Two new ways to get apps nearby, without internet

There are many reasons why it is often better to do things without the internet:your data plan is expensive, there is limited coverage in the area, there is an internet outage or shutdown, or even something is private and should not be online at all. Or even, if you are setting up a new device, you can easily send all your existing apps over to the new device. This is why F-Droid has included the “Nearby Tab” for swapping apps and files without internet. F-Droid v1.7 includes a major overhaul of the existing functionality, so it should work a lot better now, especially when using Wi-Fi. Two new “nearby” methods were added on top of that, to provide effective ways of exchanging apps between devices.

The first is “hotspot” mode, where one device is acting as a Wi-Fi Access Point. Android does not make it easy to do, since apps cannot always known what the state of the Wi-Fi is. Thanks to the accesspoint library from long time F-Droid contributor @mvdan, it can do a lot more.

The second is using SD Cards and USB On-The-Go (OTG) flash drives as a source of F-Droid repos. Flash drives can provide a very high bandwidth method for transferring files, when they are easy to move from device to device. Our goal is to make the whole user experience as smooth as possible, so people can regularly move data with these affordable, widespread data buckets. USB-OTG and SD Cards can host standalone repos as well as mirrors of existing repos. Those repos need to be copied to the flash drive first, like from a laptop. That can be done using fdroid mirror, for example:

$ cd /media/user/F-DROIDORG
$ fdroid mirror
$ wget
$ mv index-v1.jar fdroid/repo/

USB OTG support is new and alpha. It works, but needs a lot of polish on the user experience. For example, it should show the scanning progress. Also, Bluetooth is still flaky on many devices, some of that comes from the devices poor support for generic data service over Bluetooth.