What is AirDrop and how do you use it?

AirDrop is used to share and receive photos, documents and more with other Apple devices that are nearby. 

Scenario: You are with some friends and you take a group photo. Everyone asks for a copy. Instead of emailing or texting the photos, you can transfer the photos on the spot by simply tapping their phones with yours. This is AirDrop.

This can be used for many things, including your contact info. Business cards are a thing of the past.

How does it work?

  1. Open an app, then tap Share or the Share button . If you share a photo from the Photos app, you can swipe left or right and select multiple photos.
  2. Tap the AirDrop button.
    An iPhone showing the share sheet with photos selected and the AirDrop option displayed.
  3. Tap the AirDrop user1 that you want to share with. Or you can use AirDrop between your own Apple devices.

    An iPhone showing the AirDrop a Copy screen with people and devices you can select.
    If you see a red numbered badge on the AirDrop button, there are multiple devices nearby that you can share with. Tap the AirDrop button, then tap the user that you want to share with. Learn what to do if you don’t see the AirDrop user or your other device.

If you’re near someone in your Contacts, you can share by opening the content that you want to share, then bringing your devices together.2

How to accept AirDrop

When someone shares something with you using AirDrop, you see an alert. You can tap Accept or Decline.

An iPhone showing an AirDrop alert that you can decline or accept.

For most apps, if you tap Accept, the AirDrop will come through within the same app it was sent from. For example, photos appear in the Photos app and websites open in Safari. App links open in the App Store so you can download or purchase the app.

If you AirDrop something to yourself, like a photo from your iPhone to your Mac, you won’t see an option to Accept or Decline—it’ll automatically get sent to your device. Just make sure that both devices are signed in with the same Apple ID.

How to adjust AirDrop settings

To choose who can see your device and send you content in AirDrop:

  1. Go to Settings, then tap General.
  2. Tap AirDrop, then choose an option.
    An iPhone showing AirDrop settings with Contacts Only selected.

You can also set your AirDrop options in Control Center:

  1. On iPhone X or later, swipe down from the upper-right corner of the screen to open Control Center. Or follow the same motion to open Control Center on your iPad with iOS 12 or later or iPadOS. On your iPhone 8 or earlier, swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
  2. Press firmly or touch and hold the network settings card in the upper-left corner.
  3. Touch and hold the AirDrop button , then choose one of these options:
    • Receiving Off: You won’t receive AirDrop requests.
    • Contacts Only: Only your contacts can see your device.
    • Everyone: All nearby Apple devices using AirDrop can see your device. When you set your AirDrop option to Everyone for 10 Minutes in iOS 16.2 or later, your option reverts to Contacts Only3 after 10 minutes.

If you see Receiving Off and can’t tap to change it:

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time.
  2. Tap Content & Privacy Restrictions.
  3. Tap Allowed Apps and make sure that AirDrop is turned on.
  1. If the person you’re sharing content with is in your Contacts, you’ll see an image with their name. If they’re not in your Contacts, you’ll see just their name without an image.
  2. Only available if both you and your contact are using an iPhone with iOS 17.
  1. If you’re not signed in with your Apple ID on your device, this setting reverts to Receiving Off after 10 minutes.

The Contacts Only option is available on devices that support iOS 10 and later, iPadOS, or macOS Sierra 10.12 and later. If AirDrop is set to Contacts Only on your device with an earlier software version, you’ll need to adjust AirDrop settings to the Everyone option in Settings or from Control Center. You can select the Everyone option while using AirDrop and disable it when not in use.