Google’s Fast Pair could make Bluetooth audio way easier




For me, it was pretty frustrating to hear that Google’s new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones would ditch the headphone jack. Just one reason: Plugging in a 3.5mm cable is incredibly easy — but pairing Bluetooth devices generally isn’t. 

But what if your Android phone could automatically detect a nearby Bluetooth headphone (or speaker, or car, or mouse, etc) and pair it with a single tap? That’s what Google’s promising with its new Fast Pair feature.

In an official blog post, Google explains that a new wave of Bluetooth devices will do just that, by broadcasting a low-energy signal that your phone can constantly scan for — theoretically, without using a lot of battery in the process because the feature uses BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) communications throughout. 

Then, a notification automatically pops up on your device, and a single tap does the rest. No pbadwords, no pins, and no need to turn on NFC and rub your devices together until you find just the right spot for them to pair. (Remember when NFC was supposed to be the easy way to sync Bluetooth devices?)

It sounds a lot like the Bluetooth beacon technology we’ve been playing with around the CNET offices, only more useful. (Right now, some of my colleagues see a link to a funny website link pop up on their phone when they walk past a certain CNET room.)

Google says the tech will work with existing phones, Android 6.0 and up, though it sounds like you’ll need to have a Fast Pair-enabled Bluetooth peripheral on the other end. So far, Google’s new Pixel Buds work, as well as the Libratone Q Adapt On-Ear, and the company’s asking interested manufacturers to submit their devices here.

To make it work, you’ll also need to update your Google Play Services app to version 11.7 or newer, which should happen automatically. As far as I know, the update is already rolling out, but I’ve asked Google to clarify.

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