Google's early Christmas gift is a ton of new Android features

Android December 2021 Feature Drop
Android December 2021 Feature Drop (Image credit: Google)

What you need to know

  • Google has announced a ton of new features coming to Android devices.
  • The updates include new emoji kitchen mashups, permissions auto-reset support on more phones, and auto-generated Memories in Google Photos.
  • There are also new updates to Android Auto for improved messaging and new widgets for a few Android apps.

'Tis the season for Android app updates, courtesy of Google. Every few months, Google drops new features for its Android devices and services, separate from the quarterly feature drops it pushes out exclusively for Pixel devices. In this latest set of features for Android, Google is making it easier to stay in touch with the family while adding a few fun and useful updates.

Family Bell on more devices

One of the most useful features from Google's Nest product family is Family Bell, which allows users to set helpful reminders that are broadcast throughout the house. Google is now expanding this feature beyond its smart home devices like the Nest Hub (2nd Gen) and making it available on the best Android phones.

Now, you're able to set up reminders directly from your Android phone and choose the devices you want to alert. Since not everyone has Nest products set up around the house, this will ensure that reminders will reach everyone in the family.

Android Auto messaging and music

Google is bringing some handy new features to your car. The company highlights how you can set Android Auto to automatically launch when your phone connects, which should help you get up and running as quickly as possible. Now, when you're on the road, Google is bringing enhanced messaging features with Smart Reply arriving on Android Auto.

Similar to how it works on Google Messages on Android, you'll get reply suggestions based on the context of the message, thanks to the power of Google Assistant. With this, you'll be able to respond to an incoming message with just a quick tap, or you can choose your own custom reply.

Android Auto Google Messages Smart Reply

Source: Google (Image credit: Source: Google)

Google is also improving the music experience on Android auto with an always-on play button so you can access your tunes faster from the home screen. And soon, users will be able to search for tunes on their favorite media apps using just their voice, thanks to a new search icon, so you won't have to fiddle around too much with menus while you're driving.

These driving updates are in addition to the new digital car key that Google is introducing on the Pixel 6 and Samsung Galaxy S21 series.

Other updates

Google is also introducing several other updates for Android apps. In September, the company announced that permissions auto-reset was arriving for older phones running Android 6.0 and higher, and it's finally rolling out for these devices starting "next month." This means that apps that you haven't used in a while will turn off the enabled permissions until, of course, you start using them again.

Gboard's emoji kitchen is also being updated with "thousands of new additions" for a host of mashups, some of which should appeal to dog lovers. These will start rolling out today and arrive for everyone in the coming weeks.

Google Gboard Emoji Kitchen Update

Source: Google (Image credit: Source: Google)

Some of your favorite apps are getting useful new widgets for some of its apps, including Google Play Books and YouTube Music, which will allow easy managing and control straight from the home screen.

Lastly, Google Photos is getting some new features, including auto-generated Memories to help celebrate moments like birthdays, graduations, and holidays. It's also getting a new People & Pets widget that you can manage with those you care about most.

Derrek Lee
News Editor

Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.