Android's AirDrop competitor gets publicly released for Pixel and Samsung phones

Android Nearby Share
(Image credit: Google)

Google’s AirDrop-style quick file sharing feature, Nearby Share, has been released to the public after a short beta phase – but reportedly only on select Google Pixel and Samsung phones at first.

Nearby Share was released in beta at the beginning of July as a way to easily share files to other Android phones using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). The feature is available to phones running Android 6 and above, though it will soon come to other platforms, Android product manager Daniel Marcos said in a walkthrough video:

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The feature is pretty simple: when choosing to share a file or photo, tap the new ‘nearby’ option and anyone’s compatible device will appear – as soon as they accept, the media is sent, much like AirDrop.

While Google hasn’t published a list of compatible devices yet, the tech giant is only allowing Samsung and Pixel users with Android 6 and later use the feature for now with others coming soon, according to Droid Life. But Chromebooks will be able to harness the feature in the “coming months” to exchange files with Android devices, the report noted.

Nearby Share? Android chasing iOS for once

Nearby Share was difficult to implement given all the Android phone models in the wild, Marcos noted. But it should be welcome feature for Android users, especially since it works offline using BLE. There are even protocols built in to switch to WiFi or WiFi hotspot if that connection is faster.

Google also built in privacy protections similar to AirDrop: any info exchanged is encrypted, meaning your contact info isn’t shared along with data sent or received. You can also choose whether Nearby Share has access to some or all of your contact list, and you can choose not to be visible to avoid unsolicited photos sent by strangers – a recurring issue for those brave enough to keep their AirDrop open.

Wirelessly swapping local data isn’t new for Android phones – the NFC-based Android Beam had been around since Android 4.0 Ice Cream – but using BLE and WiFi instead promises to be a more stable solution (and one that won’t require devices to be nearly touching). The big hope is that this extends beyond handsets to allow Nearby Share to swap between Android tablets or other devices (like smart TVs, perhaps) to rival pan-platform exchanging like what’s possible with AirDrop and Huawei Share

David Lumb

David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.