Android phones finally have a real AirDrop option called “Share Nearby”. The new feature was added through an update to the Google Play Services app that comes pre-installed on all Android devices in the US, so you don’t even have to wait for a firmware upgrade – it’s just there.
Near sharing, Android finally provides a universal file transfer system. It works for large files and links in the same way, making it super easy to share things with someone who is physically nearby. The nice part is that it is not an OEM skin feature, so any phone running Android 6.0 and later can use it. You can even send files to desktops with Windows, macOS, Linux and ChromeOS.
Step 1: Update the Google Play Services app
Currently, Share Share is only available if your phone has the beta version of the Google Play Services app. Normally, getting the beta version of an app is as easy as pressing a button on the Play Store installation page, but if you search for “Google Play Services” in the Play Store, you won’t find it.
So to make it easier, tap the link below from your phone and open it with the Play Store app if prompted. When you’re there, scroll down and select “Join” below Join the beta. Press the back button to return to this tutorial, and then press the link below again. This time, a new version should be available – press “Update” to get it.
Near Sharing is an server-side update, which means that not all beta users have access. If you do not have Share nearby, wait a few days and make sure the quick setting button appears in the next step.
Step 2: Add Quick Settings Tile
You can share a file or link right now, but before you do, there are some things you should get acquainted with. Both the sender and recipient must take steps to complete a nearby sharing, so you may need to show some of this to the friend you are sharing with.
First, if you plan to use this feature more than once, you want to add the Quick Settings tab. Drag down twice from the top of the screen to expand the Quick Settings menu completely, then either press the pencil-shaped edit button (most phones), or press the three-point menu button and select “Button Order” (Samsung Phones).
From here you can find “Near Sharing” from the list of inactive tiles. Samsung has inactive plates in a small strip at the top that scrolls left to right. In stock Android they are in the lighter gray section at the bottom which scrolls vertically.
If you do not see this switch, you must wait for a server-side update to use Share Nearby. In other words, Google will silently activate the feature on your phone sometime in the near future, so keep checking again.
Once you find the gear, pull it from the inactive area and drop it in place among your active trays. If it’s already in your active trays, good! But you should know that only the first six gears appear in the mini-Quick Settings view when you swipe down once. After that, and you have to swipe down twice to expand the menu in the future and then possibly swipe left to see it among the additional trays.
Step 3: Choose who can see your phone
Since AirDropping nude to complement strangers is one thing, Google has implemented some security measures to protect users from accidental transfers. So first open your settings for the nearby part of long press on the quick settings to toggle you added in step 2. Here you select “Device Visibility” to configure who can send items to you.
If you set this to “All Contacts”, anyone nearby can see your device and send files to it (you must still press “Accept” before the file is uploaded). In the end, you’ll also see all devices nearby with Share when you start a sharing, including your contacts if they choose to be visible.
Choosing “Some contacts” limits your visibility to specific people only. Google will also recommend that your starred contacts be added and placed at the top of the list. In this mode, your device will be able to see anyone with nearby sharing open, have chosen to be visible, and are in your contacts.
Finally, there is “Hidden”, which prevents anyone from seeing you. You will still see devices nearby that have shared sharing enabled as well as contacts that have chosen to be visible. If you are in an area where you know you do not want to share (such as airplanes and subways), use this option to protect yourself from potential spam.
Step 4: Decide on data usage
Files can be transferred in one of three ways. To adjust this, return to the main body page of the main settings by long pressing the quick settings to toggle again and then select “Data usage”.
If you select “Data”, mobile data will be used to transport smaller files. Only “Wi-Fi” always uses Wi-Fi to transfer files, regardless of size. “Without the Internet” will disable all methods using the Internet, instead relying on Wi-Fi Direct to complete the transmission.
Step 5: Send a file or link to someone nearby
Now comes the fun part! In an app you will find a file or link that you want to share with a friend. When viewing the file, press the share button and you’ll see “Share Nearby” as one of the options. The icon looks like two tangled lines, but on some phones there may only be a line of text at the top of the sharing menu that says “Share nearby.”
When you select Share nearby, you will be asked to turn on three sensors: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Location. Select “Turn On” to activate these sensors, or manually activate them with their corresponding Quick Settings tags.
A prompt will appear near eligible units. If they have not already done so, have your friend set the quick setting tray and then long press it, then head to head to “Device Visibility” and make sure it is set to something other than “Hidden”.
You will now see all eligible units within range, although nearby sharing is not currently open. Select your friend’s phone and a message will appear at the end asking if they want to open Share Nearby (they can also just tap the Quick Settings tab to make their phone visible). Accept this and a prompt will appear asking if you want to accept or reject the shared file.
When they select “Accept”, a progress bar will appear around their image (or first initial) in the menu of your phone. When done, the file is stored in theirs Download folder. For shareable items that are not files, the corresponding app opens (for example, URLs open the browser, while tweets open the Twitter app).
Finally, at this writing, file transfer to devices other than those powered by Android is not yet available. But it’s coming soon, as evidenced by the latest Chrome flag added to Chromebooks and other Chrome OS devices. So stay tuned!
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