For years iPhones were ridiculed for the lack of features. A gimmick: that is all it seemed. While the phone was quite ahead of its time, some may argue that it was just that. Looking over the original iPhone, we see features that were lacking true potential. For example, the camera app, while taking good photos, could not shoot video. Similarly, although the iPhone had a Bluetooth module, it could not transfer files. At the time, this was the deal.
Coming to the Android side of things and this was the deal. There wasn’t much you could not do with an android phone. Even today we don’t have that level of freedom with these phones. Perhaps that’s because manufacturers don’t want average users to become aware of the fact that they simply do not HAVE to buy a flagship every single year. Anyway, coming to the Bluetooth module, Android users could simply transfer almost every thing between their devices. It didn’t matter whether their phone would even run the file, it was simple, they could just do it.
Fast forwarding to recent times, Apple came, although late, to the feature train as well. Today, you can do a lot with your iPhone as well. With the upcoming iOS 13, users have the ability to really exploit their phones to get so much done. From iOS 7, Apple users have exerted their exclusivity by using AirDrop between their devices. It is limited to Apple devices though but hey! It’s Apple after all. But when it comes to file transfers with AirDrop, it kills it. Speaking from personal experience, it took me a little less than 2 mins to transfer a 1 gig video file from my iPhone to a Mac in my office. When we look at the Bluetooth side of things, those are gigantic leaps. But to understand completely, let’s go over how the Bluetooth technology works for file transfer.
Bluetooth: How it works
Bluetooth, in short, works over radio signals. The sender first makes a request to the receiver. Usually, there is password protection that helps in establishing a level of security. After the prerequisites have been met, files, which are made of 1s and 0s are encoded and transferred via radio signals. On the receiving end, these 1s and 0s are then decoded to form a duplicate file on the receiving device to have the file there. The problem here is that this takes a long while. The same time it took me to transfer a gig of data via airdrop, it may take to transfer 10-12 megabytes of data via Bluetooth.
So yes, clearly it can be seen that AirDrop technology that Apple instilled in their devices is superior to what Android phones have offered. But, here is the twist. Android developers may be coming up with something to counter Apple at their own game.
Android’s Take On The Situation
We had seen the Android beam in recent years but not a lot of people used it. It does not come as a surprise that it wasn’t that common. Sadly though, in the upcoming update of Android Q, the service is said to be slashed from it. This means, although the service wasn’t quite popular, it would be a feature that is better to have than to not need than to not have but to need.
Luckily though, according to an article published on XDA-Developers, 9to5Google first teased a new feature in the latest update of Android Q. Dubbed as Fast Share, the service functions similar to Apple’s AirDrop.
Fast Share by Android
There is no extra science put into the technology but only how devices interact with one another. As Apple’s AirDrop, it uses a combination of Bluetooth and Wifi direct connection to share files between devices.
How it works is that the host contacts the receiver via Bluetooth and then the file encoding and decoding works all so similar. The main difference is the use of Wifi direct to transfer the file. What the advantage of using Wifi direct over a Bluetooth radio signal is that the former allows heavy file transfer over a shorter period of time. This is exactly what happens during file transfer with Apple’s AirDrop. Developers at XDA did was finally get their hands on the feature itself and see how it really works. According to them, it would be a feature allowing file transfer between both Android and iOS devices. What this would bring is diversity on a connectivity basis.
What sets it apart from the Android Beam is that while Beam used NFC to make the first contact for a connect, Fast Share uses a Bluetooth connection to make an initial request. Just like Apple’s service. Now stepping aside from the similarities, oh wait. No, they do not end. Just like AirDrops “Visible to everyone” and “Contacts Only”, Fast share would function on a similar process. Using low powered Bluetooth connection to make contact, it would not take up so much battery when it is on.
For now, it is only compatible with Google devices such as Chrome Books and Pixels. Perhaps that is where Google is eventually going with this. Devices can connect and share files easily with their Chrome Books as it would create a well integrated atmosphere. Not only that, but Google uses this to push Chrome Books onto the users, to normalise the product in all markets. This is where the tech market is going towards, a mobile world where we can take our work on the go, be it on a tablet, a mobile device or a laptop. But it also brings up to mind that the Bluetooth technology is slowly fading away, being limited to periphery connections.
As for Fast Share, clearly it is still strictly in Beta mode and won’t be active for a bit. In the coming updates though, we’ll see how the service develops. The main question would be whether it is functioning as buttery smooth as the AirDrop or would it flunk or just be ignored as Android Beam was previously.