Google wants to ramp up the ability for Android phones to communicate with the devices around them.
In a recent blog post from the company, Google detailed the ‘Cross device SDK’ for Android (SDK stands for software development kit). It contains tools that can help developers make apps that support cross-device features. It seems the SDK targets Android-to-Android functionality first (which could be helpful for people with an Android smartphone and tablet or a group of Android phones), with the goal of expanding to non-Android phones, tablets, TVs, cars, and more.
The main three features of the SDK now are discovering nearby devices, establishing secure connections between devices, and hosting an app’s experience across multiple devices. Moreover, the SDK can leverage Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and ultra-wideband (UWB) connectivity to deliver the cross-device experiences.
Some of Google’s examples of cross-device functionality in action really put the promise of the SDK in perspective. For example, Google describes using cross-device capability to let multiple people pick items from a menu when ordering food, no need to pass your phone around the room. Alternatively, users could pick up reading an article where they left off on another device, which sounds a lot like Apple’s Handoff feature. Google even pitches using cross-device capability to share map locations with a vehicle’s navigation system.
As The Verge points out, all this sounds like a massive expansion of the Nearby Share system, Android’s AirDrop-but-slightly-worse feature. That could make Nearby Share a much more useful feature, especially if Google manages to bring the cross-device functionality to iOS as it plans. Google says it wants to expand cross-device capabilities to iOS and Windows, but didn’t provide any details about when this would happen.
Naturally, the SDK is still in its early days, but it certainly sounds promising. It will be interesting to see what Google and app developers do with the SDK. Hopefully something good comes of it, and it’s not another dead-on-arrival feature that only works among Google’s Android devices.