Google’s upcoming Airdrop clone will get an early demo on video

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Enlarge / Nearby share in action.

Google is working on a function for wireless local file sharing for Android based on Apple's Airdrop. It's not yet available, but Mishaal Rahman of XDA has released an early version of it on some devices as it is currently not available in versions of Google Play Services that are in nature.

It works much the way you would expect a Google version of Airdrop to work. The first user taps the Android Share menu and selects the new Share Nearby option. Other users who are within earshot of the feature receive a pop-up window saying that a file is waiting to be received, and then both the sender and recipient confirm that they want to start the transfer. The setup is done via Bluetooth, and then the data transmission via WLAN is greatly abolished.

There is some confusion as to what this function is actually called. In the XDA version of Google Play Services, the feature is called "Share nearby", but in other builds as "quick release". Whatever it says to be tied to Play Services, it means that it should work on almost all Android versions, since Play Services is not dependent on the operating system version and is distributed by Google through the Play Store.

Previously Android had a local sharing feature called "Android Beam" which was removed in Android 10. While the new Close Sharing feature uses Bluetooth to start a Wi-Fi broadcast, Android Beam started a NFC broadcast via Bluetooth, which was impractical for several reasons. With NFC, you first had to touch two phones in a row and then quickly tap both displays with a window of just a few seconds. The required phone positioning and the time-sensitive window for tapping the display made the take off quite cumbersome, especially for a single person trying to transfer something from one device to another. The other problem was that it was using Bluetooth, which is very slow. It was fine for URLs, but images or other user-generated content took ages.

This new nearby sharing feature is much more convenient. Instead of physically touching the two devices, they can be within a foot of each other. Unlike Android Beam, it's easy to transfer a file between two devices on a table. Because the nearby share uses Wi-Fi Direct, it is much faster than Bluetooth. Rahman moved a 3.5 GB .img file through the service and says it took a little over two minutes. The nearby sharing UI with pop-up windows and notifications is much more relaxed and reliable than Android Beam, which required approval while the devices were physically touching. It was often difficult to keep two devices in the air and tap both screens without losing the NFC connection or dropping a phone.

Apple's Airdrop has been around for eight years, and Google has long resisted adding a similar feature to Android, presumably because it would undercut the company's cloud services. Do you want to share a photo? Put it on Google Photos or (previously) Google+. Do you need to share a video? Youtube. Do you have anything else to say? Send it to Google Drive. Google’s push into developing countries has made this Internet-First philosophy untenable, as not all countries have the fast, reliable, and ubiquitous infrastructure that cloud services require. Google's first main product with local approval was Android Go, a low-end version of Android for the cheapest smartphones. The included "Files Go" file manager (which is now freely available in the Play Store) offered local Wi-Fi sharing as its main function and works almost identically with this function for sharing nearby. Now local play is provided as a basic function for every app via Play Services.

Such a function was in high demand from Android manufacturers. In China, Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo worked together to develop their own on-site wireless sharing feature, which is also needed because Google Play Services and the rest of the Google Play ecosystem are not spreading in China. Samsung is also working on a similar feature called "Quick Share", which is expected to be introduced in the Galaxy S20. However, Google's strength is that it controls the entire Android ecosystem as usual. A comprehensive, cross-brand introduction via Google Play Services would be far more useful than sharing the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20. It would also be great if nearby sharing were integrated into desktop and laptop computers through Chrome and Chrome OS.

Google's "Nearby Sharing" has been under development for some time and will be published for the first time in June 2019. There will soon be two major release windows for Google: the release of the beta for Android R 11, which will be released in March or May Google should start I / O. Maybe we'll see a release then?

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