Monday, March 4, 2024 12:50 am
Close this search box.

Does AirDrop Use Bluetooth In 2024? (ANSWERED!)

If you are a user of any Apple device, you will have realized by now that they can use AirDrop to share files instead of Bluetooth.

However, these devices have a Bluetooth feature as well. In fact, you can’t use AirDrop when you switch off your device’s Bluetooth!

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between these technologies?

And have you ever been particularly curious about the technical procedure that AirDrop uses?

This article will explain the distinguishing features between AirDrop and Bluetooth, as well as their individual principles.

Additionally, we’ll compare the two technologies to see which one is objectively better.

First, let’s get to the main question, “Does AirDrop use Bluetooth?”

The answer is an absolute and resounding YES!

As we proceed further in this article, you’ll learn all you need to know about the importance of Bluetooth when it comes to AirDrop.

What Is AirDrop?

AirDrop is a wireless data transfer technology that makes it very easy to share any form of files between two nearby Apple devices.

In fact, it’s possible to wirelessly share huge files within a brief period and short distance!

Apple birthed AirDrop into existence on July 20th, 2011. The company then made AirDrop available on iOS 7, Mac OS X 10.7, and newer operating systems.

How Does AirDrop Work?

iphone settings

The sender’s device emits signals using a Bluetooth connection during the file transfer between devices. The receiver’s device then simply receives this signal.

The receiver’s device must be active, in close proximity to the sender’s device, and have AirDrop turned on at the moment in order for the function to work.

AirDrop adopts the range limit of Bluetooth connectivity. Therefore, the devices must be within a proximity range of thirty (30) feet to one another.

The function first scans the receiver’s email and phone number. Then, the sender’s device starts a TLS-encrypted communication with the receiver’s device.

This communication helps the two devices exchange their respective iCloud identity information.

With that, devices can verify each others’ identities using the iCloud service. The sender’s device must authenticate the receiver’s information to enable the file transfer.

Additionally, devices exchange cryptographic information known as a “hash”.

After the exchange, the receiver will gain the option to accept or decline the file transfer.

If the receiver taps accept, the sender’s device will then build an encrypted connection between the two devices.

To receive files from someone not in your contacts, a device must be switched from Contacts Only to Everyone mode.

It may also be worth noting that AirDrop does not work when the device hotspot is on.

Therefore, both the sender and the receiver must disable any personal hotspot currently in use.

What Wireless Protocol Does AirDrop Use?

iphone beside a macbook

Essentially, AirDrop employs Transport Layer Security (TLS) cryptography across Wi-Fi connections between two devices.

At the same time, it also uses Bluetooth to initiate contact between the two devices. This technology requires no internet connection.

As such, a lack of network availability never alters its proper functioning. To circumvent that, it combines these two forms of wireless technological procedures for the transferring of files.

An AirDrop-enabled iOS device utilizes the peer-to-peer Wi-Fi technology designed by Apple and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to send data to nearby devices. The receiver’s device must also have its AirDrop turned on for accessibility.

While it utilizes Wi-Fi technology to recognize the devices, AirDrop however doesn’t require connection with a Wi-Fi router or utilizing the Wi-Fi Access Point to transfer the files.

Therefore, you can always use AirDrop even when you have no network service!

Pretty handy, right?

In essence, you can share files via AirDrop using only Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth.

According to the manufacturer’s default settings, AirDrop connects only with stored contacts.

However, you can modify this setting to best suit your needs. For example, you can choose to allow file-sharing with everyone or set it to share with absolutely no one at all.

Can You AirDrop With Bluetooth Off?

iphone control center

In order to answer that question, you first need to be fully aware of the importance of Bluetooth when using AirDrop (as Bluetooth plays a significant role in the process).

As we mentioned, you can transfer data even when there is no Wi-Fi connection available. However, the same cannot be said if Bluetooth is unavailable.

Essentially, AirDrop utilizes Bluetooth in signaling other devices.

Hence, it would be virtually impossible for AirDrop to locate and send hashes from other devices back to the receiver without Bluetooth.

The existence of Wi-Fi connections only makes the process easier and faster. On the other hand, Bluetooth connections are what make it possible!

