Last June, we exclusively revealed that Google was working on an Android Beam replacement and AirDrop competitor called “Fast Share.” It was renamed to “Nearby Sharing” earlier this year, but ultimately still unannounced. The Android 11 DP2 today surprisingly references the feature.
Release notes for Developer Preview 2 today explicitly reference Nearby Sharing by its original “Fast Share” name. Appearing under “Known issues: Android Platform,” it describe a bug where the feature’s UI fails to confirm a successful transfer on Pixel 4 devices.
When sharing files with Fast Share between two Pixel 4 devices, the operation completes successfully, but the UI on the device which receives the file states that it did not receive the file.
Given the mention, it’s highly likely that the file transferring capability is already up-and-running for Googlers. Arguably, a mention in release notes could suggest that it’s a big enough feature internally that a bug warrants a call-out. That said, the use of this old name is rather odd.
From what we enabled in the past, the feature should not be tied to Android 11. A part of Google Play services, backwards compatibility is highly important to make sure the entire Android ecosystem has access to an AirDrop-like solution.
Once available, opening the share menu for an image, text, or other file will offer “Nearby Sharing” as an option. This launches an interface for finding devices in close proximity and selecting one will create a connection between your phone and theirs. Wi-Fi transfer is leveraged and the experience is quite fast.
At this point, it’s unknown when Google will launch Nearby Sharing. It’s been iterated and refreshed, with the UI looking quite ready for end users. The launch of Android 10 in September last year was a prime opportunity, while this coming Google I/O could have also worked.
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