In the spirit of making the transition to Android easier for Windows phone users, I present Google Nearby. This new Android feature works like Local Scout did on Microsoft’s mobile platform, offering quick access to nearby places of interest.
To be fair to Google, of course, this kind of functionality is obviously very useful on a phone. And Apple added something like this to iOS a year ago or so as well. I’ll add, too, that Google will no doubt get this right by tying Nearby to the incredible wealth of apps and services in the Android ecosystem.
“Getting the right apps at the right time can be tough if you don’t already know about them,” Google notes in the Nearby announcement. “So, we’re introducing a new Android feature called Nearby, which notifies you of of things that can be helpful near you.”
Nearby is added to Android through the latest Google Play Services update, so you don’t need to upgrade to a new Android OS version. (It works with Android 4.4 (KitKat) and above.) To use this feature, just turn on Bluetooth and Location services, and Android will display a notification if a nearby app or web site is available. You have to opt-in the first time you use this, and can then swipe away notifications normally if you don’t want them.
Today, Google is promoting five Nearby partners:
CVS Pharmacy, where you can print photos directly from your phone.
The University of Notre Dame, so you can explore historical landmarks.
The Broad museum in LA, where you can download an audio tour.
Mobile Passport, which lets you skip the customs line at select airports.
United Airlines, which can be used for free in-flight entertainment while you wait at the gate, before your flight.
So… not exactly a huge list, obviously. But the app-based approach is kind of interesting, and will be more so when Instant Apps hit with Android N, I bet. And it’s not just apps: Web sites can use a new developer feature called beacons to notify Android users when they’re near a place that’s represented by a web site.
Also, Nearby works with nearby select Android-compatible devices too. So when you’re near a Google Cast and Android Wear watch, you’ll be prompted to set them up via a notification.
It’s early yet. But this looks really interesting.