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Android's new Fast Pair setup process is awesome on the Galaxy S23
Setting up even the best Android phones is not convenient. The thought of transferring all my data and apps, an activity I partake in at least a couple of times a month, fills me with dread. It takes me a day or more to get my phone set up exactly how I want it. At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, in my opinion, iOS has long ago set the gold standard process of setting up a new phone.
So, when Google announced that it would be extending its Fast Pair service to the entire smartphone setup process, I was excited. Could Android finally catch up to the iPhone’s incredibly seamless setup process? Recently, I got a chance to test out the all-new Fast Pair on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Here’s how it went.
Do you transfer your data while setting up a new phone, or start from scratch?
What’s Fast Pair?
You can head on over to our explainer on Google Fast Pair to get into the weeds with the details, but the service essentially uses a combination of Bluetooth Low Energy and smart software to prompt a pairing process between an accessory and your phone. If you’ve paired a recent pair of headphones or earbuds with your phone, you’d have likely spotted a pop-up asking you to connect them.
Fast Pair makes pairing accessories like earphones, and now, phones, a single-tap affair.
Fast Pair for phones brings that same convenience to the smartphone setup process and lets you conveniently pair your old phone with an all-new Android device to bring over all your accounts and data. It does it by triggering your OEM’s phone transfer utility — like Samsung Smart Switch — using a QR code. Think of it like a much easier handshake without all the hassles of looking for an app and fiddling with codes or numbers. There’s also a fallback if your existing phone’s brand doesn’t have a dedicated switching app (such as a Google Pixel).
How does Google Fast Pair work for setting up a new smartphone?
I’ve always been jealous of the Apple iPhone‘s convenient phone setup process. Switch on the phone, scan the prompt on your new device with your old device, and you’re ready to go. Android’s Fast Pair on the Galaxy S23 series takes a leaf out of that playbook and performs much of the same.
Follow the prompt on your phone, scan a QR code, and you are almost ready to go.
A prompt appeared on my existing phone when I switched on the Galaxy S23 for the first time and asked if I wanted to transfer data to my new phone. Fast Pair is designed to seamlessly initiate the handshakes needed to start up your OEM’s phone transfer utility, and that’s exactly what it did.
Scanning the QR code on the phone popped open Samsung’s Smart Switch utility, after which it was a simple matter of choosing the apps and files I wanted to carry over to my new phone. The utility will let you choose between wired and wireless transfers as well. That’s all there is to it.
If your older phone doesn’t have something like Smart Switch, Fast Pair works a little differently. The QR code and prompt to set up a new phone will still be there, but what they do is fast-forward Android’s regular setup by automatically connecting your new phone to your Wi-Fi and importing your Google accounts without making you type those. You’ll still need to verify your password before falling back to Android’s regular restore process.
Is Fast Pair an upgrade over Smart Switch?
Unlike iOS, most Android OEMs offer their own bespoke utility to perform a full data transfer to new phones. Samsung has Smart Switch, OnePlus has Clone Phone, and Xiaomi has Mi Mover. These apps vary in capabilities and competency. On the face of it, Fast Pair is just a trigger to launch these apps. That said, it is a significant step up over the existing process because the average customer no longer has to look up the name of the app needed to transfer over the data. Moreover, not every buyer will know that such a utility exists, making the QR code-based process much more important to the initial onboarding process.
Google's Fast Pair is, as the name suggests, a simple way to pair and trigger your OEM's phone cloning tool when it's available.
My personal experience using Fast Pair was absolutely fantastic, but that’s down to the robustness of Samsung’s Smart Switch utility. The app not only moved my existing applications but also maintained the sign-in signatures for most of them. All my files were also copied and placed in the same location where they were before.
However, not every phone-switching tool will do all of that, and not every switching process will be as seamless. If you’re moving to a different brand and Fast Pair falls back to Android’s default restore process, the QR code only saves you a few seconds essentially. In that sense, Fast Pair isn’t quite equivalent to the excellent phone transfer mechanism in iOS.
First impressions matter and anything that reduces friction for customers is a good move.
That said, first impressions matter, and I’ll take anything that helps reduce the friction in getting started with my new smartphone. It’s not perfect, but Fast Pair is a big step forward for Google and Samsung in improving the customer experience for buyers switching to a new phone. While the feature is only available on Samsung’s latest smartphones, I can’t wait for other Android brands to adopt Fast Pair.