Remember the old days, when it took seemingly eons to text one photo or video to your friend's device? And let's not even get into how grainy the compressed images ended up looking, if they sent through at all. Thankfully, if you have an iPhone, Apple's AirDrop feature eradicates all of these sticking points—to the point where file-sharing can actually feel like magic.
To use AirDrop, you'll need to switch on Bluetooth, but the file-transferring software actually creates its own WiFi network between devices, eliminating any need for an outside internet connection. In other words, you can basically use AirDrop anywhere, although there's a few tricks to mastering the wizardry—here's how.
Step 1: Turn on AirDrop.
On an iOS device, you can do this through settings or through the Control Center. For the former, go to Settings > General > AirDrop. Then choose either “Contacts Only,” which lets only people you know send you things, or “Everyone,” which will allow anyone using AirDrop to find you and send you stuff. (Note: You always have the opportunity to reject a file sent to you by a rando or frenemy.) To get to the same panel through Control Center, press and hold the network pane, then tap AirDrop.
On a Mac, the easiest way to get to the same settings panel is through Spotlight Search, either by clicking the magnifying glass on the taskbar or by using Command + Space to search.
In the AirDrop window, the same settings options are accessed through the link at the bottom left.
Step 1.5: Make sure WiFi and Bluetooth are turned on.
Not much more to say here, just… I always forget this part.
Step 2: Make sure everything else is set up correctly.
There are a number of other things that will prevent you from being able to use AirDrop:
On an iOS device, AirDrop won’t function if you’re currently creating a personal hot spot. Turn that off at General > Cellular, or by again pressing and holding the network pane in the Control Center.
The Mac operating system has a built-in firewall. If it’s turned on, you won’t be able to receive files. Go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Firewall to make sure it’s off.
On some older Macs, you may have to open an AirDrop window if you're receiving files, or you may need to search for an older Mac using the “Don’t see who you are looking for?” link if you are sending.
Finally, if you’re transferring to another person, make sure they're at least within about 30 feet, which is Bluetooth’s range.
Step 3: Choose and transfer the file.
On iOS, tap the share icon while viewing something shareable. Examples here are endless, but here it is in the Photos app:
Then, if there’s someone nearby who can receive, you’ll see them in the AirDrop pane:
Tap the person/device you want to share with, and the file will send.
On a Mac, if you have the AirDrop window open, you can simply drag a file onto the icon for the person you want to share with. Even easier is to control-click a file and select Share > AirDrop from the context menu.
Step 4: Retrieve the file.
When someone’s sharing with you, your device will alert you and give you the opportunity to accept or decline the file.
If you accept, then comes the hard part: finding it. On a Mac, the file will probably go straight to your Downloads folder, but you can also sometimes open it immediately with a relevant application. On an iOS device, the file always opens in the relevant application.
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