iOS 17 AirDrop — all the changes coming to your iPhone

iOS 17 AirDrop contact sharing
(Image credit: Apple)

If you think about AirDrop, it's likely limited to the times you're using Apple's wireless transfer feature to move photos and files to and from your iPhone. And that's OK — AirDrop is designed specifically so you don't have to think about such things. Just know that in iOS 17, AirDrop is picking up a few new features aimed at making it easier to transfer files and expanding the number of things you can share.

Easily, the biggest addition to AirDrop in iOS 17 relates to the new Contact Poster feature Apple is adding as part of the revamp to the phone features in this iOS update. NameDrop adds the ability to easily pass those new contact cards to other iPhone and Apple Watch users when you're standing close by.

But NameDrop isn't the only change Apple is making to iOS 17's AirDrop. There's also more intelligent proximity sharing and the ability to complete large file transfers long after you've left the scene.

Here's a rundown of what you'll be able to do with AirDrop in iOS 17, which is currently available as a developer beta (albeit one that some people have been able to download with just an Apple ID). A public beta is coming in July, though, which should give daring iPhone owners the chance to try out AirDrop's improvements — and other iOS 17 features — prior to the full release of the software update this fall.

iOS 17 AirDrop changes: NameDrop

NameDrop offers a new way to pass your contact information to other iPhone users — presumably those running iOS 17 as well — without requiring one or both of you to furiously enter numbers and email addresses into the Contacts app. With iOS 17's NameDrop capability, all you need to do is hold your phone next to theirs; the feature also lets you pass on contact info to Apple Watches. (Specifically, NameDrop works with the Apple Watch Series 6 and later models as well as the Apple Watch Ultra and both generations of the Apple Watch SE; we assume those watches will need to run the watchOS 10 update coming later this year.)

iOS 17 AirDrop contact sharing

(Image credit: Apple)

You'll have some control over what contact info gets shared via NameDrop, as the feature will let you choose specific numbers or addresses. You can also opt to share your contact data or just receive contact info from the other person.

In addition to phone numbers and addresses, NameDrop lets you share the Contact Poster you've created in iOS 17's Phone app. These are the full-screen contact cards you've created using photos or memoji, and they appear on incoming calls and in the Contacts app.

iOS 17 AirDrop changes: Proximity sharing

iOS 17 AirDrop proximity sharing

(Image credit: Apple)

The same concept of proximity sharing used by NameDrop also lets you pass on other things to people just by bringing your iPhone close to theirs. It's unclear from Apple's demo at WWDC 2023 just how this will work — will a prompt appear anytime an iPhone-touting contact is in your vicinity, or is there an action you'll have to take to trigger proximity sharing? But regardless, you'll be able to use this method to transfer over photos and other files.

iOS 17 AirDrop and SharePlay

(Image credit: Apple)

Additionally, you can launch SharePlay sessions through proximity sharing, too, with a menu displaying links to message, FaceTime and share media with nearby contacts. A developer tool will let app makers bring proximity sharing through SharePlay to their software, so expect a lot more support for this functionality once iOS 17 arrives in the fall.

iOS 17 AirDrop changes: Sending larger transfers

iOS 17 AirDrop sharing large files

(Image credit: Apple)

Your days of hanging around waiting for large file transfers to move from one phone to the next via AirPlay are coming to an end. With iOS 17, you can share lots of photos or video files, completing that transfer over the internet if you or your recipient has to scoot. Note that the two of you will have to be signed into iCloud for this AirDrop feature to work.

iOS 17 AirDrop outlook

The AirDrop changes coming with iOS 17 certainly aren't earth-shattering ones, and they may not even be the most noteworthy enhancements Apple is making to the iPhone software this year. Still, it does sound like Apple's over-the-air transfer feature is getting more convenient, particularly when it comes to sharing contact information. People who share large files will also appreciate the ability to complete large transfers even after they've had to leave the scene.

We're interested to test out proximity sharing with iOS 17 just to see how seamless this modified version of AirDrop is. That will come once we get some time with the iOS 17 public beta in the coming weeks.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.