4a and newer phones.
Google is also teasing that spatial audio support is coming in January for Pixel 6, 6 Pro, 7 and 7 Pro when paired with the Pixel Buds Pro, as well as wired headphones. As usual with Google software updates, the December update could take days if not weeks to roll out to all supported devices, so don’t worry if you don’t already have it.