For years, Apple has allowed you to share files seamlessly with friends and across your iOS and macOS devices via AirDrop. While Android used to support something similar with the NFC-based Android Beam, the feature never really saw wide adoption and was removed with the launch of Android 10 last year. But Google has been working on a much more powerful replacement that's more in line with AirDrop: Nearby Share, which only recently showed up in an Android 11 developer video. While we initially thought it would only allow you to exchange files and links with closeby friends, evidence is mounting that sharing with Google Chrome might also be an option.
The wait for an Android Beam successor may finally be coming to a close. One of Google's developer-oriented videos for Android 11, published to YouTube today, clearly shows a "nearby" option in the share sheet. Though we're not familiar with the new icon, that name and its location in the sharing menu seem clearly related to the Nearby Sharing feature we've been anticipating for the last year.
Android used to let you quickly share links and files between devices thanks to Android Beam, but the NFC-handshake-based technology has never seen wide adoption, so Google sunset it with the launch of Android 10. Instead, the company is working on a new, more powerful solution called "Fast Share" or "Nearby Sharing" as part of the Google Play Services. Android app developer Kieron Quinn managed to activate the feature, and it looks unapologetically similar to Apple AirDrop.
If you're already missing Android Beam and the way it allowed you to share links or files from your device to another easily, there's some good news and bad news all rolled up into one item: Google is planning on rolling out a new "Fast Share" protocol through a Play services updates that will allow Android devices to share assets to other devices, primarily using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct connections.