iOS Updates Add Timeout for Receiving AirDrops From Everyone, but Only in China

Wang Boyuan of PingWest on Twitter:

In the recently released iOS 16.2 beta2, AirDrop to everyone feature is found to last for 10 minutes instead of forever. However, this change only appears in iPhone’s China models. […]

Well, it turns out to be also a “hot fix” in today’s iOS 16.1.1 update (should be widely discussed in the next several hours). But Apple didn’t specify this change in update description, only saying it contains “bug fixes and security updates and is recommended for all users.”

Wang appears to have broken this news, and I appreciate Lawrence Li’s heads-up. Wang — and others — speculate this change is driven by the use of AirDrop by protesters in Beijing and, in his tweet, points to a New York Times story from Li Yuan:

Encouraged by the Beijing protester’s extremely rare display of courage, young Chinese are using creative ways to spread the banners’ anti-Xi messages. They graffitied the slogans in public toilets in China. They used Apple’s AirDrop feature to send photos of the messages to fellow passengers’ iPhones in subway cars. They posted the slogans on university campuses all over the world. They organized chat groups to bond and shouted “Remove Xi Jinping” in front of Chinese embassies. This all happened while the Communist Party was convening an all-important congress in Beijing and putting forth an image of a country singularly united behind a great leader.

It once again appears that Apple is caving to political pressure in China. There is diplomacy, and there is bending to the demands of the powerful and capricious; this appears to be a case of the latter.

A weird quirk of this change is that, absent the above context, adding a timeout to the “Everyone” setting for AirDrop is actually a good idea. Some people have reported receiving unwanted AirDrops in public, a story which CNBC illustrated with a stock photo of a “senior man surprised at tablet”. Indeed, Apple told Mark Gurman of Bloomberg that it will be rolling out the feature for all iPhones — but it would not say why this change was added to a routine security update only for users in China.