When Apple introduced AirDrop I assumed it was a simple means of sharing files for non technical people. I’d misunderstood it, it’s actually quite handy and, under the hood, there’s some very significant technologies at play, which I’ll get to later.
For us everyday Mac OS / iOS users, AirDrop is used as a direct means of sharing files with people you’re in the same room with. For example, why should you have to email a photo or document, sending it out into cyberspace, and back again, to someone you’re sitting right next to? Just create your own ad-hoc network with the individual!
There are some caveats, however….
- You can AirDrop a file from iOS to iOS, or from Mac OS to Mac OS, but not iOS to Mac OS, or vice versa.
- AirDrop for Mac OS uses WiFi, only, whereas for iOS it requires both WiFi and Bluetooth.
- Both AirDrop for iOS and Mac OS create an ad-hoc WiFi connection to transfer files. No need for either party to be connected to a WiFi or cellular network.
- Typically, you need to inform the indented recipient that you’re about to send them a file, so they can prepare to receive it.
AirDrop for iOS.
- To send a file via AirDrop, you need to be running iOS 7, and have Bluetooth and WiFi enabled on both yours, and the recipient’s device.
- You can quickly access all AirDrop related settings, including WiFi and Bluetooth, in one place: Control Center, which can be reached by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.
- You’d typically tell the person you’re about to AirDrop a file to them, so they can ensure their device is awake, and with all the necessary settings enabled to ensure they’re visible.
- You need to be within fairly close proximity of each other for it to work.
- It uses Bluetooth to find and ‘pair’ with nearby users. WiFi is used to transfer files. Once paired, an ad-hoc WiFi network is created to transfer files
- It requires iPhone 5, iPad (4th Generation), iPod Touch (5th Generation), iPad mini or later. Why? It has to do with the WiFi hardware in the device, which support a more recent wireless standard called WiFi Direct.
- You can share files from within any app that has a Share button. Just tap the Share button, select (tick) the files you wish to share, and any available devices will be visible in the AirDrop section.
- If you’re having problems sending to a nearby device, try getting the intended recipient to change their AirDrop settings from accepting files from Contacts Only, to Everyone. Again, you can do this from Control Center.
- Apple’s page on AirDrop can be found here.
AirDrop for Mac OS:
To quickly check if your Mac’s WiFi hardware is AirDrop compatible, in Finder’s Go menu, check to see if AirDrop is listed. If it isn’t there then, your Mac doesn’t support it. Macs that include AirDrop support are the same as, or newer than, the models listed below.
Late 2008 MacBook Pro
Late 2010 MacBook Air
Late 2008 MacBook
Early 2009 iMac
Mid 2010 Mac Mini
Early 2009 Mac Pro
The MacBook Pro (17-Inch Late 2008) and the white MacBook (Late 2008) do not support AirDrop.
Accessing and using AirDrop
AirDrop is available from the Go menu in Finder, Share menu (right click on a file->Share-AirDrop), and in Open and Save windows (haven’t seen this, but according to this Apple article, it is). When you choose AirDrop, OS X looks for any nearby computers that also have AirDrop open in Finder. So, get the intended recipient to open their AirDrop window first, in order to send them a file. Read all about AirDrop on Mac OS in Apple’s article, Mac Basics: AirDrop helps you share items with others nearby
AirDrop: A technology that will change everything?
Do check out this Cult of Mac article about AirDrop. In a nutshell, ok, we know we can create our own private network with someone sitting next to us using AirDrop. But also, with the underlying technology, that person sitting next to us can also see others nearby, and so on, creating an independent network of devices. The ramifications of this are quite astounding, and Apple has provided software developers the means to access the technology, an example of which can be seen in the iOS app, Firechat.