For all the complaints you can levy against Apple—user-hostile repair and upgrade practices, The Great Slowdown, removing the headphone jack—there remains an undeniable truth: Overall, the user experience you get from using Apple’s devices is simply better than anything else. And this is doubly true if you stay within Apple’s walled garden. Things just work. And work well together. iMessage, Siri, iCloud—they’re all built in, and require minimal effort to get up and running.
Nowhere is this more apparent to me than with AirDrop. Professionally, Airdrop has proven to be one of the most useful tools I use on a daily basis. Maybe it has more to do with my role as a social editor and the fact that I’m downloading and uploading images, video files, notes, and other things to post across different machines and devices all day, but I think most people could certainly benefit from the feature, if they’re not using it already.
In 2011 Apple introduced AirDrop with OS X Lion, allowing you to move files between Macs with just a few clicks. AirDrop came to the iPhone along with iOS 7 in 2013, and since then it’s kind of just been there. Humming along innocuously in your Finder window, or placed just off to the side in your Control Centre. And there’s it’s been toiling away without asking anything in return. Have you been ignoring it? You fool.
I’m here to tell you, AirDrop is kind of a miracle. Without any internet connection or cell service whatsoever, you can send documents, photos, videos, nearly anything, between any Apple devices, as long as they are physically relatively close to each other. You might think you need a wireless network or cell service to send things because your iPhone will prompt you to turn on wi-fi and Bluetooth before you use AirDrop, but that isn’t the case. Apple is simply using the wi-fi’s radio signal to cleverly create an encrypted peer-to-peer connection between the devices. Once Bluetooth senses another device nearby, you’re in business.
One of the best things about AirDrop is that there appears to be no file size limit. I don’t think the importance of that fact can be overlooked. Consider the other primary ways of sharing items between computers. Assuming you don’t have AirDrop, you’d likely email something to someone (or to yourself). Gmail’s file size limit is 25MB. So you go through GDrive, fine. However you’re still stuck with the lengthy process of uploading and then downloading the (presumably large) file. Without a solid internet connection (pretty much anything less than LTE or a reliable wi-fi connection) this will be near impossible or take hours and hours. Sure, wireless internet is nearly ubiquitous these days, but even in NYC there are places where I don’t get signal (or don’t want to connect to public wi-fi).
Of course there are Apple alternatives like AnySend or Deskconnect, and inter-species options like Zapya or Xender for you Windows-heads out there. They largely accomplish the same thing, and I’m sure that software all works fine. But AirDrop is already on your damn phone. And everyone else’s. It’s a swipe away in your Control Centre, or right on the front page of your Finder window.
I’ve used AirDrop to send hour long video recordings between laptops in the studio at work when the wi-fi has gone down. I’ve transferred entire albums of photos from my iPhone to my friends’ when on a cabin trip with no cell phone service. Hell, I used to AirDrop Vines right as I finished editing them onto my phone. At a big trade show like CES and need to move footage? AirDrop is your friend when the wi-fi and LTE bandwidth is inevitably all clogged up. You can send websites, contacts, locations and more with AirDrop too.
AirDrop has even saved my ass a couple times. Working on a MacBook Pro is nice, if you love USB-C ports, but if you forget your dongle, then what? When flash drives or GDrive aren’t an option, AirDrop works!
Now AirDrop isn’t perfect—sometimes Bluetooth will act up, or some rando on the subway will send you some... unsavoury photos. (The latter is easily fixed by adjusting privacy settings.) But overall, it’s become a tool I’ve come to rely on day in and day out.
I know the first comment below will say “All of this is null and void, I have an Android phone.” And that’s fine, but there are plenty of people out there with iPhones. And I’ve never had trouble finding them.