How to enable and use Android's new Nearby Share

Are you anxiously awaiting Android's Nearby Share file sharing feature? If you have a supported phone, you need not wait any longer. Jack Wallen shows you how to enable the feature.

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Image: iStockphoto/marchmeena29

Nearby Share is Android's answer to iOS's AirDrop. In other words, it'll allow you to easily share files between Android devices. Nearby Share uses Bluetooth and should (in theory) work seamlessly and (almost) effortlessly.

At the moment, Nearby Share is still in the testing phase, so it's only available for select Google Pixel and Samsung devices. The good news is that Nearby Share should work with any Pixel or Samsung device running version 6 or newer of Android.

Let me show you how to enable this beta feature, so you can be ahead of the sharing curve.

What you'll need

In order to make this work, you'll need a supported device, such as a Samsung Galaxy or Google Pixel phone. 

Because this is a beta version of a very important service, you'll also need to be enrolled in the beta program for the Google Play Services app. In order to sign up, open a web browser and head over to the Google Play Services beta program. Once you've signed up, either wait for the notification of an update for Google Play Services, or go immediately to the Google Play Store (on your Android device), tap the menu button in the upper-left corner, tap My Apps & Games, locate Google Play Services in the listing, and tap Update.

With Google Play Services updated, you are ready to enable the feature.

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How to enable Nearby Share

To enable Nearby Share, open Settings and scroll down to the Google entry. In the resulting window, you should see Nearby Share listed (Figure A).

Figure A

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Nearby Share is now available on your device.

Tap Nearby Share and, when prompted, tap Turn On (Figure B). Nearby Share is now enabled.

Figure B

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Enabling Nearby Share on a Google Pixel 4.

How to use Nearby Share

To share a file with another Android device that also has Nearby Share enabled, your phone must be in close proximity to the other device. Locate and tap a file you want to share (in the device file manager) and then tap the Share icon. You should then see the Nearby Share listing (Figure C).

Figure C

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The Nearby Share listing in the Android share menu.

When you tap the Nearby Share listing, a new popup will appear to list any devices that are within range, tap the device you want to share with (Figure D). 

Figure D

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My other Pixel device is shown as near enough for Nearby Share.

The owner of the device in question will then have to okay the file transfer. Once they've done that, the file will transfer and you're good to go.

Note: You can share other items via Nearby Share, such as URLs and selected text.

Although Nearby Share isn't quite ready for prime time, it does work really well. If I had to guess, by the time Android 11 officially rolls out, Nearby Share will be available for the masses. If you happen to have a supported device, and are willing to enroll in the Google Play Services beta program, I highly recommend adding Nearby Share to your device immediately.

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