iOS 7 preview: AirDrop lets you easily share your stuff, no bumping needed

iOS 7 AirDrop lets you easily share photos, video, contacts, passes, and more with the tap of a face and the miracles of wireless!

With iOS 7, Apple's peer-to-peer, ad-hoc Wi-Fi file transfer protocol, AirDrop comes to the iPhone, iPod, and iPad. Originally introduced on the Mac with OS X 10.7 Lion, and attached to the Finder to allow anyone to beam any file or folder to anyone else with in range, the iOS version doesn't have a user-facing filesystem to work such universal wonders with, but it does have a great-looking interface, and incredibly easy point of access thanks to Control Center and Share sheets.

Here's how Apple (opens in new tab) describes AirDrop for iOS 7:

Sending a photo or a document to someone via text or email is fine. But if that someone is right next to you, a text or an email suddenly feels like too many steps. Enter AirDrop for iOS. It lets you quickly and easily share photos, videos, contacts — and anything else from any app with a Share button. Just tap Share, then select the person you want to share with. AirDrop does the rest using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. No setup required. And transfers are encrypted, so what you share is highly secure.

And here's what Apple's shown off about AirDrop so far:

  • AirDrop lives on the new iOS 7 Share sheet, and that means it's accessible from any app that includes the Share button.

  • AirDrop will automatically detect any other discoverable iOS 7 users and show you their contact pictures.

  • Tap on one or more contacts and AirDrop will send them whatever it is you want to share.
  • When you receive an AirDrop, iOS 7 will show you an alert.

  • If you accept the AirDrop, you'll be taken directly to the shared item in whichever app handles its content type.

  • AirDrop discoverability settings can be accessed via the Control Center, even from the Lock screen.

There's no two ways about, no negatives and positives to weight - AirDrop is a fantastic addition to iOS 7. We'll have to wait and see how it works in the real world after it ships, especially how reliable the connections are, but Apple said system wide, peer-to-peer, fast, and secure, and if it lives up to that, it'll be a hit.

Sure, in a perfect world I'd have it hooked into my long-lusted-after and FilePicker system, but I'm hard-pressed to find any other nits to pick here.

Apple, for their part, chose to make fun of the NFC (near-field communications) sharing systems found in some Android, BlackBerry, and other phones. While those can be fun, beaming (a feature other platforms also share - we could do it over infrared on the PalmOS Treo... sometimes!) is more practical. In the future, perhaps even the local constraint will disappear and any contact of ours, online with sufficient bandwidth and discoverability, will be available for immediate Air... er... WarpDrop?

Check out the resources below for more, and let me know - is iOS 7 AirDrop everything you wanted it be?

