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AirDrop: Wireless Transfers From Mobile to Mac

There’s one feature that I personally use a lot on all of my Apple devices — AirDrop. It’s in iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, and provides a way to wirelessly zap info between two devices. I use it multiple times daily to send screenshots, App Store links, and other info from my iPhone or iPad to Mac. Read on for tips on using AirDrop to send content from your mobile devices to your Mac.

Enable AirDrop on Your iPhone or iPad

To use AirDrop, enable both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on your iPhone or iPad and make sure you’re signed in to your iCloud account. To ensure that both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are on, launch the Settings app. In the first group of settings below the Apple ID/iCloud information, we see a Wi-Fi network called “Rubyshouse-5G) and Bluetooth is “on”.

Wi-Fi is connected to a network and Bluetooth is on

Your devices need to be within Bluetooth range (10 meters or 33 feet) of each other as well.

Control Center

Another way to ensure Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are enabled is checking Control Center. To do this, swipe down on the right side of your screen. If both the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth buttons are blue (on left, below), then these wireless technologies are turned on and you’re ready to AirDrop.

Control Center: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are both enabled

Transferring Data from Mobile to Mac

Now it’s time to AirDrop something from your iPhone or iPad to a Mac. That “something” can be just about anything — a website address, a photo, a Note, a Contact, or a document. For this example, we’ll send a Pages document to a Mac. 

This document opened in Pages’ new “reading mode”, which hides editing tools for ease of reading. At the top right of the screen are two buttons — Edit and a “more” button. The more button looks like a circle with an ellipsis (…) inside of it and indicates that there are more things you can do when you tap the button.

A Pages document in reading mode, with more and edit buttons at top right

“More” and “Share” Buttons

Tap the more button and one of the options is to share the document. In most other iPhone or iPad apps, the share button is right up front — there is no “more” button in between. In Photos, it’s the traditional “box with an arrow coming out of it” (see screenshot below).

The Photos app share button at far left, bottom. 

When you tap the “share” button in Pages, Photos, or any other app, one of the top choices you’ll see is AirDrop.

The share sheet shows AirDrop at the left

When there’s only one Mac or other Apple device nearby, that’s probably the only “receiver” you’ll see. In the screenshot above, you see that “Steven’s MacBook Pro” is my only choice. Those faint gray dots around the computer icon show up on iPhones and iPads with Apple’s Ultra Wideband technology. That tech allows your iPhone or iPad to actually “find” the Mac in space. 

More than one Mac or Apple device? The lower AirDrop button shows a red circle with the number of possible AirDrop recipients in it. Tap that button, and a more detailed AirDrop dialog appears (see screenshot below):

AirDrop showing two Macs available to receive a document

Tap the receiving Mac’s AirDrop button and the file, photo, or other document travels wirelessly to the Mac.

Receiving the AirDrop Document on a Mac

A notification appears on the Mac showing receipt of the file. The default location for document sent by AirDrop is the Downloads folder.

Opening the document is as easy as finding it in the Downloads folder and double-clicking it. Your Mac launches the appropriate app for document types it recognizes. As an example, I sent a Contact from my iPhone to my Mac that appeared as a .vcf file in Downloads.

Double-clicking the file launched Contacts, which asked if I really wanted to import this file because it was a duplicate…

Opening a Contacts .vcf file sent to a Mac via AirDrop

AirDrop is a useful tool for all Apple users and one that more people should learn to use. It can prevent a lot of unnecessary work when sending files of almost any type between devices. For more info on using AirDrop, this Apple knowledge base article is useful.

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Steve is the founder and former publisher of Apple World Today and has authored a number of books about Apple products. He's an avid photographer, an FAA-licensed drone pilot, and a really bad guitarist. Steve and his wife Barb love to travel everywhere!