Google and Microsoft want pairing a Bluetooth device with an Android or Windows PC to be as easy as pairing AirPods with an iPhone. This feature is already available, but only on a few devices so far.

Google and Microsoft are improving the Bluetooth pairing process to make things easier for Android and Windows users. As long as the peripheral is on and in pairing mode, you can just place it near your phone or PC and you’ll be prompted to initiate the connection. The feature is out already, but so far only a few devices support it. On Android, the feature is known as “Fast Pair.” On Windows, it’s named “Quick Pair.”

Fast Pair on Android 6.0+

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On Android, “Fast Pair” is already available on Android 6.0 and newer. Initially, it only supports a few devices, like the Google Pixel Buds and a handful of other wireless headsets. This feature uses Bluetooth Low Energy to quickly discover and pair a headset with your phone.

To use it, you just turn on a Fast Pair-enabled device and place it in pairing mode. For example, if it’s the first time you’re using a pair of headphones, simply turning them on should place them in pairing mode. Any Android phones nearby receive a “Fast Pair packet” broadcast by the peripheral. On your phone, you’ll see a high-priority notification as well as the name and image of the peripheral you’re about to pair. Tap the notification and your phone connects to the peripheral via standard Bluetooth. You’ll also see a notification asking you to download a companion application, if one exists for the peripheral.

This is much slicker than the traditional Bluetooth pairing method, which involves opening the Settings app, tapping Bluetooth, and waiting for your phone to notice the nearby device and present it in the list. With Fast Pair, you don’t even need to visit the Settings screen.

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Quick Pair on Windows 10

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A “Quick Pair” feature is also coming to Windows 10 with the April 2018 Update, codenamed Redstone 4, which will be released on April 30.

Just like on Android, all you need to do is turn on a peripheral, put it in pairing mode, and then place it near your Windows 10 PC. Windows 10 shows a notification on your desktop and places it in the Action Center. Click or tap “Connect” and Windows will initiate the connection using classic Bluetooth. You never have to open the Settings app or Control Panel during this process. If you move the Bluetooth device away from your PC, the notification vanishes.

As on Android, this feature only supports a few devices at first. For example, Microsoft’s own Surface Precision Mouse is the first peripheral that supports this feature.

Apple’s W1 Chip Led the Way, But Bluetooth Is Catching Up

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Apple released the first mass-market version of this feature with its W1 chip, which brings seamless Bluetooth pairing to the AirPodsBeats X, Beats Solo3, Beats Studio3, and Powerbeats3 headphones. Just turn the headphones on, place them next to an iPhone or iPad, and you’re automatically prompted to initiate the connection.

But, as often happens, other tech companies are implementing this in a more standard way. In a few years, pairing any new Bluetooth accessory with a phone, tablet, or laptop may be just as easy as pairing a set of AirPods with an iPhone is today.

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Along with Bluetooth 5.0, which will reduce power usage, boost connection speed, and increase range, these fast-pairing features will make standard Bluetooth much more usable and help Google and Microsoft compete with Apple.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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