How to Use AirDrop on Your iPhone

Learn how to AirDrop from your iPhone to your Mac or other devices

Using AirDrop on iPhone

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Using Apple's AirDrop feature, you can share photos, documents, and other files wirelessly with other nearby AirDrop users on their Macs, iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch devices. AirDrop is a convenient and proprietary file-transfer method.

After you enable AirDrop on your iPhone, you can send and receive files from other AirDrop-enabled Apple devices around you. The service works over Bluetooth, so senders and receivers must be near one another — within 30 feet and preferably closer.

Instructions in this article apply to iPhones running iOS 12 and iOS 11. An alternate method for enabling AirDrop on older phones running iOS 7 or later is included.

Which Apps Support AirDrop?

Many of the preinstalled apps that come with the iOS work with AirDrop, including Photos, Notes, Safari, Contacts, and Maps. You can share photos and videos, websites, address book entries, text files, and much more.

Some third-party apps support AirDrop too. However, it's up to developers to include AirDrop support in their apps, so not everything you download from the App Store works with AirDrop.

AirDrop Requirements

To share between a Mac and one of Apple's mobile devices, requirements are:

  • An iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 7 or later
  • A Mac from 2012 running OS X Yosemite (10.10) or higher, except for the mid-2012 Mac Pro, which isn't compatible.
  • Another iOS or Mac user with an AirDrop-compatible device
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi turned on on both sender and recipient's devices.

When you are sharing files between two Mac computers, both computers may be older than 2012, but they must be running OS X Yosemite or later.

Enabling AirDrop on Your iPhone

To use AirDrop, you enable the feature either in the Settings app or in the Control Center.

Enabling AirDrop in the Control Center

  1. Open Control Center on the iPhone by pulling down from the top right corner of the screen.

  2. Press and hold on the section that displays the airplane mode, wireless, cellular, and Bluetooth icons to expand the section.

  3. Tap the AirDrop icon to turn it on or off.

  4. Select one of the three options on the screen that opens: Receiving Off, Contacts Only, or Everyone.

    Activating AirDrop from the Control Panel

Receiving Off disables your phone from receiving AirDrop requests, so nearby devices cannot see your phone when they attempt to share files. However, you can still send files to others.

Contacts Only restricts AirDrop to only people in your address book. This gives you the most privacy but also limits the number of people who can share files with you.

Everyone does just what it says. It lets everyone around you attempt to share files with you over AirDrop. 

Enabling AirDrop in Settings

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Tap General.

  3. Tap AirDrop.

    Settings path to AirDrop options
  4. Choose a setting from three options: Receiving Off, Contacts Only, and Everyone.

Enabling AirDrop on Older Phones

If you have an older iPhone, you can still turn on AirDrop as long as your iPhone runs iOS 7 or later. 

  1. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open Control Center in older versions of iOS.

  2. Tap the AirDrop icon. It is usually the middle, next to the AirPlay Mirroring button.

  3. Choose one of the three categories of AirDrop options.

How to Share Over AirDrop

  1. Open the app that has the content you want to share. For example, open the Photos app to share pictures or videos you've saved to your phone.

  2. Tap the file – in this example, a photo – you want to share over AirDrop to open it in a new window.

    If the app supports it, AirDrop lets you share multiple files at once. In the Photos app, for example, select multiple images or videos by opening an album, tapping Select and then tapping each image you want to send to put a check mark on it before tapping the action box.

  3. Tap the action icon — a rectangle with an arrow coming out of it — in the screen that shows the photo you are going to send. This opens the action screen.

  4. In the Tap to share with AirDrop section of the action screen, tap the device or person's name you want to share the file with. Icons of all the nearby AirDrop-enabled devices that are available to receive files are displayed.

    Opening action screen to AirDrop file

After you send the content over AirDrop, there's nothing left for you to do but wait for the other user to accept (or decline) the transfer. You see a "Waiting" message in the meantime and "Sending" during the transfer, followed by "Sent" after your file is accepted and delivered.

If the other user declines your AirDrop request, you see a red "Declined" message instead.

How to Accept or Decline an AirDrop Transfer

When someone else sends you data over AirDrop, a window pops up with a small preview of the content. You have two options: Accept or Decline.

If you tap Accept, the file is saved to your device and opened in the appropriate app. For example, accepting a transfer of images over AirDrop saves the photos to your phone and then opens them in the Photos app, URLs launch in the Safari browser, and so on.

If you tap Decline, the transfer is canceled, and the other user is notified that you declined the request.

If you're sharing a file with a device that's logged in with the same Apple ID you're logged in with, that device is not shown the Accept or Decline pop-up message. Since both devices are assumed to be your own, the transfer is accepted automatically.

AirDrop Troubleshooting

iphone email won't download
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If AirDrop doesn't work, there's a good chance you haven't enabled it in Settings or the Control Center, or that you set sharing to Contacts Only, and the person who's trying to send you something is not in your address book.

However, if you've already checked those settings, and so has the other user, but AirDrop still doesn't work, try these troubleshooting tips.

  • Enable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth: AirDrop requires both you and the other person to have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled.
  • Disable Your Personal Hotspot: If you're using a personal hotspot while trying to use AirDrop, disable it. AirDrop doesn't work simultaneously with hotspots.
  • Move Closer: AirDrop is based on Bluetooth, so it has Bluetooth's range limitations. Move within 30 feet (and preferably closer) of the person with whom you're sharing files.