Android: Yesterday, Google announced an update to the way Android pairs with Bluetooth devices, making connecting some wireless headphones less of a headache. It’s called Fast Pair, and while it only works with a few devices right now, the company is looking to convince manufacturers and add their compatible Bluetooth devices to the Fast Pair ecosystem.
Image credit: Google
How it Works
Fast Pair is Android’s take on fast and simple Bluetooth device pairing, operating in a similar manner to Apple’s own AirPods. But instead of depending on proprietary hardware such as the W1 chip inside AirPods, Fast Pair relies on the battery-friendly Bluetooth Low Energy protocol, used to connect wearables, headphones and smart home tech to devices without drawing excessive power.
Image credit: Google
It combines the Bluetooth information with location data to search for supported devices in the vicinity. When your smartphone finds a Bluetooth Low Energy device supporting Fast Pair (that is, your Fast Pair-enabled headphones or speakers), you’ll receive a notification asking you to pair the two devices. Android will also notify you of any companion apps for your particular device should you want more control over its sound, or want to enable particular features.
How to Get It
Google’s Fast Pair feature is currently only rolling out to certain Android devices. You’ll find it on Pixel 2 devices, but you can ensure the update hits whatever Android smartphone you own by upgrading to Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) or above. You’ll also need to update Google Play services to version 11.7 or above.
Not Every Headset Works
Fast Pair not only requires an updated version of Android, but a compatible pair of headphones to operate properly. According to Google, their own translation-friendly Pixel Buds, along with the on-ear Libratone Q-Adapt headphones, support Fast Pair.
As someone who has used Fast Pair with the aforementioned Libratone headphones and the Google Pixel 2 XL, the pairing experience was definitely a more simple endeavour compared to pairing traditional Bluetooth headphones. You turn them on, hold the pair button, and watch the headphones, complete with an icon and description, pop up in your notification bar. It’s still a bit buggy, however, and occasionally attempts to pair with another set of Bluetooth headphones, requiring you to toggle Bluetooth off and on. Still, it gets the hard part of the job done.
Support for more devices, such as the Plantronics Voyager 8200 series of wireless headsets, is on the way, and Google’s urging manufacturers to get on board, asking them to fill out a form requesting more information about the feature.