Android users have long lamented the absence of a true AirDrop alternative on the platform. Sure, before Android 10, we had Android Beam, and there are plenty of other ways to share pictures and videos with other people. But AirDrop is one feature in Apple’s walled garden that really makes us Android users feel singled out.
This is especially true when a group of friends or family members asks to share a picture or video with everyone on AirDrop. No one likes getting that disappointing look the moment you let everyone know you don’t have an iPhone.
Thankfully, there are several Android OEMs currently working to develop robust AirDrop alternatives — the latest of which is Samsung.
Thanks to XDA Developers, we just got a look at the OEM’s swing at its own AirDrop alternative called Quick Share. Quick Share should make sharing files between Galaxy devices simpler. It won’t require a third-party app. But unfortunately, there is no word on its integration with the other services in development.
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This should work similarly to Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo’s future Android AirDrop alternative. These OEMs have all joined forces to develop their own file-sharing solution that also won’t rely on any third-party apps. Instead, it will be built into all three OEMs’ devices sometime in the future. That means only devices from these manufacturers will be able to utilize it, leaving other manufacturers high and dry.
I’m glad companies are working to make file sharing more seamless, but are these the solutions the Android platform needs as a whole? One of Android’s biggest weaknesses has always been fragmentation. How are these upcoming features any different?
What we really want from an Android AirDrop alternative
The thing that makes AirDrop so appealing is convenience and uniformity. Everyone who has an iPhone can share large files back and forth effortlessly. They don’t have to ask each other what device they have first. There’s no need to convince anyone to download a specific app. They simply ask one another to make sure AirDrop is on, and they are off to the races.
For a genuine AirDrop alternative to emerge on Android, it must embody those two things — convenience and uniformity. That means developing a standard all OEMs and users can take advantage of is paramount.
Google previously baked a universal AirDrop-like feature into its Files app, but it’s kind of clunky, and it requires users to download the app. To simplify this process, Google has since decided to build that functionality directly into its OS, calling it Nearby Sharing. When Nearby Sharing is released, it will effectively replace Android Beam, allowing users to wirelessly share files between Android devices, just like AirDrop.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean OEMs will utilize this feature. And with companies releasing their own AirDrop alternatives, we are no closer to getting the same convenience and uniformity on Android that Apple users have.
Unless we find a way to combat this feature fragmentation, none of them will deliver what I and many other Android users really want. In order to develop a successful Android AirDrop alternative, everyone needs to get along and work together to create a standard of some sort. Without that, we will be no better off than where we are now.