Google’s quarterly Feature Drops for its Pixel phones add some exciting new features and improvements. Since the release of the Google Pixel 6 series in October 2021, the company has released two Feature Drops with additions such as Night Sight in Snapchat, a new battery widget, digital car key support, and more.
Below is an overview of the new features and changes that Feature Drops have added to all compatible Pixel phones since the launch of Google Pixel 6 and Google Pixel 6 Pro last year.
What is Pixel Feature Drop?
Pixel Feature Drop tends to improve your phone over time with new features and improvements. This way, you don’t have to wait for a major Android release to take advantage of new features. That’s why Google releases a new Pixel Drop feature once a quarter, usually in sync with that month’s security update. In many ways, it’s a point release of Android, minus the build number. The company rolled out the first Feature Drop in December 2019.
You can grab the latest Drop functionality for your Pixel phone just like any other software update. Go to Settings > System > System update.
Removal of June 2022 features
Create your own music
Google’s Feature Drops usually include useful, but not exciting, tools. The June 2022 Feature Drop changed that by bringing Pocket Operator. This app is exclusively for Pixels and uses machine learning to create a music video. It’s silly, but it’s a great way to show off Google’s technology in a fun way.
Vaccine cards on the lock screen
Google knows how frustrating it can be to search your phone for your vaccination card, especially if you’re in a rush. You can now attach a shortcut to your vaccine card on your home screen. However, this feature is only available for Pixel users in Australia, Canada and the United States.
New features at a glance
Google brought three new features to At a Glance; these are:
- Nest Doorbell Video Stream: You can view your Nest feed and At a Glance also tells you if someone rings your Nest Doorbell.
- Flashlight reminder: At a Glance includes a reminder that your flashlight is on, plus a nifty shortcut to turn it off.
- Air Quality Alerts: At a glance alerts you if the air quality in your area drops below safe levels. This feature is only available in the United States, Australia, and India.
pride month wallpapers
To celebrate Pride Month, illustrator Yann Bastard has created three new Pixel wallpapers for Google.
Available through the Sound Amplifier app, Conversation mode is designed for the hearing impaired. Point your camera at someone (or let them hold it), and your Pixel filters out background noise while amplifying their voice.
There’s also a new noise reduction feature on Google Meet, which filters out background noise.
Removing features in March 2022
Night Vision on Snapchat
The March 2022 Drop feature brings support for Night Sight in Snapchat to the Pixel 6 series. This means the party snaps you share on Snapchat will look better, without using flash. The feature only comes to the Pixel 6 series.
Live caption for calls
Live Caption on the Pixel 6 gets a significant upgrade with the March 2022 update. The feature is primarily intended to transcribe captions from audio in near real-time. The latest update makes it work the other way around. In calls, you can type text and then Live Caption reads it to the caller. This Live Caption enhancement is currently only available on the Pixel 6 series.
Live Caption can also transcribe Spanish into English, French, Italian, German or Japanese.
Live Translate and Recorder app improvements
Live Translate’s interpreter mode on the Pixel 6 series is gaining French and Spanish support. In the future, your phone will be able to translate conversations into these languages in real time.
The Recorder app is also enhanced as part of the March 2022 Drop feature with transcription support for Italian and Spanish languages.
Assistant quick expressions support new languages
Quick Assistant expressions on the Pixel 6 series will now support Spanish, Italian, and French languages with the March 2022 Drop feature. Previously, it only worked in English, Japanese, and German. The feature lets you ‘stop’ a timer, ‘snooze’ an alarm, or ‘answer/refuse’ calls without having to say the keyword ‘Hey Google’ first.
At a Glance Widget Improvements
The At a Glance widget gets some notable improvements with the removal of March functionality. It now displays the battery level of connected Bluetooth headphones and accessories, earthquake alerts, a safety countdown from the Personal Safety app, and reminders to turn off the alarm.
There’s a new Pixel battery widget that displays the battery level of connected Bluetooth accessories. These improvements are available on all compatible Pixel phones.
Direct my call and wait times
The March 2022 Drop feature brings Direct My Call and Wait Times to all supported Google Pixel phones, from the Pixel 3a to the Pixel 5 series. The features debuted with the Pixel 6 series in October 2021.
Custom text stickers
Gboard can now create custom text stickers on the fly based on what you write. The feature is rolling out globally, but only supports US English. So, for example, if you type “Happy Birthday Jen” and add an emoji, Gboard automatically creates a custom sticker with the text.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, the Feature Drop includes three new wallpapers. You can access it from the Curated Culture section of the Wallpaper & style menu.
Removal of December 2021 features
Quick press to take a photo
With the Pixel 6 series, Google launched a Quick Tap to Snap gesture allowing users to double-tap the back of the phone to open Snapchat’s camera. The December 2021 Drop feature extended this functionality to the Pixel 4a 5G and newer devices.
digital car key
The December 2021 Drop feature enabled support for digital car keys on the Pixel 6 series, allowing select 2020-2022 BMW vehicles to be unlocked by pressing the phone on the door handle. Additionally, you can start the car by placing your Pixel phone on the key reader and then pressing the Start/Stop button.
The UWB chip inside the Pixel 6 Pro has been enabled with the December 2021 update to improve the Nearby Sharing experience.
Cash detection in cars is coming to more countries
With this release, car accident detection has been extended to Taiwan, Italy and France on compatible Pixel phones.
New wallpapers for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities
To celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the December 2021 Feature Drop included a new collection of wallpapers. You’ll find them in the Organized section of the Wallpapers app on your Pixel.
Bass Boost Control for Pixel Buds A-Series
The latest Feature Drop of 2021 introduced a handy bass boost control option for the Pixel Buds-A series. There is a slider from -1 to +4, so you can adjust the bass range as you wish. To customize the bass level on your Pixel Buds, follow these steps:
- Open the Settings menu.
- Scroll down and select Connected devices.
- Faucet Pixel Bud Settings.
- Faucet Sound.
- Adjust the bass level by moving the slider as needed.
The feature is also available on all Android 6.0+ devices using the companion app.
Talk mode in the sound amplifier
The Sound Amplifier app has gained a new accessibility feature in Conversation Mode to make it easier for people with hearing loss to communicate. It uses on-device machine learning to block out surrounding noise and focus on the voice of the person the phone’s camera is pointing at.
Improvements while playing
The December 2021 Feature Drop made it possible to enable Now Playing and search for a song manually. Additionally, you can save songs tagged on the Pixel 4 and newer devices to your favorites list from the lock screen.
Adjust Google Assistant power button activation time
A small but significant change introduced in the Feature Drop was the ability to change the Google Assistant power button activation time to suit your needs.
Feature Drops are exclusive to Pixel devices
Feature Drops does a great job of regularly adding significant usability improvements and new features to Pixel phones, and you end up with a better phone than the one you originally bought. They also help differentiate Pixel devices from other Android phones in the market, as these feature releases are exclusive to them. If it’s time for an upgrade, you’ll want to check out our Google Pixel 7 Pro review.