Google's Fast Pair could make Bluetooth audio way easier

Tap to pair -- but no NFC required!

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
2 min read

For me, it was pretty frustrating to hear that Google's new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones would ditch the headphone jack. Just one reason: Plugging in a 3.5mm cable is incredibly easy -- but pairing Bluetooth devices generally isn't. 

But what if your Android phone could automatically detect a nearby Bluetooth headphone (or speaker, or car, or mouse) and pair it with a single tap? That's what Google's promising with its new Fast Pair feature.

In an official blog post, Google explains that a new wave of Bluetooth devices will do just that, by broadcasting a low-energy signal that your phone can constantly scan for -- theoretically without using a lot of battery in the process, because the feature uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) communications throughout. 

Then, a notification automatically pops up on your device, and a single tap does the rest. No passwords, no pins and no need to turn on NFC and rub your devices together until you find just the right spot for them to pair. (Remember when NFC was supposed to be the easy way to sync Bluetooth devices?)

According to Google, it's based on the same Bluetooth beacon technology we've been playing with around the CNET offices, only it sounds more useful. (Right now, some of my colleagues see a link to a funny website link pop up on their phone when they walk past a certain CNET room.) 

Google says the tech will work with any existing Android phone, Android 6.0 and up, though it sounds like you'll need to have a Fast Pair-enabled Bluetooth peripheral on the other end. So far, Google's new Pixel Buds work, as well as the Libratone Q Adapt On-Ear, and the company's asking interested manufacturers to submit their devices here.

To make it work, you'll also need to update your Google Play Services app to version 11.7 or newer, which should happen automatically (it's rolling out now) over the next few weeks.