Google reveals its Fast Pair tech: No more Android Bluetooth pairing problems?

Google is inviting Bluetooth device makers to adopt Fast Pair for easier pairing with Android.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Google has been working on a way to make the process of pairing headphones and speakers with a smartphone simpler and faster than it is today.

Google suggests the new process called Fast Pair can pair headphones to a phone within seconds. Rather than only use Bluetooth for pairing, Fast Pair uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for discovering Bluetooth headphones or speakers and then creates a connection with the phone using classic Bluetooth.

Fast Pair offers Google an answer to the easy pairing offered by Apple's AirPods, which rely on a tiny chip in the earphones to talk to an iPhone and make pairing easier.

Right now, the only devices that support Fast Pair are Google's Pixel Buds and Libratone's $250 Q Adapt On-Ear headphones, which were certified for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL and are part of Google's recently announced Made for Google program for recommended third-party accessories.

Google has been prototyping Fast Pair with Libratone and audio maker Plantronics, which will soon release Fast Pair-capable Voyager 8200 series headsets.

Google is also seeking interest in Fast Pair from makers of other Bluetooth-enabled headphones, speakers, keyboards, mics, automobiles, wearables, and other devices. Fast Pair devices will work with any Android phone running the soon to be released Google Play services 11.7+ and versions of Android back to 6.0 Marshmallow.

Fast Pair Android compatibility goes back further than the specs listed for the Pixel Buds, which requires Android 7.0 Nougat and above, an active data connection, as well as Bluetooth and Nearby activated.

To use Fast Pair, the device needs to be put in pairing mode and placed near the Android phone. So long as Bluetooth and Location are turned on, the phone searches for BLE broadcasts close by and after discovering a Fast Pair packet, sends the packet to Google's servers, which retrieve the device's product details and information about its companion app.

The user then receives a 'Tap to pair' notification that contains the product name and image. After tapping the notification, the two devices are paired over normal Bluetooth. A success notification includes a link to the companion app if there is one.

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