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Old 28-02-18, 17:43   #1
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Cellphone Easier Bluetooth Pairing Finally Coming to Android & Windows

Easier Bluetooth Pairing is Finally Coming to Android and Windows

by Chris Hoffman, HTG, 28 FEB 2018

Google and Microsoft want pairing a Bluetooth device with an Android or Windows PC to be as easy as pairing AirPods with an iPhone. This feature is already available, but only on a few devices so far...

Google and Microsoft are improving the Bluetooth pairing process to make things easier for Android and Windows users. As long as the peripheral is on and in pairing mode, you can just place it near your phone or PC and you’ll be prompted to initiate the connection. The feature is out already, but so far only a few devices support it.

On Android, the feature is known as “Fast Pair.” On Windows, it’s named “Quick Pair.”

Fast Pair on Android 6.0+

On Android, “Fast Pair” is already available on Android 6.0 and newer. Initially, it only supports a few devices, like the Google Pixel Buds and a handful of other wireless headsets. This feature uses Bluetooth Low Energy to quickly discover and pair a headset with your phone.

To use it, you just turn on a Fast Pair-enabled device and place it in pairing mode. For example, if it’s the first time you’re using a pair of headphones, simply turning them on should place them in pairing mode.

Any Android phones nearby receive a “Fast Pair packet” broadcast by the peripheral. On your phone, you’ll see a high-priority notification as well as the name and image of the peripheral you’re about to pair. Tap the notification and your phone connects to the peripheral via standard Bluetooth.

You’ll also see a notification asking you to download a companion application, if one exists for the peripheral.

This is much slicker than the traditional Bluetooth pairing method, which involves opening the Settings app, tapping Bluetooth, and waiting for your phone to notice the nearby device and present it in the list. With Fast Pair, you don’t even need to visit the Settings screen.

Quick Pair on Windows 10

A “Quick Pair” feature is also coming to Windows 10 with the next big update, codenamed Redstone 4, which should be released in March 2018.

Just like on Android, all you need to do is turn on a peripheral, put it in pairing mode, and then place it near your Windows 10 PC. Windows 10 shows a notification on your desktop and places it in the Action Center.

Click or tap “Connect” and Windows will initiate the connection using classic Bluetooth. You never have to open the Settings app or Control Panel during this process. If you move the Bluetooth device away from your PC, the notification vanishes.

As on Android, this feature only supports a few devices at first. For example, Microsoft’s own Surface Precision Mouse is the first peripheral that supports this feature.

Apple’s W1 Chip Led the Way, But Bluetooth Is Catching Up

Apple released the first mass-market version of this feature with its W1 chip, which brings seamless Bluetooth pairing to the AirPods, Beats X, Beats Solo3, Beats Studio3, and Powerbeats3 headphones. Just turn the headphones on, place them next to an iPhone or iPad, and you’re automatically prompted to initiate the connection.

But, as often happens, other tech companies are implementing this in a more standard way. In a few years, pairing any new Bluetooth accessory with a phone, tablet, or laptop may be just as easy as pairing a set of AirPods with an iPhone is today.

Along with Bluetooth 5.0, which will reduce power usage, boost connection speed, and increase range, these fast-pairing features will make standard Bluetooth much more usable and help Google and Microsoft compete with Apple.


Bluetooth 5.0: Why it Matters; Disable iPhone CPU Throttling, Samsung Galaxy S9

Modern smartphones and other devices, from the iPhone 8 and iPhone X to the Samsung Galaxy S8, advertise support for “Bluetooth 5.0” on their specifications list. Here’s what’s new in the latest and greatest version of Bluetooth.

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth 5.0 is the latest version of the Bluetooth wireless communication standard. It’s commonly used for wireless headphones and other audio hardware, as well as wireless keyboards, mice, and game controllers. Bluetooth is also used for communication between various smart home and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

A new version of the Bluetooth standard means various improvements, but only when used with compatible peripherals. In other words, you won’t see any immediate benefit from upgrading to a phone with Bluetooth 5.0 if all your Bluetooth accessories were designed for an older version of Bluetooth.

Bluetooth is backwards compatible, however, so you can continue using your existing Bluetooth 4.2 and older devices with a Bluetooth 5.0 phone. And, when you buy new Bluetooth 5.0-enabled peripherals, they’ll work better thanks to your Bluetooth 5.0 phone.

Bluetooth Low Energy for Wireless Headphones (and More)

Importantly, all the improvements being made to Bluetooth are to Bluetooth Low Energy specification, which was introduced back with Bluetooth 4.0, and not to the classic Bluetooth radio that uses more power.

Bluetooth Low Energy is designed to reduce the energy usage of Bluetooth peripherals. It was originally used for wearables, beacons, and other low-power devices, but had some serious restrictions.

