Android Beam is a feature of the Android mobile operating system to allow data to be transferred via near field communication (NFC). It allows the rapid short-range exchange of web bookmarks, contact info, directions, YouTube videos, and other data. Android Beam was introduced in Android version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich).
Android Beam is activated by placing devices back to back with the content to be shared displayed on the screen. If the content is able to be sent, the screen will shrink down and display Tap to Beam at the top. Tapping the screen sends the content from the one device to the other. A sound will play when devices are near and able to beam. When the data is sent, a confirmation tone will play or a negative tone will play if failed and the content will shrink off the screen indicating beaming is complete. Sharing is one direction and the device sending content will not get content from the receiving device.
To activate Android Beam, both devices must support NFC (Near field communication) and have it enabled in addition to passing the lock-screen or logging in.
4.1 Jelly Bean Update
As of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, devices can use Android Beam to send photos and videos over Bluetooth. Android Beam uses NFC to enable Bluetooth on both devices, instantly pair them, and disable Bluetooth once complete automatically on both devices. This only works between Android devices version 4.1 and above.
For beaming of specific content, an app is allowed to control the content being sent when adding Android Beam support. If the app does not specify data, beaming the app will open it on the receiving device. If the receiving device does not have the app, it will open the application page in the Play Store.
Android Beam and Other Platforms
Android Beam can be used to send general data such as contact cards, websites, and other basic data via Bluetooth.
Beaming of YouTube via the Android YouTube app or other platform-specific data, cannot be sent as it requires the other device to have Android Beam to open the app and scrub to the sent playback position.
Apple IOS devices do not have standard bluetooth file sharing. Android Beam is limited to Android devices, beaming of photos and videos to other platforms is not currently supported.
S Beam refers to an extension of Android Beam by Samsung, first used on their Galaxy S III phones. It uses the near-field communication to establish a Wi-Fi Direct connection between two devices for the data transfer. This results in faster transfer speeds between devices which feature S Beam.
S Beam vs. Android Beam
Unlike Android Beam, S Beam uses Wi-Fi Direct instead of Bluetooth, resulting in a quicker transfer time. S Beam is also limited to devices with S Beam support, Wi-Fi Direct, and NFC like HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S3.
- "Google announces NFC-based Android Beam for sharing between phones (video)" Engadget. Oct 18, 2011. http://www.engadget.com/2011/10/18/google-announces-nfc-based-android-beam-for-sharing-between-phon/ Accessed Jan 13, 2013.
- "Samsung's S Beam teaches Android a new trick." CNet. June 20, 2012. http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-19736_7-57455744-251/samsungs-s-beam-teaches-android-a-new-trick/ Accessed Jan 13, 2013