It seems that Google has plans to bring “higher quality” support for Bluetooth LE Audio on the Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel 7a.
With Android 13, the mobile operating system got its first support for the recently completed “Bluetooth LE Audio” standard. The standard actually consists of a handful of major innovations, which may take some time to fully support Android.
For example, Bluetooth LE Audio is set up to make the next generation of true wireless earbuds more efficient because your phone can send audio to both earbuds at the same time instead of bridging the audio from one to the other. On a larger scale, there is also “Auracast”, which is intended to allow multiple receivers (speakers, headphones, hearing aids, etc.) to play the same audio from a single sender. Not to mention Bluetooth LE is more battery efficient than Bluetooth Classic.
The most immediate improvement is the introduction of the LC3 audio codec, which compresses audio much more efficiently than Bluetooth Classic audio options. Like any other audio codec, LC3 can be configured to use more or less data as needed, supposedly even adjusting on-the-fly to compensate for long-distance connections or interference.
To actually send and play audio correctly, both devices — your phone and earbuds, for example — must support the same codecs with the same quality settings. For example, while there are headphones these days that support other Bluetooth Classic codecs, such as Qualcomm’s aptX HD, your Android phone won’t have it either, but it won’t benefit you.
In a recent change to Android code, Google is introducing a way for a phone to have “higher quality” or “higher bandwidth” than Android 13 includes by default. While Google’s work on this is already quite an assumption that it would be in the best interests of Pixel phones, a discussion between Googlers actually tells us that this is in preparation for the Pixel 7 series and Pixel 7a.
A Googler asks if a particular XML file – used here to set up all the supported Bluetooth LE Audio codec settings – is actually used by Android or if it’s just an example. In response, a second Googler provides links to where the Pixel 7 series and Pixel 7a add their Bluetooth LE Audio settings.
More specifically, the Googler refers to these phones as ‘p22/p23a’. In this case, “p22” is an abbreviation for the Pixel phones that will be released in the fall of 2022, the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. Similarly, “p23a” stands for Google’s A-series phone that will be released in 2023, the presumed Pixel 7a.
As you’d expect, the code for the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7a isn’t available to the public right now, meaning we can’t yet see how those phones will improve Android 13’s Bluetooth LE Audio support. The only hint of hint we get is in the description that some devices may support “higher quality or higher bandwidth”.
This could mean that the Pixel 7 series and Pixel 7a would have higher quality audio – on supported Bluetooth LE Audio devices – than the Pixel 6 can handle. The fact that those two devices are named together suggests that this high-quality support for Bluetooth LE Audio is part of the second-generation Google Tensor chip.
For now, though, the full extent of Bluetooth LE Audio support on the Pixel 7 isn’t something that will matter to most. The standard is so new that there aren’t really any products that offer full Bluetooth LE Audio support yet. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro may be the first mainstream earbuds to offer it, via an update coming “later this year.”
Even Google’s own Pixel Buds Pro – despite rumors suggesting it would launch with Bluetooth LE Audio capabilities – doesn’t currently support the new standard. The necessary support may arrive later this year, as the first feature drop is already set to bring “spatial audio” to the earbuds, among other things.
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