Android Nearby Share is getting another time-saving upgrade

A Samsung Galaxy S23 with the Nearby Share interface on-screen
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Android’s Nearby Share feature has undergone a bunch of upgrades in recent weeks, all aimed at making it a more streamlined process — akin to Apple’s AirDrop. Now it sounds like there’s another one of those updates on the way, which should make it significantly easier to send files to specific devices. Or, at the very least, slightly quicker. 

Mishaal Rahman, who uncovered some of the recent changes to Nearby Share, is the one who spotted this change. Apparently, Google could be adding target devices directly into the share menu, with devices seemingly appearing in the top row above other shareable apps. However it seems likely this row will only feature your personal devices, rather than every device in the vicinity.

The standard sharing menu on Android Phones is a two-row system, with Nearby Share and apps at the bottom, and recent contacts at the top. Judging from Rahman’s screenshot, it seems this is the menu that will be getting a Nearby Share overhaul. You can still see the Google Photos sharing menu in the background, and what we can see appears to be unchanged.

Interestingly, if you have some sort of dedicated sharing app installed on your phone, that app may have overridden the top row of the sharing menu. I’ve been using Pushbullet for several years, for easy over-the-internet file and link sharing between my devices. And it completely dominated the top row of my sharing menu. You can see that in the image below.

nearby sharesharing screen in current android version

Android's sharing screen as it appears now (Image credit: Future)

Judging from Rahman’s screenshot, it looks as though Nearby Share will be doing the same thing — taking over the top row and offering quick access to your Nearby Share-capable devices in the vicinity. The bottom row seems to be unchanged, and still includes the dedicated Nearby Share button. Presumably in case you want to share files with a device that you don’t own.

This only takes a single step out of the process, but I assume Android will be able to learn which devices you use more regularly and prioritize them in the list. If you do a lot of file sharing, this tiny amount of time saved could easily add up with use.

Apple's AirDrop does this as well, though I can never seem to get it to work on my own devices. So it's not like Google is doing anything particularly novel here. But it does mean Nearby Share is now one step closer to being a true alternative to AirDrop, rather than having to play catch up all the time.

And there is some catching up to do, since AirDrop can do a lot more than Nearby Share, especially thanks to the impending release of iOS 17. NameDrop allows iPhone users to initiate a share when bringing phones into close proximity, while AirDrop over the internet is set to arrive at some point later in the year.

It's unclear when this upgrade to Nearby Share might be rolling out, and Rahman notes that he hasn't heard any news about it appearing on peoples' devices. Here's just hoping it happens sooner rather than later.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.