'Nearby Share' is rolling out via Play Services

Back in the 2000s, Nokia (on Symbian) debuted the idea that one could 'tap to share' between devices. The idea was that your phone and A.N.Other device would detect each other via NFC (i.e. very close by) and then the two phones would transfer whatever it was you wanted to share using Bluetooth. All very slow by modern standards, but back in that day files were a lot smaller (e.g. a 2MP photo at a few hundred kilobytes) and the system worked after a fashion. Or you could send explicitly via Bluetooth if you and the recipient took the time to pair with each other. 

None of this was ideal but Google's Android aped the idea for a while and Samsung even implemented a primitive 'transfer via Wifi' approach between compatible phones, but it wasn't until 2011 that Apple did it 'right' with 'AirDrop'. Admittedly there was a little bit of set-up in terms of trusting the relevant devices, but we got to the stage where you could wirelessly send files of any size between any (in this case, Apple) phone or computer in seconds, at full 'peer to peer' Wifi speeds. AirDrop was a game-changer and has been a 'best kept secret' in the iOS and Mac OS worlds for almost a decade.

Symbian never got developed beyond humble Bluetooth transfers, of course, while Windows Phone never had the impetus since its era coincided with cellular data being fast enough that emailing (or sharing via one IM or another) things around was 'fast enough'. Plus, again, the OS was never developed to its full potential before being canned.

But this week comes news from Google that, nine years after Apple and AirDrop, Android is getting an official similar Wifi peer-to-peer system. The announcement is timed to coincide with the launch of the new Samsung flagships, which will receive the relevant 'Play Services' update first.

From the Google blog:

The Android community has long asked for a way to quickly share content with each other from their devices. So after years of development, Android is launching Nearby Share, a platform to enable reliable and easy sharing across thousands of Android phone models and billions of people. Nearby Share is rolling out to Android 6.0+ phones today, making it easier to instantly share files, links, pictures and more with people around you, all while protecting your privacy. 

When you just want to quickly share something with a friend or someone nearby, it can be a hassle to open your messages, find a contact and then find the file you’d like to attach. Nearby Share allows you to cut down on that time with simple taps and see a list of devices in your proximity with which you can share content. Once you select the receiver, they will be notified with the option to either accept or decline the file. Nearby Share then automatically chooses the best protocol for fast and easy sharing using Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy, WebRTC or peer-to-peer WiFi — allowing you to share even when you’re fully offline.

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Nearby Share was built with privacy at its core, so you can share and receive files with peace of mind. Now you don’t have to worry about exchanging contact information, because Nearby Share allows you to both send and receive files anonymously. It also allows you to adjust your privacy settings from your phone’s Quick Settings at any time. You can be “hidden,” visible to “some contacts” or visible to “all contacts,” so you never receive files that you didn’t ask for.

It all seems robust enough and should let almost all Android users share items wirelessly over (usually) Wifi. The update itself arrives as part of a 'Play Services' update and is under-the-hood. So it will just be 'there' one day in the not too distant future if you have an Android smartphone now.

Published by Steve Litchfield at 7:11 UTC, August 7th

Section: Flow
Categories: Industry, Services, Platform
Platforms: General, General