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Google announces new Android features to make phones and computers work better together

Fast pairing, automatic audio switching, and Chromebooks unlocked via Wear OS are all coming over the next few months

Adam Smith
Wednesday 05 January 2022 18:00 GMT
(Getty Images)

Google has announced new features for Android devices, focusing on greater integration between Android phones and laptop devices – both those made by Google and Windows PCs.

“Your devices should instinctively know which of them you want to use and when”, Erik Kay, Google’s vice president of multi-device experiences, writes. To that end, Bluetooth-enabled headphones will be able to automatically switch to whatever devices the user is listening to. This update will be coming over the next few months.

“If you’re wearing headphones to watch a movie on your Android tablet and you receive a phone call, the movie will pause and the headphone audio will automatically switch to your Android phone and then switch back to the movie when you’re done”, Mr Kay said.

Google is also updating the Phone Hub app “later this year” so that users can access chat apps from their phone directly on their Chromebook without having to install a companion app - for situations where the phone is out of reach or charging in a different room. The Camera Roll is also coming to the Phone Hub, so users can access photos easier.

Fast Pair, the technology that quickly connects Android devices with phones, wearables, and speakers, is now being brought to Google’s Chromebooks and will have an update on PCs too.

When a Fast Pair-enabled device is turned on, the Chromebook will now automatically detect and pair with it in a single click.

When users eventually get a new Chromebook, their Android phone will be able to set it up immediately with access to their Google login and Wi-Fi password too.

This update is coming over the next few weeks, but over the months it will also be able to connect Matter-enabled smart home devices. Matter is a communication protocol being developed by Amazon, Apple, Google (and its subsidiary Nest), and Samsung in collaboration with other smart home technology from Philips Hue, Ecobee, Wyze, and others. This should make it easier for all devices to communicate with each other.

Another feature will eventually see paired Wear OS smartwatches unlock Chromebook computers automatically – a technology that already exists for Apple’s Watch and MacBooks - in the coming months.

For Windows PCs, Microsoft users will soon be able to quickly set up Bluetooth devices, sync messages, and share files with Nearby Share. Google says that it is collaborating with Acer, HP, and Intel initially, with the update coming later this year.

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