Google’s Fast Pair feature starts arriving on non-Pixel Android phones

Brian Heater

In the avalanche of news that was Google’s Pixel 2 event last month, the company kind of glossed over the Fast Pair feature. Understandably so — it had a lot to get through at the event. And besides, it was far from the coolest thing about the company’s new Pixel Buds headphones (that title goes to the Babelfish-esque real-time translation feature).

The feature is similar to what Apple offers up with its W2 chip, offering instant, hassle-free Bluetooth pairing with a couple of taps. Of course, Fast Pair has one key advantage: much greater compatibility. Launched as a Google Pixel exclusive, the feature is starting to roll out to all Android devices running Google Play services 11.7 and greater (requiring Android 6.0 and up, mind).

Apple’s version was a centerpiece of Apple’s AirPods (along with subsequent Beats releases), and Google’s take will certainly benefit from wider availability. In addition to working across Android manufacturers, Fast Pair is also compatible with bluetooth headphones from a variety of different companies. Pixel Buds and Libratone’s solid Q Adapt were the first to be announced, and Google is adding the Plantronics Voyager 8200 headset to the list soon.

The selection is still pretty limited, with Google working with specific early partners to help develop Fast Pair . Though, along with opening it up to a lot more handsets, the company is putting out the call to “Bluetooth accessory” makers in its public forum — a move that indicates the company’s plans to bring Fast Pair to a lot more than just headphones and headsets.

The Pixel Buds were created internally to brace the consumer base for the company's decision to drop the headphone jack from its new handsets. Opening Fast Pairing up to a much larger ecosystem of compatible devices should cushion the blow even more -- and could open more handset manufacturers up to the possibility of dropping the jack themselves.