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Google updates bring Apple-like interoperability to Android

Google will roll out a host of Android OS updates and features throughout 2022 focused on improving interoperability between Android, Windows and Chrome devices.

This year, Google plans to add a host of interconnectivity features to Android OS devices. The updates include tighter integration between Chromebooks, Windows PCs, Android phones and Bluetooth connectivity that lets Android products interoperate like Apple hardware.

Google expects to expand its Bluetooth technology, Fast Pair, to provide automatic switching between devices in the coming months. For example, headphones will pair with an Android phone for a call and then switch to a Chromebook for a Zoom meeting independently.

At this week's Consumer Electronics Show, Google also announced plans to bring the Bluetooth feature to Matter smart home devices. Matter is an interoperability protocol developed by the Connectivity Standards Alliance. Members include Amazon, Apple and Google.

Later this year, Chromebook users will set up a new laptop from an Android phone, immediately accessing saved information like Wi-Fi passwords. Chats on connected Android phones will become accessible on Chromebooks without installing the chat apps.

Google is also working with Acer, HP and Intel to launch Fast Pair support between an Android phone and a Windows PC later this year. The interoperability would let people seamlessly sync messages and share files.

Some Windows users have questioned why Google isn't working directly with Microsoft on this integration; others, like Forrester Research analyst Andrew Hewitt, believe working with PC manufacturers is a convenient way for Google to get to market quickly.

Getting to market fast is critical because Google lags Apple in device integration, said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J.Gold Associates. The result is Google getting "kicked in the butt" by Chromebook and Android users complaining of the lack of interoperability between devices.

"These [new features] are got-to-haves … it will keep people that are on Android more engaged with Android, but it's probably not enough to get people to switch [from Apple]," Gold said.

Many of the upcoming features are already standard for Apple devices. Getting those features across the wide range of Android products will require complex negotiations between Google and competing manufacturers.

Other upcoming updates will be more consumer-oriented. In the next few weeks, Google will bring Chromecast support to Bose speakers and Android phone support for sharing pictures to the Chrome OS Phone Hub. Phone Hub is the interface for connecting Chromebooks to Android phones.

In the coming months, Fast Pair will support Android TV. A smartwatch running the Android-based Wear operating system will unlock Chromebooks and Android devices.

Later this year, phones equipped with hardware that uses the ultra wideband wireless protocol will be able to take advantage of its precise location service to unlock BMW vehicles and share car keys with other phones electronically.

The million-dollar question is whether Google will stick with the device integration initiative long enough to realize its full potential, Enderle Group analyst Rob Enderle said.

"Google's attention span has (historically) been the biggest problem with regard to initiatives like this," Enderle said. "They seem to be all in upfront and [then] lose interest over time."

Madelaine Millar is a news writer covering network technology at TechTarget. She has previously written about science and technology for MIT's Lincoln Laboratory and the Khoury College of Computer Science, as well as covering community news for Boston Globe Media.

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