Pixel Feature Drop revealed with Snapchat, digital key and other treats

Chris Davies - Dec 6, 2021, 12:00pm CST
Pixel Feature Drop revealed with Snapchat, digital key and other treats

The latest Pixel Feature Drop has been confirmed, with Google promising fresh safety, convenience, and other features for phones as far back as the Pixel 3a. Previewed, in part, at Google’s big Pixel event in October, there’s the new Snapchat integrations with the Android camera, along with the activation of ultra-wideband on the newest Pixel 6 Pro.

In October, Google previewed its new Quick Tap to Snap feature, which makes Snapchat accessible directly from the lock screen. If you’re a user of the photo-centric social network, and you have a Pixel 4a 5G or newer, you’ll be able to open Snapchat by tapping on the back of the phone.

It’s worth noting that with convenience does come some security considerations. Since Quick Tap to Snap bypasses any phone lock you might have, anybody with access to your Pixel can pull up the Snapchat camera as a result. Later this month, meanwhile, a new Pixel Face lens – exclusive to Pixel phones – will be added to Snapchat, too.

As for ultra-wideband, that taps the new radio in the latest Pixel 6 Pro. Enabled with this feature drop, it boosts the functionality of Nearby Share to improve file and media transfer between compatible devices. Both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are getting digital car key functionality, too, though only if you have a select model year 2020-22 BMW in certain countries.

Assuming you do, you can tap your Pixel against the car’s door handle to unlock it, and then use the phone to activate the ignition when you’re inside. It’s a feature you would’ve previously needed an iPhone to use, but now it’s launching on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro (along with the Samsung Galaxy S21/S21+/S21 ultra) in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and other select locations.

Elsewhere, there are new settings available. You can now tweak how long you have to long-press the power button on a Pixel 3 or newer in order to summon the Google Assistant, for example. Those who have Pixel Buds A-series get more granular bass control, with double the adjustable range.

Car crash detection availability is rolling out to France, Italy, and Taiwan, as an optional extra. That can automatically notify emergency services if the phone spots you’ve been in a crash or other incident. Recorder, too, is gaining new localization options, with transcription now supported in French, German, and Japanese.

If you’re a fan of Now Playing – which can identify songs in the background and name them on the lock screen – you can now tap the musical note icon next to the result to save the current track to your favorites. As before, identification is all done on-device, rather than sending any audio to the cloud. A new set of three wallpapers, the result of a collaboration with Dana Kearly, has been added as part of International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The new Feature Drop will roll out over the next few weeks, as a free update. Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro owners will start seeing the new functionality from next week. Exactly which features your Pixel will and won’t get will depend on which version you have; Google has a list that explains just what you can expect at its support site.


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