First Look at Nearby Sharing – Google’s AirDrop Clone for Android
Apple’s AirDrop feature has become synonymous with ecosystem synergy, as it makes the task of transferring files across Apple devices a trivial affair, eliminating the need to rely on any third-party solutions. In this area, even the best Android phones have lagged behind, because the open-source OS has had to rely on third-party solutions to accomplish the task of local file transfer. We did have Android Beam for several years, but the feature was underutilized and undermarketed, and eventually, deprecated. It is only now that some of the major players are waking up to build competing solutions — Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo have teamed up for a cross-device file transfer solution; Samsung is also working on its own solution in the form of Quick Share; and Google was also working on its own solution in the form of Fast Share, which recently got renamed to Nearby Sharing ahead of its impending release. XDA Recognized Developer Quinny899 notified us that he managed to activate Nearby Sharing on his device, allowing us to activate it ourselves and catch a glimpse of the feature in action before it gets officially unveiled by Google.
In the video below, we test out wireless file transfer between a Google Pixel 2 XL and a Google Pixel 4, both running Android 10; but Quinny899 demonstrated it working between his Google Pixel 2 XL and his OnePlus 7T Pro. Thus, we believe this feature should be generally accessible for Android devices with Google Play Services pre-installed, though we can’t be absolutely sure until Google flips the switch and enables the feature for all users.
I had the contact visibility set to “hidden” on my Pixel 2 XL, so every time I wanted to accept a file transfer request from my Pixel 4, I had to pull down the Quick Settings panel on my Pixel 2 XL and select the Nearby Sharing Quick Settings tile. I first transferred a single image from my Pixel 4 to my Pixel 2 XL and then opened it up in an image viewer. Then I transferred three images files from my Pixel 4 to my Pixel 2 XL — in this case, I wasn’t able to open them in an image viewer, but the files were all stored in /DCIM/Nearby Sharing which made them easily accessible. Finally, I transferred one video file over from the Pixel 4 to the Pixel 2 XL. All of the transfers happened pretty quickly because Nearby Sharing uses WiFi for file transferring.
There are still a few rough edges here and there that Google needs to smoothen before releasing Nearby Sharing for all GMS-enabled devices. But as we demonstrate above, the feature looks about ready for release. Android just might go from having no first-party AirDrop competitor to at least three AirDrop competitors in the next month. Google’s Nearby Sharing might turn out to be superior because of its universality across Android devices, as opposed to Samsung and OPPO-Vivo-Xiaomi’s solution, but the others could also give an edge to their services with tighter and more prominent integrations across the UX and their own apps. We’ll find out soon enough.
Thanks to PNF Software for providing us a license to use JEB Decompiler, a professional-grade reverse engineering tool for Android applications.