A couple of months ago, we posted one of our early Google Search/Now rumors, and it was something of a long range rumor compared to others. While things like parking reminders, proper timer management, and bill pay reminders have already seen their public release, the ability to set contact-based reminders ("remind me when I'm with this person"), hasn't come forward yet. But it will likely appear very soon with a new feature in Android called Nearby, which will allow new interactions between you and nearby people, places, and things.


We've received information indicating that Nearby will come with an upcoming Google Play Services update. While we still caution readers that anything related to a leak can change, we are not treating this as a rumor, as our information is reliable and complete enough to inspire full confidence that this functionality will be revealed (in an official capacity) soon.

What is Nearby?

Before we get started, here's the copy from the Nearby onboarding screen, which gives a nice overview of what we'll be discussing.

Nearby lets you connect, share, and do more with people, places, and things near you.

When Nearby is turned on for your account, Google can periodically turn on the mic, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and similar features on all your current and future devices. Google+ and other Google services need this access to help you connect, share, and more.

When you turn on Nearby, you're also turning on Location History for your account and Location Reporting for this device. Google needs these services to periodically store your location data for use by Nearby, other Google services, and more.

You'd be forgiven for not registering the full impact of Nearby from that snippet. The key takeaway from this is that Nearby will allow enabled devices, with extreme precision, to know when they are near each other, and interact according to the context.

Remember when Google bought Bump? The service used the bumping motion as well as location data to know when two devices wanted to interact. Google also acquired SlickLogin in February, which can use audio, Bluetooth, and WiFi to authenticate. Nearby would wrap up all these techniques without you even touching your device. To protect privacy, the information gathered from these various sources on your device would likely travel to Google, and be matched with others' information there, with only the acknowledgement of proximity being revealed to other devices.

Users, according to our information, will also be able to choose who (and presumably what) they are visible to. This will limit the ways that Nearby can automatically interact on a user's behalf.

While it's still early in its life cycle, and settings don't appear to be fully built out yet, it's easy to imagine Nearby coming in handy for extremely targeted Wallet offers, reminders, or other location-based interactions, but the important part here is that a user wouldn't need to interact with their phone or tablet to let other devices (be they mobile or otherwise) know they are around, and switching on Nearby once would allow the functionality to work with all of a user's devices.

This would open up the possibility of automated functionality in tons of spaces beyond the commercial world, from home automation to everyday user-to-user interaction, to the interaction between your own devices. This is especially interesting in light of Apple's recent announcement of Continuity, an iOS and OS X feature that allows Apple-made devices to interact with each other in really smart ways automatically, based on proximity.

Readers may remember "Easy Unlock," an unfinished Chrome OS feature that would let users unlock their Chromebook simply by being near it with their phone. It's unclear whether that specific function is related, but it would certainly make sense. There's also a hint at automated proximity-based functionality in the Android Wear promo video, in which a user opens their garage door by simply saying "Ok Google, open garage."

What Does it Look Like?

Typically, we choose not to post source images for stories like these, since early prototypes and explorations can include identifying information. This time, though, we are making an exception - the shots below are actual screenshots, not our mockups. The first set of shots shows entry to Nearby settings from Google Settings. Nearby is under the "Location" item that already exists in Google Settings. The initial screen will give the user some introduction to what Nearby is and does, and the option to turn it on, though for obvious reasons, a data connection is required to switch it on.

wm_Screenshot_2014-06-03-20-08-43 wm_Screenshot_2014-06-03-20-09-16

Once the user does flip the switch, there's not a whole lot to see. According to our information, the settings here will include items like "visibility," wherein a user can monitor and adjust the list of other people they are visible to. Individual settings for other services using Nearby would likely also populate this list, once everything is hooked up. It isn't surprising to see an empty tray here, since apps besides Play Services would need to be updated to actually hook into this functionality and it doesn't appear any apps have this capability yet.

For those wondering, the "Learn more" link (here) seen above is not live yet - it just redirects to Google's main support page.

wm_Screenshot_2014-06-03-20-09-51 wm_Screenshot_2014-06-03-20-10-07

Final Thoughts

It's early, but Nearby is definitely a functionality to keep an eye out for. Besides the obvious applications like the previously rumored contact-based reminders, the feature could have huge potential for other areas. We can't be certain whether this will be an I/O unveiling, but here's hoping we hear something official soon.

Liam Spradlin
Liam loves Android, design, user experience, and travel. He doesn't love ill-proportioned letter forms, advertisements made entirely of stock photography, and writing biographical snippets.

  • trudat

    Sheep lack any ability to see the reality of the situation.

    • Luke Olson

      but they can comment on the internet apparently

  • http://web.elastic.org/~fche/ Frank Ch. Eigler

    Is there a "HELL NO" button to turn this sort of nonsense off permanently?

    • Luke Olson

      It's more of a "no thank you" switch

    • Turn it all off

      Yes, they are called arms and when the people have had enough you will hear a call to action as the people begin to scream, to arms, to arms, we attack now! Too bad those words will not come from a single American alive today. America is full of fat lazy and dumbed down people who only wish to be left alone so they can watch TV, play with their cell phones and take their prescription head meds as they play pretend in the world of men and women.

  • Samuel Day

    F Google. It is the greatest threat to individual freedom ever invented. It's about time to take it down.

  • Tumbleweed

    Your information will, most likely, be shared to the government!
    You know who they are!

  • Quennel Hill

    this is some bullshit.... intruding further into our lives under the guise of connecting people and places...... BULLSHIT!!!!!!!! just another control tactic to see what we are doing and where we are going.....

    • Luke Olson

      i, for one, welcome our robot overlords

  • American_League

    Big Brother sneaking in the Back Door! If Google has it, NSA has it, FBI if they want it, and local LEO's will demand it.

