Nearby Share is starting to roll out group transfers and “everyone” device visibility
Sharing files between Android phones used to be pretty tricky, because there wasn’t always a simple, fast, and unified way to wirelessly transfer files between devices. That changed last year with the launch of Nearby Share, which is essentially AirDrop for Android. The file-sharing service is baked into Google Play Services, which comes preinstalled on most Android devices and Chromebooks with Android support, so pretty much every Android user has an easy way to share files between one another.
Nearly one year after its launch, Nearby Share is about to get its most significant feature update. Some users, including myself, have spotted two new features in the file-sharing service.
The first one is group transfer support, which lets you share one or more files to up to 4 nearby users. Files aren’t transferred simultaneously to all recipients during a group transfer session but are instead sent to each recipient in quick succession. This gives the sender the opportunity to verify they’re sending their file(s) to the right recipient(s), and it also means the sender won’t have to reopen the Nearby Share dialog for each person they want to send their file(s) to.
As you can see in the screenshots embedded below, Nearby Share prompts you to “tap to share with more people” if there is more than one device to share to. Tapping on an additional device will add it to the queue of devices to transfer to, and you’ll have to wait for the recipients to accept the transfer in the order in which you sent your sharing requests. We haven’t spotted any changes in the group sharing feature that’s rolling out today compared to what we saw when we enabled it a few months ago, but there could be some subtle tweaks we haven’t noticed yet.
The second change is a tweak to the device visibility settings of Nearby Share. There’s a new “everyone” option that will make your device visible to anyone using Nearby Share, even if they’re not in your contacts list. If you’re worried about receiving unsolicited sharing requests, you can flip the “use everyone mode temporarily” toggle, which automatically switches the device visibility mode back to “contacts” after a few minutes. Apart from the new UI in Android 12, this feature is unchanged from when we saw it in development a few months ago.
These features are controlled by a server-side flag in Google Play Services and don’t seem to be tied to a particular OS version, though a few users — myself included — have only spotted them after updating to Android 12 Beta 5. One user named Rodrigo on Twitter told us they saw both features on their Xiaomi Mi 9T running Android 11, but we haven’t seen many other reports of these features going live. If you have group sharing enabled and the new “everyone” device visibility mode in Nearby Share, do let us know!