New Google Pixel feature drop update: Better battery life, smarter charging, more

The December update to Google's Pixel phone line includes some useful features.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer
Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Google routinely releases feature drops for its Pixel phones, and as an early holiday present, the company on Monday released a December update with several notable new features. 

The December update is rolling out now for all supported Pixel phones with current security and performance improvements. However, also included in the update are several new features along with the expansion of features to older Pixel phones.

For example, the Pixel 5 launched with a Hold For Me feature that would use Google Assistant to wait on hold for a Pixel 5 owner whenever they called a toll free business number. With today's update, Google is expanding Hold For Me all the way back to the Pixel 3. The same goes for Extreme Battery Saver, a tool that would limit which apps can run when your phone's battery starts to run out of power in an effort to extend battery life.

Google's Duo video calling app is getting screen sharing in group calls thanks to the latest feature drop. You'll need to be connected to Wi-Fi or a 5G network in order to use it. 

Google Photos is getting a new tab when editing a photo that will show you suggestions for editing a photo. 

Perhaps the most notable improvements involve how your phone's wireless connection, battery use, charging, and audio quality. 

Adaptive Sound, for instance, will use your phone's microphone to evaluate the acoustics in the room you're in and fine-tune the equalizer settings for "certain" apps. This kind of capability is something that's normally reserved for high-end smart speakers but makes complete sense to have in a phone. 

The Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A (5G) are gaining new Adaptive Battery settings that will judge if you're likely to miss your next typical charge and make adjustments to ensure the battery lasts longer. Additionally, Adaptive Charging will help improve battery health by controlling how quick the Pixel phone charges -- much like Apple has done on the iPhone for the last few years. It's not clear exactly how it will work on Pixel phones, but Apple limits the iPhone's charge level to 80% until right before your alarm is set to go off. By not keeping the phone charged to 100% over a long period of time, it's better on the battery. 

Pixels with 5G connectivity, so the Pixel 5 and 4A (5G), will now switch between LTE and 5G based on the app you're using. Google uses the example of sending text messages or browsing the web using a 4G LTE, but switching to 5G when you start streaming a movie or downloading files. This should help extend battery life. 

There are other features included in the update, like new wallpapers, new app icons, and a new translation too. 

Here's a complete breakdown of the new features and which Pixel phones are getting which:

Image: Google

If you have a Pixel phone, what are your thoughts about the latest feature drop? Is there a feature that stands out? Or something you don't really care about? Let us know in the comments. 

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