Android's Nearby Sharing, Apple's AirDrop, and Samsung's Wild Card

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 2 min read

AirDrop is one of the best, most useful features in the Apple ecosystem, and it's something I've probably used thousands of times since it launched 6 years ago. Android has never had a solution for this worth a damn, and it looks like they're finally going to have something at least in the same ballpark.

Android Beam

Android Beam was around for a few years and while it was technically an AirDrop competitor, it was pretty terrible. It was slow and unreliable. If I did manage to get it to work, it would take about 10 seconds to transfer a photo, and 3-5 minutes to share a sub-30 second video. It was slow because it transferred over Bluetooth, not WiFi.

This feature was retired in Android 10 last fall, and its replacement is not ere yet.

Nearby Sharing

As demoed in the video above, this is the successor to Android Beam, and it's certainly closer to AirDrop in terms of performance, which is a very welcome change.

I know this is still unreleased software, but the big thing that makes me less impressed by this implementation is it looks like you need to have the sharing device activate Nearby Sharing, which is fine, and then have the receiving device manually activate Nearby Sharing as well. If the receiver doesn't unlock their phone, pull down on the notification shade, and turn on the feature, they won't be able to receive anything.

This isn't horrible, but one of the things that is great about AirDrop is that if your phone is unlocked, AirDrop is available. Who sees you is determined by your privacy settings, and sending between your own personal devices is remarkable easy, with no confirmations at all. So I can share a file from my iPhone to iPad in less than a second and with no confirmation message on my iPad; it's amazing and I do it all the time.

I don't think this is terrible or anything, but when I look at how AirDrop works today, especially in the new iPhones where you point at someone and share to them in a single tap, and the compare it to what I saw in this video, it looks like Android is doing something in line with what Apple had in 2014, not what they have in 2020.

Samsung Quick Share

And because Samsung had to go and do their own thing, it looks like they are going to have their own version of this as well, and it will be exclusive to Samsung devices. It's called Quick Share and while we don't have a live demo to see the details yet, it annoys me that we're so close to a standard Android method of doing this and Samsung is going to swoop in and do their own.