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Sharing Content Wirelessly with Apple AirDrop

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Never lose data again with Apple AirDrop, a wireless, peer-to-peer network that supports near-range file transfers on your iOS 7 iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Use it to share and back up photos, movies, contacts, maps, appointments, and more. Tim Warner, author of My iPad for Seniors, explains how to set up and use AirDrop to transfer content easily.
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Not too long ago, my mother called me in a panic. "Tim, I lost all the contacts on my iPad! Will I have to manually re-create them all again?"

The good news for my mom is that I already knew that (a) she had a copy of her contacts database on another iDevice at her home, and (b) we could use AirDrop to copy those missing contacts back to her iPad with no muss or fuss.

In just a few minutes, you too will understand how easy and convenient AirDrop makes copying content between iDevices without the hassle of wires or complicated setups.

What Exactly Is AirDrop?

AirDrop is an Apple-only technology that uses wireless, peer-to-peer networking to support near-range file transfers. Do you remember how we used infrared (IR) to swap data in the "bad old days" of early cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs)? Think of AirDrop as a 21st century counterpart.

Whereas infrared required line-of-sight and very close ranges (I remember my colleagues and I literally bumping our Palm Pilots against each other to catch a signal), AirDrop has a much more reasonable 30-foot range. Because AirDrop uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, we don't need line-of-sight between the devices, either.

What Can You Share with AirDrop?

To my knowledge, Apple has never released a list of exactly which data types you can transmit between Apple devices by using AirDrop. In my experimentation with the technology, though, I've been able to share the following:

  • Photos
  • Movies
  • Contacts
  • Web sites
  • Location
  • Maps
  • Calendar appointments
  • Tasks

As you may or may not know, the key to different iOS applications "playing well with each other" is what's called the sharing contract. Take a look at Figure 1 and let me know if you've seen that icon before.

Figure 1 If your app has sharing functionality, the chances are good that you can transfer that data to another iDevice by using AirDrop.

Perhaps that's why Apple doesn't pin itself down to saying AirDrop can be used to transfer such-and-so media types. The idea is likely that if the app and its data work with the sharing contract system, you'll probably be able to copy it by using AirDrop.

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