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Quicktake: First look at Google’s upcoming peer-to-peer sharing feature

The Nearby Sharing option, which allows Android users to share files to supporting devices, is expected to be rolled-out at Google’s I/O developer conference in May

Apple's chief executive Tim Cook (in the middle) sharing a selfie photo via Airdrop with others at the Singapore Sports Hub last month. Reuters
Apple's chief executive Tim Cook (in the middle) sharing a selfie photo via Airdrop with others at the Singapore Sports Hub last month. Reuters

The first look of Google’s own version of Apple's AirDrop - which allows users to wirelessly transfer files between iOS devices – is out now as the company prepares for its launch.

XDA Developers, a mobile software development community, has accessed the in-development tool and tested it between a Pixel 2 XL and Pixel 4 smartphones.

Called Nearby Sharing, the new feature will allow Google’s Android users to share files to supporting devices. This will supersede the company’s Android Beam that used near-field communication technology and Bluetooth to transfer files but was phased out last year after it failed to generate interest among the users.

It was reported in June last year that Google is working on this feature but no details were shared then.

Google has not disclosed the release date of the Nearby Sharing feature yet but the company is expected to release it during the I/O developer conference in California in May.

The National looks at how this new feature will work and potentially disrupt the fast moving peer-to-peer sharing industry.

How will Nearby Sharing work?

Like AirDrop, the new feature will use Bluetooth to connect with nearby devices and access location services to find suitable devices to initiate the transfer process.

The Alphabet-owned firm is already offering an app called ‘Files’ that allows devices to transfer documents without an internet connection, but both the sender and the recipient must have the app installed for it to work.

The Nearby Sharing feature, however, will come pre-installed in the Android operating system and there will be no need to download an extra app.

Can users manage their privacy?

Users can control their visibility. They can either keep it open to the public – meaning any Android user can send files – or set it for selective people in their contact list.

They can also keep their device hidden and can manually accept all file requests. Currently, the file transfer option is possible among devices within a range of 30.5 centimetres.

What other players are in the peer-to-peer sharing space?

This industry is moving fast. Earlier this month, Chinese smartphone manufacturers Xiaomi, OPPO and Vivo joined forces to launch a standard wireless file sharing feature. Expected to be rolled-out next month, the technology will allow customers, who have phones from any of these brands, to share images, audio, videos and files, without an extra third-party app.

South Korean consumer electronics giant Samsung is also working on a similar feature, Quick Share, to allow sharing between its Galaxy phones. Chinese manufacturer Huawei is already offering a similar service called Huawei Share.

How big is the market?

There are more than 2.5 billion active Android devices (including leading brands such as Samsung and Huawei) worldwide, with the platform supporting both premium and budget-conscious devices, according to Google.

A successful launch of this service can boost the company’s revenues.

Alphabet’s net profit fell 23 per cent to $7.07 billion (Dh25.9bn) in the third quarter of last year to September 30, with the company's bottom line hit by spiralling investment in new initiatives such as cloud infrastructure.

During the quarter, the company posted its highest ever quarterly expense figure of $31.3bn — up 25 per cent year-on-year.

Will Nearby Sharing easily help to attract new customers?

Industry analysts say it’s unlikely that Nearby Sharing will prove a worthy competitor to Apple’s AirDrop because it lacks “standardisation”.

“Unfortunately, not everything that Google does get standardised with all manufacturers - such as Samsung, Xiaomi and Huawei - using Android operating system,” Abbas Ali, managing editor of TechRadar Middle East, told The National.

“Every manufacturer is going to push their own solutions over this (Nearby Sharing),” he added.

Updated: January 28, 2020 08:34 PM

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