The Google Pixel & Pixel 2 will support Bluetooth Hearing Aids on Android P

The Google Pixel & Pixel 2 will support Bluetooth Hearing Aids on Android P

Google I/O 2018 is quickly approaching. We expect to learn more about what’s new in Android P at the event. Google has already given us a small taste of what’s new with the first Android P Developer Preview, but there’s a lot of goodies the company has yet to unveil. Navigation gestures are rumored to make an appearance at the event, and they’re supposedly reminiscent of the iPhone X pill bar gestures. Thanks to the Android Open Source Project, we’re able to track some of the upcoming features in the next Android release, and there’s one feature we spotted that’ll make people with hearing disabilities excited to learn about: support for Bluetooth hearing aids. According to a series of code commits, the Google Pixel and Pixel 2 smartphones will natively support connecting to Bluetooth hearing aids.

The benefit of a Bluetooth-enabled hearing aid is that it allows for persons with hearing disabilities to listen to their surroundings while still being able to enjoy standard Bluetooth functionality such as making phone calls or listening to music. Currently, the hard of hearing cannot directly connect their Bluetooth hearing aid devices with the majority of Android devices (though they can connect their devices to iPhones.) Manufacturers of Bluetooth wireless hearing aids often offer an extra Bluetooth-enabled device (such as the ReSound Phone Clip+) that clips on to the person to act as a bridge between the hearing aid and the Android smartphone. Having to carry a second Bluetooth device is not ideal, and that’s why Google has worked to make Android more accessible with native support for Bluetooth wireless hearing aids.


Google Pixel & Pixel 2 support Bluetooth Hearing Aids natively in Android P

In November, we spotted a few commits that suggested native support for Bluetooth hearing aids with the next release of Android. At the time, the implementation was in its beginning stages. But as we approach Google I/O, the number of code commits related to hearing aids has substantially grown. There’s now a hearing aid Bluetooth profile in Android, a hearing aid manager, and more. The latest code commits that have sparked our interest in this topic once more are a series of commits with the title “Disable Hearing Aid Profile for all platforms except Pixel.” I think that’s rather self-explanatory, no?

Google Pixel 2 Bluetooth Hearing Aids Android P

As you can see in the commit description, the new hearing aid profile for wireless Bluetooth devices will be disabled in AOSP but enabled by default for the Google Pixel, Google Pixel XL, Google Pixel 2, and Google Pixel 2 XL. This is accomplished by setting the boolean value profile_supported_hearing_aid to true in the overlay for the Bluetooth system app, as shown below.

Google Pixel 2 Bluetooth Hearing Aids Android P

The commits for these changes have been merged already. However, since we’re so close to Google I/O and the expected release of Android P Developer Preview 2, I don’t think we’ll see this feature in the next preview release. Instead, I’m hoping to see it in Developer Preview 3 at the earliest but it’ll definitely be in the first stable release of P.

When other devices start receiving Android P updates (such as the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S or Huawei Mate 10 Pro) then it’ll be up to them to enable support for this new Bluetooth profile. Hopefully, this feature is enabled for more Android devices in the future, because accessibility is one area where iOS still seemingly triumphs over Android. Google has a session dedicated to Android Accessibility at I/O where we hope to learn more about this feature. We’ll be at the event bringing you the latest Android news.

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