Apple users are quickly growing accustomed to effortless wireless pairing between the iPhone (or Mac computers) and AirPods, but Google has been working on something that should remove at least some frustration from connecting Bluetooth gadgets to Android phones. Some speakers and headphones let you speed up the pairing process with NFC, which is pretty convenient, but now devices running Android 6.0 and above will get yet another, even better option: Fast Pair.
This new approach uses Bluetooth Low Energy and your Android phone’s location to automatically discover Bluetooth accessories in close proximity and then automatically connect with a tap. It even shows a picture of the product you’re using. Sound familiar?
When you’ve got a Fast Pair-enabled device nearby (and there are less than a handful of them to start), your Android smartphone will fetch the device's product image, product name, and companion app — if one exists — from Google’s servers. Once you hit connect, you should see a confirmation when pairing is successful. Then, Android will offer to download the accessory’s companion app. (Noise-cancelling headphones often have apps to configure , as do some speakers.)
The actual pairing process still uses “classic Bluetooth,” so Google isn’t making any claims about improved connection reliability. But Bluetooth 5 should help in that regard as more phones and headphones, speakers, etc. are released with it.
This is definitely the way things should be — especially as more and more Android phones lose the headphone jack. Bravo, Google. And it’s great to see that support extends back to Android Marshmallow. But for Fast Pair to become a widespread Android convenience, accessory makers will need to adopt the feature. It’s not a thing that will just work immediately for all of your existing Bluetooth gadgets. To do that, they can register with Google here.
Supported headphones at launch include Google’s Pixel Buds, Libratone's Q Adapt On-Ear, and Plantronics Voyager 8200-series wireless headsets. The only thing users need to do is have the latest version of Google Play Services (11.7) installed, which is rolling out over the coming days and weeks.