The great irony of mobile devices is that while it eased the work of sending files or messages half way across the world, sharing the same to someone standing right next to you is actually more difficult. As early as June last year, there was word that Google would have a new service that resolve that problem. Dubbed “Nearby”, it was a feature that iPhone and iPad users have long been familiar with thanks to AirDrop. Now Google has fully unveiled the new API, confirming those rumors and adding a few welcome details as well.
The earliest Nearby rumors presumed that Google’s servers would act as the middle man between two nearby devices. In its announcement, Google reveals that discovery of nearby devices will be made through a combination of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and inaudible sound, the latter similar to Google’s Tone Chrome extension. That leaves out any involvement of servers, and we can only presume that transferring data is also done without Google’s help.
In fact, you won’t even need a Google account to use the service, though majority of Android users already do have one anyway. The first time a Nearby feature is used, the user is prompted for permission and that’s it. Nearby isn’t limited to sending messages. For example, the Edjing app will let DJ’s publish their playlist to anyone nearby and people can vote on those. Trello lets you share boards with teammates in the vicinity. Pocket Casts, on the other hand, gives you an overview of what other Pocket Cast users nearby are subscribed to.
Google’s Nearby API, specifically the Nearby Messages, will rollout with Google Play Service 7.8. Unlike AirDrop, Nearby will actually be available on both Android and iOS devices.