Google is making Fast Pair more open to OEMs in Android 13
The traditional pairing and onboarding process for new Bluetooth devices is cumbersome and prone to issues, which is why Google introduced Fast Pair in late 2017. Fast Pair, which is short for Google Fast Pair Service (GFPS), is Google’s proprietary standard for the first time pairing of nearby devices over Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Instead of having the user delve into Bluetooth settings, Fast Pair instead automatically detects nearby Bluetooth accessories and prompts the user to quickly pair and then set up the device. Since its introduction, Fast Pair has been used to connect Bluetooth accessories to Android phones over 100 million times, according to Google.
To bring Fast Pair to as many Android devices as possible, Google made it part of the Nearby platform, a set of Google APIs that make it easy to discover nearby devices and establish communication with them. Nearby APIs are available on Android devices through Google Play Services, an application that’s part of the Google Mobile Services (GMS) suite. This means that device makers that opt to ship Android without GMS cannot take advantage of Fast Pair. In addition, Google requires that Bluetooth accessory makers register their devices with the company. This is to ensure that unauthorized devices can’t take advantage of the easier pairing process afforded by Fast Pair, which means that even on devices where the service is available, Google decides which devices are trusted to work with Fast Pair.
However, evidence points to Google opening up Fast Pair in Android 13, the latest version of the Android operating system currently in preview. A recent code change submitted to the AOSP Gerrit reveals a new NearbyManager system API has been added. In another code change, the reason behind this addition is made clear: Google intends to make Fast Pair available through a Mainline module. According to the commit description, this will give device makers the ability to support the initial pairing of Fast Pair devices through their own server to sync and serve certified Fast Pair devices’ metadata. In countries like China, where device makers regularly ship Android without GMS, this may make it possible for device makers to implement Fast Pair support for their Bluetooth accessories and other products. At CES 2022, Google announced that Fast Pair support is extending to more platforms, even Windows, so it’s clear that Google is serious about opening up the feature.
The new Mainline module implementation appears to be present in the Android 13 Developer Preview 1 release. While examining the build for the Pixel 4, we discovered a new “com.android.nearby” APEX module which contains the NearbyManager and Fast Pair APIs as well as the application that contains the half-sheet dialog for pairing devices. The commit description mentions that Google wants to migrate its existing Fast Pair service from GMS to this new Mainline module implementation, but it isn’t clear if the new Mainline module implementation is being used yet. Google’s existing Fast Pair service is contained within Google Play Services (the service name is .nearby.discovery.service.DiscoveryService), and this service will likely be used for a while.
Google has not publicly announced its plans to migrate Fast Pair to a Mainline module yet, but we will continue to monitor API changes in the Android 13 release to document any future changes.