While it has been in the works for quite some time, the upcoming Android Nearby Sharing feature has yet to fully materialize as a thing everyday users can actually take advantage of. It’s been spotted and even tested on current versions of Android at this point, but everyone is still quite unsure when Google will roll this out officially. Perhaps I/O 2020 was the target before being cancelled, but we’ll never really know. What we do know is the feature is nearing completion and is also being baked into Android 11, set to release late in the summer of 2020 if things go to plan.
For reference, this new Nearby Sharing feature will allow users to detect the presence of another nearby device via Bluetooth LE and then share files with that same device (with permission, of course) via WiFi direct. This is a massive speed boost over the old Android Beam and will hopefully rival Apple’s Airdrop in its ease of use when moving larger files from device to device.
Up to this point there’s been no mention of of how this all would work with Chromebooks or if it would even work at all. In my mind, as soon as I saw Google at work on this new feature, I immediately thought of Chrome OS. Moving files between your phone and laptop happens quite often and the need for it is quite regular for many. I’ve had a few instances just this week where I had to drag out the USB-C cable just to get a few files off my phone for a bit of local work.
It seems the Chrome OS team is already working on a solution that will loop Chromebooks into the fray. We spotted this commit just yesterday that is adding a feature flag to Chrome OS to enable the Nearby Sharing feature. At this point, the commit hasn’t been merged and is still a work in progress, so there’s no sign of this flag anywhere in the Chrome OS development chain right now, but I’d suppose it will show up in the Canary or Developer Channel soon.
We’d also guess that Google will likely share this new feature closer to the release of Android 11 in late summer or early fall. While we have no solid leads right now on a Google-made Chromebook we’re expecting at the annual hardware event, they could simply be getting better at hiding these things from us. I’d be shocked if there isn’t a new #madebyGoogle Chromebook announced and, along with it, this new-found ability to wirelessly share big files from your Pixel phone to it.