How fast is AirDrop in 2024 (Answered)

How fast is AirDrop in 2024? (Answered)

The last time my sister AirDropped a one-gigabyte file to someone, she said it happened so quickly that she didn’t have time to count. When I heard her say that, I was in disbelief because it sounded absurd.

But that tickled my curiosity, so I invested some time looking up and understanding how fast AirDrop is because not knowing it was killing me. Before I knew it, learning how this file-sharing feature works blew me away!

If you can’t wait to find out, you’re in the right spot. In this post, we’ll discuss how fast it is to transfer large files via Apple AirDrop and all the nitty-gritty of how it works — including how it compares to Bluetooth file transfers. So, read on!

How fast is AirDrop? 

AirDrop can go as fast as one gigabyte per second, making it ideal for transferring large data volumes. However, the average time this feature takes to move a one-gigabyte file is between ten to fifteen seconds.

How long does it take AirDrop to send a large file?

AirDrop’s ability to send large files between two devices in record time is a testament to its speed. 

But you can’t use a single number to describe how long AirDrop’s transfer process will take when sending a large file to another compatible Apple device.

What are the factors the affect AirDrop transfer time?

After all, the file transfer’s duration, regardless of the technology used, is affected by various other factors. 

File Size

First up, you must consider the file size. You can’t complete its transfer at the same time it takes for another file with a different size.

File Size

Additionally, you must understand that most people have their classification for what they consider a large file. For some, a large file should be around five hundred megabytes, while others may only qualify files over one gigabyte as a “large file.”

This distinction is essential because you can’t expect AirDrop to transfer different-sized files at the same speed. 

Therefore, identifying the file size you want to send between your Apple devices is the first step in determining how long AirDrop will take to send it.

You can also argue that one hundred megabytes is large for files that typically don’t reach that size. For instance, you can qualify a JPEG image with one hundred megabytes of file size as a large file, even though it’s far from one gigabyte.

Device Model

Secondly, you must consider the transfer speed your Apple device is getting when using AirDrop because that will dictate the duration of the transfer process. 

For example, each iPhone can reach different speeds, even though they’re using the same technology.

It’s understandable because Apple devices have different processors and specifications, which should impact their read and write speeds. 

As a result, using a faster iPhone model will cause you to take less time to transfer larger files than a slower device.

Furthermore, even two iPhones of the same model and specs can perform differently due to several factors. Low battery, outdated software, and insufficient storage space are the most common reasons behind an Apple device’s performance issue.

Device Model

Therefore, using an iPhone that isn’t optimal can further lengthen the time it takes for AirDrop to send your files. As such, you shouldn’t discount how factors like these affect how fast your AirDrop transfer speeds will be in practical application.

Because of this, we recommend ensuring your Apple devices are in optimal condition before transferring files via AirDrop to reach the best possible transfer speeds. 

After all, moving files at your bottleneck speed will guarantee the shortest transfer times.

Regarding bottleneck speed, you must observe other external factors that can impact this speed ceiling when using AirDrop. 

As mentioned, an excellent example is your Apple device’s specifications, indicating how fast it can process files and run programs. Similarly, your iPhone or MacBook’s storage device can only process a specific amount of files and data simultaneously. 

After all, your Apple device’s external SD card or SSD hard drive can only read and write files at the speed listed in their labels or boxes.

Device Model - 2

Thus, you can only transfer files from this storage device according to the read and write speed of your external SD card or SSD hard drive. Of course, this assumes the storage device has slower transfer speeds than your iPhone or Mac’s WiFi protocol.

Whichever between your Apple device and its storage device has a slower read or write speed will determine how fast AirDrop can send files. 

The only way around this is to upgrade them to increase the transfer speed ceiling for sending files on your devices.

Below is a list of data regarding the transfer speed of specific Apple devices when using AirDrop. You can check them out for an insight into how fast AirDrop will transfer your target files using your iPhone or Mac.

However, it’s important to note that you might get a different result once you test AirDrop on your devices. After all, we’ve already discussed how many factors come into play in determining how long the transfer process can take.

