Apple’s next iOS update will strengthen AirDrop security for everyone. The new default setting will arrive globally in the upcoming iOS 16.2 after the company limited the use of AirDrop in China, where protesters had used the feature to organize with strangers.
The restriction will put a 10-minute limit on the window for users to share AirDrop files with “everyone.” After that, the setting reverts to “contacts only,” which essentially eliminates its usefulness in protests. Although Apple’s tightening of privacy settings may be on the mark, this move stands out for its timing. The change came to China in the iOS 16.1.1 update, after media outlets reported protesters using the tool to organize, discuss VPNs, and denounce President Xi Jinping. At the time, Apple said that the feature would not remain exclusive to China and would roll out globally next year. Less than a month later, you’re on the latest iOS beta.
Apple could be trying to thread the needle between appeasing China, where it makes most of its products and generates about 20 percent of its revenue, and limiting the damage to domestic public relations from accepting authoritarian rule. By adding the feature globally, the company can deny (if only somewhat plausibly) helping an oppressive government put down protests.
On the other hand, AirDrop’s “everyone” setting has also spawned unwanted content, such as random photos of strangers’ penises. No matter Apple’s motives, stopping that is a byproduct we can all get behind.
iOS 16.2 release candidate was released to developers today. In addition to the AirDrop change, the software adds improved end-to-end encryption and an Apple Music karaoke feature.