AirDrop Guide: Here’s How to Transfer Files Easily Between iPhone, iPad, and Mac

AirDrop Guide: Here's How to Transfer Files Easily Between iPhone, iPads, and Macs
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AirDrop is a convenient and useful Apple service that simplifies the transfer of files among iOS and macOS devices. It debuted with iOS 7 but hasn’t enjoyed nearly as much use as it should.  Check out our other article on What is AirDrop, this has a little more detail on the AirDrop feature.

The best part is you don’t need to use e-mail, text, or specialized services like Dropbox to move files between iPads, iPhones, and Macs. All you need to do is enable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and find a nearby Apple device also running AirDrop, and you’re good to go. And, it works with just about everything that is shareable– from photos and videos to phone contacts.

AirDrop uses Bluetooth LE to create an ad-hoc, peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connection between two Apple devices to enable transfers. It also applies TLS encryption to the connection so you don’t need to worry about privacy, making it a more secure option than e-mail. And the fact that AirDrop uses Wi-Fi not only speeds up the transfer, it also enables the service to move large file sizes. AirDrop automatically detects all supported devices in your area that it can establish connections with, meaning the geographically closer the two devices are to each other, the easier it is to use.

Here’s a primer on AirDrop that should answer any questions you have and get you started.

AirDrop Device Compatibility:
Which Apple devices work with AirDrop?

AirDrop works with devices running iOS 7 or later. For Macs, you’ll need to have OS X 10.7 or a more recent OS to use AirDrop. In terms of iOS devices, AirDrop runs on: an iPhone 5 or later, a fourth-gen iPad or later, any iPad mini, the iPad Pro, the iPad Air, and fifth-generation iPod Touch devices or later. To transfer files between OS X and iOS devices, however, you will need a Mac running OS X Yosemite or later, and an iOS device running iOS 8 or later.

How to Use AirDrop on iPhone and iPad

How to Turn on AirDrop for iPhone
  1. To turn on AirDrop, you have to swipe up from your bottom bezel and access your Control Panel, rather than going into Settings.
  2. For AirDrop to work, you’ll also need to enable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which you can also turn on from your Control Panel.
  3. From there, you can turn on AirDrop for ‘Everyone’ or for ‘Contacts Only’. The ‘Contacts Only’ setting means that only people in your contacts list can send you files via AirDrop. The ‘Everyone’ option allows literally anyone nearby to try to send you files, including strangers, so be forewarned. With that being said, you have final say on whether or not to accept the AirDrop
  4. After that, you simply need to navigate to whatever file you’d like to share, whether it’s a web link or a photo. Find the Share button, which is shaped like a box with an arrow sticking out of it, and tap it. A list of AirDrop-supported devices will appear at the top of the Share menu.
  5. Simply select your recipient and tap on the circle to send your file.

How to Use AirDrop on a Mac

  1. On Mac computers, you can enable it by launching the Finder, clicking on AirDrop in the left panel, and turning it on for ‘Everyone’ or ‘Contacts Only’.
  2. After that, simply drag the files you want to share over to AirDrop in the sidebar, and then drop the files onto your intended recipient. You can also control-click an item you want to share, and select the Share shortcut to AirDrop it, or use the ‘Share’ feature in an app, if it’s available.
  3. When you AirDrop the file, your intended recipient will be prompted to accept or reject the transfer.

How to Turn off AirDrop

Once you’re done using the feature on iOS, you simply go back into your Control Panel, find AirDrop, and select ‘Off’ to disable it. This means you’ll no longer be discoverable to others using AirDrop.

For Macs, go back to Finder and click on the AirDrop folder in the left panel. From there, select ‘Off’ to disable the service.

AirDrop’s Limitations

As we’ve noted above, AirDrop uses Bluetooth to scan and find nearby devices, meaning it only works with geographically proximate and discoverable devices within a range of 30 feet (9 meters). If the device you’re trying to send files to doesn’t show up in AirDrop, it either means that device hasn’t enabled AirDrop or that it isn’t close enough.

Also, while the Wi-Fi connectivity theoretically makes it easy to transfer large 1GB+ files, users have reported issues with ‘AirDropping’ bulky, multiple gigabyte files, where only 25% of the transfer is completed before it fails. While AirDrop makes it’s extremely simple to share photos, web links, contacts, and Passbook passes, you might run into issues when sharing large video files.

Also, due to copyright issues, you aren’t allowed to share music files directly from Music, meaning you’ll have to store songs in a separate folder before attempting to AirDrop it to a friend.

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