    • Turn it all off

      There is no sneaking going on in the world of spying on Americans and foreigners. There is no need to sneak around, sneaking around wastes time and money and beside, the people don't mind. How do I know they do not mind? Own a cell phone, TV service, GPS, car with Onstar or black box tech? What about use Facebook or Twitter? The American people are just pure stupid or perhaps they aren't and they just do not care about freedom because they have a slave mentality.

    • Turn it all off

      Oh yes, I also forgot about the TSA. Look at all the people who fly to go on vacation. What kind of P0S of a male takes his family to any place that he TSA is located and then can look him self in the mirror or think of himself as a man or dad or husband? No male who takes his family to those places deserves such a title.

  • Luxomni

    I found this wonderful phone. It does nothing but make calls. No camera, no mic and push buttons to dial so I can dial by touch. And it can't be hacked or remotely turned on. It doesn't say where I am unless I answer it. And nobody can call me while I am in a check-out line. The only problem is the wire is only 25' long.

    • Tiger184

      Technology is definitely a good/bad thing.

  • Red_Ruffansore

    Google, Der ObaMeinFuhrer's best friend. Forward Lemmiwinks.

  • Anonymous Anonymizer

    Remember, Kiddies. Google's slogan is "Don't be evil", so we all have nothing to worry about

    • Luke Olson

      i think they call it a "mantra" damn hippies

  • beyond partisan

    This seriously makes me want to switch to an iPhone. I'm hoping Linux phones will be out soon!! Google, YOU SUCK, and your CEO sucks even more for going to that lame conference of the uber-rich to whine about "income inequality." We get it. You're a pretentious progressive hypocrite who claims to do no evil while hoarding money and using the vast resources of Google to spy upon and remove privacy for all who encounter you. I will NEVER use this service and if I have to, hack my phone to shut it off. Glassholes!

    • Turn it all off

      You are the typical American moron. I shake my head at the thought of you procreating and teaching you're children how to be good little slaves.

      • beyond partisan

        What the hell are you talking about? I am against Google spying on everything I do, and you are telling me I'm all about teaching children to be "good little slaves"? Do you have poor reading comprehension or something?

    • Luke Olson

      If only there was a mobile OS based on linux, then we we could finally be safe.

  • Native

    I may be old at 60, but this smacks of invasion of privacy, no matter how you want to spin it. I am just glad I was born in a time when people still were able to have functioning brains and think for themselves and knew right from wrong. THIS crap is WRONG. I have a real problem with people CONSTANTLY looking at their phones rather than at the people they are with. I REFUSE to allow our children/grandchildren to have their phones on when we are together. Either they are with us or they aren't, and if they aren't, then they are free to leave. They have always chosen to turn off their phones and stay. PARENTS, need to have their children TURN OFF THEIR PHONES. There is NO need for the constant bombardment of having to watch a brainless moron texting about what color underware they think the latest hot guy has on. GROW UP...........TURN THE PHONES OFF AND TELL THESE PEOPLE WHO ARE INVADING YOUR PRIVACY TO FU*K OFF.

    • Turn it all off

      There you go again, thinking in the land of morons again. Go watch the movie Idiocracy and you will see What America has truly become. My kids do not have cells either. I do not understand what kind of bad parent would give their children cell phones given the radiation those things emit. Parents today are selfish, self absorbed useless people who are perfectly comfortable living a life of servitude to the government.

    • Luke Olson

      Sounds like someone hasn't been getting enough grandpa hugs

  • ronb39339

    Just rename that Google Personal Property Removal Service since it'll be hacked & the thugs will be at your place while you're NOT nearby.

    • Luke Olson

      Yeah google is totally going to have to completely makeover its servers, too bad they have never thought about security before this point. Hopefully they add bedazzling to the switches this time

  • paul

    Why would I want everybody to know where I am? Unless I'm a narcissist.

    • Luke Olson

      or a victim of kidnapping

      • G S

        And the kidnappers are going to allow you have your cell phone, so you can watch you tube when you are bored in that room with now windows! Yeah, right!!!

        • Luke Olson

          they could be nice kidnappers

  • CaptainHatred

    And people wonder why I saved my old 3g motorola razr (The flip fone), with a brand new battery...... For ... this.... exact....reason.....

    • Luke Olson

      please say its the pink one, I had that one and it was awesome!

      • CaptainHatred

        black with a silver backtone, the "original" if you will.....

        • Luke Olson

          I believe the OG Razr was 2g only. It's so nice that old phones aren't trackable at all and that every single carrier would anything to maintain our privacy

          • CaptainHatred

            could be, i like your avatar by the way.

          • Luke Olson

            Thanks, I wish I knew where it was from. If only there was a way to find out.

          • CaptainHatred

            I believe it was the emblem for the alliance from the classic movie "The Last Starfighter" Seriously, go look it up, i'm pretty sure that was the symbol that was on the side of the main characters "star fighter" and on most of the helmets in the movie. It might be modified, but i just looked it up and it's pretty darn close, wings and a sword, with the circle around everything and not squashed down, but hell, at least i'm close.

          • Luke Olson

            oh my no

  • G S

    Simply download the avast antivirus app for mobile devices, it allows you to password any app in your phone you do not wish to come on without your knowledge unless you have the password.

  • jimkress

    Now I'm going to have to root my phone to get rid of all this crap.

  • tz

    Plug into the Google hive mind. They know all about you, but their data stash on you is off limits. It is a one way street leading to their data banks. You will be assimilated, resistance is futile.

  • hajons

    The nearby people reminders is already available on Google Play from the Memorit app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=se.lth.cs.memorit

  • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

    :) What fun.