Android Fast Pair attempts to replicate iOS, AirPods pairing simplicity
Discovering and pairing a new Bluetooth headset or speaker to an Android smartphone involves multiple steps. Users have to go to Settings->Bluetooth, switch on pairing and then wait for the smartphone to discover another Bluetooth device in the vicinity. Then users have to type a code on the smartphone to complete the pairing. Now Google is trying to make pairing two new devices a lot easier with a new technology called Android Fast Pair.
It works with all existing smartphones running Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) which support Bluetooth 4.0. However, to take advantage of it you will need accessories, which also support the technology. As of now, Google Pixel Buds ($159), Libratone’s Q Adapt On-Ear ($199) and Plantronics Voyager 8200 ($379) are some of the headphones which will work with it. These headphones are not yet available in India.
How does it work?
Fast Pair uses Bluetooth standard called BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) for advertising and discovering new devices and then uses classic Bluetooth pairing and location data to connect them with a simple tap.
Users have to switch on Bluetooth on their smartphones and then the Bluetooth headphones, which will generate a Fast pair packet. According to Google developers, this packet is then sent to Google servers to get back the device’s product image, product name and companion app. Users will then get a notification on their smartphones, asking them to “Tap to pair” to headphone. The notification will also show the product name and image for verification. Simple tapping on the notification will connect the smartphone to the headphone.
Once the connection is set, a success notification is sent with the link to download the companion app of the headphone if it has one. This will simplify the entire process of connecting a Bluetooth headphone to the smartphone. Google hasn’t said anything on the time the entire process will take. Also, there is no clarity on how the headphone will detect the right Android smartphone if there are multiple devices with Bluetooth switched on in the vicinity.
How is it different from Apple’s quick pairing
Fast Pair is Google’s answer to Apple’s quick pairing technology, which can connect a Bluetooth headphone with a built-in W1 chip to any iPhone in a matter of seconds. As of now, Apple Air buds and couple of Beats Audio headphones come with the W1 Bluetooth chip.
Fast Pair doesn’t require a new pair of headphones. According to Google developers, any Bluetooth headphone maker can make their headphone compatible with Fast Pair by registering with Google.
NFC (near field communication) is another easy way of connecting two Bluetooth devices. It doesn’t involve as many steps as traditional Bluetooth pairing and simply bringing two NFC devices closer (4 cm) is enough to connect them. It has been around for many years, but it’s still not as widely available. The sheer fact that Fast Pair can be made to work on any Android smartphone makes it more effective.