Android Audio Switching Should Help Juggle Your Gadget Addiction

One of the best features that the AirPods have to offer is automatic audio switching. In a nutshell, the audio device stays connected to your iPhone and Mac at the same time, and can automatically switch the audio stream when needed. For example, AirPods instantly switch away from the Mac and to your iPhone when you get a call on your iPhone. After years of waiting, Google is finally bringing that facility to Android phones.

The feature is rolling out for the Pixel Buds Pro starting today, but support is limited to Android phones and tablets only. Google says a handful of Sony and JBL headphones will also offer the perk "in the coming weeks."

The company is also promising that audio switching will make its way to more devices and platforms (like Windows) "over time," but there is no concrete window as to when those plans are going to materialize. In January 2022, Google promised that audio switching will also make its way to Chromebooks and Android TV, but there is no timeline for these two in-house platforms either.

Audio switching on Android works in a way that's extremely similar to its Apple ecosystem counterpart. Your earbuds and headphones will remain connected to a tablet and phone simultaneously, but only one device will be sending an audio stream at a time. If you get a phone call while watching a movie on a tablet, the audio stream will instantly switch to the phone so that you can attend the call.

Breaking ecosystem barriers

What about notifications and alerts? To keep things from getting chaotic, Google says it has created a ranking system for notifications to prioritize how the audio stream switches between two devices. At the heart of this system is your Google account, just the way Apple's version needs an Apple ID. You will need the same Google account logged in for audio switching to work on both devices.

Audio switching is just one of the few features that Google aims to offer with Fast Pair, which is built on the Bluetooth LE Audio platform. Bluetooth SIG recently finalized the specifications for its LE version, which also brings the benefits of LE Audio to the table, such as the LC3 audio codec for a more immersive music listening experience, Auracast, and compatibility with hearing aids. 

The news also means Bluetooth LE devices are not too far off from hitting the shelves armed with audio switching support. With Fast Pair, a paired device's signature linked to a Google account is saved without any dedicated app. So, the next time you want to connect your earbuds, there is no need to fiddle with the Bluetooth settings.

A half-page notification asking for a pairing prompt will do the job in a jiffy. Samsung already offers that convenience, but it is locked to its own ecosystem of Galaxy-branded devices, just like Apple. With Fast Pair, Google will democratize it across the entire Android ecosystem. And soon, for Chromebooks and Windows PCs, too.