How to instantly share files with AirDrop for iPhone or iPad

Using Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy to broadcast, discover, and negotiate connections, and point-to-point Wi-Fi to transfer information AirDrop is fast, power-efficient, and secure. When you're using it between iPhones and iPads, you can AirDrop photos, videos, contacts, Passbook passes, Voice Memos, Map location, and any and everything else that appears on a Share sheet.

How to turn AirDrop on or off for iPhone or iPad

AirDrop lets you choose between enabling it for just your contacts or for everyone. "Contacts" requires more work, as you and the person you want to AirDrop with both have to be logged into iCloud and be in each other's Contacts. "Everyone" is easier but means random people you don't know can send you prank AirDrops.

  1. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen (iPhone 8 or older) or swipe down from the top-right corner of the screen on iPhones and iPad with Face ID to launch Control Center.
  2. Press firmly (iPhone 6s or newer) or press and hold (iPads or older iPhones) on the wireless control box on the upper left side of Control Center.

  1. Tap on AirDrop.
  2. Choose who can send things to you through AirDrop by tapping Receiving Off, Contacts Only, or Everyone.

If you choose Contacts Only, make sure you're logged into iCloud.

How to AirDrop files from your iPhone or iPad

You can AirDrop files from any iPhone or iPad app that includes the built-in Share sheet, and you can share with anyone, and any of their devices, that show up in the Share sheet.

  1. Open the app that you want to share something from (e.g. Photos).
  2. Select the item you want to share.

  1. Tap the share button (looks like a box with an arrow pointing up, or sometimes just the word "Share").
  2. Tap the intended recipient's avatar when it appears in the AirDrop row.

Because AirDrop shows your picture for any and all contacts, if you're trying to AirDrop to someone with multiple devices, you could see their picture multiple times in the Sheet. You will see their device name, however, which should make sure you pick the right one.

How to troubleshoot AirDrop on iPhone and iPhone

If contacts don't show up in the AirDrop interface, try these solutions, in order:

  • Toggle Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi off and back on, or toggle Airplane Mode on and off to reset the connections.
  • Turn off Instant Hotspot to free up the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections.
  • Temporarily switch to Everyone to remove any chance of contact mismatch.

How to AirDrop from your Mac

Updated July 2019: Updated for latest version of iOS 12.

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.

  • As noted in yesterday's Airdrop article's comments, this isn't true for everyone: "If your iPhone or iPad is running iOS 7, you have the ability to share files with AirDrop." AirDrop is not available for the 3rd generation iPad, something that took me quite awhile to puzzle out why it was not working. renegad3 says:
    As per
    AirDrop is available on iPhone 5 or later, iPad (4th generation), iPad mini, and iPod touch (5th generation) and requires an iCloud account.
  • Well, that explains why I haven't used it. Thanks.
  • I'm still using this old-school tool to transfer files from my iPhone to Mac and from Mac to iPhone. It's working well with my old iPod touch and iPad air too. Best part is that it is also works perfectly on Windows desktop at my work.
  • That's exactly what it says in the article right after the intro para.
  • Shame that airdrop OS and iOS don't work together. Took me a while to work out and I think apple should make it clearer.
  • It does as long as you have compatible devices. 2012 or later Mac running Yose and iPhone 5 or later, iPad 4 or later, iPad mini any generation, or iPod touch 5th gen
  • The other issue with it, is it uses the iCloud account. My wife and I share my iTunes account for things like Find Your iPhone and App store purchases, but she has her own for iMessage and Facetime. However, it defaults to the main account used on the device, which is mine. And this is true for all our other iPhones and iPads. So we just see my id show up multiple times when we try to send something between devices, not knowing which is really the device we want.
  • If defaults to whatever is signed in under iCloud in settings - you should both have your own. Share an iTunes ID if you'd like but under iCloud, it should be your own. If you want t track each other with find my iPhone then enable family sharing.
  • Ally..... I absolutely love your Hot To: posts, but find it strange that "How to enable Airdrop" and "How to send a file using Airdrop" are not included in the same post.
  • Because people search them in googles separately. Sent from the iMore App
  • That is my gripe, I would love for it to work with my MacBook Pro, and iPad 3.
  • I still haven't use this feature, but I think it will come in handy soon. Thanks for the tip! Sent from the iMore App
  • I wish I could airdrop with my iPhone 4S, but I do use it between my iPad and my iPhone 5s. Both with the same iCloud/iTunes account... But they show up properly when using airdrop. Sent from the iMore App
  • I didn't realise u don't need an internet connection to send or receive files using air drop. I met up with some old sch friends today and when it was time to exchange addresses I was feeling cool for a second showing my colleague how to activate airdrop on his iphone 5 and then on trying to airdrop from my iphone 5s, I noticed I had no very poor reception and as it didn't seemed to be taking too long, I aborted the process and did the contact exchange the old-fashioned way. Sent from the iMore App
  • Yup, I usually use Airdrop to transfer photos with my niece and sister. It's way easier to use than Bump.
  • Allyson I haven't seen this anywhere else yet...but I just noticed on iOS 7.1 (beta 4) that WIFI isn't necessary. AirDrop seems to support LTE as well.
  • How far can Airdrop send a file?
  • From right over there! X{D
  • Have iPad an: iPhone 5. On iPad I bought 2 apps with peps pig for my kids, hoe can I airdrop this to my iPhone pls?
  • In the first paragraph, you said, "Not only does AirDrop except much larger file transfers..." when I think you meant to use the word "accept".
  • Ha, sometimes I have brain lapses... Thanks!
  • Can you send music? Or is that impossibru?
  • Hi I got slammed with 225 photos from unknown people and I want
    to have them removed now! Please give me instructions how to do it!
    Thank you Egidio
  • I didn't expect AirDrop to work on non-Apple devices, but it is a shame AirDrop is so unreliable on my newer macs and doesn't even work on my old macs. I've moved on to using Feem v4 for all things local file transfers. Very reliable and efficient for all my local file transfer needs.
  • I've found it to be a lot more reliable as of late. Make sure all your devices are on High Sierra and iOS 11 if possible
  • Thank You for taking the time to help us!!!! You're awesome!!!