This story is part of CES, where CNET covers the latest news on the most incredible tech coming soon.
Like peanut butter and jelly or Converse and high socks, Android and other operating systems will soon be a perfect fit. That’s Google’s plan, anyway. At CES, Google shared its 2022 vision and laid out how it’s making Android work better with devices that run Wear OS, Chrome OS, Windows and the new smart home standard Matter.
The main appeal for Android has always been choice. When you buy an Android phone, you can choose a phone based on the design, features and price tag that appeals to you the most. But even if you’re a loyal Android fan, it’s likely that not everything you own runs on it, which can make setup and synchronicity across devices frustrating. The good news is that Google seeks to smooth out some of those continuity wrinkles throughout the year.
None of the additions Google shared are jaw-dropping, and that’s fine because nearly everything is focused on making life simpler and devices more straightforward to use. Some of these features might seem familiar to owners of Apple devices. But keep in mind that Apple only has to support its own hardware, Google has to support hardware from multiple phone, tablet, watch and PC makers.
Android Fast Pair will support more devices, even Windows PCs
Fast Pair, first announced in 2017, helps you set up and quickly pair wearables, headphones, speakers and cars. In a post published Wednesday, Erik Kay, Google’s vice president of Multi-Device Experiences, said the company is working to extend Fast Pair’s functionality to TVs and smart home devices.
The first improvements are for Chromebooks and they’ll let you automatically detect and pair with Fast Pair-enabled headphones with a single click. In the coming months, you’ll be able to use Fast Pair to connect new Matter-enabled smart home devices to your home network, Google Home and other apps. You’ll also be able to pair headphones to Google TV and Android TV OS devices.
Later this year, you’ll be able to set up a new Chromebook with Fast Pair and give it instant access to saved information including your Google login and Wi-Fi password.
You’ll also be able to connect your phone with a Windows PC and set up Bluetooth accessories, sync text messages and share files with Nearby Share. Acer and HP PCs will be first to adopt Fast Pair support later this year.
Unlock your Bimmer with a digital key and your Android phone with Wear OS
Currently, you can unlock your Chromebook with an Android phone, but in the coming months, you’ll be able to use a Wear OS watch to do the same. The update will let you unlock and access your Chromebook, Android phone or tablet anytime you’re close to it.
But easily unlocking things isn’t just limited to phones and laptops. Right now, you can use digital car keys via certain Samsung and Pixel phones to lock, unlock and start some BMW cars. And later this year, phones with ultra wideband technology, like the Pixel 6 Pro, will let you use digital car keys without taking your phone out of your pocket and share your car key with friends and family. Google hopes to expand digital car key support to more Android phones and cars later this year.
Automatic audio switching from your Chromebook to your phone
Google is also building support to automatically switch the audio going to Bluetooth-enabled headphones. For example, if you’re watching a video on an Android tablet and you receive a phone call, the video will pause and the headphone audio will automatically switch to your Android phone for the call. When your call ends, the audio will switch back to the video.
Another audio addition will be the support for spatial audio which adapts the sound over your headphones based on your movements to seemingly position audio in the space you’re in. Spatial audio and automatic audio switching are expected to be released in the next few months.
Phone Hub on Chromebooks will become even more useful
Currently you can use Phone Hub on Chromebooks to browse Chrome tabs that are open on your phone, respond to chat notifications, toggle on Do Not Disturb mode and play an alert to help you find your phone.
Later this year, Phone Hub will be able to access chat apps directly from your Android phone. No word on which specific apps will be supported. You’ll also be able to add your phone’s Camera Roll to Phone Hub, so you’ll be one click away from recent photos and videos.
New Google Assistant remote actions for cars
In the coming months, you’ll be able to ask your Google Assistant to warm up your car, lock and unlock it and get information like how much battery you have left. Cars from Volvo will be the first to take advantage of these new voice commands.
Read Google’s full post to learn more of what to expect including expanding Chromecast capabilities to more brands.