Bluetooth on Android has been a somewhat fragile affair, with multiple issues but over time it’s slowly gotten better and now Google is looking to make it easier announcing Fast Pair, a way to make it easy to pair devices.
Using Fast Pair, Google intends for Bluetooth devices in pairing mode to initiate a push notification on your device prompting you that a nearby device wants to connect. Once you tap that notification the pairing should just…work. It essentially uses a pairing mode request broadcast using Bluetooth Low Energy, and a successful pairing can result in a push notification to download a companion app, if there is one.
Fast Pair requires Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) or above as well as Google Play services 11.7+. Google Play Services pushes to devices without carrier or manufacturer interruption and devices running Android Marshmallow and higher accounting for 50% of devices now, this seems to be a done deal – for software at least, support from the manufacturers is a much bigger question.
At this stage, the only bluetooth devices offering Fast Pair are the upcoming Google Pixel Buds, which are yet to go on-sale in Australia, and the Libratone Q-Adapt wireless headphones. Plantronics Voyager 8200 series headphones will also support the feature but aren’t doing it quite yet.
Fast Pair seems to be a response to Apple’s Airpod earphones which have an auto-connect feature that makes pairing simple and easy to use, pairing with Mac OS and iOS devices seemingly automatically.
The software side seems baked and ready to go, but it’s the adoption by manufacturers that will be a sticking point. With Libratone and Plantronics on board for at least one pair of earphones it’s promising, but it will have to have a much broader adoption before it becomes a ubiquitous pairing standard. Now, if only Google would start selling those Pixel Buds here in Australia we could start trying them out.