Google is launching a tool called Nearby Share that lets people quickly send files to the devices of people around them. The feature is similar to Apple’s AirDrop, which debuted for Mac computers in 2011 and came to iPhones two years later.
It is faster than sharing a file by text because the sender does not have to find the recipient’s contact information. It also works either online or offline because the feature uses various sending methods including Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connections.
Google said the feature took years in development and will be available on different models of Android phones. It will work with devices that run Android Marshmallow, the version of the operating system released in 2015 or newer versions.
The feature is coming first to select phones from Samsung and Google’s flagship mobile device Pixel line.
The release comes as both Google and Apple battle to bring new features to users that were previously only on its rival’s platform. Apple unveiled several features for its iPhones in June that Android phones have had for years, including widgets for customising the home screen and app clips for previewing apps without downloading them.
Android is the most dominant mobile operating system in the world and powers almost nine out of every 10 smartphones shipped globally. The software is a crucial piece of Google’s business. Google can get more data on users to refine its targeted advertising if more people use its Android software.
Google, which has been criticised for its privacy and data collection policies, said it built in settings for Nearby Share that let people control how visible they are. Users can send and receive files anonymously. They can choose to be hidden or seen by some or all contacts.
Google said the feature will be compatible with its Chromebook laptops in coming months.