Pixel 7 and Pixel 7a series may bring ‘high-quality’ Bluetooth LE Audio support

It looks like Google may be planning to introduce “high-quality” support for Bluetooth LE Audio on the Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, and Pixel 7a phones.

With Android 13, the mobile operating system has gained initial support for the recently finalized “Bluetooth LE Audio” standard. The standard actually consists of a few major innovations, which may take some time for Android to fully support.

For example, Bluetooth LE Audio is set to make the next generation of true wireless earbuds even more efficient, as your phone will be able to simultaneously send audio to both hearing aids instead of delivering audio from one to the other. On a larger scale, there is also “Auracast” which is meant to allow multiple receivers (speakers, headphones, hearing aids, etc.) to play the same audio from a single transmitter. Not to mention, Bluetooth LE is more battery efficient than Bluetooth Classic.

The most direct improvement is the introduction of the LC3 audio codec, which compresses audio more efficiently than Bluetooth Classic audio options. Like any other audio codec, the LC3 can be configured to use more or less data, as needed, and is supposed to be tuned on the go to compensate for long distance connections or interference.

Of course, in order for audio to be transmitted and played correctly, both devices – for example, a phone and earphones – need to support the same codecs at the same quality settings. For example, while today there are headphones that support other Bluetooth Classic codecs like Qualcomm’s aptX HD, if your Android phone doesn’t support them either, it’s of no use to you.

In a recent Android icon change, Google is introducing a way for the phone to have “higher quality” or “higher bandwidth” options than what Android 13 includes by default. While Google’s work toward this is already a decent assumption that this will be for Pixel phones, a discussion among Google employees actually tells us that this is in preparation for the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7a series.

A Google employee asks if a particular XML file – used here to map all supported Bluetooth LE Audio encoding settings – is actually being used by Android or if it is only intended as an example. In response, the second Googler offers links to where the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7a series add their Bluetooth LE Audio settings.

More specifically, a Google employee refers to these phones as “p22/p23a”. In this case, “p22” is an acronym for the Pixel phones released in fall 2022, the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro phones. Similarly, “p23a” refers to the Google A-series phone launched in 2023, the supposed Pixel 7a.

As you might expect, the code for the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7a isn’t currently available to the public, which means we can’t yet see how these phones will boost Bluetooth LE Audio support in Android 13. The only hint we’ve given is in the description that some devices may support “quality higher or higher bandwidth.

This could mean that the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7a series will have higher audio quality – on supported Bluetooth LE Audio devices – than the Pixel 6 can manage. The fact that these two devices are mentioned together indicates that this high-quality support for Bluetooth LE Audio is part of the second generation of the Google Tensor chip.

For now, though, the full extent of Bluetooth LE Audio support on the Pixel 7 isn’t something that matters much. The standard is so new that there aren’t really any products that offer full Bluetooth LE Audio support. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro will likely be the first mainstream earbuds to offer, with an update coming “later this year”.

Even Google’s Pixel Buds Pro – despite rumors that it will launch with Bluetooth LE Audio capabilities – does not currently support the new standard. The necessary support will likely arrive later this year, as the first “spatial audio” drop feature has already been set for the earbuds, among other features.

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