Apple DeviceExternal Device or WiFi ProtocolAverage SpeedTop Speed
iPhone 11WiFi 650 megabyte/s100+ megabytes/s
iPad ProWiFi 550 megabytes/s100+ megabytes/s
iPhone 11 Pro MaxWiFi 655 megabytes/s100+ megabytes/s
iPhone 12 Pro MaxWiFi 655 megabytes/s100+ megabytes/s
MacBook Pro (2019)802.11n network (up to 600 MB/s)45 megabyte/s65+ megabytes/s
M1 Max MacBook Pro (2020)2.5 GB/s read and write speed SSD50 megabyte/s100+ megabytes/s
M1 Max MacBook Pro (2021)5 GB/s read and write speed SSD50 megabytes/s100+ megabytes/s

Note: These recorded transfer speeds don’t reflect much difference when using AirDrop on faster Apple devices because they were from various sources. As such, other factors are in play behind the resulting transfer speeds.

File Type

Furthermore, you must consider the file type you’re sending over AirDrop because that can impact the compression time and total transfer speed. For instance, transferring JPEG images is faster than PNG images for this particular reason.

Although you can argue that JPEG files don’t fall under the “large file size” criterion, it doesn’t mean you can transfer multiple copies simultaneously. 

A file converter is advisable if it cuts down the time AirDrop takes to send files to your devices.

File Type

Fortunately, this is where file conversion websites can help, so you don’t have to download and install a file converter on your iPhone or Mac. Additionally, you can employ other workarounds to make the AirDrop file transfer much faster.

Splitting the large file into multiple parts can make it more convenient for AirDrop to process and send to the other device. Doing so will significantly reduce the total transfer duration, making the process faster and more efficient.

Unfortunately, you must combine the files afterward, which constitutes extra work and time anyway. 

As such, it’s up to you to balance the workarounds you’re using to ensure you’re reducing the AirDrop transfer duration, not adding more things for you to do.

Finally, you must maintain a close distance between your AirDrop devices because that will stabilize their peer-to-peer network connection. The closer they are, the faster the file transfer will be, determining how long the process will take.

File Type - 2

Surprisingly, the distance is essential because this peer-to-peer connection doesn’t rely on a WiFi network as a medium. Instead, your AirDrop devices establish a direct connection to facilitate the file transfer, making it faster at a closer distance.

Because this will stabilize the connection, you’re less likely to encounter a connection failure. It’s ideal because you don’t want the file transfer to fail midway, forcing you to redo and make the AirDrop transfer take much longer than necessary.

Distance

AirDrop is a peer-to-peer connection, so keeping both devices close is essential to stabilize and speed up the transfer process. Above all, this reduces the likelihood of do-overs, so AirDrop doesn’t take long to transfer files.

Observing these factors ensures a quick and stable AirDrop transfer between your Apple devices. This way, your files will take the least time necessary to send them over, especially when using a consistent device with a fast transfer speed.

Why and how does AirDrop work so fast?

AirDrop technology is amazing, no doubt. What makes it even more outstanding is it uses available technology to come up with a much more superior one. 

Indeed, AirDrop uses Bluetooth to the hilt. Simply put, you can’t make the most of AirDrop if you don’t turn on your Bluetooth connection. 

Plus, AirDrop needs WiFi to work. Apple Inc. created a peer-to-peer WiFi network that connects devices seamlessly using these two technologies, and that’s what AirDrop is all about. 

Don’t worry; here’s a more detailed explanation.

AirDrop uses Bluetooth

All Apple devices with AirDrop support use two wireless technologies to send your files between them. 

They use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for IoT devices and Apple’s peer-to-peer WiFi technology that exclusively supports all devices in their ecosystem.

AirDrop uses Bluetooth

As such, AirDrop isn’t available on non-Apple devices, which is crazy considering that they let other brands use their AirPlay technology. Because this transfer technology uses BLE, it’s hard to imagine how it can send files at a fast rate.

As mentioned, BLE technology focuses more on IoT devices because they have limited power options due to their typical small sizes. After all, IoT devices offer portability and convenience, which explains why they run on a limited power source.

Therefore, BLE isn’t something you consider when discussing fast transfer speeds since it only has half the transfer speed of regular Bluetooth. 

Unsurprisingly, its lower energy requirement means it can’t compete with more power-hungry wireless features.

