Google's June 2021 security update and Feature Drop brings loads of new goodies to Pixel phones

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Google's June 2021 security update and Feature Drop brings loads of new goodies to Pixel phones
Following Google's I/O developer conference last month and last week's surprisingly low-key Pixel Buds A-Series announcement, we may have to wait a while until the search giant unveils or launches any truly exciting new stuff.

But if you're the proud (and resilient) owner of a Pixel handset released since 2018, today's a pretty big day, with both a fresh batch of security patches and another one of those quarterly "feature drops" rolling out as we speak in a traditionally gradual fashion.

These are the issues Google is looking to fix this month


Starting off with the slightly less important part of this latest software update for the Pixel 3, 3 XL, 3a, 3a XL, 4, 4 XL, 4a, 4a (5G), and Pixel 5, Big G is aiming to fix four specific issues with the June 2021 security patch, including two that were apparently exclusive to the company's newest smartphones.


If you've ever experienced notification sound "fluctuation" or problems with video playback in "certain third-party apps" on your Pixel 5 or 4a (5G), everything should be running smoothly after you apply the latest over-the-air update, which will be available in "phases depending on carrier and device."

The same goes for the inability to edit motion photos, a bug that may have bothered users of all the aforementioned Pixel phones (to some extent), as well as charging interruptions with "certain wireless charger", seemingly reported on all but Google's a-branded Pixels, which makes sense given that the budget-friendly handsets don't actually come equipped with wireless charging support.

A neat Night Sight improvement and a way to keep sensitive photos private


As for the juicier part, Google's latest Feature Drop is arguably headlined by a sweet expansion of the already impressive astrophotography functionality. As the name suggests, this allows you to take absolutely stunning shots of the night stars with your Pixel 4, 4a, 4a (5G), or Pixel 5, all of which can now capture your favorite celestial objects in motion with little to no effort on your part.

All you need to do is hold your focus for a few extra seconds when accessing astrophotography in your camera's Night Sight mode, and in addition to snapping the best possible pic, the phone will record a short video better emphasizing the natural beauty of the night sky.


Apart from photography and videography improvements, which have constantly propelled Google's devices at the top of our lists of the best camera phones money can buy, the company has focused a lot in the last couple of years on protecting your privacy.

Today's big Feature Drop is no exception, including something called Locked Folder. If that happens to sound familiar, it might be because this Google Photos feature was unveiled just a few weeks ago, rolling out now to owners of Pixel 3 and later devices to keep your most sensitive pictures and videos separate from everything else on your phone. 

Access to your Locked Folder will only be permitted by using your passcode or fingerprint, and the content saved there (either manually or straight from the camera app) won't show up in shared albums, Memories, or anywhere someone other than you may easily get in.

Even more new features and expanded availability for existing ones


Heads Up is another new feature likely to ring a bell, making headlines all the way back in April before finally joining the Digital Wellbeing settings menu to remind you to occasionally look up from your screen while walking. What's next, a feature that makes sure you don't kill yourself by accident when using your Pixel device?

Oh, right, that's already a thing, and it's actually pretty useful, expanding from the US, UK, and Australia to Spain, Ireland, and Singapore to detect serious car crashes (whether or not they're caused by excessive gadget use) and alert emergency responders if you're unable to do so yourself.


Speaking of expansions, the always handy Call Screen functionality is now officially available in Japan in addition to the US and Canada, while the Recorder app is spreading its wings to support more English dialects including Singaporean, Australian, Irish, and British.

Last but certainly not least, Google is making it easier than ever to answer or, well, dodge a call. If you can't use your hands to do that the old fashioned way, you can simply ask your own personal digital assistant to "answer call" or "reject call."

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