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OSX AirDrop: Great For Sharing, Why It Will Never Work
Francesco Schiavon on Sun, January 26th 2 comments
Sharing pictures, video, music, etc. is becoming easier and easier thanks to many Cloud services. So, it makes sense Apple has its own sharing service: AirDrop. But, does AirDrop make sense?

If you work on your Mac, there is a huge chance that you’d want to share some documents with other people, at least once in a while.  And if you’re in a creative office, like a designer firm, a production house, or any kind of business for that matter, you will definitely will want and need to share some files with your team.

We've All Done it

Depending on the kind of files you’d want to share, the kind of network you have amongst your peers, and the technical knowledge of your team there are a multitude of options on how to share your files, and I’m sure you’ve used at lease 2 of these:

  • Sharing files using the Public folder in your account on your Mac
  • Attaching your files to emails
  • Sending a file via some sort of IM (instant messaging) service like iMessage or Skype
  • Uploading your files to a cloud service like Dropbox, SkyDrive, or Google Drive
  • Uploading files to a shared server/directory on your local network
  • Maybe uploading your files to an FTP server, etc.

But I’m pretty sure you don’t often use OS X’s built-in AirDrop*, even when its available from many places within OS X.

Where is AirDrop?

AirDrop is accessible from multiple places within OS X:

In Contacts...

In Contacts...


in Maps...

in Maps...


in Pages...

in Pages...


in Preview...

in Preview...


in Safari...

in Safari...


in the Finder.

in the Finder.

What is AirDrop?

If you don’t know what AirDrop is in OS X, here’s a brief explanation; after all it’s a very neat technology. AirDrop is meant to transmit or share files between Macs**. If I was to put it in marketing terms, it could be said as “it allows you to send files between Macs wirelessly, securely, and with no setup required”. Putting it in more technical terms without getting in the details, it uses the Wi-Fi radios on your Mac to make a secure peer-to-peer connection to another Mac and transmit encrypted files without having to log in to any Wi-Fi network, all with no setup required. 

Let me give you an example on when it could be used. Imagine your office’s Wi-Fi is password protected, and like must of us you don’t remember the password. Now, you get a visit from a contractor who needs to provide you with the latest specification documents for the project he’s doing for you. Instead of giving him your office’s Wi-Fi password so he can log in and send you the files, you both click the AirDrop icon on the sidebar of any Finder window on your Macs and literally he just drags and drops the file(s) over to your Mac. The contractor never accessed your secured Wi-Fi or local network but he was able to send you the file(s) using the Wi-Fi radios on your Macs, all without logging in or setting up anything. That is powerful!

Why AirDrop Won't Take Off

You may be wondering why you’ve never heard of it or never heard of anyone using AirDrop in OS X. Well, I’ve been asking myself that question since Apple introduced AirDrop in OS X 10.7 Lion and I think I finally found the main reason why AirDrop will never work, or at least why it will never be used widespread... Drum roll please... Asynchronous connection!

What is asynchronous connection? It’s the fact that both sender and receiver do not have to be connected at the same time. If you review the list of sharing mechanisms I list at the top, you will notice that you can send your files and the receiving party can log on at a later time to get the files. With AirDrop, both sending and receiving parties have to be in AirDrop at the same time (and within range).

To illustrate my point, give it a try right now with a colleague of yours. Ask him/her to click on the AirDrop icon on the side bar of a Finder window while you do the same, and send him/her a file. When you send the file you’ll be asked if you want to send the file, and the recipient will be asked if he/she wants to receive the file. 

Sending a file via AirDrop...

Sending a file via AirDrop...


Receiving party after enabling AirDrop from the Side Bar.

Receiving party after enabling AirDrop from the Side Bar.


The fact that YOU HAD TO ASK your colleague to enable AirDrop is the Achilles’ heel of this whole thing. Even if you asked your colleague to enable AirDrop by sending him/her an IM, say via Skype, it would make more sense to just sent the file via IM at that time.

* AirDrop requires a somewhat recent Mac. Refer to the following knowledge base document from Apple: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4783

** AirDrop for iOS is not compatible with AirDrop on the Mac.

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Comments (2)

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  • moniz
    Hi Francesco, I like and watched every video you have put out on macprovideo. I have been learning in bits and pieces about airdrop. I believe this technology has lot more potential then it is give the credit. Few topic about mac i would request you to consider preparing videos for macprovideo. iTune is widely used by mac as well as PC users, all iPhones, iPad and iPod's are synched via iTunes. Please make an comprehensive course for iTune. Other brief courses i would request is iCloud and Airdrop. Keep up the good work. moniz
    • 6 years ago
    • By: moniz
    Reply
  • Dyheway
    Thanks for you comment and suggestions Moniz. About AirDrop, maybe the title of the article is a bit harsh, but I strongly feel that because of the way AirDrop works, it will never be widely used. The technology itself is very good, and one would hope that in the future Apple homologates the iOS and OS X versions. It would be a very nice and simple way of moving files between platforms. Nevertheless, the fact that AirDrop requires both parties to be in range and enable it at the same time, in my view that's the reason why it won't be most people's first choice. Francesco.
    • 6 years ago
    • By: Dyheway
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