How AirDrop’s Proprietary Peer-to-Peer Tech Works

However, AirDrop is fast because of Apple’s peer-to-peer WiFi technology, not BLE. The BLE technology’s job is to detect nearby compatible AirDrop devices so they can communicate and establish a peer-to-peer WiFi connection for file transfer.

How AirDrop’s Proprietary Peer-to-Peer Tech Works

With BLE, your compatible devices will respond with their respective AirDrop identity hash once they detect a signal. The hash identity comes from your Apple ID’s phone number and email address, which is how the devices recognize each other.

Your device will check the other device’s hash identity to match it with your registered contacts if you set AirDrop to “Contacts Only.” Of course, this isn’t necessary when you allow your iPhone or Mac to share files with everyone.

After the initial communication through BLE, the sender device will create the peer-to-peer WiFi network for the AirDrop connection. It will send the signal using the  Apple Bonjour feature to double-check the other device’s identity hash.

It’s a necessary security mechanism that makes file transfers via AirDrop safer than sending them through email. Once Apple Bonjour confirms the match, the sender can select the target device, and the recipient can choose whether to accept the file.

How AirDrop’s Proprietary Peer-to-Peer Tech Works - 2

Since AirDrop is a peer-to-peer WiFi connection, both devices don’t need to connect to a WiFi network. Instead, the receiving device connects to the AirDrop network of the sender device, making it a direct transfer.

This connection is a Direct WiFi link, which uses a short-range 5.0 GHz signal frequency through both devices’ WiFi radios. As a result, the transfer speed is faster than other wireless technologies that use a 2.4 GHz signal frequency.

Therefore, both devices must be close to each other to stabilize their connection and prevent disconnection issues. It’s not an issue because the tradeoff is a file transfer that can handle large data volumes at increased speed.

The marriage between BLE and Apple’s peer-to-peer WiFi technology makes this transfer feature fast and efficient. However, the Direct WiFi link is the key to how fast AirDrop is.

AirDrop vs. Bluetooth

Undoubtedly, AirDrop is miles ahead of Bluetooth regarding transfer speed, and it’s not even close. It’s understandable because the former uses a 5.0 GHz signal frequency while the latter uses a 2.4 GHz signal frequency.

AirDrop vs. Bluetooth

However, that doesn’t detract from Bluetooth’s accessibility and compatibility with various devices. It remains a popular connectivity feature for most wireless devices, especially if they only need to transfer small data volumes.

In particular, Bluetooth is a standard feature for most wireless devices nowadays. Whether it’s a TV remote, game controller, soundbar, or smartphone, it likely uses this connectivity feature to communicate with other devices.

And yes, let’s not forget. AirDrop uses Bluetooth to be able to create a peer-to-peer WiFi network all its own between devices. So, you could say AirDrop is Bluetooth on steroids. 

Is AirDrop faster than Bluetooth?

AirDrop is a lot faster than Bluetooth. AirDrop uses a 5.0 GHz signal frequency, much faster than Bluetooth’s 2.4 GHz signal frequency. 

Even with these numbers, you can easily deduce that AirDrop is at least twice as fast as Bluetooth.

However, WiFi Direct makes AirDrop much quicker than that because it lets it reach up to one gigabyte per second of transfer speed. This speed is a galaxy compared to Bluetooth’s two megabytes per second, which isn’t consistent due to external factors.

Is AirDrop faster than Bluetooth

Therefore, if Bluetooth is fantastic for power-efficient and small file transfers, AirDrop excels at sending large data volumes. Above all, the former lets you transfer more files of different types, which are often non-transferable using the former.

FAQs about AirDrop [2024]

How long does it take to AirDrop 1 GB?

It takes 15 seconds to AirDrop a 1 GB file between Apple devices. However, it’s possible to complete the file transfer in 10 seconds or less.

Is there a 10-minute limit on AirDrop?

There’s a 10-minute limit on AirDrop for file sharing with everyone. This restriction won’t affect you if you only use this feature with your contacts.

Apple added this time limit in the iOS 16.2 update to reduce spam content sharing in crowded public places.

How far does AirDrop take?

AirDrop can detect compatible devices up to 30 feet because it uses Bluetooth Low Energy. However, we recommend moving your device closer during the file transfer for better speeds.


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