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • I don't see how this is any faster than sending someone an iMessage with a photo in it.
  • If it's not cell dependent then it should be faster (at least where I am - terrible 3G and no LTE)
  • faster? it is more the advantage of sharing the original photo file instead of a re-sized version like iMessage does.
  • Exactly no need to reinvent the wheel
  • Actually, if I didn't missunderstand what they said on the keynote, this is completely different than sending an iMessage. iMessages are sent over the internet, this uses Wifi Direct or something similar (think bluetooth on steroids). The big difference is, AirDrop wouldn't require internet, and it would be MUCH faster, but it would require special hardware (I think they mentioned it would be available only on the newest devices such as iPhone 5). EDIT: It uses peer to peer Wifi, so no internet connection needed and it's faster.
  • In other words, one of the few ways to avoid your stuff being intercepted by the government too. Nice. :-)
  • you may not have the contact info of everyone on your network, and it's a more polished means to the same end..
  • There are times when you don't have someones phone number OR email address, for whatever reason, this keeps you from needing to plug that info in before you can send them something. Maybe it's somebody that you want to send something but you don't WANT them to have your number or email happens to me often, this eliminates the need. And then I believe plenty of people have pointed out that there are still places which have no service, since this is Ad-Hoc there's no service needed. And since we're on the topic of data.....this will also save people's tiered data even when they're not "on Wi-Fi," they can still use the Wi-Fi in their phones to send files.
  • I'm an iOS Developer and I've been using the beta of iOS 7 since it was first released on my 4 household iPads and 2 iPhones. AirDrop is a long overdue feature and a significant improvement. Not only is it faster (doesn't have to bounce off email server) but it retains original resolution of images and video without downcoverting them first. It is vastly superior to iMessage file sharing.
  • One thing I'd like to know about AirDrop which I've yet to see covered specifically, is whether or not its device to device or person to person. Each article I've read seems to imply one or the other, but none are specifically clear on the point. For instance, is it the sharing name of your phone, or the Contact you have set up as "you" in contacts? On OS X Airdrop uses the user account name that's active in the device. IOS on the other hand, has no user accounts, but it lets you name the device for sharing purposes on the network. On the other hand most screenshots of AirDrop in use show a list of names as if it uses the Contacts.
  • Does it matter if its person to person or device to device as long as it works as advertise.
  • Why did you even bother to answer if all you got is a dis and a guess? It's important because it works one way on OS X, and (seemingly) the other on iOS. Although I noticed that no one actually has answered even though presumably half the people here are running the beta.
  • Hopefully they'll let iOS and OS X share next year.
  • Sooo.... I can be walking down the street in Any City, USA... pick anything I want... say a picture... hit share... and I see all the faces and names of everyone around me that has an iOS device???? Sooo... some wierdo next to me hits "share" and sees my picture and my name????
  • Nope.
  • Um, no. You can set it so that you can only receive content through AirDrop from people who are in your contacts list. And I'm pretty sure it's that way by default.
  • There's always 1 wiseguy.........
  • This is another really good question that no reviews of the feature have bothered to answer yet either. iOS devices have had the ability to be aware of each other since iOS 4.0 so this is not only possible, it would be a really cool feature. Apple doesn't really 'get' social though so it's unlikely they ail see this as a good thing or even think of it. I find it a bit weird that when you are on the bus or the train, literally every single person has a smartphone but that we are all in our own little bubble. Smartphones are not going away any time soon, so as long as they are here, more social features like this where we can actually interact with others again would be welcome IMO.
  • I would have thought it would be cross platform already Bloke...but like Siri for Mac...they are waiting to extend more stuff out for other released....likely OSX biggest gripe is I hope they launch a wifi-direct api for AirPlay...I can't use my Apple TV for AirPlay because my dorm room doesn't support home sharing because they feel it causes problems. Besides that...."AirPlay Direct" would just make things FAR less complicated for setup. I would love to be able also to stream (or beam whatever ya call it) a video I recorded on my video via AirPlay to a Mac without copying the file to the Mac....
  • Hey did you actually take the top/hero photo? I'm interested in how you got shadows under your app icons. :)
  • airdrop doesn't work on the iPhone 4s, does it?
  • No
  • Don't you have to be on the same WiFi network in order to AirDrop to someone? Could be wrong, but it seems more a novelty than useful -- shared PhotoStreams seem more practical...
  • Nope, it requires both Wi-Fi & Bluetooth to be enabled, but doesn't require you to be connected to a Wi-Fi network.
  • They should attempt to support an industry standard way of transferring files, like the Bluetooth. As I understand it, Air Drop only works between iOS devices; or is this similar to WiFi Direct ? (and hence can be made to work with some of the Android phones?)
    Edit: for clarity
  • And if you aren't on Wifi, or if your friend next to you isn't on your wifi network it won't work?
  • Nope, it requires both Wi-Fi & Bluetooth to be enabled, but doesn't require you to be connected to a Wi-Fi network.
  • So if someone sends me a PDF or Office document and I have several apps that handle those file types, will the OS ask first which application to use to open it? I would suspect it would.
  • So needing at least an iPhone 5 (not even 4S is supported!) this is rather useless for data exchange.
  • Very useful if you have the right hardware! But isn't that kinda the case with most things in life?
  • One thing I've not seen at all is if music files can be shared this way? My wife and I keep our itunes libraries separate on the same computer and every now and again there are songs we each want to have and the process of duplicating is a bit cumbersome. Airdrop would be worth its weight in gold just if we could do that...
  • Just turn on "Home Sharing" for each iTunes account on each computer. You'd then be able to drag stuff back and forth between accounts.
  • I am running two devices on iOS 7 Beta3 and Airdrop does not seem to work. Can anyone tell me if this is active on your device running Beta3?
  • it works fine for me.
  • What devices? If one is an iPad3 - it doesn't do AirDrop.
  • iPhone 5 and iPad mini......still nada.
  • It works with iOS 7 beta whatever but no Maverick, that sucks
  • That feature is almost like Wifi direct on Samsung galaxy devices, but i wish it can transfer music, movies, apps , etc.. like samsung galaxy devices
  • Can AirDrop on iOS and AirDrop on OS X transfer between each other? If not, that seems like a HUGE disappointment.
  • I dont get it why these companies always leave the full functionality for future updates just to bring the numbers that 200+ new features, iOS Airdrop is not transferring to OSX Airdrop, when they announced this function in IOS it was obvious that its going to work between iOS and OSX as well, but they never covered it in keynote and now its not working with OSX Maverick beta, this sucks, Im huge fan of Apple but I'm really very disappointed, we will see this next year in OSX Beverly hills or anything else, and they will keep praising it in 1 hr keynote