What is AirDrop and How Does it Work - How AirDrop Is Used

What is AirDrop: This article explains AirDrop and how it's used. Wirelessly share any type of file between operating systems or devices running the same operating system.

What is AirDrop and How Does it Work - How AirDrop Is Used
What is AirDrop and How Does it Work

What is AirDrop and How Does it Work

AirDrop is a feature in iOS and macOS that allows physically closed Mac and iOS devices to share files wirelessly with one another with minimal effort. The term essentially means to send or 'drop' files from one device to another over the air.

It transmits files using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi through a proprietary, close-range wireless communication process. These can be text, images, or other types of files, such as playlists and locations. There are no file size restrictions.

You can share across operating systems (for example, from iOS to macOS) or between devices running the same operating system (iOS to iOS, for instance).

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How AirDrop Is Used

When you want to share photos with someone, you usually text or email them. While that will work, it may be much faster to simply send the image(s) to them via AirDrop. The only requirements are that both devices be Apple and that they be close to one another.

AirDrop isn't just for sending photos. It can be used to transfer almost anything that can be shared. You can, for example, AirDrop a website from your iPad to your friend's phone, which is useful if they want to bookmark it for later reading.

You can also AirDrop text from Notes to another person's iPad or iPhone. The feature can even handle playlists, contact information, and pinned locations in Apple Maps.

Note: These instructions apply to iOS 7 or later devices, as well as post-2012 Macs running OS X Yosemite or later.

How Does AirDrop Work?

AirDrop uses Bluetooth to establish a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi network between the devices. That is, you do not need to be connected to your router or even the internet to establish an AirDrop connection. However, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth must be enabled.

Each device creates a firewall around the connection, and files are sent encrypted, making it safer than email transfers. AirDrop will automatically detect nearby supported devices, and the devices only need to be close enough to establish a good Wi-Fi connection, allowing you to share files across multiple rooms.

One advantage of AirDrop is that it uses Wi-Fi to connect. Using Bluetooth, some apps provide a similar file-sharing capability. To share files, some Android devices use a combination of Near Field Communications (NFC) and Bluetooth. However, both Bluetooth and NFC are relatively slow when compared to Wi-Fi, so sharing larger files via AirDrop is much faster and more convenient.

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Note: If AirDrop isn't working properly for you, try these troubleshooting tips to get it working again.


What is AirDrop receiving?

When someone tries to send you a file via AirDrop, your Mac or iOS device displays an alert and a preview. To accept or decline the transfer, you must tap Accept or Decline on your device. This prevents other users from sending files to your device without your permission.

What is AirDrop Contacts?

Contacts Only are one of three AirDrop options available in your device's Control Center. Contacts Only indicate that only your contacts will be able to see your device for AirDrop purposes. Receiving Off prevents your device from receiving any AirDrop requests, whereas Everyone means it is visible to all nearby Apple devices.

How far does AirDrop work?

The maximum distance between two devices that can still AirDrop files is about 30 feet. Both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth must be turned on for the transfer to take place.