How to Use AirDrop on iPhone

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Introduction to AirDrop

using airdrop, step 1

Before iOS 7, sharing files directly between one iPhone and another (or an iPod touch or iPad) required third-party apps. You could email files, but sharing from one device to another wasn't built into the OS. That changed in iOS 7 with the addition of a feature called AirDrop.

AirDrop is an Apple technology (it started on the Mac originally, but you can't share between iOS devices and Macs) that uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless networking to let users share files directly between their iOS devices. Once it's enabled, you can use it to share content from any app that supports it.

A number of the built-in apps that come with the iOS support it, including Photos, Notes, Safari, Contacts, and Maps. As a result, you can share things like photos and videos, URLs, address book entries, and text files. Some third-party apps also support AirDrop to let you share their content (it's up to each developer to include AirDrop support in their apps).

AirDrop Requirements

In order to use AirDrop, you need:

  • An iPhone 5 or newer, a 5th generation iPod touch or newer, an iPad mini, or 4th generation iPad or newer
  • iOS 7 or higher
  • Another iOS user with an AirDrop-compatible device
  • A person you want to share content with who is a handful of feet from you. AirDrop only works when you're in roughly the same place as another user (the same room, apartment, office, etc.); it doesn't work over the Internet if you're in different cities, for instance
  • To be connected to a Wi-Fi network.

Finding AirDrop

In order to use AirDrop, you need to turn it on. But the location of the AirDrop button isn't immediately obvious.

To find it, open Control Center (by swiping up from the bottom of the screen). The AirDrop icon should be towards the bottom, next to the AirPlay icon. If you don't see those icons, you're not connected to Wi-Fi and can't use AirDrop.

To learn how to configure AirDrop, move on to the next step.

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Enabling AirDrop

using airdrop, step 2

Once you've opened Control Center and found the AirDrop icon, tap it. 

When you do this, a menu pops up asking who you want to be able to see your device over AirDrop (other users can't see your device's content, just that it exists and is available for AirDrop sharing). Your options are:

  • Off - Tap this to turn off AirDrop.
  • Contacts Only - Tap this if you only want people in your address book to be able to see your device via AirDrop. This gives you the most privacy but also limits the number of people you can share with. To use this option, you need to be logged into iCloud and share your contacts there. You also need to have the primary Apple ID of the person you're sharing within that person's entry in your address book.
  • Everyone - Just what it says: anyone who has AirDrop turned on will be able to see your device and potentially share or receive content from you. 

Make your choice and you'll see the AirDrop icon light up and your selection listed. You can now close Control Center. 

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Sharing a File with AirDrop

using airdrop, step 3

With AirDrop turned on, you can use it to share content from any app that supports it. 

  1. Go to the app that has the content you want to share (for this example, I'm going to use a photo, but the basic process is the same in most apps).
  2. When you've found the content you want to share, tap it.
  3. Next, tap the sharing button (the rectangle with the arrow coming out of it).
  4. At the top of the screen, you'll see the content you're sharing. Below that is a list of all the nearby people with AirDrop turned on who you can share with.
  5. Tap the icon for the person you want to share with. At this stage, using AirDrop moves over to the device of the person you're sharing with.

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Accept or Decline AirDrop Transfer

using airdrop, step 4

On the device of the user you're sharing content with, a window pops up with a preview of the content you're trying to share. In this case, it's a thumbnail of the cat photo we're sharing. 

The window offers the other user two options: Accept or Decline the transfer. 

If they tap Accept, the file will be opened in the appropriate app on that other user's device (a photo goes into Photos, an address book entry into Contacts, etc.). If they tap Decline, the transfer is canceled.

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AirDrop Transfer Is Complete

using airdrop, step 5

If the user you're sharing with taps Accept, you'll see a colored line move around the outside of their icon indicating the progress of the transfer. When the transfer is complete, Sent will appear under their icon.

If that user declines the transfer, you'll see Declined under their icon.

And with that, your sharing is complete. Now you can share other content with the same user, another user, or turn off AirDrop by opening Control Center, tapping the AirDrop icon, and then tapping Off.