From Photos to Docs and Drive, sharing on Google services is primarily performed with links where a file is sent to the cloud and then distributed. There are times, however, when the upload process takes too long or you want a share to be more ephemeral. Apple’s offering is called AirDrop, and Google has been working on a solution for its devices over the last few years. After testing picked up in the past month, Nearby Share on Android is launching and beginning to roll out today.

Once rolled out, Nearby Share appears as a Quick Settings toggle when sliding the Android notifications shade all the way down. A tap slides up a bottom sheet and enables the ability to accept incoming transfers. This includes text, links, images, videos, and other file types, with Google’s emphasis being on quick sharing.

It comes as Google’s previous solution — introduced with Ice Cream Sandwich in 2011 — was deprecated with Android 10. Based on NFC, Android Beam required users to physically tap their devices.

On initial launch, you’re greeted with a bottom sheet to “Turn on Nearby Share” that displays your “Device name” and profile picture. Users can set “Device visibility” to determine — down to individual contacts — who can share with them. There are three options:

Who sees your device Devices that you can see
All contacts All contacts with Nearby Share turned on.
Some contacts Contacts that you choose below. New contacts will need to be enabled. Devices near you with Nearby Share open. Your contacts’ devices if they’ve chosen to be visible.
Hidden No one.

When you want to send something, Nearby Share appears as a new option in Android’s default share sheet. Clicking the blue double helix icon slides up a sheet wherein Android will start “looking for Nearby devices.” After that, you just select a contact to begin the transfer process.

On the receiving end, you will get a “Device nearby is sharing” notification that you can tap to “become visible.” Users must first “Accept” the transfer, with file name listed, and a circular indicator around the avatar noting progress. Once received, the file will automatically open — stored in your Downloads folder — or give you the option to copy in the case of text.

Nearby Share requires that Bluetooth and location be enabled, with both devices needing to be kept in relatively close proximity. It leverages Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), WebRTC, or peer-to-peer WiFi. While Google will select the “best protocol,” there are three “Data usage” options available to users:

  • Data: Data may be used for small files (charges may apply)
  • Wi-Fi only: Never use data to share
  • Without internet: Files will always be shared offline

Google today also announced that Nearby Share will come to Chromebooks in the “coming months.” Sharing will work in both directions, with Chrome OS being the only other cited platform today.

Behind-the-scenes, this feature is powered by Google Play services. As such, it does not require a full Android update to receive and will work on thousands of Android phone models for billions of users.

All Android 6.0+ devices are supported, with Nearby Share launching today for Pixel and Samsung devices. All other phones will follow over the “next few weeks.”

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