Fast Pair is Android's answer to Apple's effortless AirPods pairing

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.

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All I ask for, completely in vain, but all I want, is for some of these accessories to support both Fast Pairing and Apple’s fast pairing setup w/ W1 chip. I want to be able to switch between ecosystems as I please, and I will not buy anything that locks me into a single ecosystem (out of my own pocket at least; got an Apple Watch at least partially funded by work fitness program). It would be so nice to not have to buy a whole new range of accessories any time I want to switch ecosystems. RIP 3.5mm jack, with the most instant pairing process of all that was compatible with all ecosystems… You are missed.

All BT devices work with iOS and Android, including Apples AirPods and other W1 devices. You may not get all benefits, but they work, so what exactly are you asking for?

It’s not BT specifically, it’s all of the nice features that are getting added on top. Fast Pairing is not a feature of BT, just as the W1 chip is not part of the BT standard. What that means is if I buy AirPods, I am really buying them for the iOS ecosystem, as otherwise they are the same as other random BT buds. Same with anything that supports Fast Pairing on Android.

What I want is something like this that is universal; where I can buy a pair of headphones, get this nice fancy fast pairing/switching functionality with all of my devices regardless of ecosystem. Whereas now you spend $160+ on a pair of headphones that suck as soon as you decide you want to use one $1000 phone instead of a different $1000 phone. It’s stupid.

That’s like asking for Android’s unique features on iOS & iOS’ unique features on Android. These are two different companies enhancing a standard, not changing it. In the same way Smartphone’s enhance a phone, it doesn’t change what the phone has always done, which is make calls. Additional features & abilities are layers on top of the standard. The standard remains the same, bluetooth remains the same. It’s fruitless to desire ubiquity on features (not standards) between competing platforms. If it was an argument over having USB-C, I’d get you, that’s a new standard. But wanting Apple’s W1 to work with Android is like wanting Apple to let Android have Animoji too. It just won’t happen. It’s just a feature. Android will create their own "Animoji" just as they have created their alternative to Apple’s W1. An alternative, I might add, Apple seemingly could rip-off, as nothing about it looks proprietary, unlike the W1 chip.

I disagree. the 3.5mm jack was standard amongst all devices. manufacturers have now removed it and in order to gain the ease of use and functionality I am forced to use a proprietary solution to a problem created to increase profit margins. speaking of standards, I am yet to see an audio device that supports bt 5.0. what is the point of adopting a new standard if it will be ignored for proprietary solutions?

I am forced to use a proprietary solution to a problem created to increase profit margins.

That so called problem created has giving us things like Apple’s W1 chip and now Google’s answer. As more and more people take to Bluetooth headphones, better Bluetooth pairing is now in focus. Apple and now Google making it better for users. There would be no rush to fix Bluetooth if companies continued with the 3.5 jack.

There would be no rush to fix Bluetooth if companies continued with the 3.5 jack.

You’re saying bluetooth was so inferior, companies literally had to force this change by taking away our options?

No, I’m saying as a result of this change, we have new focus on bettering Bluetooth and Bluetooth pairing. As expected with a rush of iPhone users and others going wireless.

If people wanted bluetooth headphones they could have bought bluetooth headphones before. If companies wanted to make the bluetooth experience better they could have done so before. Removing the ubiquitous, standard 3.5mm headphone jack does nothing to improve bluetooth, or wireless in general. It just removes choices from users, for questionably small gains in battery life.

I disagree and feel the point Slyone is making holds more true with reality.

While it might feel like you’re being forced changes made in the mainstream are usually about a change for the better. Today’s generation (like my daughters who are 18 and 14) could care less about the headphone jack (they both have wireless Beats) because they’re okay with rapid and constant change.

But it’s not like we haven’t been here before.

Apple was the first company to get rid of 3.5" disks at the height of their popularity in favor of CD-RW and eventually DVD-RW. Next Apple moved away from optical drives (with the first MacBook Air) at a time when software and music on CD/DVDs were still extremely popular. Things like SCSI cables/connections aren’t as common as they once were, PC ports for mice and keyboard gave way to USB and similar technology were all taken away in an effort to move to the next thing in tech. Even ethernet ports on computers is becoming a thing of the past. The century old 3.5mm jack just happened to be the one technology that survived for so many years but its time has finally come.

There’s always an adjustment period and people will be frustrated with the choices companies make but, again, it’s all for the sake of moving from where we are to where we’ll be.

I disagree with those comparisons. CDs are better in every way than floppy disks. USB is better in every way than SCSI. Wi-Fi is the closest comparison, but the problems that existed when it was introduced (slower speeds, wireless networks aren’t everywhere), have been all but eliminated since.

Wireless headphones, even 20 years from now, will still have the problem of needing to be charged where wired headphones won’t. They can improve battery life to mitigate this, and make more convenient charging options like wireless mats, but you will still have a limited period of use before you HAVE to stop using them, including situations where you forget to charge for one reason or another.

Wi-Fi is the closest comparison, but the problems that existed when it was introduced (slower speeds, wireless networks aren’t everywhere), have been all but eliminated since.

