Google drops quarterly updates for its own Pixel phones, which are referred to as “Pixel Feature Drops” and offers some new features and sometimes some enhancements. Not just for new phones, but also old ones. Which is really nice of Google to do. Since a lot of smartphone makers want you to buy a new phone to get these features.
Here, we’re going to go over every single new feature that comes in these Pixel Feature Drops. So you can see what’s new, and take advantage of these new features.
What is a Pixel Feature Drop?
Google started the Pixel Feature Drop a few years ago, as a way to roll out some new features about four times a year. Without making everyone wait on a new version of Android – which really only comes once a year now. It was likely done to get people to update their phones more often, instead of skipping some of these monthly security updates.
The first feature drop for Pixel came back in December 2019, and they’ve been going strong ever since. These Feature Drops are rolled into the security updates, so it looks like a larger update than it actually is. Which can be a good thing.
What devices are eligible for a Pixel Feature Drop?
This is a list of the current Pixel devices that are eligible to get these updates:
- Pixel 4a
- Pixel 4a 5G
- Pixel 5
- Pixel 5a
- Pixel 6
- Pixel 6 Pro
- Pixel 6a
- Pixel 7
- Pixel 7 Pro
Older devices are no longer receiving security updates nor Android updates, and thus won’t get this Feature Drop, unfortunately.
When are they released?
These are quarterly updates from Google. So the released about once every three months. Google typically releases them in March, June, September and December of each year. Sometimes these may get moved around, due to features not getting ready and such. But those are the months they aim for.
Typically, the first Monday of those months (March, June, September and December) is when you can expect a Feature Drop.
What’s new in the March 2023 Pixel Feature Drop?
This time around, the feature drop is mostly aimed at older Pixel devices. Bringing Pixel 7 features to older devices. Which is definitely nice to see from Google. But here’s what’s new.
Faster Night Sight
Google has improved and added some new algorithms to the Tensor chip, which has made Night Sight faster on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. So you’re able to get low-light photos a whole lot faster now.
Magic Eraser debuted on the Pixel 6 in 2021, but now it is moving to older Pixels. If you have a Pixel 4a or later, you’ll be able to take advantage of Magic Eraser. Meaning that more people will be able to get rid of those photo bombers in your photos. As well as other distractions on your photos.
Direct My Call+
Google is also expanding Direct My Call+ to older Pixels, bringing it to the Pixel 4a or later. So now more Pixel users will be able to see call menu options before they’ve even been spoken to them.
Health Connect is an app that Google created last year, and was in beta for quite some time. Now it’s out of beta and available on Pixel devices. So you can use Health Connect to sync your health and fitness data across platforms. So far, this works with Fitbit and Samsung Health. So you can switch from the Pixel Watch to the Galaxy Watch 5 without losing any data.
What’s new in the December 2022 Pixel Feature Drop?
The December 2022 Pixel Feature Drop was released on Monday, December 5, 2022. And it’s the first big feature drop since the Pixel 7 series was released in October. So quite a few features here were already announced in October as “coming soon”.
VPN by Google One
Announced in October with the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, the VPN by Google One is now rolling out to all those users in the December 2022 update. This is a free feature, which you previously, needed to subscribe to Google One and be paying for at least 2TB to be able to enjoy.
For Pixel 7 users, this feature is going to be free for the next five years. It’ll likely last longer than your Pixel 7, to be quite honest.
Clear Calling is another feature that was announced in October and will remain exclusive to the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, at least for now. But basically, this feature is able to reduce the background noise and enhance the sound of the voice. So that others’ are able to hear you better in loud environments like a bar or club.
The demos we experienced of this feature at the Made by Google event in October were pretty incredible. So we’re expecting this to be mind blowing.
Recorder Speaker Labels
The last feature in this feature drop which is limited to the new Pixel 7 series is, Recorder Speaker Labels. The Recorder app debuted a few years ago on the Pixel 4 and has been pretty incredible. But Google continues to improve it, and now, it can label individual speakers that are being recorded. It can also add in line breaks, making it easier to follow along.
This feature won’t be fully available until January 2023, but Spatial Audio is coming to the Pixel Buds Pro (only). Spatial Audio will allow you to feel more immersed when listening to movies and shows through your Pixel Buds Pro. It’s a feature that Apple has had for quite some time, and is now finally coming over to Android.
Security and Privacy Settings
Security and privacy is always a big deal for Google, and it is continuing to provide updates to the new unified hub for security and privacy settings in this new unified hub. It includes some new action cards that notify you of any safety risks and provide easy steps to enhance your privacy and security.
As always, Google is including some new wallpapers with this update. So you’ll have a refresh in the Curated Culture section of the Wallpaper app. There are a few new wallpapers here to help celebrate International Day of People with Disabilities.
Fitbit Sleep Profile
Google is finally rolling out the new Fitbit Sleep Profile that was announced back in November. This is going to help you get deeper sleep insights through Fitbit’s Premium Sleep Profile feature, on your Google Pixel Watch. It provides users with a monthly sleep animal and longitudinal analysis of your sleep. This is going to help you find ways to improve your sleep over time. If you wore your Watch to bed for 14 nights in November, you will see your animal today.
New Wear Tiles
Google is also bringing in a few new Wear OS tiles for the Pixel Watch. These include a new Contacts Tile, as well as an additional Weather Tile. This new Weather Tile will give you easy access to see things like when is Sunset or Sunrise, among other things. The Contacts Tile will give you quick access to calling and/or texting your favorite contacts, on your wrist.
Google is adding Fall Detection to the Google Pixel Watch in 2023. This is already available on Pixel smartphones. Fall Detection will contact emergency services if the Pixel Watch senses that you’ve taken a hard fall and are unresponsive.
Other odds & ends
There’s a few more updates here for the December 2022 feature drop, which includes expanding a few features to more regions and in new languages. Like Cough and Snore Detection, as well as Live Chat Translate.