Google’s ‘Fast Pair’ system allows for instant connection to Bluetooth headphones

Google has unveiled ‘Fast Pair’, a new way to connect Bluetooth headphones with smartphones and other devices that promises to be faster and more seamless than the relatively clunky implementation currently available to Android owners.

The new system is Google’s answer to Apple’s Airpods which are able to connect to a paired iPhone as soon as they are removed from their case.

The feature is already supported on Google’s very own Pixel Buds, that were launched alongside its latest flagship smartphones earlier this month, or Libratone’s Q Adapt On-Ear and soon on Plantronics Voyager 8200 series wireless headsets.

Fast Pair will use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for advertising and discovery and uses classic Bluetooth for pairing.

Once a Fast Pair-enabled device is turned on, it switches to pairing mode. Android scans for BLE broadcasts in close proximity of the user’s phone and discovers a Fast Pair packet (providing Bluetooth and Location is turned on).

This packet is then sent to Google’s servers to get back the device’s product image, product name and companion app (if there is one).

The user then receives a high-priority notification asking them to “Tap to pair”, after which both devices connect using the classic Bluetooth protocol.

Ultimately, it should allow users to connect a pair of headphones without going through the tiresome process of locating the Bluetooth settings and selecting the device to which they wish to connect.

Fast Pair is supported by all Android devices running Google Play services 11.7+ and works with devices installed with Marshmallow (Android 6.0) or later.

Bluetooth’s latest standard, version 5, launched at the tail end of last year and brought longer range, faster speed and larger broadcast message capacity to the wireless protocol.

In particular, version 5 was designed with IoT devices in mind, although it is only just starting to see widespread adoption on consumer devices. Apple’s iPhone 8 and iPhone X handsets are some of the first to support it.

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