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+
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.
Quick Pair on Windows 10
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
Apple released the first mass-market version of this feature with its W1 chip, which brings seamless Bluetooth pairing to the AirPods, Beats 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.
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.