For example, wireless headphones couldn’t communicate over Bluetooth Low Energy, so they had to use the more power-hungry Bluetooth classic standard instead. With Bluetooth 5.0, all audio devices communicate over Bluetooth Low Energy, which means reduced power usage and longer battery life.

Many more types of devices will be able to communicate over Bluetooth Low Energy in the future.

Notably, Apple’s AirPods don’t use Bluetooth 5.0. They use Bluetooth 4.2 and the special Apple W1 chip for an improved connection. On Android, Bluetooth 5.0 should help make Bluetooth headphones something you’d want to use.

Dual Audio

Bluetooth 5.0 also enables a cool new feature that allows you to play audio on two connected devices at the same time. In other words, you could have two pairs of wireless headphones connected to your phone, and them stream audio to both of them at once, all via standard Bluetooth.

Or you could play audio on two different speakers in different rooms. You could even stream two different audio sources to two different audio devices at the same time, so two people could be listening to two different pieces of music, but streaming from the same phone.

This feature is known as “Dual Audio” on the Samsung Galaxy S8. Just connect two Bluetooth audio devices to your phone, turn on the Dual Audio feature, and you’re ready to go. However, this shouldn’t be a Samsung-only feature. It’s enabled by Bluetooth 5.0 and will hopefully appear on other manufacturers’ devices, too.

More Speed, Distance, and Throughput

Bluetooth 5.0’s primary benefits are improved speed and greater range. In other words, it’s faster and can operate over greater distances than older versions of Bluetooth.

The official Bluetooth marketing material from the Bluetooth standard organization advertises that Bluetooth 5.0 has four times the range, two times the speed, and eight times the broadcasting message capacity of older versions of Bluetooth. Again, these improvements apply to Bluetooth Low Energy, ensuring devices can take advantage of them while saving power.

With Bluetooth 5.0, devices can use data transfer speeds of up to 2 Mbps, which is double what Bluetooth 4.2 supports. Devices can also communicate over distances of up to 800 feet (or 240 meters), which is four times the 200 feet (or 60 meters) allowed by Bluetooth 4.2. However, walls and other obstacles will weaken the signal, as they do with Wi-Fi.

The aptX compression standard already promises CD quality audio over lower 1 Mbps speeds, so 2 Mbps speeds should enable even better wireless audio quality.

Technically, devices can actually choose between more speed or a longer range. That “two times the speed” benefit is helpful when operating at short range and sending data back and forth. The increased range would be optimal for Bluetooth beacons and other devices that only need to send a small amount of data or can send the data slowly, but want to communicate at greater distances... Both are low energy.

Devices can choose which makes the most sense.

For example, wireless headphones could use the increase speed for high bitrate streaming audio, while wireless sensors and smarthome devices that just need to report their status information could choose the increased distance so they can communicate at longer distances. And, because they can use Bluetooth Low Energy and still get these benefits, they can operate on battery power for much longer than they would with the more power-hungry classic Bluetooth standard.

If you’re interested in the technical details, you can view the official Bluetooth 5.0 specifications online. Android Authority also has a good technical look at how exactly Bluetooth 5.0 is different from Bluetooth 4.2.

When Will You Get It?

You can get devices that support Bluetooth 5.0 today, like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy S8, and future Android phones. You’ll also need Bluetooth 5.0 peripherals, however. They aren’t widespread yet, but many manufacturers are promising to release Bluetooth 5.0 devices in 2018.

Because Bluetooth is backwards compatible, your Bluetooth 5.0 and older Bluetooth devices will work together. It’s a bit like upgrading to a new, faster Wi-Fi standard. Even after you get a new router that supports faster Wi-Fi, you have to upgrade all your other devices, too. But your older Wi-Fi-enabled devices can still connect to your new router, just at a slower speed than the router supports.

If you can get your hands on an Android phone with Bluetooth 5.0 and Bluetooth 5.0 headphones, you’ll likely have a much better wireless audio experience than you would with the older Bluetooth standard.

iPhone users can get a good experience with Apple’s own AirPods or Beats headphones thanks to the W1 chip, but solid Bluetooth audio is easier to get on Android now, too. Bluetooth 5.0 should even improve wireless headphones on the iPhone if you choose to go for third-party Bluetooth 5.0 headphones instead of Apple headphones with a W1 chip.

We don’t recommend upgrading every last little thing, however. Even if you have a Bluetooth 5.0-enabled laptop, for example, upgrading to a Bluetooth 5.0-enabled mouse probably won’t be a big improvement. But, as support for Bluetooth 5.0 finds its way into every new Bluetooth device, Bluetooth peripherals will get better and Bluetooth will become more reliable and power-efficient.

Thanks to GEEK Chris Hoffman for this report....

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