Android Beam was a feature introduced in Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) that allowed people to share photos, sites, apps, and more by tapping their phones together. It was a neat feature when it launched, and it still works great for sending links and small files, but Android Beam's future is now uncertain.
According to a series of AOSP commits discovered by XDA Developers, Android Beam and its accompanying APIs may become deprecated in the next major release of Android. One commit has a description of, "Deprecate Android beam APIs and create a feature flag to gate them."
Put simply, manufacturers would have to declare support for Android Beam, just as they would other hardware features (like NFC itself). It might be left enabled for existing devices being updated to Android Q, and disabled by default on phones that ship with Q. In this manner, Google could phase out Android Beam without upsetting existing users too much.
Android Beam hasn't seen much love from Google since the initial release of Ice Cream Sandwich. Android 5.0 Lollipop added it to the share menu, and included support for sending any kind of files over Android Beam. The feature got a new icon in Android 5.1, but hasn't received any visible changes since then.
It's not clear why Google is deprecating Android Beam. While the feature likely doesn't see much use these days, as most people simply share links and files over messaging apps, it's still a nice feature that most Android phones have enabled by default. We've reached out to Google for comment, and we will update this post when the company responds.
- Android Open Source Project