Google announced a series of features to help Android devices seamlessly talk to each other and for the first time ever integrate with select Windows OS devices. These features, which were showcased at CES 2022, will roll out over the course of the year, some in partnership with other companies.
Here’s a look at Google’s key announcements from CES 2022
Android and Windows PCs
Later this year, Google plans to bring Fast Pair on Android phones to the Windows PC. This will help set up Bluetooth accessories, sync text messages, and share files with the Nearby Share feature. Google says it is working with Acer, HP, and Intel for these features. It is not working with Microsoft for these capabilities, so these are unlikely to be Windows-based features when they roll out, but rather will be specific to devices from these brands.
Currently, the Fast Pair feature uses Bluetooth technology to quickly connect one’s Android phone to headphones such as those by Sony, Beats, and also cars such as select BMW models.
“When we talk about other platforms and where customers are present, Windows PCs is a prime example. A majority of Windows users have Android,” Ronald Ho, Google’s Group Product manager said in a select media briefing ahead of the announcement on the reasoning behind this integration.
Asked how these features will work and whether they would involve new apps, the Google executive said they did not have many details to share at the moment. But he added that the ultimate goal was to ensure that switching between Android and Windows becomes smooth, and that’s where their efforts would be focused.
Quickly setting, connecting devices
Google is also extending its Fast Pair feature for headphones to Android to Google TV and other Android TV OS devices in the coming months. Fast Pair will also work for headphones on Chromebooks as well as all Matter-enabled smart home devices, Google Home, and other accompanying apps. Matter is a new protocol to simplify smart home devices by using one standard supported by Amazon, Apple, and Google among others.
Google will let users set up their Chromebook with their Android phones later in the year. The advantage here will be that users can simply rely on their Android phone to just set up the Chromebook with one tap without re-entering all details, passwords. Chromebooks have recently seen a boom in popularity thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic and increased demand for online education.
Lock, unlock devices quickly
Users will also be able to unlock their Chromebooks or an Android device with a Wear OS smartwatch. The feature will roll out in the coming months. Google said it will work with both the chipset partners and the actual OEMs building the watches to make sure this gets out to as many supported devices as possible. But it did not confirm if older WearOS watches would support the feature. It looks like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 series will support the feature.
Later in the year, Google will add the ability to lock and unlock BMW vehicles with a Samsung or Pixel phone in using the ultra-wideband (UWB) radio technology. Users will also be to share car keys for select supported cars with friends and family.
Do tasks across devices, share media easily
With audio switching, if the phone of a user with headphones on and working on a Chromebook starts to ring, they will be able to answer that phone call with the headphones automatically switching over to the other device. There will be no need to “fiddle around with menus or selectors or select the device,” Ho said during the briefing. And once the call is over, the audio will switch back to the Chromebook.
Google is also adding spatial audio support on Android to headphones and will give users an immersive sound experience based on the supporting content. It did not give details on which Android versions will support spatial audio and hardware details for the same. Apple has already spatial audio support for its iPhones, Macs, and AirPods.
“There are going to be situations where certain devices need specific hardware. We are going to be working closely with our partners to make sure that it gets out in a timely manner, and they are actually supported on those particular devices. We will also work with the system-on-chip partners that build the chips for these things in order to make sure these experiences are good, optimal, and fast across these devices,” Ho explained.
Users will be able to do a lot more from their assistant-enabled devices such as cars. Starting with Volvo cars, users will be able to give commands to warm up and cool down the car, lock/unlock the car and get battery information directly from the phone. Again these are features which will be coming in the following months.
It will also bring Chromecast built-in to more brands, starting with all Bose speakers and soundbars. Later in the year, Google will let users view and respond to their Android phone’s messages, chat apps on the Chromebook without having to install these apps in the first place.
It will also add a new feature in the coming weeks, where the camera roll on Phone Hub will let users share photos and videos from their Android phone to a Chromebook.