At CES 2022, Google will be unveiling at least 13 new software features, ranging from AirPods-like fast switching to promised software that will mirror your Android text apps on a Chromebook. It’s part of a Google initiative known as “Better Together,” but the rest of the industry is more likely to refer to it as “catching up with Apple’s ecosystem.”
The most significant modifications will be made to Google’s “Fast Pair” framework, an Android UI meant to make Bluetooth headphone pairing easier. This year, Google will expand it to include auto-switching between devices, a faster connection setup for Android TV and Google TV, and additional features. It will also implement the Fast Pair framework for new smart home devices utilizing the forthcoming Matter standard, which should make installation a lot simpler.
Smartwatches running Wear OS 3 will be able to unlock paired Android phones or Chromebooks, much in the same way as an Apple Watch can unlock an iPhone. That functionality will come “in the next months,” and when it does, there should be additional Wear OS 3 smartwatch models available. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 is currently the only major smartwatch with support for the new operating system.
All of Google’s CES 2022 announcements are scheduled to arrive in 2022
All of Google’s announcements today are scheduled to arrive later this year, with durations ranging from “in the coming weeks” to “in the coming months” to “later this year.” They will be available on Android phones via software updates (which may not require full OS upgrades), Chromebooks, Android TV, Bluetooth headphones, and even some Windows laptops from Acer and HP.
The final detail might be one of the most important bits of information from Google: HP, Acer, and Intel have teamed up with Google to offer some of Google’s Better Together features on their laptops. Users will be able to use Fast Pair, sync text messages, and utilize Android’s Nearby Share feature to exchange data with their upcoming Windows PCs. It’s another indication that Google isn’t going to give up on its Windows integrations entirely to Microsoft’s software and partnerships, in conjunction with Google’s announced plans to bring Google Play games to Windows.
The Windows integrations are excellent, but there will be additional Chromebook-specific features in the future. Google claims it will develop a mechanism that would allow any messaging software on your phone to be mirrored on a Chromebook, allowing you to use them right away. The most exciting upgrades are the ones that provide you with more flexibility, such as being able to send your camera roll to a friend’s device for viewing. “Camera Roll on Phone Hub” is another exciting feature that will make moving photos from your phone to your Chromebook simpler.
If you have an Android phone, the new setup process for Chromebooks will include a step where they’re linked together and some settings and account information are transferred automatically. They’ll also be unlockable via Wear OS smartwatches.
Other CES 2022 Google announcements
Finally, there are some smaller news items. In the weeks ahead, Bose speakers and soundbars will be able to connect with Google’s Chromecast, and head-tracking spatial audio for Android will be available.
Google is also continuing to work on enabling car unlocks via UWB, which it now supports on Samsung phones and the Pixel 6 Pro. As always with these vehicle locking announcements, the first partner will be BMW. Volvo, which uses Android Auto as its native system for managing the dashboard computer, will connect with Google Assistant to allow you to utilize your smart speaker for things like a remote start.
The features as a whole call to mind Apple’s ecosystem features. Headphones are leveraging Bluetooth to support auto-switching and head-tracking spatial audio, much like AirPods. Android and iOS users with a Mac have had their existing texting experience fully synchronized for quite some time. Nearby Share is comparable to AirDrop in many ways. The ability to unlock your phone using a smartwatch is an Apple ecosystem advantage as well.
Normally, Google emphasizes the value of its Google Assistant at CES. This year, it is attempting to persuade you that Android can work better with your other gadgets. Google’s challenge is to integrate all of these capabilities into as many devices and manufacturers as possible. That will be a difficult task, and it’s quite likely one of the key reasons there are no firm dates or even specific hardware products linked to any of these announcements.