Sharing files between devices is an integral feature of modern smartphones. For a long time, Apple users enjoyed the convenience of AirDrop, a built-in file-sharing tool that lets users seamlessly transfer files between iPads, iPhones, and Macs. This tool only works with Apple devices. Android users often felt left out, missing the simplicity and convenience because Google was yet to introduce a feature with the same functionality.
Fortunately, the advancements in tech managed to bridge this gap. Google realized it was missing out and, in 2020, rolled out the “Nearby Share” feature solely for Android devices. Later in 2021, the company developed a similar functionality for its Chromebooks. In 2023, it stretched this function outside the Google ecosystem to Windows devices. It became an instant phenomenon among users.
So, when people say they want to AirDrop on Android, they simply mean they want to use the Nearby Share feature. If you wish to share videos, documents, photos, or any other file, Nearby Share lets you send them wirelessly without an internet connection. In this article, we’ll discuss in detail what Nearby Share is and give an in-depth, step-by-step guide on how to use it to send files.
Nearby Share: What It Is and How It Works
Nearby Share was Google’s answer to AirDrop. Before it came about, Android users had numerous other file-sharing options. One major drawback with these options was that end users had to download the same third-party application for a successful file-sharing experience. These applications still exist today but pose the same challenges.
For instance, some include advertisements and unnecessary bloatware that fragment the user experience. Others lack the same level of security and encryption as built-in tools like Nearby Share and AirDrop. And because of the limited user base, finding compatible file-sharing devices is often challenging.
The technology behind Nearby Share is invigorating. This tool uses a combination of wireless connections to establish and facilitate file sharing between Android devices. Here’s how it works:
Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
In the initial stages, it uses Bluetooth for device discovery. When you enable Nearby Share on your device, it broadcasts its Bluetooth signal to indicate its availability for sharing. It also incorporates BLE or Bluetooth Low Energy, a power-efficient version of Bluetooth designed for short-range communication with low data transfer rates.
Once the discovery is complete, Nearby Share establishes a Wi-Fi connection between the Android devices. Compared to Bluetooth, Wi-Fi is way faster, making it an ideal solution for transferring files. But Nearby Share doesn’t use the standard Wi-Fi we use when accessing the internet. It uses Wi-Fi Direct, a peer-to-peer technology that lets devices connect directly without the traditional Wi-Fi network.
Neary Share also features WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication). These are the protocols that facilitate the actual file transfer. In a more technical overview, WebRTX is a collection of APIs and protocols that enable real-time data exchange between web browsers and devices. Nearby Share uses these APIs and protocols to establish a secure peer-to-peer connection between the devices.
Even more exciting is that Nearby Share incorporates encryption to ensure that the data transfer process is secure. The tool encrypts the files before the transfer process, thus preventing interception and any other form of unauthorized access. Doing so helps protect the integrity and privacy of the transferred data.
Google Play Services
Android phones come with Google Play services already installed. Nearby Share uses this application to facilitate background communication and device coordination. Google Play Services has the necessary APIs and infrastructure to ensure Nearby Share functions across different Android versions seamlessly.
Prerequisites for Using Nearby Share
Nearby Share works with Android devices operating on Android 6.0/Marshmallow version or higher. The first version entered the market in 2015, meaning if you have a phone model from later years, you are already integrated with the Nearby Share tool. Because it’s built into Android devices, it runs its background commands through Google Play Services. As such, you must always ensure that your Google Play software is up to date.
If you want to use this tool on a Windows computer, ensure it runs a 64-bit version of the Windows 10 or 11 operating system. Users must, however, note that Windows OSs aren’t part of the Google ecosystem and that to use the tool, they must download it as an application. Chromebooks don’t have any stringent requirements, and you can use the built-in tool to share links, contacts, and photos, among other files.
Step-By-Step Guide on How to AirDrop on Android Using Nearby Share
We’ve already established that Nearby Share is the AirDrop for Android. Here’s how to use this tool to transfer files between Android devices.
Step 1: Enable Nearby Share on Your Android Device
The first step you need to take is to enable the Nearby Share feature on your devices. This process may vary dispensing on your phone model, but most use the one described below.
1. Open the settings app on your Android device and scroll down to Google.
2. Open the Google Menu and click Devices and Sharing.
3. Under Devices and Sharing, click Nearby Share.
4. Toggle the button on the top right corner to activate the Nearby Share tool.
Step 2: Give Your Device A Unique Name
The second step is to rename your device. Giving your phone a unique name makes it easy for other users to identify it among other available devices. Here’s how to go about this process:
1. Tap on the device name under the Nearby Share menu.
2. Change the Device Name to a unique one.
Step 3: Configure Preferred Privacy Settings
Once you change the device’s name, you can configure your privacy settings under Device Visibility. Here you have three options:
Everyone: Any person who’s nearby can share files with you. The device will ask you to approve the share request. However, you won’t need to approve devices already signed into your phone’s primary Gmail account. You can switch this mode to temporary or keep it on all the time.
Contacts: contacts, anyone who’s on your contact list with Nearby Share activated will be able to see your device. However, it only happens if the home screen is on or the phone is unlocked. Users can select the contacts that can see your device as visible.
Here you can choose the contact that can see your device.
Your devices: The third option is your devices. Only devices signed into your primary Gmail account can see your Android device.
Step 4: Sending and Receiving Files With Nearby Share
Now that you have activated Nearby Share and configured your privacy settings, you can send and receive photos, videos, links, and music files. This feature should be active on both phones; otherwise, you won’t be able to send and receive the files. Also, ensure the other device is unlocked, and the home screen is active. Here’s how to go about it:
1. Go to the specific file and click the share button. It could be a Music file, photo, or video. If it’s a link, open your web browser and click on the three dots, then scroll down to where you’ll find “share.”
2. Locate “Nearby Share” under the various share options on your screen. On some phones, it appears only as a logo. Click on the appropriate option.
3. Nearby Share will begin searching for available devices. Available devices will appear on your phone’s screen. Click on your target Android device.
4. Your phone will display a pin which will also be visible on the other device. The other person has to tap accept if the pin matches yours.
5. The transfer process will start, and the file will be shared with the other device. Click Done once complete to end the process.
When you’re learning how to use a new tech feature, sometimes watching a video can help. If you’d like to see how easy using Nearby Share is, we recommend the following user-friendly video from YouTuber Tekno Talks.
This article has detailed everything you need to know about how to AirDrop with Android using Nearby Share. By leveraging various wireless technologies like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi connect, WebRTC, and an encryption aspect, Nearby Share lets users establish direct connections between devices, allowing fast and reliable data transfer.
While ensuring your device meets the prerequisites and settings are correctly configured, Nearby Share offers a seamless and reliable solution for sharing files, links, photos, and more with nearby devices. The process is similar to how you’d transfer files using an Apple device. Users should remember that Nearby Share is a feature only available on Android 6.0/Marshmallow and later versions.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Pe3k/Shutterstock.com.