After months of leaks and rumors, Google is finally officially unveiling its tool called Nearby Share that’s basically Android’s version of Apple’s AirDrop sharing feature. It’s rolling out today to select Pixel and Samsung phones, with Google saying it’s continuing to “work with our partners to bring Nearby Share to more smartphones in the Android ecosystem over the next few weeks.”
Nearby Share will let you quickly send and receive files with the people around you and uses a mix of protocols. It’ll show you a list of devices near you, and once you select your recipient, they’ll get an alert to accept or decline your file. The system will then pick the best protocol for the transfer — whether it’s Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy, WebRTC or peer-to-peer WiFi” which means you can share files even when you’re technically offline.
One of the concerns around a nearby sharing feature is that it opens you up to being sent random garbage from pranksters in the area. Nearby Share has privacy settings that should prevent that by letting you choose from staying “hidden,” visible to “some contacts” or to “all contacts.” You can also share files anonymously if you wish, saving you the need for exchanging identifying contact information if you prefer not to.
Nearby Share will also work with Chromebooks in the coming months and enable easy transfers between your laptop and smartphone. A version of Nearby Share has existed for Android devices for years — whether it’s through the recently retired Beam feature (which worked via NFC) or through Google’s Files Go app. But this new iteration looks better integrated into the OS. When you pull up the Sharing menu for a photo, for example, you’ll have a prominent option for Nearby Share right below the thumbnail instead of having to scroll through various app options to find it. It took Google awhile, but it’s nice to finally see this long-awaited feature roll out. Now we just have to see how long it will take for the whole Android ecosystem to get Nearby Share.