Why is AirDrop so flaky?

My wife takes most of the photos when we travel and she likes to AirDrop them to her iPad for safekeeping. The other night we struggled with this for far too long before I finally did a hard restart on her phone then, bingo, AirDrop worked again.

When I related this to other travelers they all said they had similar experiences.

So why is AirDrop so unreliable? And, related, why does AirDrop need both WiFi and Bluetooth? And why doesn’t it work with Personal Hotspot?

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Airdrop so rarely works we’ll that I use, e.g., Dropbox instead, and all the extra steps/cost that that entails.

Here’s a thread with both high level and detailed explanations of why AirDrop uses both WiFi and Bluetooth. I’m not sure why hotspot usage would affect it. I’ve also had a good track record with AirDrop other than occasionally having the problem where one device is set to contacts only and still doesn’t show up for a contact’s device. In those cases, I quickly switch to everyone, do the transfer, and switch back, but I realize that’s not an option in a crowded place.

I’m afraid I don’t have any answers but plenty of empathy, because I struggle to work out any consistent approach to when or why it works and what the difference is this time, when suddenly it doesn’t.

Thanks @cornchip, that clears up at least one thing I was wondering about, namely why AirDrop needs WiFi but still works when a WiFi router is not available.

In my new job, we use airdrop for work. I see other people have a photo on there airdrop when you look for the contacts. How can I do that? No matter what I try I can’t get that to work. I went to the me contact in my contacts changed the picture and it won’t work. It just states grey. Can anyone help me? Thanks

Maybe it’s just me but I have in my experience AirDrop has improved greatly over the last couple of months or so (maybe it’s iOS/iPadOS 14 and Catalina).

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It has been working for me, I just want a photo in the contact for airdrop. It’s actually very cool using airdrop. I have never really used it until I got my new job.