If WiFi wasn’t adopted as early as it was, regardless of the initial problems, those same problems wouldn’t have been eliminated as quickly as they did. It’s ridiculous to assume that would not happen here as well. Both BT and Wireless charging can be improved so that both the BT uses much less power as well as improve it’s speed and bandwidth while Wireless charging will continue to improve to the point where things in our house can be charged over distances to the point where items will be charging without connection and while being used.

The point is, People don’t like change — but change is how we got all the things we enjoy about tech. The longer it takes to adopt — the longer it takes for quality iteration to come.

But quality iteration should be based on genuine interest and usage in the new technology, not by companies who have ecosystem-locked users forcing the decision for everyone. Wi-Fi became popular because many people wanted it, not because Apple (who had less than 10% market share in laptops) decided to remove their ethernet ports. In fact, even Apple had ethernet ports on the Macbook Pros up until 2012.

No, but they made them standard on their entry-level iBooks well before others were pushing them because they weren’t of high enough quality. I even remember Jobs on stage with a hula hoop highlighting it’s "wirelessness"

And as someone who has been relying on BT headphones as a daily driver for years, I have a genuine interest.

I’m all for wireless headphones getting better. I’m not for trying to make this happen to the detriment of those who still don’t want them (the large majority, I might remind you).

the large majority, I might remind you

You honestly have no quantifiable way of knowing that. The large majority here? Yeah… not in the real world. That’s like asking MMORPG gamers in the early 2000’s if they want to rely on WiFi… of course not but they are a subset. The vast majority want Bluetooth to work… that’s why the Airpods have been so successful — it’s obviously not the audiophiles.

who still don’t want them

I’m clearly talking about people who don’t want wireless headphones as they currently exist. Not some hypothetical future improvement.

That’s clear — and I understand that. What I’m saying is that group is not a large majority outside of the type of person who reads the Verge. "People who don’t want wireless headphones as they currently exist" are audiophiles, not general smartphone users that love Bt speakers and already connect through BT to their car stereo. The big barrier for wide wireless headphones is not quality but price-to-percieved-value.

I can appreciate that it isn’t for you or for all people, but it is by far for most. Most people use the included headphones, those don’t sound better than good Wireless ones.

Audio quality doesn’t even register for the general public when picking headphones. That’s not what I’m getting at. Price is a big thing, but convenience is bigger. The large majority of people aren’t interested in remembering to charge something that they currently don’t have to charge. This is the biggest barrier to adoption, and it will never go away completely. The best companies can do is try to minimize the effort to charge, as well as improve battery life so it doesn’t get in the way if you forget to charge them or use them for an extended period of time.

I absolutely agree — I just think not as many people are as bothered by the charging as you may think. I could be very wrong but the general consensus I get from people is that charging another thing is not that bad as long as there is a perceived benefit for that "cost". Again, it’s why I think BlueTooth speakers took off so quickly. I know that for some the battery life will never be "good enough" but I think it will be for most people sooner than later. When truly wireless charging shows up sooner than later, it will be a non-issue.

I don’t think truly wireless charging is coming anytime soon. I also don’t think Bluetooth speakers are a good comparison because there was no (common) portable speakers that they replaced. It was a new product solving a new problem. People are going to be comparing wireless headphones to wired headphones, and my bet is wired will win out for the majority for at least the next 10 years.

It’s not about change, it’s about adding proprietary standards where there weren’t any before.

Wired headphones used to work the same on iPhones and Android.

With the release of the W1 chip, and now Fast Pair, you’re being subtly locked into an ecosystem. If you buy a pair of Fast Pair headphones, you’re unlikely to ever want to switch to iPhone because then your headphones would feel like a waste.

Micro-USB / USB-C becoming universal standards has been excellent for the consumer, compared to before when every cell phone company and device maker used to have their own proprietary chargers.

Now we’re going in the opposite direction.

If people wanted bluetooth headphones they could have bought bluetooth headphones before. If companies wanted to make the bluetooth experience better they could have done so before.

Then why is it Now that we have Google following Apple trying to better Bluetooth pairing experience for users? Why didn’t they do this 5-10 years ago then?

Because the demand for wireless wasn’t there on the same level as it is today.

Apple created a huge wave of people who are experiencing great wireless and Bluetooth pairing for the first time with AirPods (W1 chip). Google is answering Apple by trying to create the same great experience for Android users. There’s now a need for improving on the wireless experience like it was never before. What kickstart this need? Removing the 3.5 mm jack.

Companies like Google would not be thinking of improving wireless Bluetooth pairing in 2017 had Apple not led the way in removing the jack.

Another positive for removing the jack is the number of Bluetooth headphones now available. Companies are again answering a need, consumers win. Millions more users are looking for wireless headphones and there are now so many choices (at all price range).

There are 2 possible situations:
1. Apple could have released the Airpods without removing the headphone jack and just as many people would have bought them, because they are good products on their own.
2. Apple had to force people to change against their will by removing the option of the headphone jack.

The first situation seems likely, and thus the removal of the headphone jack was pointless and user-hostile. The second situation is worse.

Or, Apple could have collaborated with IEEE and other manufacturers to create an open standard with these features that all platforms could benefit from. Of course, neither Apple, or Google, or any other is going to do that – that would be putting customer experience over profits…

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