Unlike on iOS, there’s currently no universal way to share files between Android devices. Before Android 10, you could use Android Beam, a file-sharing tool that uses NFC to beam files from one Android device to another. It was slow and barely used, so Google deprecated it in the latest Android version. Fortunately, we know they’re working on a substantially better replacement. It’s called Fast Share, and details of this service first appeared in late June thanks to 9to5Google. Since then, Google has continued work on this Apple AirDrop alternative, and the latest implementation has redesigned the file share sheet and the feature’s location in the Settings app.
Fast Share seems to use Bluetooth to initiate a handshake between two devices before transferring files via Wi-Fi Direct. This is much faster than transferring over NFC like with Android Beam. You’ll be able to transfer large files – up to gigabytes in size – rather than just a few megabytes in size. The Files by Google app has a similar file sharing tool built-in, but both the sender and the intended recipient need to have the app installed in order to transfer files.
On the other hand, Fast Share is part of the Nearby service in Google Play Services. Google Play Services is pre-installed on all certified Android devices, of which there are over 2.5 billion in active use. The way Fast Share works means it should be available on most modern Android OS versions, thus, we expect this new file-sharing tool to be broadly available because of the prevalence of Google Play Services.
Fast Share Settings
In earlier versions, the settings were located under Settings > Google, where the settings pages for Google Play Services features are typically located. Now, we’ve spotted the settings page under Settings > Connected devices > Connection preferences in Android 10. Since the feature was initially spotted, the settings page has since added an option to swap Google accounts, which is needed to sync Preferred Visibility settings. As a reminder, Preferred Visibility lets your device always show up when others are using Fast Share, even if you’re not actively using it yourself.
If you select one or more files to share, you’ll see a “Fast Share” option in the standard Share Sheet. When you’re sending a file for the first time, a “Setup” bottom sheet appears that lets you customize the Device Name and your Preferred Visibility. Your phone will then scan for nearby devices that have opted into Fast Share. Tapping on a listed device will then initiate a file transfer with a PIN that the recipient can confirm. The first time we saw this flow, sending a file opened a full-screen activity rather than the smaller bottom sheet that we see today.
Again, since the feature isn’t complete and there aren’t actually any devices to send files to, the share sheet activity shows generic share targets such as a Chromebook, a Pixel 3, an iPhone, and a smartwatch. It’s still unclear whether you’ll actually be able to send files to Chrome OS, iOS, or Wear OS devices, however.
Receiving a file seems unchanged from the earlier iteration of this service. You’ll get a notification telling you that a device wants to send some files which you can either deny or accept after verifying the PIN. Tapping on the notification opens a full-screen activity that starts scanning for nearby devices. If a file transfer request is received, you’ll see that information in the middle of the screen. If you accept the transfer, you have the option to give that device Preferred Visibility.
This feature has been under development for the past few months, but we don’t have an inkling about when it’ll launch. That’s unfortunate because I think Android really needs a universal file transferring solution. It would be especially useful when you’re traveling and want to immediately transfer photos and videos you’ve taken instead of uploading them Google Photos then grabbing a link to share. Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo are teaming up to create a cross-device file-sharing solution for the Chinese market, and I’m hoping that Fast Share will be the solution for the global market.
Thanks to PNF Software for providing us a license to use JEB Decompiler, a professional-grade reverse engineering tool for Android applications.
Want more posts like this delivered to your inbox? Enter your email to be subscribed to our newsletter.