How to Access AirDrop in the iOS 11 Control Center

AirDrop in iOS 11 control center

AirDrop is easily one of the best kept secrets on the iPhone and iPad. It allows you to transfer photos and other documents wirelessly between two Apple devices, and not only can you use it to copy these files between an iPhone and an iPad, you can also use it with your Mac. It will even transfer more than just files. If you want to a friend to go to a website you are visiting, you can AirDrop it to him.

So why haven't more people heard about it? AirDrop originated on the Mac, and it's a little more familiar to those with a Mac background. Apple also hasn't pushed it in the same way they've publicized other features they've added over the years, and it certainly doesn't help that they've hidden the switch in a secret spot within the iOS 11 control panel. But we can show you where to find it.

How to Find AirDrop Settings in the Control Center

Apple's control panel appears a bit chaotic compared to the old one, but it's actually pretty cool once you get used to it. For example, did you know many of the 'buttons' are actually small windows that can be expanded?

It's an interesting way to add more setting within the quick access of the control panel and still fitting it all on one screen. Another way of looking at it is the redesign hides some settings, and AirDrop is one of these hidden features. So how do you turn on AirDrop in the iOS 11 control panel?

  • First, open the control panel by placing your finger on the very bottom edge of the display where the bevel intersects with the screen and then swiping up towards the top of the device. 
  • The control panel appears to be a bunch of buttons with different shapes and sizes, but in reality, it is made up of both buttons and small windows. Every button that isn't a perfect square containing a single icon is actually a window that can be expanded.
  • You can expand any of these windows using 3D touch on an iPhone 6S or newer iPhone or simply placing the tip of your finger on the window and holding it there for a few seconds.
  • 3D touch uses the same method, but after you place the tip of your finger on the window, you press down slightly. The iPhone will detect the extra pressure and trigger the window to open.
  • To reveal the AirDrop settings, use this method on the small window with the airplane button. On an iPhone, this window should be in the upper-left corner of the screen. It also has Wi-Fi, Cellular Data and Bluetooth buttons in the window. On an iPad, it is in the upper-left portion of the screen containing the control panel buttons.
  • Remember, simply place your finger down anywhere on the window with the airplane button. If it doesn't expand, press down slightly. 
  • When the window expands, you will see the AirDrop button at the bottom of the window. Tap it to change the setting. 

Which Setting Should You Use for AirDrop?

Let's review the choices you have for the AirDrop feature. 

  • Receiving Off. This is basically the Do Not Disturb setting. You can still send AirDrop files and data to others, but you won't show up as an available destination for anyone nearby.
  • Contacts Only. You will only show up on devices that you have in your contacts list.
  • Everyone. Your device will show up on all nearby devices. AirDrop's range is similar to Bluetooth, so basically anyone in the room with you.

It is usually best to leave AirDrop at Contacts Only or to turn it off when you aren't using it. The Everyone setting is great when you want to share files with someone who is not in your contacts list, but should be turned off after the files are shared. You can use AirDrop to share images and files via the Share button.

More Hidden Secrets in the iOS 11 Control Panel

You can use this same method on other windows in the control panel. The music window will expand to show volume controls, the brightness slider will expand to let you turn Night Shift on or off and the volume slider will expand to let you mute your device.

But perhaps the coolest part of the iOS 11 control center is the ability to customize it. You can add and remove buttons, personalizing the control panel to how you want to use it.

  1. Go into the Settings app.
  2. Choose Control Center from the left-side menu
  3. Tap Customize Controls
  4. Remove features from the control panel by tapping the red minus button and add features by tapping the green plus button.

How to Find AirDrop Settings on an Older Device

If you have an iPhone or iPad capable of running iOS 11, it is highly recommended to upgrade your device. New releases not only add new features to your iPhone or iPad, more importantly, they patch security holes that keep your device safe.

However, if you have an older device that is not compatible with iOS 11, the good news is that the AirDrop settings are even easier to find in the control panel. This is mainly because they aren't hidden!

  1. Swipe up from the bottom edge of the screen to reveal the control panel.
  2. The AirDrop settings will be just below the music controls on an iPhone.
  3. On the iPad, the option is between the volume control and the brightness slider. This puts it at the bottom of the control panel in the middle.