Android, Chrome, and maybe even the iPhone could get a jolt in the file sharing department with Google's acquisition of Bump, which was announced Monday.
Bump's mobile apps and website allow users to wirelessly transfer files, photos, and contact information between any two devices. With the app open, users can simply bump two phones or tablets together, or press one device against the space bar on a PC keyboard after navigating to the Bump website.
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Instead of relying on Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or NFC, Bump simply sends files to a server in the cloud, and uses an algorithm to pair with the second device, which downloads the files. It seems that Google was interested in this simplified approach to sharing information.
"We strive to create experiences that feel like magic, enabled behind the scene with innovations in math, data processing, and algorithms," Bump CEO and co-founder David Lieb wrote in a blog post. "So we couldn't be more thrilled to join Google, a company that shares our belief that the application of computing to difficult problems can fundamentally change the way that we interact with one another and the world."
Is the end nigh for NFC?
Google has tried to build easier file transfers into Android using NFC with a feature called Android Beam, but this approach has several drawbacks. To begin with, it requires both devices to have NFC, which rules out most laptops, desktops, and Apple's iPhone. Even when both devices are equipped with NFC, users must have it turned on--not a given--and must precisely align their two phones to initiate the transfer. It's a hassle.
Meanwhile, Apple is promising seamless file transfers with AirDrop, the company's own method of sending files over Wi-Fi. AirDrop came to Mac in 2011 and will soon be available in iOS 7. The time is right for Google to acknowledge NFC's failings and come up with a smarter way to wirelessly transfer files. It's not hard to imagine Bump providing the backbone for cross-platform file sharing not just for Android and Chrome, but also for iOS devices.
Bump also offers another app called Flock that lets people combine photos from multiple devices into shared photo albums, using location and other metadata to automatically sort each photo. This feature could be a good fit for Google+, which already offers event-based photo sharing.
For now, Bump and Flock are sticking around as standalone apps. How long this will last is unclear, as Lieb wrote to "stay tuned for future updates."