Google’s December feature drop is here

Jasper Hart
December 9, 2020

Quality of life updates to newer Pixels, some new features rolled back to 3 and 3a

While the rumour mill is abuzz after the weekend’s leaks that might hint at a new Google Pixel device, the company is busy delivering quality-of-life improvements to its current crop of actual existing phones.

Google’s latest Pixel feature drop was announced earlier this week, and brings a mix of new functionality and new existing features being rolled out to its older devices. We’ll go through some of the big ones here.

Extreme Battery Saver and Adaptive Charging

This year’s Pixel devices showed a vastly improved battery life compared to the 4 and 4XL. The Extreme Battery Saver, which “only runs the essentials so your battery lasts as long as possible,” probably won’t ever need to be used, but for the 3, 3a and 4a devices, makes sense as they get older.

Pixels 4 and newer also get access to Adaptive Charging, which Google says dynamically controls how quickly a phone charges when plugged in overnight.

Adaptive Connectivity

This is probably one of the most thoughtful updates from Google, essentially equating to smart usage of 4G and 5G networks. Unsurprisingly, this means it’s only available on the Pixel 4a and 5. It defaults to the former for simple tasks such as messaging or browsing, before switching to the latter for streaming and/or gaming. Google says it also improves GPS accuracy on those two phones as well.

Adaptive Sound

The Pixel 5’s speaker was a bit of a disappointment, so this seems like an attempt to improve it a bit. It apparently uses the microphone to “assess the acoustics near you, then adjusts the sound equaliser settings in certain apps”. The jury’s out on how much of a tangible effect this will have, and that microphone use might impact battery life. Google insists that all microphone data recorded is used locally and deleted shortly after use. The only other Pixel this update will arrive on for now is the 4a 5G.

Home screen customisation

Google has unveiled a raft of new icons, colours, app shapes and grid views with which to personalise the home screen, available to all Pixels from the 3 onwards.

Rapid screenshot

This isn’t groundbreaking, but Google has brought its screenshot experience much more in line with that of Apple and Samsung’s latest phones. Simply put, taking a screenshot is far quicker than it used to be, taking much less than two seconds.

The full list of updates, and the devices to which they apply, is below.

Credit: Google

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