Google this year continued to take a slightly different route with its CES 2022 announcement drop. The search giant has again swapped gadgets for software, highlighting the absolute smarts Android is oozing of, such as being able to unlock your car with your phone in your pocket and message on multiple devices.
Oozing doesn’t sound too pretty, but CES for Google isn’t about pretty, it’s about the power of Android. In fact, the general feel for Google this year seems to be nurturing the growth of Android, that is, what its OS is actually capable of.
“Built for everyone, everywhere, Android has evolved over the years to support more devices in your life such as watches, tablets, TVs and even cars. And beyond Android, our work at Google includes laptops, headphones, speakers, smart home devices and much more. Putting it all together and with the growing number of connected devices owned, we’re continuing our focus and investment in simple and helpful ways to make your devices work better together,” the company says.
Quickly set up and connect your devices
First announcement for Google at CES 2022 was the expansion of Fast Pair for headphones to Google TV or other Android TV OS devices. Google first brought Fast Pair to its Android phones back in 2018, today’s announcement is expanding this feature.
First to receive the feature will be Matter-enabled smart home devices, Google Home and other accompanying apps. That will be live in a matter of weeks.
Next, you’ll be able to use Fast Pair to, well, pair your headphones to your Chromebook.
Later this year, you’ll also be able to quickly set up your Chromebook with a paired Android phone. Basically, this means you don’t have to log into a tonne of apps/services because the Chromebook will pull this info from your Android phone,
But, the highlight for Fast Pair, is being able to Fast Pair your Android phone to your Windows PC to set up Bluetooth accessories, sync text messages and share files with Nearby Share. This will just be with Acer, HP and Intel in the first instance.
Google wasn’t overly interested in talking about operating systems that aren’t Windows, noting during a press briefing that the majority of Android users are Windows users. There’s still a bit Google needs to nut out regarding this feature, but it wouldn’t be CES 2022 without giving us a sneak peek at stuff that isn’t tangible just yet.
Lock and unlock devices
You can currently unlock your Chromebook with your Android phone, but only if your phone is nearby. Google is expanding this feature, bringing it to your wrist with support for your Wear OS smartwatch. This means you can unlock your Chromebook, Android phone or tablet with your wrist. The feature will be activated in the coming months, Google said.
After announcing a digital car key feature for Android in early 2021, Google then flipped the switch in December, with the ability to lock, unlock and start your car using your Android phone. As long as you were using a Google Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S21 with a compatible BMW.
Today, Google revealed this is expanding a little, with the ability to lock and unlock BMW vehicles with your Samsung or Pixel phone in your pocket (that is, it can just be on you, not right next to the mechanism) via Ultra Wideband (UWB) technology (the Samsung and Pixels have this built in). You will also be able to share this digital car key with friends and family, if they want to take your car for a spin, for example. Google says it’s working to bring digital car keys to more Android phones and vehicles later this year.
Volvo also gets a bit of love, with Google bringing the option in the coming months to turn your car on and off, control the temperature and get information about your car on all Assistant-enabled devices, starting with Volvo cars.
Next up for Google at CES 2022 was what they’re calling the ability to share media across devices – your headphones/earbuds/glasses, providing they’re Bluetooth-enabled, will automatically switch the audio based on the device you’re listening to. This will be just for Chromebook and Android. Spatial audio also gets a shout out here. Basically it adapts the sound based on head movements. Both features are due out “in the coming months”, Google says.
Chromecast built-in is also making its way to more brands, starting with all Bose speakers and soundbars; later this year you can reply to messages on your Chromebook even if you don’t have that particular app installed; and in an iOS-like move, your phone’s Camera Roll can be shared to your Chromebook.