Google Pixel phones just got a host of great free software upgrades

The December Feature Drop brings improvements to Clear Calling, Pixel Recorder, VPN by Google One and more

Google Pixel 7 Pro review
(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

When you own one of the best phones on the market, you get the perk of having regular updates to features and security. That's exactly what Google Pixel owners are getting right now, with a handful of upgrades that improve the quality of the handset substantially.

At least some of the December Feature Drop affects all Tensor-based Pixels – so that's the Google Pixel 7, the Google Pixel 7 Pro, the Google Pixel 6a, the Google Pixel 6, and the Google Pixel 6 Pro. And there are a host of great updates to be had, so lets dive in and take a look.

Clear Calling

Clear Calling is a brilliant feature available on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. It uses some AI wizardry to enhance the voice of the person on the other end of the phone, reducing background noise to help make them easier to speak to.

When this was showcased at the Pixel launch event, the results were staggering. People were shown having a completely audible conversation while surrounded by leaf blowers and coffee shop noise, which was only noticeable when the Clear Calling functionality was disabled.

As someone who hates nuisance background noise on phone calls, this is a 10/10 feature. Your ears and your sanity will thank you for this.

Pixel Recorder

I've already written about Pixel Recorder 4.2, which rears its head as part of this feature drop. And maybe its just because I've spent far too many hours transcribing interviews in the last few years, but I love it.

In essence, the new update brings speaker tags to the transcriptions of your recordings. That means that Google's algorithm will intelligently decipher when different people are speaking, and split up the text accordingly.

This update should hit all five of the Tensor-based devices listed above – a win for users of a Pixel 6 generation device.

Security and Privacy Settings

This new section will make it easier than ever to keep an eye on all of your security settings, including things like account information and passwords. It also features action cards that will notify you of any issues with your security and give you details of how you can address them.

Far from the sexiest of updates, but an important one all the same, this should hit every Pixel device that is still getting security updates.

VPN by Google One

At the Pixel launch event, news of Pixel phones getting a free VPN built-in sparked a lot of conversation. The best VPNs don't come cheap, so including one in the price of a phone which is already good value is a great proposition. Some users reported seeing the VPN upgrade last week, and everyone should start to get it now.

This is a great upgrade, and one that will really set the Pixel range apart. VPNs can be used for a host of different reasons, but one core use is for keeping your information secure online. It should add to the peace of mind Pixel users have when connecting to external WiFi spots, for example.

This one is only available on the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro – just make sure to get it before the shadow cabinet outlaw (opens in new tab) them...

Sleep Tracking

Cough and snore detection is now available to users of Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro devices. The intention is to give you information about what interrupts your sleep cycle, such as coughs and snores that may wake you, or the amount of time spent on your phone before bed.

This feature can be setup from the Clock and Digital Wellbeing settings – just set up Bedtime mode.

Live Translate

One of the best features on Pixel phones is the ability to translate text into a whole host of different languages. It uses similar technology to that found in Google Translate, and allows you to converse, even when language would have traditionally been a barrier.

Now, users can translate text messages in five new languages: Arabic, Persian, Swedish, Vietnamese and Danish. That's in addition to the 16 already offered.

This update is available to all Tensor-based Pixels.

Sam Cross
Staff Writer

Online news writer at T3.com, Sam has five years of experience in online and print journalism, with work featured in publications like Metro and Last Word on Sports. After years writing about music and football, Sam now turns his hand to bringing you news about new phones, smart home products, smart watches, laptops and TVs. Sam is a longtime fan and user of Apple products, including iPhones, MacBooks and Apple Watches.He’s also T3’s resident football expert, bringing you everything you need to know about the big games, including how to watch them. In his spare time, Sam is a keen guitarist, watch lover and (very) amateur golfer.