Wi-Fi Direct on iOS, Android and Windows Phone

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If you have an Android device running versions 4.0 or up, you might have seen a Wi-Fi Direct option under the Share menu. Wi-Fi Direct is a WiFi standard that enables devices to connect and share data with each other without requiring an external wireless access point or the Internet.

Wi-Fi Direct on iOS, Android and Windows Phone

This feature is baked into the Android OS since version 4.0. But when it comes to other popular smartphone platforms like iOS and Windows Phone, there aren’t any dedicated settings for Wi-Fi Direct, even on devices with capable hardware.

File sharing via Wi-Fi Direct requires its support on both the participating devices. If any of the file sharing devices don’t support this feature, WiFi file sharing without an external wireless access point is still possible by using another underlying feature known as Portable Hotspot.

Portable Hotspot and Wi-Fi Direct both use the same technology under the hood. In Portable Hotspot, one of the devices are manually assigned to host the WiFi network, while the other one manually joins the hosted network. In Wi-Fi Direct, two peer devices negotiate on first connection to determine which device shall act as the host. Connection between the two is then automatically established (on authorization) without requiring any security key.

In this article, we’ll explore how to use Wi-Fi Direct or Portable Hotspot on iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

Wi-Fi Direct on iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch

iOS 7 introduced the AirDrop feature for transferring files between compatible iOS devices. Later on, iOS 8 extended AirDrop support to Macs. AirDrop internally uses Wi-Fi Direct (along with Bluetooth) for transferring files.

AirDrop is the best way to share files using Wi-Fi Direct between two compatible Apple devices. If you want to share files between an iOS device to any other device which doesn’t support AirDrop, this article will guide you to do so.

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Wi-Fi Direct on Android

Android (4.0 or later) natively has a Wi-Fi Direct option in the Settings app on supported devices. To share files using Wi-Fi Direct, you can use any File Manager app to share files via the Wi-Fi Direct option from Share menu.

If one of the devices participating in file transfer doesn’t support Wi-Fi Direct, you can use the Portable Hotspot (Hosted Network) feature to share files between the two devices using a suitable WiFi File sharing app like SHAREit.

To turn on Portable Hotspot on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or later, follow the steps mentioned below:

  1. Open the Settings app on the Android device.
  2. Tap on More below Data Usage and select Tethering and Portable Hotspot menu.
  3. Now enable Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot. You can configure the hotspot name and WiFi Security settings from Set up Wi-Fi hotspot option.

You can now connect other WiFi enabled devices to this hotspot and share data among connected devices.

Alternatively, you can also use a third party app like SuperBeam that uses Wi-Fi Direct technology to transfer files between compatible devices. For devices that don’t support Wi-Fi Direct, the app automatically switches to Portable Hotspot for transferring files over hosted WiFi network.

Wi-Fi Direct on Windows Phone

Wi-Fi Direct is actually a hidden feature on Windows Phone. Any device running Windows Phone 8.1 or later versions can host a WiFi network via the internet sharing option in Settings. Usually, internet sharing is used to tether the device’s cellular data over WiFi. But under the hood, Windows Phone actually uses Wi-Fi Direct to host the WiFi network.

The following steps will guide you to host a WiFi network (portable hotspot) on Windows Phone:

  1. Go to Settings >> cellular+SIM (or mobile+SIM) and turn on Data connection.
  2. Next, go to Settings >> internet sharing and turn on Sharing. The hosted WiFi name (Broadcast name) and password will be displayed below.
  3. To connect to the hosted WiFi network from another device, go to the respective WiFi settings and join the network.

Once the device is connected, any app that supports WiFi file sharing can be used to share files without consuming any cellular data.

Although transferring files via Wi-Fi Direct is similar to Bluetooth file transfer, Wi-Fi Direct is more preferable as it is way more faster compared to Bluetooth. If you have found this article useful, do share your opinions with us in the comments below.

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