Just the other day I bought the app Feem for my Mac and iOS devices. The app enables me to transfer files between my devices. Something which I was excited about when Apple debuted AirDrop and promised the ability. Except that since it was introduced it hasn’t really worked as flawlessly as I envisioned.
I’ve had issues transferring files from my iPhone to my 2012 Retina MacBook Pro and iPad Pro. All of my devices are able to do AirDrop. When I enable AirDrop usually my Mac can see my iPhone but my iPhone can’t find my Mac. Usually I want to send stuff from my iPhone to my Mac so I’m stuck. In the past I’ve been able to send a file from my Mac to my iPhone and it will then suddenly find my Mac. The frustrating thing is that it doesn’t work every time. Other times I’ve turned AirDrop on to transfer a file and I find a long list of other devices around me with AirDrop turned on. I’ve even turned AirDrop on and forgotten to turn it off myself. Since AirDrop does burn battery leaving it on for hours can burn up battery life. Another problem is the whole process of using AirDrop. I’ve had friends and family ask me to send them pictures. Usually they will ask me to send it by email or iMessage. I respond “Just turn on your AirDrop” to which I usually get an exasperated sigh in return. I tell them to use AirDrop because transferring files is its purpose and I’m also trying to introduce some to the feature. The problem is that using it isn’t simple and easy. I’ve got to explain to them where to find it. Then they have to choose whether to enable it for Contacts or Everyone. After the transfer they have to remember to turn it off and that is the best case scenario. If either device can’t find the other you’ve got to ask them to turn AirDrop off and back on but choose Everyone this time. It is just a whole frustrating mess.
I want something that “Just Works”. Now that iOS 11 is upcoming I’m wondering if it could be incorporated into iMessage. Perhaps it’s something for iOS 12 either way it’s something I’d love to see. iMessage already uses end to end encryption and it’s available on Macs. Users already drag pictures and videos into messages to send it to other users. Why not add AirDrop to the interface making the whole process a lot easier. The way I envision it a user would go to iMessage and tap the AirDrop icon and send their file. The recipient would get a prompt to accept or decline the transfer. If the person receiving the file is already a contact you send messages to in iMessage. They wouldn’t even be prompted the sender would just select the message thread and tap the AirDrop icon. The files would go to the receiver’s device. Making the whole process quick, simple and easy. The pictures would either get added to the Camera Roll on the reciever’s device or in a seperate AirDrop folder. If the sender wanted to send to someone that isn’t already a contact. They would open the main iMessage window and tap the AirDrop icon. It would show all the devices around and allow the sender to choose the receiver. AirDrop on the receiver’s device would always be listening removing the need for the them to turn it on and off etc. The reciever would only have to accept or decline the file transfers. The always listening would ofcourse have to be optimized so as not to burn up battery life. A setting would also need to be added so users could set AirDrop to only accept file transfers from contacts. This would cut down on AirDrop spam which would obviously become a thing.
These are a few mockups below of how I think AirDrop could be incorporated into iMessage
I was excited for the feature when it was released. I’m still excited by what it could become I just hope Apple spends some time to make it better.