For this reason, both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi automatically switch on when you enable your AirDrop. This automation feature allows for easier data sharing.

What Are the Differences Between AirDrop Vs. Bluetooth?

bluetooth button on keyboard

AirDrop and standard Bluetooth technologies distinguish from each other in various ways. Their differences range from data transfer speed to tech variation and efficiency.

In its essence, Bluetooth involves quite a complicated process.

It was originally built to replace cable file transfer. However, it’s a technology that has been in existence for quite a long time.

Compared to contemporary practices, Bluetooth’s process is far too simple for file transfer.

We can consider it as a building block for wireless data transferring technologies.

As mentioned, AirDrop uses Bluetooth for its superior technology for emitting signals and locating devices. It is also a trustworthy method for establishing connections.

Yet, it’s not good at transferring the actual data.

This is why AirDrop combines the function with a Wi-Fi Direct network. The network is a faster transfer method, also known as the peer-to-peer network.

This combination aims to create an optimized and more efficient sharing experience from less efficient technological protocols.

As a result, this makes AirDrop different from Bluetooth in various aspects:


Bluetooth is capable of making transfers when used alone. It works by using radio waves and doesn’t need any other signals or wireless technology.

That may seem like a good feature, but it has its fair share of downsides.

Apart from being slower, radio waves are more fragile.

There also shouldn’t be any other signals from devices aside from the intended target.

This is because any interruption could cause connection disruptions, thus potentially reducing the transfer speed.

Unlike AirDrop, radio waves also don’t allow for bulk transfers between two devices.

Battery Consumption

iphone 5s low battery

Even though AirDrop is a more innovative and faster technology, there are still some aspects wherein Bluetooth bodes well in comparison.

For example, Bluetooth doesn’t consume as much battery power as compared to AirDrop.

This is to be expected considering that the latter utilizes a combination of two technological protocols (one of which being Bluetooth itself) in order to have faster transfer speeds.

The Wi-Fi Direct technology is already more energy-consuming on its own. Thankfully, AirDrop makes up for battery consumption with its superior speed.

The balance and features AirDrop is built on make it a much more advanced technology, despite its greater battery consumption.


Since AirDrop uses peer-to-peer Wi-Fi technology, its transfer speed is far superior to that of Bluetooth.

The average transfer rate for AirDrop is approximately 6.62 Mbps (megabytes per second), while Bluetooth only has an average rate of 3 Mbps.

While a difference of a little more than 3 Mbps doesn’t sound like much, when compared to Bluetooth you’ll find that AirDrop is more than twice as fast!

And in sharing large files, that difference could potentially save you hours of time!

Is AirDrop Better Than Bluetooth?

iphone rose gold control center

AirDrop and standard Bluetooth vary from each other in numerous ways.

Their differences range from data transfer speed, to their technologies and efficiency.

Essentially, Bluetooth involves a rather complicated process.

As mentioned in one of the previous sections, its original purpose was to eventually become a more efficient replacement for cable file transfers.

However, given that it is a technology that has been in existence for much longer compared to contemporary practices, it has become too simple and less efficient for transferring files.

The best way to think of Bluetooth is to consider it as a vital building block for wireless data transferring technologies.

As discussed earlier, even AirDrop uses Bluetooth; it’s a trustworthy technology for emitting signals, locating devices, and establishing connections after all!

However, in the realm of transferring data, there now exists better options.

This is why AirDrop combines it with Wi-Fi Direct network.

The network is a fast transfer method also known as the “peer-to-peer network.” This combination aims to create the optimum sharing experience with a much higher efficiency than when utilizing only either of the two.

Although AirDrop increased its speed benefiting from the Wi-Fi Direct network, its distance range is still bound to Bluetooth.

To share files using AirDrop, you must keep the devices within the optimal range of less than thirty-three feet. That limit is the standard Bluetooth physical transfer range.

An added benefit of Bluetooth is that you can use it with any device, whereas with AirDrop users can only transfer files between Apple products that have this feature enabled.

While other companies and operating systems, such as Android, are developing transfer methods that utilize Wi-Fi Direct networks, you should not perceive AirDrop and Bluetooth as rivals.

