Google and Android are often accused of copying things from Apple and while some Android fans will deny most of that, they will also admit that there are some features they wished Android did actually copy. One of those is Apple’s AirDrop functionality which makes it dead simple to share files between iOS devices. That may finally be coming soon to Android under the name “Nearby Sharing” unless Google decides to change names again at the last minute.
Android has had a number of file sharing facilities over the past years it has been in existence but, so far, none of them have stuck. The last one was Android Beam that used NFC technology that meant devices had to be touching each other. It also didn’t have adequate support for transferring large files, which meant you’d have to keep holding phones together for a long period of time.
Google decided to retire Android Beam last year but it, unfortunately, didn’t have a replacement ready by the time Android 10 rolled out. There were signs of a feature called Fast Sharing back in June but that never materialized. New year, new Android version and there might be a chance that the feature finally lands in Android 11 but under a different name.
XDA’s teardown revealed that Android’s new wireless file sharing feature would be called “Nearby Sharing” instead, which does immediately suggest what’s required for it to work. Under the hood, it’s pretty much the same as Fast Share or other similar features, including AirDrop. It uses Bluetooth to initiate a connection but then switches to ad hoc WiFi Direct to actually transfer the files.
This is also the same functionality provided by Google’s Files app but having it baked into Android itself removes the need to install any additional app. It could also help protect users from potentially harmful apps that also advertise the same functionality.