AirDrop: what it is, how it works and what the alternative is

To transfer files without the use of cables, email or other sharing apps, Apple offers AirDrop. At least since the days of iOS 7 and OS Its ease of use and transfer speed make this application a real pillar in the Apple ecosystem.

The service of file transfer It works using Bluetooth and WiFi allowing direct data exchange between one device and another. It is supported exclusively by Apple devices (and only by these, regardless of whether they use iOS, macOS or iPadOS…).

Per use AirDropthe feature must be enabled on both devices (refer to the system settings: section General, AirDrop). At this point, just bring the devices closer to each other and authorize the connection to send or receive data. The person receiving the files must have selected Contacts only o All for 10 minutes in AirDrop settings. For more information, you can refer to the Apple guide.

The beauty of AirDrop, as also briefly noted above, is that you don’t need any router o access point that acts as an intermediary: the connection is direct and occurs in a very simple way. So simple that when you’re not using AirDrop, we suggest turning the feature off (Turn off device merging) or choose Contacts only. There are many cases of iPhone owners who have received inappropriate images or contacts by strangers while in crowded places such as subways, buses and trains.

AirDrop configuration

Per enable AirDrop on a system macOS simply use the Finderlook for AirDrop in the sidebar then choose Allow me and others to be discovered.

How AirDrop works in detail

AirDrop presents itself as an advanced file transfer system peer-to-peer which uses both Bluetooth and WiFi to facilitate and speed up the sending and receiving of data between neighboring devices.

When a user activates AirDrop on their device, it begins a search for nearby devices using the technology Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). After this phase of discovery, once the target device has been identified, an initial exchange of information takes place through a Bluetooth connection. L’handshake Bluetooth is a crucial step that allows devices to negotiate the WiFi connection direct.

AirDrop file transfer

The phase is over handshaking, devices can establish a direct peer-to-peer WiFi connection with each other. The connection exploits WiFi Direct, technology that allows direct communication between wireless devices without the need for a router, an access point or another WiFi device to act as an intermediary. There bandwidth higher than WiFi allows faster and more reliable transfers.

To ensure the security of data transfer, AirDrop uses a process authentication. The devices involved in the transfer must authenticate each other before the actual transfer can take place. The use of end-to-end encryption ensures that the transmitted data is encrypted on the device that sends the information and can only be decoded on the terminal that is to receive the data. No other person can take possession of it during the journey.

AirDrop automatically handles the compatibility between the various models of Apple devices and adapts the transfer speed based on the hardware capabilities of the devices involved.

Furthermore, the advantage is that it is deeply integrated into the iOS and macOS operating systems. The disadvantage is that, as with many other Apple products, it is not compatible with either Windows or Android.

Alternativa ad AirDrop: ShareDrop

We said that AirDrop is an Apple proprietary solution for transferring files with devices placed in the immediate vicinity. If you had the need to share files with other users who do not have Apple devices, for example those who use Windows or Android systems, one of the simplest solutions to use is ShareDrop.

It is one of the most practical tools for sharing files on a local network and between nearby devices: unlike AirDrop, ShareDrop is a project open source whose source is publicly available in repository GitHub.

ShareDrop is operating system agnostic and works on any device with a modern web browser, including Windows, Android, Linux, macOS, and iOS systems. While AirDrop uses a combination of Bluetooth and WiFi to create a direct peer-to-peer connection between Apple devices, ShareDrop takes advantage of WebRTC technology (Web Real-Time Communication) to create a direct connection between devices by focusing on the browser. It does not require the installation of any additional software.

Alternativa AirDrop: ecco ShareDrop

The beauty of ShareDrop is that although it connects with a remote URL (sharedrop.io), all devices in the local network that connect to the same address can see each other. If the devices that want to exchange data are connected to the same router (in wired or wireless mode), data transfer can begin immediately. When a device connects with the application on sharedrop.ioa process starts report to inform other local devices about its presence on the network.

How data exchange between devices works with ShareDrop

After signaling, the devices negotiate the connection by exchanging descriptions of the sessions through SDP (Session Description Protocol). These descriptions include information about your devices’ capabilities and preferences.

WebRTC then uses ICE (Interactive Connectivity Establishment) to overcome the challenges associated with private networks and network asymmetries (think for example of the NAT functionality, Network Address Translation). ICE allows you to identify the optimal path to establish a direct connection between devices, regardless of any network restrictions in use.

If the devices are not connected to the same local network, ShareDrop still allows you to share files remotely, through the Internet. In this case, the connection is as simple as sharing a URL with the other party (for example via instant messaging software).

ShareDrop, remote file sharing

Consider the case in which two devices were connected to the Internet via a data plan mobile: just press “+” on the main page of sharedrop.io and send the URL to the other party who needs to receive the files.

As a final step, just tap the name of the contact receiving the material, choose the files to send and then wait for the other person to confirm the storage of the data on their personal device.

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