Each technology has its specific use and unique functions, and both of them serve crucial roles which won’t become outdated in the foreseeable future.

Overall, we can safely declare that AirDrop is better than Bluetooth for sharing files since you can transfer massive files within seconds without sacrificing their quality.

Additionally, your device won’t spend that much energy while doing so!

Can You AirDrop With Only Wi-Fi?

iphone homescreen zoomed in

It should come as no surprise that the answer to this question is a resounding NO!

As explained before, AirDrop only uses Wi-Fi Direct to transfer data between two devices.

However, it cannot connect the devices using only Wi-Fi, as that is where Bluetooth is necessary to establish the connection.

Even if you switch the Wi-Fi on, AirDrop will never work without Bluetooth first initiating the connection.

The Wi-Fi Direct network AirDrop uses to transfer files actually can work without enabling AirDrop or Bluetooth.

It is a high-speed but battery-consuming method. Additionally, intermittent signaling from unintended devices can render it less efficient.

AirDrop makes this technology much more usable by combining it with Bluetooth.

When used with Bluetooth it stabilizes the connection, secures it by including different encryption methods, and increases the accuracy of the device’s location.

How Can You Share Files Using AirDrop?

First of all, you need two Apple devices that run on iOS 7, Mac OS X 10.10, iPad OS 13, or newer versions. This means you can use AirDrop with iPhone, iPad, iMac, and MacBook.

Make sure you’ve switched on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to initiate the transfer.

As an added note, you should disable your device’s Personal Hotspot if it’s on. Once done, you can follow the steps below:

  1. Locate the file you want to share
  2. Tap on the “Share” button (it’s the square icon with an arrow pointing upwards)
  3. A menu with different sharing options will pop up
  4. You’ll see a list of available AirDrop users nearby
  5. Find the device you want to share the file with
  6. Tap on their icon

If they accept your transfer request, the process will be over quickly!

Of course, this is dependent on the size of the file, as larger files will take a bit more time than smaller ones.

If you want to receive files via AirDrop, make sure you have switched it on.

You can select who can send you files through “Settings > General > AirDrop.” Then you can choose to receive files from either “Everyone” or “Contacts Only.”

After choosing your preference, all you need to do is accept their request.

Visit this site if you want to learn more about using AirDrop on different devices!

In Conclusion

In short, AirDrop uses Bluetooth to perform its designated task.

Bluetooth is one of the two technologies that come together to ensure AirDrop works properly.

AirDrop uses Bluetooth to locate and connect with other devices then AirDrop switches to Wi-Fi Direct network to transfer the data.

Although the transfer itself occurs using Wi-Fi Direct, it’s not possible to start the transfer without first locating and establishing a connection with the other device via Bluetooth.

This is the reason why you can’t use AirDrop when your device’s Bluetooth is off!

In contrast, it’s possible to use AirDrop when you switch off the Wi-Fi connection of your device.

This aspect may be confusing since we mentioned that AirDrop benefits from the Wi-Fi Direct network to make the transfer.

This is because Wi-Fi Direct, also known as a peer-to-peer network connection, is different from the regular Wi-Fi signal used to establish an internet connection.

Therefore, you don’t need to be connected to Wi-Fi while using AirDrop.

Apart from making the connection possible, AirDrop uses Bluetooth to increase its efficiency, while Wi-Fi Direct on its own can be used as a faster transfer method.

However, doing so consumes too much energy. As such, this method would be impractical if you were wanting to transfer files for an extended period of time.

On the other hand, Bluetooth has a low energy consumption rate, but is slow when used on its own.

This is why AirDrop combines these two wireless transfer methods to have an excellent speed and energy consumption rate.

Siri: Play Miley Cyrus’ “The Best of Both Worlds.”

Thus, AirDrop allows you to share large files within short periods between any Apple devices that support the feature.

Happy sharing!

Leave a Comment


Stay Up to Date With Mobile Tech Addicts

Join our newsletter and get a daily dose of things happening in Mobile Tech Addicts delivered directly to your inbox.

© Copyright MobileTechAddicts 2021. All Right Reserved.