AirDrop-Like Nearby Sharing Crops Up In Android 11 DP2

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Google appears closer to launching a new Android 11 feature called 'Nearby Sharing' with Developer Preview 2 (DP2). The feature, which was previously referred to as "Fast Share," was spotted in the Android 11 DP2 release notes under its original branding.

Specifically, that reference is found as a bug report under "Known issues: Android Platform" in the notes. Google indicates a discrepancy in the UI for sharing files with the feature using two Pixel 4 devices. The UI on the receiving device claims that the file-sharing activity failed. The "operation" is noted as completing successfully anyway.

The implication of that is that the feature actually works but that there's still a bug in the UI. But that also implies that the feature works. So Android users should have access to Nearby Sharing — or Fast Sharing, if Google opts to go with the older branding — sooner than later.

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What is Nearby Sharing and why isn't it tied to Android 11?

Previous reports about Fast Share have indicated that it will almost certainly be backward compatible. Whether or not this arrives under that designation or as Nearby Sharing, it's not likely to be linked to Android 11. Instead of being tied to system-level firmware changes, it appears to be part of Google Play Services. That should make it fairly easy for the feature to be delivered on previous versions of the OS.

The importance of that comes down to what Nearby Sharing is. The feature acts as an easy way for users to share content such as images, text, and files, with other Android devices. That's done without Bluetooth, which tends to be slower, using Wi-Fi instead. In effect, Nearby Sharing searches out other devices in close quarters with the sharing gadget and creates a one-to-one connection.

Prior to Nearby Sharing, Android delivered another feature called Android Beam. That was NFC-based and, as a result, required devices to be touching. It also requires the positioning of the devices to be exact. That made Android Beam finicky to use, in addition to being measurably slower than would be convenient. Google announced that it would kill off Android Beam in early 2019, leaving Android with no answer for Apple's AirDrop.

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When is Nearby Sharing or Fast Share going to arrive?

Because the new Nearby Sharing feature is still undergoing testing and not indelibly linked to Android 11, it's impossible to determine when it might be released. Google didn't officially announce it with Android 11 DP2 and it wasn't explicitly noted as arriving there either. But, assuming the error noted in the release notes is UI-related and not deeper, Googlers do appear to be nearly finished with the creation of the utility.

Now, Google doesn't necessarily need to wait for a big event to announce or release the new feature. It could simply roll out Nearby Sharing as part of an update to Google Play Services alongside a smaller announcement. On the other hand, it will likely choose to hold off on the announcement since it should apply to all Android smartphones. If that's the case, the new feature will likely be revealed during a virtual event associated with Google I/O 2020.