Google's December 2020 Pixel feature drop is here - What you get

Google has released its latest feature drop for Pixel owners, and if you've been clutching your Pixel 3 or Pixel 4 and wondering whether it's time to upgrade, these new-found abilities could help you postpone that decision a little longer. As always, one of the Pixel range's most significant charms is that they're first in line for Google's Android updates, and this December 2020 Pixel feature drop is no different.

Indeed, it's several of the flagship Pixel 5 features that are now arriving across older models. Pixel 3 and newer get the "Hold For Me" ability, for example, which allows you to hand over listening duties to the Google Assistant while you're waiting on hold.

It'll work in the US, and on English language calls. Enabled, the Assistant listens to the hold music and then notifies you when a human arrives on the line, while simultaneously alerting the agent that you'll be back momentarily.

Also new in the feature drop is the Extreme Battery Saver. As the name suggests, it's the Pixel 5's most aggressive method to prolong runtimes, by paring back functionality to the bare minimum while still leaving the phone usable. Apps in the background are paused, and won't send notifications, while the CPU is throttled back as well.

WiFi and Bluetooth still work in Extreme Battery Saver mode, but WiFi Scanning and Bluetooth Scanning for location data is disabled. The Work profile shuts off, too, as does any hotspot or tethering. Finally, the Pixel's screen timeout is trimmed to 30 seconds max.

Duo Screen Sharing is now supported in group calls, as well, building on the existing feature for one-to-one calls. The limitation there, though, is bandwidth: Google says your group call will need to be placed over either WiFi or a 5G connection in order to support it.

The Google Photos editor is getting an upgrade, with the December 2020 feature drop adding new suggestions. As before they're powered by machine learning and should be tailored to the sort of picture you're actually editing.

Other additions include Adaptive Sound – which automatically adjusts the equalizer for audio quality depending on the acoustics of the space you're in – while Google Lens is getting new translation abilities for websites and apps. The home screen gets new icons, grid views, and app shapes, and there are new wallpapers to choose from too.

Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G owners have some extra features the older phones don't get, too. There's a bump in accuracy for GPS positioning, Google says, particularly useful when you're on foot. Adaptive Battery is also getting smarter, with the upshot being even longer runtimes Google says, while Adaptive Connectivity will automatically switch between 4G and 5G depending on what you're doing, to balance speed and the hit on battery life. It's worth noting, though, that Adaptive Connectivity won't work with all apps and on all carriers.

The December 2020 Pixel feature drop should be available to download through the Android phones' settings. Google says it's rolling out from today.