Sharing files between Android devices used to be difficult because there wasn’t always a unified, simple, and reliable way to wirelessly move files between the devices. That changed last year with the launch of Nearby Share, which is essentially AirDrop for Android. Google Play Services comes preinstalled with most Android devices.
Nearby Share’s most significant feature update is coming soon, almost one year since its inception. NearbyShare users have noticed two new features, which I also discovered.
The first is group transfer support. It allows you to share one or more files with up to 4 people close by. A group transfer session doesn’t allow files to be sent simultaneously to all recipients. Instead, they are sent in quick succession to each recipient. This gives the sender an opportunity to verify that they’re sending the correct file(s) and doesn’t require them to reopen their Nearby Share dialog for each recipient to which they wish to send the file.
Nearby Share prompts for you to “tap and share with more people” if you have more than one device. To add another device to the transfer queue, tap on it. The recipients will then accept the transfer in the same order as you sent them your sharing requests. We haven’t spotted any changes in the group sharing feature that’s rolling out today compared to what we saw when we enabled it a few months ago, but there could be some subtle tweaks we haven’t noticed yet.
The second modification is a change to Nearby Share’s device visibility settings. Nearby Share now has an “everyone”, option that makes your device available to everyone, even those not in your contacts. If you’re concerned about getting unsolicited sharing requests you can flip the toggle for “use all” that will make your device visible to anyone using Nearby Share. It then switches back to contacts after a few moments. Apart from the new UI in Android 12, this feature is unchanged from when we saw it in development a few months ago.
These features are controlled by a server-side flag in Google Play Services and don’t seem to be tied to a particular OS version, though a few users — myself included — have only spotted them after updating to Android 12 Beta 5. One user named Rodrigo on Twitter told us they saw both features on their Xiaomi Mi 9T running Android 11, but we haven’t seen many other reports of these features going live. Let us know if group sharing is enabled and if the “everyone” mode for Nearby Share has been activated.