Google wants to replace the humble car key and make it easier to pair all of your gadgets together.
The company announced expanded support for Fast Pair during its Google I/O keynote today. Fast Pair is Google’s way to speed up the process of pairing other Bluetooth devices with your phone. Originally, Fast Pair was used primarily as a one-tap solution to connect your mobile device with Bluetooth headphones, including the 2020 Pixel Buds, Harman Kardon’s Fly wireless earbuds, and more. Google said Fair Pair has already been used more than 36 million times since launch.
Now, Google says that in the coming months it’s planning to expand support for Fast Pair to even more devices, including upcoming Beats headphones and even cars from both Ford and BMW.
And building off the expansion of Fast Pair to cars, Google also says that it’s working with several car makers to enable digital car keys in Android 12, using either UWB (ultra-wideband) tech or NFC, depending on the model. Google says BMW will be one of the first manufacturers to adopt its digital key feature, and that in addition to locking and unlocking your vehicle, you may also be able to start your car remotely using your phone.
The main difference between NFC and UWB when it comes to Android’s digital car keys is that due to NFC’s much lower range, you may need to physically tap your phone (or at least get within a couple inches) to a specific spot on your car, while UWB should let you perform the same functions from a much longer distance (upwards of 10 feet or more).
Currently, only a handful of Android phones have support for UWB, including Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra and S21+ (but not the standard S21). However, Google says support for digital car keys will arrive sometime later this year on “select Pixel and Samsung Galaxy phones,” which suggests that Google may be planning to include UWB on the Pixel 6.
Digital car keys are coming to Android 12, which is available today as a public beta, but won’t be available as a final release until closer to the fall.