If you aren’t familiar, Apple users have a feature that persists throughout their hardware lineup called Airdrop that allows devices to move files quickly from one to another over the local Wi-Fi network. It is handy, easy to use, and is simply baked right into the firmware and ready to use when you need it. This is a feature Google’s played around with cloning for quite some time, but the right vehicle to make it work the way they’ve wanted has proved to be a bit elusive.
We uncovered that Nearby Share was on the way for Chrome OS back in April and haven’t thought much of it since then. As we mentioned in that post, though there are plenty of ways – both corded and cloud-based – to get your files moved between devices, a succinct, simple and universal wireless file transfer protocol is something I think nearly every Android and Chromebook user would appreciate. No extensions, no app, no installs, and no fuss: if it’s going to mimic Airdrop, it just needs to be there and work.
That’s been the hope for Nearby Share and we should see it roll out with Android 11 later this summer, but the folks over at XDA have put together a few more pieces of the puzzle that make this upcoming feature FAR greater than what we were initially seeing. In fact, if this all plays out the way it seems we’re headed, Google’s Nearby Share feature will be available and useful for a massive set of potential users across the board. This is precisely because Chrome – not just Chrome OS – is being readied as the vehicle to make the service work cross-platform.
While we are already seeing the Nearby Share feature flag in the Chrome OS Canary Channel and the setting is already in place, this effort is clearly being rolled out on Chrome, not just Chrome OS. Check out the language in this commit:
[Nearby] Add nearby-onboarding-page WebUI component
This component will be embedded into chrome://os-settings (on CrOS), chrome://settings (on Linux, macOS & Windows) and standalone dialogs via a new chrome://nearby page (added in later CLs).
It is written in Polymer2 to be embeddable to CrOS settings.
There is little doubt, then, that this Nearby Share feature will be available on Chrome for all desktops and, as we’ve seen on Twitter already, is baked directly into Android 11 as witnessed in the Beta preview. Take a second to soak this in. The Nearby Share feature that will allow simple, seamless, fast file transfers over the local network will be readily available when Android 11 rolls out likely in August and users will be able to use it with Chromebooks, Macbooks, Windows laptops and Linux devices. At this point, we’re only a single step away from complete device interoperability if Google could figure out a way to make this sharing ability a feature in their Google app on iOS.
While that last point may be a stretch too far, the fact that Android and every single desktop OS will work together with Nearby Share is a brilliant, exciting feat. I know a handful of people that have all the Apple hardware they need to really use Airdrop the way it is intended, but I know far more people who have some combo of an Android phone and a laptop of some sort that will be leveraging Nearby Share when it launches later this summer. We’re getting one of our phones over to the Beta Preview of Android 11 this weekend and we’ll be testing the feature to see if we can get it working and, when we do, you can be sure you’ll hear all about it.