Nearby Share – Google’s answer to Apple’s popular Airdrop feature – has been with us for a bit now. Finally beginning roll out in August of 2020, this upgrade to both Android phones and Chromebooks has been something many users have been clamoring for. In a nutshell, Nearby Share allows users to send files from one device to another without a whole lot of setup needed. You click share on the thing you want to send, choose Nearby Share, and select which of your nearby contacts you want to send to, and make the transfer wirelessly.
Using a combination of Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi, the file transfers are quick and seamless and – when it all works correctly – pretty magical. Chromebooks have been inching towards Nearby Share functionality as well and with the latest release of Chrome OS 89, Nearby Share is finally on the way for Chromebook users to enjoy as well in the next few weeks. But there’s still a limitation with the way Nearby Share works that makes it a tad less than ideal for users used to Apple’s Airdrop implementation: the inability to simply share to anyone nearby regardless of their place on your contact list.
Opening up the flood gates
Spotted by 9to5 Google, it looks like the Nearby Share functionality is set to really open up the doors to sharing with people all around you. In the current state, you get the option to share with all your contacts, some of your contacts, or remain hidden from view. So, if you are about to share with someone and you have the wrong email info in place in your contact for them, things won’t quite go as planned since your phone is only allowing visibility to those in your contact list. So far, this has worked for us around the office, but I could see where the need to share with folks not in your contact list would arise quite frequently once we start getting out of COVID-19 mode in the coming months.
Thankfully, it looks like an option is coming to allow users to share with everyone around them and by default, this only lasts for 5 minutes. After that time, your phone will automatically switch back to being visible only to your contacts again. Let’s face it: you don’t want to be visible for sharing all the time and this solution looks to make it simple enough to open things up when you need to move files and then shut things back down to your trusted contacts manually or automatically after just a few minutes. Even better, the share sheet that pops up after you select Nearby Share will have this toggle right there for you to choose instead of the current version that forces you to dig into your settings to make the change.
All told, this should really clean up the entire experience and make sharing via the Nearby Share feature a much more pleasing experience. I’d hope that this change will also be mirrored in the Chrome OS implementation when it arrives soon so that a more-simple version of Nearby Share is what is first introduced to Chromebook users. I think it would be worth the wait for sure.