AirDrop is great for the iPhone, iPad and Mac, but it can be even better. Here’s how

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nine years since Apple introduced AirDrop as a part of Mac OS X Lion and iOS 7. I consider AirDrop to be one of Apple’s best moves of the past decade. It’s a feature I have used hundreds of times and have come to rely on to quickly exchange files and other information with my own devices and with the devices used by my friends and family.

But just because AirDrop is useful doesn’t mean it couldn’t be better. In fact, I would argue that it’s been largely ignored the last few years, and could stand some major upgrades that would benefit users of iPhones, iPads, and Macs alike.

Improving the AirDrop interface

The more I use AirDrop, the more I see how many ways its interface could be improved. AirDrop is generally a tap away on iOS, but on the Mac it’s a bit more complicated to get there.

airdrop ios

iOS offers a quick sharing interface with specific destinations–including devices via AirDrop.

Most Mac users might still be transferring files via AirDrop by opening a new Finder window and choosing AirDrop from the Go menu, or typing Command-Shift-R. That was once the most prominent way of using AirDrop, but I prefer to select a file or files and quickly send them without opening a new Finder window.

There are currently two ways to do this. If you’re selecting files in a Finder window, you can click the Share icon at the top of the window and choose AirDrop, then select from a list of nearby devices. But most of the files I’m AirDropping are actually out on my Desktop, so instead I control-click on a file and choose AirDrop from the Share submenu.

The first thing Apple should do is float AirDrop to the top level of the interface—providing an AirDrop icon right on Finder windows, and an AirDrop command at the top level of every contextual menu. Even better, those items should take a cue from iOS and offer frequently AirDropped devices in a submenu, so you can select a target and bypass the AirDrop window entirely.

An alternative would be for Apple to adopt the iOS interface for smart sharing suggestions, combining Messages and AirDrop in a single list, right within the sharing interface. That would be fine. My point is, I so frequently want to AirDrop files to one or two nearby devices—and I’d like to make it as easy as possible to kick off that process.

airdrop bad

Though it’s easier to select a target device on iPhone and iPad, those devices have their own limitations. iOS and iPadOS won’t accept AirDrop transfers of different file types. If they aren’t all the exact same file format, iOS (even iOS 14) will refuse the transfer, saying it “cannot receive all of these items at the same time.” Instead, you have to transfer like items in groups.