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New wallpapers, Now Playing search, and more are coming to Pixels this month
- Google has announced its December 2021 Feature Drop, coming to select Pixels starting this week.
- The update brings new wallpapers, Snapchat features, improvements to Now Playing, and more.
- Notably, this is different from the more general Android update Google announced on December 1.
One of the many benefits of owning a Google Pixel phone is receiving monthly Feature Drops, which bring small-but-useful new features to Google’s phones. Google has just announced the December 2021 update for Pixels. If you’re a Snapchat user or you’ve been waiting for a more robust Now Playing feature, this update is for you.
On Pixel phones running Android 12, you can already set a double-tap gesture to quickly access the Google Assistant or open an app. After you install this month’s update, you’ll be able to set the double-tap action to launch Quick Tap to Snap, which will launch you right into Snapchat. This feature will be available on Pixels 4a 5G and newer. Also, sometime this month, a Pixel-exclusive Pixel Face lens is coming to Snapchat.
Conversation Mode is an early-stage feature in the Sound Amplifier app on Pixel phones. Using on-device machine learning, your Pixel phone can help tune out competing noise in loud environments when Conversation Mode is turned on. The feature will be available first on Pixel phones, and you can sign up to access a beta at this link.
Also read: Our full Android 12 review
Now Playing is getting a couple of useful updates. Now Playing recognizes songs playing ambiently around you, but it doesn’t detect everything. A new search button will begin showing up on Pixel 4 and newer lock screens so you can search for a song right away. Pixel 6 devices have already had access to this feature. Also new to Now Playing is the ability to save songs as favorites by tapping the music note icon next to a song that’s been identified.
To celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which took place Friday, December 3, Google has added three new wallpapers to the Curated Culture section of the wallpapers app. Illustrated by Dana Kearley, a disabled multidisciplinary artist from Vancouver, the wallpapers show colorful scenes of flowers with hearing aids, canes, and wheelchairs.
Here are a few other minor updates arriving with this month’s update:
- Ultra-wideband is now enabled on the Pixel 6 Pro, which will improve Android’s Nearby Share feature.
- You can now adjust the Pixel Buds A-Series bass levels in the Pixel Buds app. The range can now be set from -1 to +4, doubling the A-Series’ current bass range. Any Android 6.0+ device can access this feature.
- You can now press and hold your phone’s power button to access the Google Assistant. On Pixel 3 and newer phones, you can adjust how long you’d like to hold the button to access the Assistant.
- Car Crash Detection is now supported in Taiwan, Italy, and France. This is available on Pixel 3 and newer devices.
- The Google Recorder app can now transcribe in Japanese, French, and German on Pixel 3 and newer phones.
This Pixel Feature Drop will roll out to Google Pixel 3a–5a devices starting today, December 6, and Pixel 6-series devices starting next week.
Notably, this December update for Pixel devices differs from the more general Android update Google announced last week. Over the next few weeks, select Android devices will get access to Family Bell, new home screen widgets, and more.