If you’re not using AirDrop on your iPhone yet, you’re sorely missing out


If you are still emailing files to people nearby, or, God forbid, are using a USB thumb drive to transfer a few photos, stop. Because if you’re on an iPhone, iPad or Mac you can use AirDrop instead. It’s fast, secure and dead easy to set up. I’m going to walk you through how to use AirDrop to wirelessly transfer files, photos and a whole lot more with your Apple devices.

AirDrop only works between Apple devices. Sorry Android and PC users, but it is a divided world of technology we live in. You can AirDrop photos, documents, videos, audio recordings, contact cards, website links, notes among other things. And as far as I can tell, there isn’t a limit to the size of file you AirDrop. But the bigger the file, the longer it will take to transfer.

If you’d like to follow along or see us set up and use AirDrop step-by-step, watch the video at the top of the story: How to set up and use AirDrop on your Apple devices.


AirDrop is a fast, simple way to transfer files, photos, videos and more from one Apple device to another.

Charles Wagner/CNET

Using AirDrop on an iOS device

To use AirDrop, both you and the person you’re sending files to need to have Apple devices with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on. (You could even send yourself files from another one of your Apple devices — more below.) If either of you has a Personal Hotspot enabled, turn it off. Otherwise, AirDrop won’t work. The same is true if you’re using a VPN. I can’t find the exact reason why but I’d guess it has something to do with the way a VPN encrypts your internet connection.

Also, you don’t necessarily need to be connected to a particular Wi-Fi network or even the same network the recipient’s device is on. Just having the Wi-Fi antenna turned on allows AirDrop to work.

Open the Control Center panel, then push and hold the icon of a wireless connection square until it turns into a wireless connection rectangle. Now, tap AirDrop and choose from Receiving Off, Contacts Only or Everyone. You can also find these exact controls by going into Settings, then General, then AirDrop.

If the person you’re sending to has their AirDrop set to Contacts Only, then they’ll need to have a contact card in the Contacts app that has either your email address or phone number in order for AirDrop to work. If you’re not in their Contacts, have them choose Everyone to receive your file.


In iOS, when you tap on the Share menu an interface pops up showing people on AirDrop nearby. Tap on the person you want to share to.

Charles Wagner/CNET

With all that out of the way, anytime you see a Share button, the rectangle icon with an arrow pointing up, you can select AirDrop. When you do, you’ll be shown any nearby Apple devices that have AirDrop enabled. Tap on the device you want to send photos or files to.

Next on the recipient’s phone, a window alert with a preview of the content your sharing will pop up. They have the option to Accept or Decline. Once they tap Accept, the photos or files you selected are transferred. Pictures and videos will be saved into the Photos app on the recipient’s phone. Documents will prompt the receiver to choose what app they want to save it to. Web links will automatically open in Safari. 

If you AirDrop content from one of your devices to another like from your iPhone to your Mac and both devices are signed into the same Apple ID, then you won’t see an option to Accept or Decline.

Set up AirDrop on a Mac

To start, make sure your Mac’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are both on, then open a Finder window. 

Next, from the sidebar click on AirDrop. A window will open with a radar-like graphic. Anyone nearby with AirDrop enabled will appear in this window as an AirDrop person circle. At the bottom of the window, you can select who can send stuff to you: No One, Contacts or Everyone.

On a Mac to share a file, simply drag and drop it onto the AirDrop person circle you want to sent it to.

Charles Wagner/CNET

To share a file, simply drag and drop it onto the AirDrop person circle you want to send it to. Also, just like on iOS, you can access AirDrop anytime you see the Share button.

If you’re having trouble sending a file over AirDrop from a Mac, click the Don’t see who you’re looking for button at the bottom of the AirDrop Finder window. Then, click the Search For An Older Mac button that pops up.

Now that you have mastered the art of AirDrop, watch our video on how to setup and use Apple Pay.


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