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Google showcases new Fast Pair, Android Auto features in the BMW iX EV

Perhaps the days of BMW treating Android users as second-class citizens are finally coming to an end.

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BMW's upcoming electric vehicles are featured prominently at Google I/O 2021.

Google

After years of seemingly only supporting Apple's smartphone technologies, BMW is partnering to offer better support for Google's Android devices. At the Google I/O 2021 developer conference today, BMW's upcoming iX electric SUV was used to demonstrate two new features coming to the Android Auto phone projection tech: Bluetooth Fast Pair and display cluster projection.

Earlier in the day, BMW's i4 electric sedan was also showcased during the keynote address that kicked off the conference in conjunction with Android's new Digital Car Key framework. BMW also featured prominently in Google's booth at CES 2020, so maybe the days of BMW treating Android users as second-class citizens are finally coming to an end.

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Pairing an Android phone will soon require just a single tap.

Google

A video released during the conference first showcased the new Fast Pair feature. When you're seated in the driver's seat with Bluetooth active on the device, a prompt to pair automatically appears on the phone's screen. With a single tap from you, Android negotiates and saves the wireless connection with the car. It's about as simple as the instant pairing process that Apple uses with its AirPods and iOS devices.

Fast Pair appears to not just make a Bluetooth connection, but also make the wireless Android Auto connection on compatible cars. So there should be no need to make the initial connection via USB like you currently do.

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Google

On the BMW iX's wide, floating array of dashboard displays, the video shows the Android Auto interface with all of the familiar apps. However, when a destination is selected on the maps, the Google Map and the turn-by-turn directions also appear on the BMW's digital instrument cluster. The presenter even specifies that you'll be able to switch between different cluster views and the live map view will rescale and adapt. We've previously seen how certain vehicles can currently display the next upcoming instruction when navigating with a paired phone, but showing the actual live map in the cluster is a new trick for Android Auto.

Google says that it will be working to bring more of Android's functionality to the instrument cluster in the future and to bring more app categories to Android Auto. It's recently made the Android for Cars App Library available as part of its Jetpack developer framework, which should make it easier to build navigation, EV charging and parking apps for the car mode interface. Current early access partners include EV-centric apps ChargePoint and PlugShare, as well as parking apps such as ParkWhiz and SpotHero.