AirDrop is one of the most underrated features that Apple has ever created. It’s the easiest and quickest way to share photos, videos, and files between Apple devices.
But with that convenience has come abuse. Bad actors have used AirDrop for something Apple would never advertise or promote: sending unwanted pictures of genitalia to anybody’s Apple devices that have AirDrop open to “everyone.”
That’s going to change in an iOS 16 update next year according to Bloomberg. Instead of AirDrop’s “everyone” opening up your iPhone, iPad, or Mac indefinitely to stranger transfers, the iOS 16 update will only allow open wireless transfer for 10 minutes.
“The idea is to mitigate unwanted file sharing,” Apple Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. That might be true, but the fact that the feature is already live in iOS 16.1.1 for iPhone users in China suggests there’s another reason.
While some real sick people get off on AirDropping pictures of their junk to anyone unfortunate enough to leave their AirDrop open to everyone, the file-sharing feature has also been used by protestors to share content en masse.
In China, for example, protestors have used AirDrop to dissent against the government. China being China likely wanted to crack down on this mass sharing, and so Apple added a 10-minute limit to AirDrop when the “Everyone” setting is switched on.
While Apple has not publicly announced the change to AirDrop for iPhone users in China, it’s the latest move to bend to the Chinese Communist Party in the most subtle of ways without being forced out of doing business in the country. Previously, the Taiwan flag emoji was banned from iOS keyboards shipped on iOS devices sold in China. Worse yet, the flag was removed in China’s “Special Administrative Regions” such as Hong Kong and Macau.
The emoji flag removal is a reminder of the dangerous and delicate dance that Apple has to conduct with China in order to keep business going — be it at the factory line level for manufacturers like Foxconn, or selling premium devices to China’s booming middle class and affluent elite. Apple and CEO Tim Cook might have been firm in marketing privacy as a reason to buy one of its devices, but in China, it walks a very fine line.