Q: I can’t send stuff out using AirDrop to my girlfriend’s iPhone. It never seems to find her iPhone, even though we both have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and AirDrop on. We’re both in each other’s address book, but it can’t find her iPhone regardless of whether I set AirDrop on my iPhone to “Contacts Only” or “Everyone.” Any clue as to what’s wrong here?
A: The first thing to check is to set both your iPhone and your girlfriend’s iPhone to “Everyone” and see if AirDrop works in this mode; also be sure to give it a few seconds as other devices don’t always appear immediately.
The “Contacts Only” setting in AirDrop applies only on the receiving iPhone. In fact this is the case with the AirDrop setting in Control Center in general—you don’t need to have AirDrop enabled at all in order to send to another device; the setting is simply there to determine whether AirDrop is on for receiving from other devices.
For AirDrop to work properly with the “Contacts Only” setting, both devices must be signed into iCloud and the receiving device must have your iCloud email address listed somewhere in their Contacts. In your case, this means that at least one of the email addresses associated with your iCloud account must be somewhere in your girlfriend’s address book. Ideally, this should be the primary address—the one that you use for your Apple ID—although other addresses should work as long as they’ve been associated with your Apple ID.
You can see which addresses have been associated with your Apple ID by going to http://appleid.apple.com in a web browser from your computer and logging in with your Apple ID. Also make sure that any additional addresses are showing as verified.
Essentially, the way that AirDrop works is that your device (the sending device) broadcasts out an AirDrop request that contains all of the email addresses associated with the iCloud account you’re using. Receiving devices that are in “Contacts Only” mode will only respond to requests that match email addresses that are stored in that device’s contacts database. The receiving device doesn’t respond if nothing matches, in which case you’ll never see it in the list of available AirDrop destinations.
From an AirDrop connectivity point of view it doesn’t matter if the recipient’s address is in the sender’s contacts. The sender’s contacts database only determines what information shows up in the AirDrop devices listing; the recipient’s contact info will be shown if it’s available, if not the name of the remote device is shown.
Keep in mind also that AirDrop is only available when the receiving device’s screen is on, and will also be automatically disabled when a device is in “Do Not Disturb” mode; since the AirDrop alert will be suppressed in this mode, there’s little point in trying to send something to the other user.