For around a decade, Chromebooks lacked the cross-device synergy found on rival platforms. Sharing files between your Google devices is nowhere fluid like Apple's iPhone-Mac integration. Phone Hub tightens your phone and Chromebook closer, but it's still a hassle to share content. Now, Google announced Nearby Share for Chrome OS, its answer to Apple's AirDrop. While Google says Nearby Share is launching "in the coming months," you can start using it right now in Chrome OS 89.

We've been tracking Nearby Share for Chromebooks since Chrome Story spotted it in Chrome OS settings last year. Since then, Google has been working hard on its backend to prepare for a wide release. With the help of an experimental Chrome flag, you can start using Nearby Share right now on your Chromebook. If you enable chrome://flags/#nearby-sharing, you'll see a near-complete version in Chrome OS settings, accessible from the quick settings toggles. For best results, we recommend updating Google Play service to the latest build. Here's a hands-on look at what it can do.

Initial Setup

First impressions are everything. Google continues to knock its onboarding experience out of the park. Nearby Share's setup UI helps get the ball rolling by offering an engaging experience.

onboard

Google loves to integrate its simplistic interface everywhere—Nearby Share is no exception. The onboarding UI opens with OS settings and acts as a compass to help you set up Nearby Share on your Chromebook. It's dead simple to use, and the Google-y illustrations help you stay engaged during setup.

After assigning a name, you can customize your privacy so that all or some of your contacts can see your laptop. Selecting "hidden" will keep your device invisible unless you enable it from the shelf. Once the setup is complete, it'll drop you into Nearby Share's settings for review. Before transferring files, both of your devices should be nearby with Bluetooth and location enabled.

Transfer files to your Chromebook

When you want to transfer something with your Chromebook, sending it can be unwieldy. Nearby Share simplifies the process and cuts down the time spent trying to share the file.

For this hands-on, I'm using Google Photos to share a photo with my Chromebook. To send it, I tap on the share button at the bottom left of my phone's screen, and select Nearby Share in the share sheet. My Pixel 5 recognized my Pixel Slate right away and transfers the picture within moments. I've also used Solid Explorer to share documents with my Chromebook without issues.

 

You can also use Nearby Share to transfer files from your Chromebook to another Chrome OS device. Right-clicking a file in the Chrome OS files app and selecting "share" will allow you to open Nearby Share. The file transfer will start right after the receiving party accepts it from the system tray. It took a few attempts for my devices to connect, but when it works, it transferred at a decent pace. PWAs that support the Web Share API like PhotoStack will also be able to access Nearby Share.

Transfer files to your smartphone

If there's a document or a photo on your Chromebook that you'd like to have on the go, you can transfer them to your phone.

Sharing files to your Android smartphone with a Chromebook is dead simple. Select any file in the Chrome OS file manager, then right-clicking "share" from the menu. Click Nearby Share, then choose your phone from the list. It may take a few tries for it to detect your device; launching Nearby Share from Android's quick settings can help. Your file should show up in the download directory when the transfer completes.

Nearby Share is shaping up to be an exciting feature that finally allows seamless file transfers between Android and Chrome OS. It's not perfect - detecting devices are hit-or-miss, and sharing files is not fast. Despite its flaws, I can't wait to use Nearby Share daily when it comes out of beta with Chrome OS 90.