Google’s latest Pixel Feature Drop brings Pixel 6 features to older phones

Google’s latest Pixel Feature Drop brings Pixel 6 features to older phones

Google has rolled out new features to Pixel phones outside of the usual Android OS updates for years, but more recently, the company has started calling them “Feature Drops.” Feature drops are released every three months, typically with a security patch, and the last one came in the form of the Android 12 platform update. Before that, the most recent feature drop arrived in June and added Astrophotography videos in the camera application, Locked Folder support in Google Photos (which is now rolling out to non-Pixel phones, too), car crash detection, and other changes. Now another Feature Drop has arrived with the December 2021 security patch, which brings some Google Pixel 6 functionality alongside completely new features to all currently-supported Pixel phones.

The main addition in the December Pixel Feature Drop is Quick Tap to Snap, which was exclusive to the Pixel 6 series, but is now available for the Pixel 4a 5G, Pixel 5, and Pixel 5a. This allows you to double-tap the back of your phone to quickly open Snapchat’s viewfinder. Snapchat is also adding a special “Pixel Face” filter exclusively for Pixel phones. If you don’t care for Snapchat, you can use Tasker to change the gesture to perform a different action.

Google has also added a new “Conversation” mode to Sound Amplifier, which uses on-device machine learning to block out surrounding noise. The Sound Amplifier app is available on the Play Store for non-Pixel devices, but while it’s in early access, Conversation mode is exclusively available to Pixel phone owners. Just like on the Pixel 6 series, you can now manually activate Now Playing with a new search button on the lock screen, if it doesn’t activate automatically.

The December Feature Drop also enables Ultra-wideband support on the Pixel 6 Pro (which only benefits Nearby Share for now), car crash detection in Taiwan, Italy, and France, a new option for adjusting the Google Assistant button’s activation duration, and support in the Recorder app for German, French, and Japanese.

Google says the Feature Drop is rolling out today for the Pixel 3a series, Pixel 4 series, and Pixel 5a series. If you have a new Pixel 6 series device, however, then you’ll have to wait. Google says that the update will arrive next week for the Pixel 6 series.

Sound Amplifier
Sound Amplifier
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free

This article was written with additional input from Adam Conway

About author

Corbin Davenport
Corbin Davenport

Corbin is a tech journalist and software developer based in Raleigh, North Carolina. He's also the host of the Tech Tales podcast, which explores the history of the technology industry. Follow him on Twitter at @corbindavenport.