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PSA: Google's Nearby Share can send files to your sleeping devices

If you use Nearby Share to send something to a sleeping device, it will wake right up.

Published onJune 27, 2023

  • Nearby Share works on your devices even when their screens are off.
  • You must be signed in using the same Google account on all devices.
  • Google announced this change in 2022.

Update, June 29, 2023 (01:15 PM ET): Originally, this article was written from the perspective of this Nearby Share feature being new and unannounced. However, it appears Google already announced this feature in September 2022, but I and seemingly many others missed the announcement. The original article below has been updated accordingly.

Original article, June 27, 2023 (04:39 PM ET): A lot of people are still not aware that Android has an equivalent to AirDrop called Nearby Share, and that’s a shame because it keeps getting better and better. Earlier this year, the sharing service added support for Windows, enabling you to share files between your Android device and your PC. While you probably heard of that rollout, you may not have heard that last year, the service gained the ability to send things to your devices even when their screens are off.

When Google first launched Nearby Share, only devices whose screens were on and unlocked could appear in the list of devices you could send to. This was done to save battery life, as devices need to periodically broadcast their availability over Bluetooth in order to appear as a receiver target in Nearby Share. That’s not a big deal when the screen is on and the phone is unlocked, as the battery drain from periodic Bluetooth scans is negligible compared to other battery guzzlers like the screen itself or the modem. However, when the screen is off, it’s generally best to throttle scans or services to maximize battery life, and that’s what Google did with Nearby Share until last year.

Although Google announced this change last September, many of us weren’t aware this was possible until it was brought to our attention by Twitter user GreenShades9, after which we decided to test it for ourselves. In the video embedded above, you can see that my Pixel 7 Pro immediately appeared in the list of devices after I opened Nearby Share on my Pixel 6 Pro. In contrast, my Zenfone 9 only appeared in the list after I turned its screen on and unlocked it.

When recording the video, I hadn’t signed my Zenfone 9 into the same Google account I used for my Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro. After I later signed into the same Google account on my Zenfone 9, it appeared in the list of devices I could share with, even when its screen was off. That this works only if both the sender and the receiver device are signed into the same Google account is a good thing for privacy.

While this admittedly wasn’t a major change, it did make Nearby Share more convenient to use as you wouldn’t have to grab your phone anymore to send files to it. For tech reviewers or developers with lots of test devices on their desks, this was a welcome change.

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