Those with Pixel 3a and newer Pixels have a new Feature Drop to enjoy. And it’s the first one to add new features to the Pixel 6 series.
“One of the sweet things about being a Pixel user is that your phone continues to get a boost of helpfulness with Feature Drops,” Google’s Sherry Lin explains. “Whether you want to quickly tap to access Snapchat from your Pixel lock screen or control the bass levels on your Pixel Buds A-Series, we’ve got an update you’ll love.”
The following features will roll out over the “next few weeks,” Google says, and will come to Pixel 3a through Pixel 5a (5G) devices first. Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro devices will begin receiving their updates next week.
Quick Tap improvements. Today, a Pixel-specific feature called Quick Tap lets Pixel 4a with 5G and newer Pixel phones create a custom action—take a screenshot, play or pause media, see recent apps, and so on—that occurs when you double-tap the back of the device. With this update, Quick Tap picks up a new option to open Snapchat, which Google notes makes “Pixel the fastest phone to make a Snap.” And starting this month, you’ll be able to add a new Pixel-exclusive Lens called Pixel Face to your Snaps as well. Google promises more Pixel-exclusive Lenses in future Feature Drops.
Digital car key. Google partnered with BMW to enable digital car keys for Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro on select 2020-2022 BMW models in certain countries. “You can now unlock and lock your car by tapping your phone on the door handle, and you can start your car by placing your Pixel on the interior key reader and pressing the engine start button,” Google notes.
Ultra-wideband support. As I noted in my review of the Pixel 6 Pro, Google’s latest flagship comes with an ultra-wideband chipset, but it didn’t do anything yet. Well, that’s changing: with this update, ultra-wideband is now enabled on Pixel 6 Pro, improving Nearby Share “so you can quickly and securely send files, videos, map locations, and more to other ultra-wideband devices nearby.”
Conversation mode (beta). This accessibility feature is now available in beta in the Sound Amplifier app. It uses on-device machine learning to help anyone better hear conversations in loud environments by tuning into their conversation partner and tuning out other sounds and noise. As an early tester, you can help make it better for everyone.
Now Playing improvements. The Now Playing experience has been updated to help you find your next favorite song. As before, Now Playing automatically recognizes a playing song on-device, but if it hasn’t automatically identified a song playing nearby, you can turn on a new search button and tap it to make Pixel find it for you. You can also tap a new music note icon next to the track’s recognition on your lock screen to save it as a favorite.
Pixel Buds A-Series improvements. I really like the Pixel Buds A-Series earbuds, but as I noted in my mini-review, there’s a bass boost option but it can just be toggled between on and off. With this update, these earbuds pick up a new bass-level control where you can use a slider to adjust the bass from -1 to +4, giving you “twice the bass range you currently have.” This works on any Android 6.0+ device.
New wallpapers. In celebration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Google collaborated with Dana Kearly, a disabled multidisciplinary artist from Vancouver, British Columbia, to create three beautiful new wallpapers for the Curated Culture collection.
Car crash detector improvements. The car crash detection feature originally shipped in Spain, Ireland, Japan, the U.K., Australia, Singapore, and the U.S., but it’s is now supported in Taiwan, Italy, and France as well. When enabled in the Personal Safety app, your Pixel 3, Pixel 4, or newer Pixel will help detect if you’ve been in a severe car accident. “If a crash is detected, your phone will check in with you to see if you’re OK,” Google explains. “If there’s no response, Pixel can share your location and other relevant details with emergency responders.
Recorder improvements. Google is enabling new transcription languages in the Recorder app, including Japanese, French, and German. This requires Pixel 3 or newer Pixel phones.
<p>I can’t remember a single feature drop that has had any meaningful benefit for me, beyond the bundled security updates of course. Consistency and predictability of security updates is why I currently have a Pixel.</p>