It sounds like Google has plans to improve the Bluetooth audio experience for its upcoming smartphones, including the Pixel 7, 7 Pro and even the 7a.
9to5Google uncovered a discussion on a recent Android code change that introduces a way for phones to have higher quality, or higher bandwidth, audio options beyond what Android 13 includes by default. As an aside, Android 13 did add support for Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) Audio, but this goes beyond (and we’ll dig into how it all connects below).
Comments from Google employees on the code change mention “p22/p23a,” which likely refers to the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro (the Pixel devices launching in 2022, hence p22) and the 7a (the A-series Pixel device launching in 2023, hence p23a). The comments were attached to an XML file that lays out the supported Bluetooth LE Audio codec settings.
9to5 notes that while the code for the Pixel 7-series devices isn’t available to the public, so we don’t know exactly what this does, but given the code change relates to higher bandwidth audio options, it seems likely that the upcoming line of Pixel phones will support better Bluetooth LE Audio. Plus, the Pixel 7a getting looped in on this hints the change could be related to hardware on the new Tensor chip, although that’s pure speculation.
Benefits of Bluetooth LE Audio
As for why this all matters? Well, Bluetooth LE Audio. You may have heard a lot about LE Audio recently and may find yourself wondering what it is. In short, it’s the recently-finalized LE Audio standard that contains a handful of innovations and improvements that will eventually beef up audio transmitted over Bluetooth.
LE Audio does a few things, including making next-gen wireless earbuds more efficient, and it enables phones (or other audio sources) to transmit to multiple receivers. This achieves two things — one, a phone can send audio to each wireless earbud simultaneously, instead of transmitting to one earbud and ‘bridging’ the audio to the second earbud. The other benefit is ‘Auracast,’ which allows multiple receivers (such as speakers, headphones, hearing aids, etc.) to receive the same audio from a sender. Plus, all of this should be more efficient than audio over Bluetooth Classic.
Another improvement connected to LE Audio is the new LC3 audio codec, which 9to5 explains is more efficient at compressing audio than Bluetooth Classic options.
Ultimately, all this should mean Bluetooth LE Audio will improve the wireless audio experience on smartphones — certainly the Pixel 7-series, and likely other Android phones too. Of course, it might be a while still before average users start to benefit. LE Audio features will likely debut at the high-end and require new earbuds to take advantage of, before trickling down more affordable options. That said, some newer earbuds may be able to adopt LE Audio features with an update — 9to5 suggests the new Pixel Buds Pro could get an LE Audio update later this year.
Header image credit: Google