What Is AirDrop on an iPhone?

People who own Macs and iOS products will undoubtedly be more familiar with the term “AirDrop.” It’s a feature that allows these machines’ owners to share files conveniently. Instead of using email or text, AirDrop is much faster.

What Is AirDrop on an iPhone?

AirDrop is more than just a simple sharing service. The way it works is relatively simple, but you might not know how. To learn more about this handy feature, keep reading until the end.

How Does AirDrop Work?

In the era of dumb phones and some early smartphones, people used to send files to one another using Bluetooth, as it was the best option, or sometimes the only one. AirDrop does use Bluetooth to send files over, but it also requires you to turn Wi-Fi on. Even so, it doesn’t require data or an internet connection via a router.

Once an Apple device activates Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and prepares to transfer files, all supported devices nearby will start creating a firewall. The firewall protects the connections with secure encryption to ensure nothing is leaked.

Since two Apple devices can connect to each other via Wi-Fi, they can send files to each other. Wi-Fi is faster than Bluetooth and Near Field Communications (NFC), so larger files are received sooner.

To perform a successful AirDrop, all devices should be in the same room or close by. Too many walls between them can result in a slower signal, but Wi-Fi is faster than Bluetooth.

Sending and Receiving Files via AirDrop

The way AirDrop works can differ depending on your iPhone’s model. iPhone 11 and later will use the latest process, while older devices have a slightly different way to send files via AirDrop.

  1. Open an app on your iPhone 11.
  2. Tap on the Share button or the word Share if one is available.
  3. Select the AirDrop button.
  4. Point your iPhone 11 in the direction of another iPhone 11 or later.
  5. Select the other person’s profile picture.
  6. Send the files.

If the person you’re sending files to is in your Contacts, an image should accompany their name. Otherwise, it’ll only be a name that you can select.

Sometimes, you’ll see a red badge with numbers on the AirDrop button. That’s a sign of multiple Apple devices nearby. Make sure you select the right person to send it to.

You’ll need to try a different method for the iPhone XS and earlier models, the iPad, or iPod Touch.

  1. Launch an app like Photos on your iPhone.
  2. Tap on the AirDrop button.
  3. Select the user you want to send files to.
  4. Proceed with the AirDrop.

In the Photos app, you can choose to send more than one photo by swiping left or right.

After you perform one of the processes above, the person you’re sending to will receive an alert. Here’s what they must do.

  1. Wait until the AirDrop alert appears.
  2. Tap accept to download the file.
  3. Locate the file.

The AirDropped object can be found on the app it was sent from. For example, sending a URL from Safari means the recipient has to open Safari on their iPhone. If it’s an app link, they can navigate to the App Store to locate it.

It’s also possible to AirDrop objects to yourself. However, the alert isn’t necessary, since you’re just getting something from one device to another. You can find them in the corresponding app immediately.

Ensure both devices are using the same Apple ID for this to work. Otherwise, you’ll need to accept the AirDrop manually.

AirDrop Settings

There are some customizable aspects to Apple’s AirDrop feature. You can choose not to accept anything, or only from your Contacts. Below are the instructions for accessing the AirDrop settings.

  1. On your iPhone, go to the Settings menu.
  2. Select the “General” tab.
  3. Tap on “AirDrop” to start modifying configurations.

You can also do so with the Control Center for models starting from the iPhone X.

  1. Swipe down with your finger from the top-right corner.
  2. Tap and hold the network settings icon.
  3. Select and hold the AirDrop button.
  4. Choose from one of three options.

For AirDrop, you can pick these three settings.

  • Receiving Off
  • Contacts Only
  • Everyone

Some people report noticing Receiving Off is permanently chosen. This error is fixed by switching AirDrop to an allowed app.

  1. Go to the Settings menu.
  2. Head to “Content & Privacy Restrictions.”
  3. Tap on “Allowed Apps.”
  4. Ensure AirDrop isn’t restricted.

Something to note is that the Contacts Only option will only appear for these operating systems and any released after them.

  • iOS 10
  • iPad OS
  • macOS Sierra 10.2

If you set AirDrop to Contacts Only on an earlier operating system build, you need to switch to Everyone using either of the ways above. If you don’t want to use AirDrop, switch to Receiving Off.

AirDrop Isn’t Working

Sometimes, AirDrop refuses to work and you can’t send things to other Apple device users. Fortunately, there are some solutions you can try.

Toggle Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Some errors are inexplainable, but you can somehow fix them by turning them off and on again. In this case, you can first try shutting the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth settings off for a few moments. Next, turn them back on when you’ve waited long enough.

You can also do the same for the target device, which can be another iPhone or a Mac.

  1. Go to the Settings menu on your iPhone.
  2. Tap on Wi-Fi.
  3. Toggle it off.
  4. Go back and tap on Bluetooth.
  5. Toggle Bluetooth off too.
  6. Turn both on again.

For Macs, follow these instructions.

  1. Click on the Control Center on your Mac.
  2. Enable and disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
  3. Try again to see if AirDrop works.

If doing so lets you send and receive AirDrop, you can go on with your day.

Stop Hosting Hotspots

AirDrop won’t function at all if you use your iPhone as a personal hotspot. Therefore, the only option is to turn it off.

While you can turn the hotspot off in all versions before iOS 13.1, the latest models won’t let you do that anymore. However, you can still make the personal hotspot not discoverable.

  1. Head to your iPhone’s Settings menu.
  2. Select “Personal Hotspot.”
  3. Turn it off.

For the newer iPhones, try this instead.

  1. Open the Control Center.
  2. Tap and hold the Bluetooth icon.
  3. If the hotspot button is green, tap on it.
  4. The hotspot should now be undiscoverable.

With no one connecting to your hotspot, AirDrop should function normally again.

Unlock Your iPhone

The iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch must be unlocked and powered on to register as an available device. If not, the sender can’t detect them. Make sure the device is on and has the display unlocked. Try again and see if AirDrop catches it now.

Check Mac Firewall Settings

Macs have a firewall to protect the system from malware and other threats. Some accidentally set it up in a way AirDrop can’t go through. Luckily, it’s an easy fix.

  1. Click on the Apple symbol in the top-left corner.
  2. Go to “System Preferences.”
  3. Choose “Security & Privacy.”
  4. Click on the padlock and enter your credentials.
  5. Select “Firewall” tab and click “Firewall Options.”
  6. Uncheck “Block All Incoming Connections.”
  7. Enable “Automatically Allow Built-In Software To Receive Incoming Connections.”

With the firewall’s restrictions loosened, AirDrop should go through without being stopped.

Your Device is too Old

Some older Apple devices aren’t compatible with AirDrop. Here’s a list of AirDrop-compatible Apple products.

For Mac, those released in 2012 and more must run OS X Yosemite and above.

Take This With You

AirDrop is immensely helpful for sending links, files, and more to your friends using Apple devices. Since it uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, it’s much faster and has a more extended range. Now that you know how it works, you can share things with your friends and colleagues in only a few taps.

What do you usually use AirDrop for? Do you know of any other ways to fix AirDrop not working? Let us know in the comments section below.

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